Over two decades ago, search engine users sat at clunky desktop computers the size of smart cars and put careful and deliberate thought into how they were going to phrase their search query.
The search process was often one of trial, error, and frustration. The user often spent too much time devising ways to couch their query in a way that would provide them with the search results they were seeking, and too little time actually exploring the results provided by a search engine.
Those of us who remember those days of trying to think the way a machine thinks when we were inputting our search queries, sometimes still have difficulty stepping outside our comfort zone when asking for information from search engines.
We still recall the many times that our searches were thwarted because of a simple error in word order, or because the search result we really wanted had the keyword pluralised and we were looking for it using the singular form of the word.
Today’s searchers, however, don’t need to worry about things like word order, plurality, exact-match keywords, or trying to think like a machine thinks when they head to their favourite search engine, because now the machine is trying to think like they are.
Search engines are now using artificially intelligent algorithms that are better able to intuitively decipher search queries, decode the natural language of the searcher, and determine their intent, based on what they’ve asked of the search engine.
For example, in days gone by, someone who was interested in purchasing a plane ticket from London to Paris would have to use a very specific set of words to find search results that offered the ability to do so.
Search queries might have looked something like “online purchase plane ticket London Gatwick Paris FR.” A traveler today can speak their query into a smart phone or other mobile device and use conversational language to do so, such as “I want to book a flight to Paris.”
More often than not, they won’t need to include their departure location because the GPS capabilities of mobile devices are typically linked to their preferred search engine, providing them with geo-targeted search results centered around where they are “now.”
In early 2016, a senior representative from Google stated, as part of a presentation to marketers, SEO experts, web designers, and other professionals, that the future of search is voice queries.
Mobile usage surpassed desktop usage in 2015 and will continue to grow in the future as more gadgets and devices are enabled with Internet access and features, and more people will acquire mobile devices as they become more prevalent and affordable.
The mobile generation has taken over and being able to ask for information rather than typing it has enabled them to not only be mobile in terms of how they access online information, but also with regard to their ability to seek and receive information while on-the-go.
Search engines will be focusing more on interpreting spoken queries and deciphering natural or conversational input.
They are endeavoring to cater to and meet the demands of the ever-growing number of users who are adapting to and making use of the voice-enabled and activated features of their mobile devices.
What does this mean, however, for marketers?
The bottom line for marketers is that keyword research, selection, and placement must be reevaluated to determine if existing strategies are effective enough to maintain a strong position in search results and continue to attract and retain a desired audience.
Over 70% of global searches are accomplished using long-tail keywords, and now these keywords must be carefully chosen to reflect the way someone would search for them using more conversational language.
Search engines are moving toward humanising the search process, so we must start moving away from our attachment to mechanised keywords. The future of search is natural language and voice queries, and the future is here!