The Future of Search

Until the year 2015, the ‘Future of Search’ discussions had been dominated by just one word “Mobile”. However, in May 2015, Google finally declared that mobile is no longer the future. Mobile searches surpassed desktop searches globally leaving search experts to define the “new” future.

So what are the search experts saying now as they gaze into the crystal ball? Where is Search headed now?

Who else would be a better person to quote here than Behshad Behzadi, Google’s Director of Conversational Search. According to him “The future of search is to try to build the ultimate personal assistant.” While a cynic would say that “search will become creepier by the day”, a digital enthusiast would infer that “search algorithms will increasingly become more proactive than reactive”. You could detest it for being nosy or embrace it for making your lives easier, but the fact is that it will be almost impossible to dismiss the “ultimate personal assistant” completely.

In its current form, the personal assistant looks like Google Now, but it is still said to be in infantile stage. Just as a child grows into an adult, the search engine will get better at understanding the context of your searches and conversations such that it will come back with tailored responses.

Locational context will empower search in the days to come. With mobile dominating searches, location qualifiers like “near me” or “nearby” have been increasing exponentially. To put things in perspective, Google Trends data for India shows that “near me” searches have grown more than 3X in the past 12 months. What are people looking for in those “I-want-to-go moments”? The answer is everything – from ATMs to restaurants to salons.



Source: Google Trends Data for “near me” searches in India – Past 12 months (as on May 4, 2016)

As more and more people are beginning to pull out phones from their pockets to make location specific searches, Google is preparing to answer those queries not only within the Google Search app but also from within the information rich apps on the phone. “Deep linking” and “App Indexing” – does that ring a bell?

Another trend to watch for is the rise of voice searches. A study released by Google in October 2014 revealed that 51% of teens and 41% of adults in US use voice search. Though the study is more than a year old now and talks only about US trends, voice searches are only going to increase manifold with each passing day not only in US, but across the globe. And India will be no exception given its huge millennial population. From asking for directions to finding out about movies, voice searches will become a very common phenomenon soon. Though Google has not yet officially shared any voice search numbers for India, the considerable investments that the company is making in reducing voice recognition errors at a global level and in preparing Google for Indian Accents in particular are good enough hints about the huge potential of voice search.

So yes; Voice, Location, and Context will drive Search in the Future and search marketers need to be prepared for these changes. Interested in knowing what can search marketers do to be better prepared? Stay tuned, the next blogs in the series will talk about just that.