As we have mentioned before, many people are incompetent at search, and the search engines and SEO experts (as well as hardware manufacturers) have not been slow in taking this into account.

In a video from the Google stable, we hear about how Google is taking into account the changes that are occurring in user behaviour and needs, as well as the interfaces being used to search for content and the content being created. Daniel Russell, who presents the video, has the rather marvellous job title of Uber Tech Lead for Search Quality and User Happiness.

It is interesting to see how search is changing, particularly with the influx of social media and the ever-increasing need for real time searches which bring up breaking news, for example.

It is worth watching the Google Maps example given from 9mins onwards. This example shows how Google has enriched the results during the period 2005 to 2012, by changing the underlying dataset from an outsourced dataset to Google’s own. Whilst many of us may not have noticed the sometimes subtle changes which each iteration has brought, it is difficult to miss the vast changes that a mere 5-6 years has had on our comprehension of what search is, and therefore how as search marketers we have reacted to those changes.

From ensuring that a client’s address was listed on Google Maps (and then Local before returning the name to Maps), through to ensuring that there were photos of the location or shop, to adding Products into what was Google Base and is now Google Shopping, to encouraging customers to review the products and services, and so on and on….. through to the latest development in search which is ensuring that as Google moves to integrate all products together, we are being actively encouraged to use the rel=author tag to have content by certain individuals showing up in search results.

In talking about social and how it will affect search in future, we find ourselves falling into the world of big data (which, in case, you have not heard yet, is one of the buzzwords of 2012). So, for instance, whilst you may think you understand all about social networks, try looking at stackoverflow.com which is a great example of a niche social network, where big data is created, along with answers to complex problems, simply by the members of a community of interest.

social networks for mathematicians

As Google gets a handle on more of this type of social activity, and therefore advances Google+ beyond being a Facebook repro, then we will see more and more results in the SERPS which reflect the social activity from authors within our immediate or extended circles. And especially from those who have been canny about including keywords when creating content, as well as using that rel=author tag!

One of the problems with the ever-increasing creation of content is that it is, of course, becoming ever harder to index this and provide the results in a meaningful way using algorithms. After all, the search algorithms do not know whether you are looking up “polar bear hide” for a research project, because you are shopping to make a furry belt, or you actually mean a hide as in somewhere to hide from polar bears.

The examples given include 48 hours of video uploaded to Youtube every minute, or the equivalent of the Library of Congress added in information each day to the Net – and the rate of acquisition of new content is accelerating, fast. This means that, theoretically at least, if you can craft the right search, the amount of time spent finding the data you require is decreasing, day on day, as companies such as Google do the hard work for us. BUT, many people, as we said at the outset, quite simply do not know how to search, and hence find the results they are seeking.

So, for those interested in search, the really interesting part is about critical thinking skills and educating users to develop these skills so that they can more accurately access the information they are searching for (24mins). Which, hopefully, is of course, your website!

How do we, as search marketers, solve the problem of directing the user to a specific client website via a photo of a particular meal that their colleague has recommended at the restaurant if the only info the user has is: “It was ‘beef and rice'”? And how do we convert that search into a booking and a satisfied customer who leaves a tip, a review on our site, checks in on Foursquare, leaves a comment on our blog, signs up to our newsletter and eats in the restaurant on the discount coupon they received as a loyal customer?

After all, isn’t that why we want them to find the website in the first place?!

This type of search query may well be where Google Goggles come into their own. Not just the smartphone Google Goggles app, which has been on release for some time, but the physical version of Google Goggles – smart shades or something similar they will undoubtedly be called.

Being able to take a photo of a real world object and then search for the answer to your query is undoubtedly a goal of all search engines, because it can be so difficult to phrase the question to find the right answer using only words. Adding images to the mix takes us into a whole new realm of optimisation for search marketers. Then there’s Siri and voice, sounds and music, videos….you get the drift? If you thought search engine marketing had got a whole lot more complex over the last few years, with client fees staying fairly static but the workload increasing exponentially……it’s about to get a lot, lot harder!

Where else do you see search changing over the coming years as users become prosumers, hardware becomes more affordable, the disconnecteds get connected, and the volume of information, particularly real time social data, continues to increase by the hour? Do you envisage your task as a search engine /internet marketer becoming harder or more easier as tools for automation become available? As a user, do you see it becoming simpler to find the results you seek or more complex? How can website owners ensure that their sites remain optimised for the correct keywords?

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About the author:

A practising internet marketing consultant since 1996, Lindsey Annison helps companies improve their website marketing, online PR and information architecture. Lindsey is also a qualified adult education lecturer and author. As co-founder of the Access to Broadband Campaign, she has been instrumental in the provision of high-speed internet access to rural areas in the UK. Lindsey is also a past winner of Silicon.com's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology