Our ideas of search are, in our current time, consumed by online search. But a world of encyclopaedias, verbal storytelling and petroglyphs all existed before the internet, just as the everlasting task of search outweighs them all.
The evolution of search is fascinating, and where it could be headed in the future even more so.
Search has evolved in so many ways, and it’s not just ‘search’ itself, it’s search behaviour, search needs, and our expectations of search.
We do not search to simply find information. We search for information because we ‘use’ it.
Our expectations of what we feel search should be able to accomplish for us in turn shapes our behaviour and our search ‘needs’.
With our constant connectivity, voice search, wearable technology and integrated products making up what is now known as the internet of things; the current search model has come to a fork in the road. Universal access to all knowledge is now within our reach thanks to the internet.
Moving into the internet the world’s largest online search engine, Google, currently holds the world’s biggest collection of data. This fork in the road means that search engines now need to understand the information it stores rather than just indexing it.
People are beginning to search for answers, not information. People are asking questions and expect to find answers to them. People want to use contextual search engines.
Contextual search takes into account several factors of the query, such as the location, the time, previous search queries and then the keyword/s. It’ll also look at the device being used, but it has the ability to go so much further than this.
Think about if it could also factor in your calendar of events and meetings, what apps you like to use, your interests and preferences. It could mean instead of searching for answers, we are using search platforms which predict what we want.
It’s the idea of a post-search online world, where search engine platforms meet you where you are, not the other way around.
Search, while still paramount for any business in our global economy, has moved beyond just being an advertising and marketing tool. We are a hyper-connected generation. With constant connectivity means greater moments and opportunities to be as useful and relevant as possible.
The future of search is undoubtedly exciting. It’ll still be search, but not as we know it. Rather than inputting data into machines, the communication process will become much more of a two-way stream, which is why contextual understanding is so imperative if search is to move in this direction.
As small to medium sized business owners watch and learn this process unfold, the key to online success will be how quickly they are to embrace new technologies.
Search will turn from a reactive platform into a proactive one, and that fork in the road will soon become a distant memory; don’t allow your business to be left behind either.
Ben Bradshaw is the founder and chief executive officer of SponsoredLinX, an online marketing agency for business owners in Australia and New Zealand.