One of the greatest things that search engines did for humans is to provide the ability to answer any question with a few keystrokes. Smartphones now give us answers to questions at any time, anywhere. Search engines and devices have not only changed our behavior, but more importantly changed the way we access content. The where and the how also have become just as important.
As we monitor shifts in consumer search behavior, it's important to keep the following trends in mind when planning a search approach.
Search and Social are Intertwined
While search engines can provide information on products and services, they don't directly take into account the experiences of your friends and trusted advisors. That's where social search comes in. Consumers are leveraging social platforms to not only search for information, but to leverage their connections as a form of crowdsourcing in order to get answers, opinions and experiences. Having social presence and an awareness of the types of conversations underway enables brands to understand where there may be education gaps, poor brand perception, or even identify white space that is prime for content creation.
Consumers are Using Amazon Like a Search Engine
When you look at the competitive landscape for Google, Amazon is the biggest threat to its traditional search business. Consumers have become savvy enough to understand that going directly to Amazon to search for product information saves them a step in their search process. Amazon is able to deliver products and information, reviews and price points. For brands that sell through retail sites, it's important to understand how contextual and image-based content that is sent through product feeds can be optimized to improve visibility and product education.
App Stores and Apps are Search Engines Too
As consumers spend more and more time on smartphones, apps have become a new way to deliver content to them. Whether it's basic search apps like Google or Bing, vertical search apps like Yelp or Google Maps, or brand-specific apps that are trying to engage consumers, it's essential to understand how consumers are finding these apps and the ways they are finding value in the content provided within the apps. Much like traditional search optimization, it is important to optimize the description and categorization of app submissions to maximize visibility and downloads. In addition, you can develop a better strategy when you think about the content within the app, where it is being sourced from, and how it can be optimized. As Google begins to index in-app content, the optimization of app content will become an important part of a brand’s search approach.
Voice Search will Change the Way We Receive Information
The way we verbally ask questions vs. how we search for information is drastically different. As the adoption of hands-free devices like connected TVs, in-auto integration, and wearables grows, so too will the adoption of voice search. With the Hummingbird algorithm update, Google is working toward understanding the true intent of a question. This means that when someone searches for something like "Best restaurants in NY” an article titled "Top 10 restaurants in NY" delivers on the intent of the question, even if the title varies from the actual search query. Google is also delivering information in a card-based short answer formats, which could very well be the pre-cursor to verbal answers.
With these shifts in search behavior, it becomes important for search marketers and brand managers to understand where consumers are searching for answers, what types of questions they are asking on different platforms, and how as a brand you can have a presence and participate in answering consumer questions. With the adoption of devices, consumers’ ability to answer questions at a moment’s notice means that brands need to be prepared for all scenarios and platforms where consumers are searching for information. Brands should aspire to be part of the delivery of information and connect with consumers wherever they are searching for answers.