Google Search Gets Friendly

When Apple’s voice activated personal assistant, Siri, was released, it felt like a major step towards a long coveted, sci-fi utopia of artificially intelligent robots at your command. The reality was less exciting. Siri mishears you, constantly replies with “I don’t understand that” and gives you directions to the wrong places. Not to mention her tendency to cut you off in the middle of a command while you’re left staring at the light circling around Apple’s microphone image.

All this is about to change, or at least get a little better with the new Conversational Search from Google. Although the voice search tool has been live for a while now (it’s that little microphone in the search bar), the new version uses contextual clues to understand the progression of the conversation to better find the information. That’s right. It’s learning.

To get a better idea of how this contextual search works, let’s use an example. If you were to ask “Who is the prime minister of Australia?” Google would use its web definition to reply in full form, “The prime minister of Australia is Julia Gillard.”

Then if you asked, “How old is she?” and Google would reply “Julia Gillard is 51 years old.” The search understands that the “she” here is the subject of the previous question. It realizes the conversation is still focused on Gillard. Smart stuff.

Better still, when you’re logged into your Gmail, you can ask the search to track your packages, check local weather, update your schedule, and find restaurants. Anything Google knows about you can be integrated into the search because it understands that your use of “I” and “me” pertain to your information.

The problems are substantial at this point. Losing track of a simple progression or not reading information out loud is a common occurrence. Certain places, people, and objects are unrecognizable or do not have enough data accessible in Google’s system. It’s also not yet available in full form for mobile devices, the platform where the tool would be most useful.

But don’t be too hard on Conversational Search. It’s a step in the right direction and hopefully updates will come quickly to improve performance. The better the search gets, the longer the “conversation” you can have. So far most searches can only go about three or four deep in the chain before Google gets confused. It’s also all but confirmed that mobile search will be voice-activated with a Google Glass-like direction (probably “OK, Google”).

So what do these changes mean for ecommerce? Our Marketing Director, Dave Rekuc, gives his opinion on the potential impact:

Whenever a new technology evolves that changes the way we search on Google, it’s going to affect how people find your site. The most important change here is that the search query is beginning to stand on its own less and less, and the context of the query is becoming more important. So, what does this mean for websites who rely on Google for their business?

In paid search, Google currently uses session matching technology on broad match terms only. As contextual searching increases, it’s going to highlight the importance of a good broad match strategy in your AdWords account. Either that or you’re going to find some of your account’s volume is missing.

In natural search (influenced by SEO), your own site content and context of linking will grow in importance. There’s already been a lot of speculation that Google will start to use contextual clues when examining inbound links; this change is going to help good, solid linking and let content strategies shine, while those using more spammy techniques will fluster.

Major changes to how we interact with a tool as important as Google can be scary. But, ultimately the marketers who understand how the technology functions and develop techniques to accomodate it will flourish. Large, sweeping changes bring a lot of risk, but they also present a lot of opportunity for the savvy marketer.

Ripen Services:

Our marketing and analytics services will make sure your AdWords content strategy is Google approved with healthy content strategies. Stay on top of changes in AdWords and other marketing tools with the custom ecommerce services at Ripen.


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