At the very heart of semantic search lies a simple proposition that also resonates with marketing: present the right answer, information or product to the right person at the right time.
To do this Google, in 2013, changed its search programming to better help it understand search queries and deliver better content and beefed up its semantic index increasing the number of entities that were found there by over 50%.
Success in search, just like in marketing, however can slip from one’s grasp because of two key factors: complexity and scale. The world is a far from easy concept to understand and the information we know about it keeps increasing all the time.
The similarities between search and marketing are not accidental. In the modern world search is marketing. Search is responsible for delivering your company or brand to those who are looking for a particular piece of information or a product. Search is responsible for driving targeted traffic to your website. Search is responsible for increasing the visibility of your brand. Search, ultimately, is responsible for the success of your marketing. And search is getting smarter.
Two Google changes that took place in 2013 will radically transform how search works and the quality of the search results. This will also have a direct impact on your marketing strategy throughout the next year and the years after that.
Google Becomes Vocal
First Google added the Google Voice Search App for Chrome to desktop search. This transforms the way you use search by allowing you to talk to your computer. It also changes the way your computer responds as it now talks back to you.
There are many reasons why Google has done this, not least the fact that screenless, keyboardless computers are now on the cards and we need to learn how to interface with them without typing. The most direct impact however will be in the way we use search. When you talk to your desktop, just like when you talk to your mobile device the nature of your search query changes and the results you are presented with change with it.
If there was a time to ever consider that traditional keyword-orientated search marketing is over this is, now, it. By accumulating data of spoken search queries that use a natural language structure Google is beginning to better understand search queries and the intent behind them.
And Google Also Becomes Smarter
Considering how many ways we have to just say “hi” to someone (from “Yo” to “wassap?” and everything in between) it seems incredible that just accumulating search queries, no matter how many and irrespective of how natural, is ever going to be enough to keep up with cultural differences, different education levels and the complex semantics that arise at the interface of people and language.
After an eight year battle with the Author’s Guild Google finally won its court case allowing the company to legally scan books. Some 20 million of them. This is a landmark ruling not just because of its implications in search where all sorts of information can now surface but also because of its implications for search.
With that kind of in-depth knowledge at its disposal to learn the nuances of language and expression you can expect Google search to begin to understand intention in search queries way faster than anyone could have predicted.
Marketers Must Adapt
The million-dollar question, of course, is what should you be doing to take advantage of the increasing intelligence of Google’s semantic search? Here are three things you need to focus on:
1. “From Strings to Things” – Forget keyword research to help you create content and start looking at audience attitudes, perception and online activity. Google’s Insights Tool is invaluable in this direction and you should be thinking of creating content that best answers the questions your target audience is placing on Google search.
2. “From Websites to People” – The social signal generated by your online activity is now key and Google Plus is at the centre of it. There is now escaping this fact now so hard as it may be start devising ways you can use your time better because there are precious few shortcuts in the semantic web.
3. Change Your Mind – At the very least change the way you approach your marketing and the ‘voice’ you use to communicate with your target audience, online. This is a critical component of success and it reflects back on points one and two above.
These three requirements signify a departure from the checkbox marketing of old. They signify a departure from the dependency on metrics that simply churned numbers and never looked at quality. They signify an end to faceless, unaccountable marketing. Predictions for the year ahead have already pegged 2014 as the breakout year for wearable devices, the year of semantic search and the year of mobile computing. But really all these are attributes. The year ahead will be the year of personalization. If you are unable to create relationships with your target audience that help them better understand who you are and what you do, you will find it increasingly difficult to do business.