Image courtesy of (KROMKRATHOG) /

Image courtesy of (KROMKRATHOG) /

Google is synonymous with search. Before, when people needed answers they would ask a friend or relative, head to their local library, or reference the nearest encyclopedia. Today, if there is a burning question on someone’s mind, they simply Google it. Even the phrase “Google it” has become a colloquial term used by the masses. Yet, despite the endless information that Google can provide, one needs to either be near a desktop or have their Smartphone handy to receive its knowledge; until recently.

At Google’s recent I/O developer’s conference the company unveiled its new virtual assistant, simply dubbed Google Assistant. The new feature is something similar to the already existing Google Now, but its capabilities have been upgraded in a massive way. For instance, with Google Assistant you can ask a question such as “Who painted the Mona Lisa?” and Google will return the correct answer. Users can then follow the query up by saying something like, “What else did he paint?” and the assistant will bring up results of more works from da Vinci, making the software conversational in nature. Google CEO Sundar Pichai put the AI in simple terms by stating, “. . . We think of it as a conversational assistant, we want users to have an ongoing two-way dialog.”

Google Assistant will not be limited to desktop and mobile devices either; it will also be built into Google’s rebuttal to the Amazon Echo, Google Home. While Facebook, Microsoft, and others have also been hard at work developing AI personal assistants, Google has one advantage over nearly every other company; a deep knowledge base of the world.

When queried, the Google Assistant will draw from its nearly infinite database of Google search, the knowledge base of Google Now, and the information it has acquired on the user over years and years of Web searches, voice queries, calendar entries and countless other interactions with the company. Additionally, during the announcement, Pichai expounded on the assistant’s intelligence by giving attendees an example of its power: Users can stand in front of pieces of art or street sculptures and ask, “Who designed this?” and, without providing any details, Google Assistant will draw on location data, image recognition, and other key identifiers to provide the correct answer. The AI can perform similar tasks for completing local queries about nearby restaurants, movies currently playing, and so forth. And because the assistant is conversational, you can then follow up with a series of questions as if you were speaking to an actual person, and the software will appropriately respond.

The Google Assistant blends together the best aspects of Siri, Hound, and in certain cases, Amazon Echo, all packaged together under the Google banner.

As this technology begins to limit the direct contact users need to have with the search engine, especially in the case of Google Home, what exactly does this spell for businesses trying to claw their way to the top of the SERPs?

Where Have All the Ads Gone?

As Google’s functionality begins to extend itself to new, hands-off devices such as Home, the company will need to find new ways to monetize its engine.

Over the years, Google’s cost-per-click ads have been dropping in value. Additionally, those who leverage AdWords will need to find new outlets to recover the loss of these precious revenue-driving promotions. This comes on the heels of Google removing the right side ads from the SERPs, leaving some AdWords fanatics shaking in their proverbial boots.

On the upside, however, Google has decades of experience in developing new ad models for its platforms. Despite the slip in ad revenue, the search giant will not be willing to let that income fall to the wayside.

For those who don’t leverage AdWords, you must be wondering what this means for content.

The Demise of Content?

Because Google Assistant will provide more direct answers through its search engine which are spoken back to the user after a query is entered, this can, and in some areas, lead to a decrease in users actually reading and interacting with content. This trend will only increase as more products like Echo and Home are introduced into the marketplace. Does this mean that creating content is soon to be a lost art? Not in the least. Instead, this means these two things:

1. The quality of content you create will yet again need to improve;

2. Video content will become more important than ever before.

As Google will now be predominantly speaking answers directly to users, it is critical that your content reflects the high quality material Google needs to satisfy its searchers. It has to be in-depth, well researched and provide genuine answers to common queries around the topic.

Video is a trickier animal. It currently requires a screen and speakers to be consumed. Therefore, users will be less apt to interact with content on their Smartphone or desktop devices that isn’t in the form of video because Google will have answers at the ready for many queries.

This should not come as too big of a shock, however — the rise of video content has been underway for some time now and will all but consume Internet traffic in just a few years.

The fact is that small businesses are at the mercy of the market and, in many ways, Google itself. All that can be done is to learn to adjust your sails when the winds shift and weather the storm. The best thing you can do right now is begin investing in creating video content (which can be free if needed), social media advertising like that offered through Instagram or Facebook, and stay present to the changing trends. As you know, when it comes to Google (and life), everything is always transforming.

What other potential ramifications might Google Assistant have for small businesses?