What Happened To... Search?
Remember search? Search was the darling of the Internet advertising space. It garnered a huge portion of the ad dollars dedicated to online (~40%) and was dominated by a single player (Google). Everywhere you turned there was an article written about search. There was always a new start-up that was trying to use search data, or improve upon search results. Everyone wanted to be in search. That feels like a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
Of course these days it’s all about social, video and mobile. Search is an after-thought because everyone has basically ceded the category to Google and is looking for the next area where they can still grab something of a foothold. Is that the right strategy?
If everyone has ceded the business to Google, where’s the innovation going to come from? Search is an enormous piece of the interaction pie. There are still the areas of social search, video search, mobile search and even search on the dashboard of the car that are up for grabs. Search on the interface of the next generation TV sets or within the set-top box for Cable TV are also a possibility. These are areas where search can still emerge as an innovation and where a competitor could feasibly challenge Google. Where will the next round of innovation come from?
Siri is probably the only truly innovative competitor to traditional search and Apple is aggressively going to try and put Siri on all your devices, as well as into the dashboard of your car. Siri could become a Trojan horse for Apple to get into non-native Apple devices if they play their cards right, creating apps that allow you to voice control the navigation and search within any device that functions off an operating system. If that happens, what will the impact be on search advertising?
We could feasibly be entering into a stage of search where audio ads make a stand. Imagine a future with voice-activated search when an advertiser can insert spoken word messaging into the interaction between Siri and the consumer. The same goes for any of the voice-operated interaction systems in your car. From Audi to Ford (who is partnered with Microsoft), most manufacturers have some kind of voice-activated solution, and every mobile device is coming equipped with one as well. When you ask your device to search for a route through navigation and the temperature is over 90 degrees, why can’t the device suggest a place for some lemonade or an iced coffee? Traditional search results will still have paid ads inserted into them, but for voice-activated search, why can’t we expect a future with short 5-second voice activated ads?
Search is not a forgone conclusion, unless we treat it as such. The area of search is still ripe for innovation and Google can’t do it all. If I were a budding entrepreneur, search is still an area where I might pay some attention, but I would start my “search” on devices that are decidedly non-PC related. Mobile and connected devices such as cars are an interesting place, as is the interface with my set-top box. It’s not dissimilar to inserting ads in radio, or spoken word recommendations. The “native advertising” model seems to be gaining steam these days and maybe the future of search is tied directly into it?
To answer my own question, “what happened to search”? Nothing happened as of late, and that creates an opportunity. Search is ripe for innovation, and whether it comes from Google or somewhere else remains to be seen.
What are you seeing in this all-important area of the web?