It might be hard to believe, but there was a time when doing an internet search was limited to showing a listing instead of the actual content that the user may have wanted to see.
Archie, the first search engine, was based on an indexing algorithm searching FTP (file transfer protocol) sites. Other early search engines like Gopher also had limited capabilities, such as being only able to perform searches one server at a time. This meant longer search times that affected the user experience. This was in the 90’s and the internet was still something that most people have never heard of.
Today, search is a big part of our digital lives. We search for things we want to buy, places we want to go to, and restaurants we want to try. We search for product reviews before we make a purchase. We search for online feedback before we book an Airbnb or a hotel room. To put things into context, around 3.5 million Google searches were being made daily in 1999, one year after Google went public. A little more than 10 years later, 3.3 billion searches were being made every day.
Search today is more powerful and integrated. You can easily search millions of websites for relevant content and have a ranked search result to help you find the most relevant content.
For budding entrepreneurs, search also gives them a chance to connect with their target market without having to spend a fortune. Digital marketers get to use search engine marketing (SEM) to drive traffic to their website and monetize their content, through direct online sales or other revenue streams.
Now that search is at its peak, the question for most digital marketers is, where is it headed next? How will people use search in their everyday lives in the coming decade? More importantly, how can you ensure your website stays relevant in the changing search landscape?
Big data and machine learning
When you type “restaurants in Makati,” search engines in the early 2000’s would show you a list of restaurants in the chosen locality.
In the next couple of years, the same search would yield more personalized results. Search engines would be able to use machine learning to pull tons of data about your preferences and tailor the search results to cater to your taste. For example, you might not have included the word “dessert,” but search engines would be able to know that you love dessert and thus, show a list of restaurants with the most recommended desserts. It’s not too far off into the future, considering platforms like Facebook and Netflix have already begun serving us content based on our behavior.
Another machine learning capability that is steadily gaining traction is Google’s RankBrain. It is a dynamic ranking algorithm based on how long a user spends time on your page after clicking on your website in the search result (also known as dwell time), and dynamically changing the search ranking in relation to the dwell time of other websites in the same results page.
Read more about how RankBrain works here.
Voice and the Internet of Things
Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri make you feel a little bit like Tony Stark talking to Jarvis. How cool is having a digital personal assistant, right? From mundane questions about anything under the sun to technical inquiries, voice assistants can make things more interesting as you get to have a more lively interaction with their algorithm to help answer your questions.
Speech and voice recognition as well as NLP (natural language processing) software make it easier for people to search for things online without having to type a single word. However, text will still be a part of how consumers do an online search, and it’s important for digital marketers to understand when one might use text over voice search. The graph below shows that the shorter the query, the more likely you are going to use text for it.
On the other hand, voice searchers tend to use question phrases that are more conversational in nature. Think “travel agency Boracay” for text, as opposed to “what’s the best travel agency for tourists in Boracay?” for voice. In this context, digital marketers need to understand how customers will perform an online search to be able to use the right SEM algorithm, be it voice or text.
Furthermore, 50% of all searches in 2020 are expected to be done using voice search, according to a comScore report. Gartner also expects that in 2020, over 30% of searches will be done without a screen. Not only are searches going to be done on mobile, but internet of things (IoT) will play a big part. Think of Amazon’s Alexa. In the next few years, IoT devices will have a larger role in our digital lives.
Jeff Bezos once said that disruption has more to do with how customers use your product or service (customer adoption) rather than the technology or business model that you have (You can listen to this great insight from Jeff Bezos in this Youtube video.); this holds true for search. Digital marketers must adapt to customer behavior and have their SEM strategy focus on a customer-centric approach.
With data analytics, you can tie up the insights you get into your SEM approach. For example, knowing that your target audience uses mobile devices and voice to do search might encourage you to change the way you plan your keywords. Instead of just using the usual keyword research tools, you might want to include question phrase reporting tools in your SEO arsenal.
The future of search is very promising. Voice assistants are making multitasking easier and more seamless. Existing technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning are constantly being refined to make search even more accurate and more personalized. Digital marketers need to be ready to welcome this new age of search.
Looking for expert help to get you started with search engine marketing? Our team at https://adspark.ph/contact-us/ are raring to help you outline your SEM strategy.