The Evolution of Search

The Evolution of Search

Search is almost unrecognisable now when comparing it with its year 2000 self.

Around the millennium, queries were literally based on keywords that directly related to the search terms; which means they lacked the ‘human’ elements we know now. There was no intent to mimic or consider how people actually converse about queries and questions.

Around this time, the following were true about search:

  • Keyword driven search
  • Optimised focused on keywords and nothing else
  • Content produced largely for Google and not for users
  • No conversational queries
  • Little or no understanding of user intent

Like everything, search has had to evolve. In 2013, Google made some pretty major changes to its algorithm, known as ‘Hummingbird’, which heralded the start of trying to understand the relationships and make-up of queries. Beginning to focus on the words contained within the search and relating these to context and intent were crucial steps to making search results appear more relevant and ‘intelligent’

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In this example, we can see how Google is now delivering immediate results based on what it thinks the user intent is. The result is based on the idea that Google is confident the user is asking ‘who is the current Creative Director of Gucci?’ and delivering on this.

It is believed that the query now goes through an interpretation model that can apply possible factors like the location of the searcher, personalisation, and the words of the query to determine the searcher’s true intent.

Another example is a search for ‘Location of Olympics’. Let’s look into the true intent of this search?

  • Are they looking for information about the summer or the winter games?
  • Are they looking for information on the Olympics that’s just concluded or the next one in four years from now?
  • Are they looking to find out where each of the previous Olympics have been held?
  • Are they sitting in a hotel on the eve of the opening ceremony looking for directions to the stadium?

It’s only by being able to mathematically calculate results based on patterns the machine learning algorithm has identified in searcher behaviour that Google can determine that, for example, the majority of people looking up ‘location of Olympics’ want to know where the

very next games (be it summer or winter) will be held. Google will then keep learning from how the searcher interacts with the results to inform future results.

What’s an implicit query?

Google is now more sophisticated than ever and is taking more and more factors into account, many of which you may never explicitly say or type; these are implicit queries. Google is paying attention to your location, search history, mode of transport and the type of device you’re using to help deliver tailored responses.

We’re already asking fewer questions and generally assuming Google will start to deliver on less detailed requests.

Say hello to compound queries, too

So, this relates to the process of performing a search, receiving an answer from Google and then submitting another query whereby Google takes cues from your initial search to provide you with the next answer. The move towards compound queries will mean it becomes more

natural for people to use Google to interact with data repeatedly. Let us show you exactly what we mean; here’s a search for the Eiffel Tower:

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Data driven search

When we think about search, we still focus on the web as the primary model. However, Google is increasingly answering certain types of query by sending users to apps rather than web pages (when performing a search on a mobile device) – which is a big focus shift.

Apps are increasingly hooking into the search functionality on smartphones, meaning that more and more informational searches for live information such as train times, weather, and cinema screenings can be presented to the user without redirecting them elsewhere.

User intent – why demographics don’t give us the full story  

We all turn to search when we have want or need, when we want to discover something new, find answers and make decisions. When trying to deliver results, demographics should no longer be the main focus, because they rarely tell the full story. We need to focus on user intent.

Demographics don’t help us understand what customers are looking for in an exact moment, or where they are looking to find it. Relying on demographics is limiting. While they will always have a place in marketing, brands that understand and respond to intent are better positioned to be there and be useful for all of their potential customers, not just those that fit an age and gender profile.

So there you have it – some of the ways search has evolved and a look into how it continues to do so. As user expectations change, things will keep on moving; so make sure to stay tuned for another blog soon on The Future of Search!

In the meantime, if you need any help with boosting your own search, then why not call one of our Technical Marketing experts on 01423 396959?