Is Search Dead?

Is search dead?  Realistically, the answer is no, but I hear fewer and fewer brands talking about search in a way that signals a focus on innovation or growth.  

Is it possible that search is just like that friend of yours who always shows up when asked, will do whatever he can to help, and is consistently taken for granted?   Is search the utility in-fielder for your team?

Search is a standard line item on any marketing plan, regardless of branding or direct-response focus.  Search gets a lion’s share of the budget, and is dominated by Google.  Search is an evergreen element, rarely gets questioned, and does its job, no matter what job you assign to it.  

Search data provides immediate insight into the needs and behaviors of the audience.  Search is cross-device, it is cross-platform, and it’s even cross-cultural.  Search is the fundamental tool behind things like Siri and Alexa, no matter what voice you assign to it (did you know you can assign Siri an America, British or Australian male or female voice in your settings for your iPhone?).



So why isn’t search “sexy” anymore?

The press doesn’t write about search much at all anymore because they’ve run out of bad things to say about it.  It’s the polar opposite of politics: There’s very little drama, and it just does its job without fanfare, hype or accusation.  Where’s the innovation?  

Even Google doesn’t do so much with innovation in search these days.  I read about autonomous cars and drones way more than I read about how search is going to improve over time, and yet there is really so much more we can do with search!  Here are a couple of the things I wish we could see with search (and you may know some companies who are actually doing them):

Search + Location On Mobile Devices
Why not try to do a better job of tying voice-based search with location data so I know physical context for searches along a specific timeline?  It’s one thing to know what people are searching for, but what about when and where they do the searches?  Does that give me insight into the drivers and motivators for those searches?  Are they in the grocery store, in a car, on a train, etc.?

Better Voice-Based Search
I know techier people than me are working on this, but… I’m struggling with my relationship with Siri and Alexa. Maybe I mumble, or maybe I don’t speak clearly enough, or maybe I simply speak too fast, but 50% of the time they are not helpful!  For a little while I was impressed, but recently, not-so-much.  If voice search worked well, I would be using it all the time!  No questions would go unanswered -- it would be amazing!  

Search As The Basis For Attribution
I know lots of search marketers want to maintain that search is the ultimate attribution tool, taking credit for all sales in the world, but we know that’s not accurate.  

That being said, typical consumers search multiple times during the consideration cycle, so is there a way to gauge the state of their journey based on when and where and how often they are searching?  Can search be the “truth-set” for understanding the customer journey?

Can we publish learnings about how search is typically leveraged for different types of consideration cycles?  It may not be accurate for all categories of purchase, but I am guessing it is accurate for all sorts of high-consideration purchases as well as any that align with personal health.  If that’s the case, then it could cover CPG plus auto, real estate and electronics.  

I’m sure some readers will take umbrage with my take on search. Still, I think search is somewhat boring these days — and I don’t understand why. 

Maybe everyone has simply conceded the future to Google — then so be it.  Who am I to argue? I use Google for almost everything, so I’m pretty much onboard, but I expect even Google has room to grow in search.  It’s still the silver bullet app.

Are you seeing innovation in search?   If so, where is it?  Share on the Spin Board!

4 comments about "Is Search Dead?".
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  1. Fred Thiel from Thiel Advisors, Inc., May 18, 2016 at 12:33 p.m.

    THe shift toward voice based assistants and chat bots is ringing the alarms with most of the search providers as control of the consumers attention is shifts away from search engines and controlled by AI and messaging engines.  I don't suggest that you short GOOG....but Messenger will be bigger than Facebook's other properties, Amazon's Echo will dominate the home and WhatsApp no Line will become the largest drivers of commerce.

  2. Leonard Zachary from T___n__, May 18, 2016 at 12:48 p.m.

    FB messenger will not be a GOOG replacement and the US is not China (no credit cards, folks with no bank accounts etc).

    There will be a Shift....

  3. Steve Baldwin from Didit, May 18, 2016 at 1:51 p.m.

    Search has never been sexy. Why does everything have to be sexy. It just works. Shouldn't that be enough? 

  4. Alex James from Arch, May 19, 2016 at 9:27 a.m.

    ITT: "This thing is perfectly functional. It must be dead."

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