As search engine marketing professionals, we often wonder where the future of search is headed. We spend hours researching trends and examining algorithm shifts. In the past several months, there have been some exciting and intriguing changes in the world of search, most of which are have been pioneered by Google. These changes seem to indicate that search is moving in a direction that favors mobile device use and predictive capabilities based on user behavior, along with other real-time factors. Below we’ll discuss a few of the recent trends that signal the future of online search is happening right now.
While Google’s “Conversational Search” functionality was originally released two years ago, the major difference today is the increased interaction that the “search by voice” function provides to users. On mobile devices, iPhone users may compare the updated Google “Voice Assistant” to Siri’s interactive functionality. What is exciting is that Google has made that same type of conversational search experience available to desktop users. In Chrome, searchers can use the “search by voice” function to tell Google what they are looking for, and Google will read the answer back. However, we really start to see where the future of search is headed with the additional conversational abilities that have recently been made possible. Building on the initial voice search, users can continue having a “conversation” with Google, which gathers additional information on the original topic or question and is able to reference pronouns and other bits of information based on the original voice query.
It will be interesting to see how conversational search affects the landscape of search on desktop devices. Will searchers begin adopting this type of conversational search technique over traditional typed-out keyword searches? For search engine marketers, does this mean we will have even less visibility into keyword search data? If so, Google might have even more SEM professionals upset at the lack of search query transparency.
The explosion of mobile search and web browsing on non-desktop devices has been a hot topic among search engine professionals for quite some time. Part of that discussion has revolved around Google Now, a mobile personal assistance application introduced about a year ago. Since then, Google has been continually updating and improving the Siri-like app with additional information “cards,” better interpretation of real-time data, and a more intuitive user interface. Basically, by recognizing repeated user actions on a mobile device, Google Now displays the most relevant information in the form of “cards,” which fall into various categories like News, Places, Traffic, Travel, and Weather.
The Google Now app has been available on mobile devices for awhile, but its expansion to Chrome had been unconfirmed until very recently. Several search marketing news outlets are reporting that Chrome is now featuring a notification that asks users, “Enable Google Now Cards – Would you like to be shown Google Now cards?” The Google Now feature is still in the early stages of desktop functionality, so it will be interesting to see how users on desktop devices interact with an application that was originally designed and optimized for use on mobile devices.
The latest updates and service offerings from Google suggest that search is moving in a more predicative and anticipatory direction. This is apparent with the advancements to Google Now, which adjusts the information cards presented to individual users based on things like previous activity, current location, Google Calendar events, and other Google account activity. Google has also taken steps to improve their retargeting offerings with the rollout of dynamic retargeting for AdWords. As a means of competing with other retargeting platforms, Google has initiated dynamic retargeting capabilities that will pull relevant data from advertiser’s Google Merchant feeds based on past visitor actions. According to Ginny Marvin’s recent article on searchengineland.com, “Google’s product recommendation engine determines which products and messages are shown based on an algorithmic prediction for what is likely to perform best based on visitors’ past actions on your site, including the products they viewed and their purchase history, as well as related products and top performing products.” Again, we are seeing the theme of predictive search capabilities being leveraged by Google to provide a more personalized online experience.
While it certainly appears that the future of search—at least as far as Google is concerned—is becoming more predictive and based largely on a user’s previous online behavior, it remains to be seen whether or not users will find this type of search experience more useful, or a little bit too Big Brother.