Search Engines In The Physical World

Over the last few years, it has become very apparent that the search engines we are used to dealing with -- those being mostly cerebral, via desktop search -- are beginning to morph into something entirely different when considered in a mobile environment (mobile, in this case, meaning any situation that doesn't require the user to be chained to a desk to conduct a search).  While many marketers are still just getting a basic grasp of SEO and PPC, things are skewing at a rapid pace into other areas away from the desktop, like branches sprouting from two trunks growing out of the same tree.   

On one of the trunks, we have traditional search marketing, like SEO and Adwords.  Adwords is the golden goose that finances Google's entire playground of innovations.  For each great new one, like Google Moon or the company's philanthropic efforts, there is a major advertiser that pumped a lot of dough into Adwords to finance it.  Because Google has become such a core foundation in marketing and advertising -- for both paid and natural search --  search engine marketers shouldn't worry about these core practices dying anytime soon.  In other words, no matter what happens with current innovations, search engine marketing isn't going anywhere, and in fact, it will continue to scale even greater heights at different levels.



It's the other trunk of the tree that makes things even more interesting for our future society, as well as search marketing in general (notice I left out the "engine").  This second trunk of "search" as we know it is taking on an entirely new shape.  Right now the difference is that we are about to see search manifest in physical ways both previously predicted, and not predicted.  In  2005's "The Search," John Battelle talked about being able to scan a bottle of wine at Whole Foods on your mobile, and get a price comparison, as well as a listing of nearby stores with a competitive offering.  That day has already come with the advent of cool iPhone apps like ShopSavvy.  But we are all going to need to expand our definitions of search even further, and recognize how a search marketing frame of mind prepares for the second trunk of this tree.

These areas of physical expansion include voice search, searching from your car, preloaded keyword triggers that are tied into mobile or location, augmented reality, mobile, search of physical store inventory, and the myriad functions that come from implementing RFID.  Even the futuristic portrayals of advertising in the movie "Minority Report" are coming closer to reality (think about certain aspects of personalization, as neat or scary as it may sound).  And as we are seeing with social search, even people have become nodes that signal search, begetting the very real concept of social relevancy

But what is different now is that what was once imagined, is almost here.  While it may not seem like a big leap for some, this is the moment where the old and new worlds are colliding, and it seems there will soon be a day when no one will remember when there weren't physical engines.  And it will likely even become expected, kind of like that guy who sat next to Louie CK on an airplane, and proclaimed, "this is bulls***" because his flight Wifi was down ("People in today's society take things for granted"). 

So for the future, search marketers can go with many different ways beyond the search box.  And make no mistake about it -- marketers will have to think like a search engine, no matter which side of the tree they choose to climb, and search marketers will do well in both.  But when we're all sitting in our cars making voice searches of the existing RFID-tagged inventory at Walmart, who will remember -- or will anyone even care -- about the "old days," when you had to handwrite your school essays, and could only search from a desktop?

2 comments about "Search Engines In The Physical World".
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  1. Rob Garner from Author of "Search and Social: The Definitive Guide to Real-Time Content Marketing Wiley/Sybex 2013, July 7, 2010 at 4:33 p.m.

    Hi Paula - Battelle's example was for a bottle of wine. But I use my version of ShopSavvy all the time. To your point, it is usually for higher ticket items like electronics, but it works well - just an amazing piece of technology developed by Big In Japan herein Dallas.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, July 7, 2010 at 6:20 p.m.

    Rob - bottle of wine is just a matter of taste, thirst or tongue in cheek. And you ran to the store without doing your homework first for electronics ? You buy electronics as a POP ?

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