Commentary

The Search For Answers: Life After The Query Box

I  always knew that mobilization was going to have some sort of impact on the search marketing world. But I didn't fully appreciate just how fundamentally mobile challenged SEO and SEM conventions until I spent the last few days at the Mediapost Search Insider Summit.

This decade-old summit series has become a tradition among search gurus and major buyers, and it was amazing to see how little mention there was here of the traditional “keyword.” In fact, much of the conference was really about how these disciplines must adapt to consumers performing searches far outside the familiar query box.

Mobility accelerates a trend we've already been seeing in search, toward question-based queries. There was a lot of discussion of how marketer’s content needs to be shaped essentially in the form of an answer: to provide content that surfaces when users are asking questions of an engine.

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And as proactive services like Google Now and updates to iOS come online, brands will need more content that anticipates need rather than responds to intent. The content strategy itself -- how content is written, indexed and updated -- needs to adapt to the mobile styles of search.

Chief drivers of these changes will be the rise of voice search and deep linking, we heard again and again. I couldn’t pin anyone down on exactly how much of both we are seeing in mobile searching, but many anticipate search habits moving in these directions.

Voice search tends to move us more towards Q&A style searches and longer queries. Deep linking will allow searches of a phone deck to render specific data sets and answers from within third-party apps, not just the Web. This is going to be a very big deal. Several speakers advised brands to get their apps indexed so that Apple and Google OSes can discover internal app content.

Overall, mobility and its skew towards answer-based content as well as its social connectedness, press search to be less siloed. Almost everyone at the summit spoke about the need for greater integration among traditional search teams, content, social and even display.  One of the big challenges of a post-keyword search world is that we no longer think in terms of search “results,” so much as providing the right answer.

You can see videos of all the sessions at last week’s Search Insider Summit at our site.

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