New in search – a look at non-traditional search methods

Find out about some of the new ways of making search queries that are beginning to roll out to both the digital world and it's consumers

A look at some new, non-traditional search methods

Sitting at a recent family dinner, my father was struggling to remember the name of an actor. “He’s a tall, weird looking chap” he declared, and then adding to the list of vague clues, remembered that he voiced the dragon in “that movie with the bloke from The Office.”

I managed to gauge that the movie he was referring to was ‘The Hobbit’, however, not being a fan of dragons nor The Office, I too did not know the name of the actor. So I proceeded to undertake the series of actions that has become part of everyday life for me when I need to know something: I took out my smartphone and made a search query for “who voices the dragon in The Hobbit?”

Voila. Benedict Cumberbatch.

I gave my father his answer and went on eating my dinner thinking that I had completed my good deed for the day, but as I turned back to look at him, he was just staring at me. Thinking he didn’t believe me, I showed him the proof - I had it there in my hand!

“No, I believe you” he went on to say, “but how did you know how to do that?” “Do what? I replied confusingly. “How did you know what to look for and how did you find it?” he explained further.

Now, at this point, it wasn’t registering with me that my father is from a different generation – a generation that didn’t grow up with what is advanced technology that lives in your pocket, and it got me to thinking just how accustomed we’ve become to said advanced technology. And in turn, that prompted me into thinking about how integrated an arguably simple action such as using a search engine has become in our lives, and how it is only going to become more involved.

Having an unfathomable amount of information available at a whim is one thing, but how we’re able to access is the interesting part. How that is going to affect search marketing, remains to be seen.

Some recent unveilings came to mind, unsurprisingly from the two biggest names in search – Google and Bing, along with another from another establishment called Apple. You may have heard of them.

The latter, in all of their flashy, albeit warranted confidence have begun dipping their toes into the smart-television-box business with one of their latest ventures, Apple TV. Now, you might not think that this could noticeably affect search, and you’d probably be right in thinking that. However, their latest update, could.

Apple are bringing everyone’s favourite monotone virtual assistant to Apple TV. That’s right; Siri herself will now be available on your television screens. Voice recognition has been tried in several different formats over the last few years, most noticeably from Microsoft’s Xbox’s Kinect which gave consoles the ability to understand their users’ voices – if they shouted and spoke in an American accent - but it never really took off.

However, Apple have a knack for rehashing existing ideas and turning them from also-rans to phenomena – think about how many people you know that have Microsoft Tablet PCs, and then think about how many people you know that have iPads.

If users have the ability to access Siri on their television, then they have the ability to ask it questions, or, ‘search’. Right now, Siri is mainly used to ask for the weather forecast; or what time a movie is playing at their local cinema; or just how pretty you are, but (most of) these queries are answered by accessing the SERPs. So, what does having Siri on your television mean for search?

Is search seasonality going to morph into an amalgamation that is part traditional trends, part television schedule? Are marketers going to have to start optimising their content based on the top 5 phrases screamed during day-time televisions shows? It’s too early to tell.

What we do know that is, not a new, but an improved method of search is now readily available, and while the fundamentals remain consistent, it has the potential to disrupt the status quo. Users will now be able to search literally without lifting a finger. This could show an increase in search – if it takes off. It could also see a heightening in accidental search queries due to voice recognition’s (often hilarious) inability to correctly pick up what you’re saying each time. How would this affect the reliability of analytic data? As I said before, it’s too early to tell just now, but it’s certainly one to keep an eye on.

The other noteworthy announcements that have the potential to become part of everyday search marketing is the launching of Google’s and Bing’s respective Now On Tap and Snapshots applications.

These apps will be released into the wild very soon (Bing Snapshots has actually already rolled out) and what they will do is work in the background of your smartphone, waiting for their opportunity to present you with…something!

They are designed to recognise when you’re making a search query, even when you’re not making a search query. For example, if you’re having a nice text conversation with your friend, and perhaps you mention a particular restaurant, these nifty apps will then selflessly go out of their way to bring up some search results to help you with your conversation:

And it doesn’t stop with messaging – whenever these apps see their opportunity, whatever you are doing, they will pounce! Now, how this can change search, from a marketing point of view? How do you optimise for users that don’t even know they are searching? Do we start writing our blog posts in an informal, text-message-friendly language? Idk.

What we do know is that, with Apple TV, the progression with these apps and functions, and anything else similar that is yet to come, will need to be monitored, carefully, as if history is anything to go by, there is likely going to be challenges accompanying them. Will people finally take to voice searches? Will users see the Now On Tap and Snapshot reopen the can of worms that was the invasion of privacy saga? These are the challenges that potentially await us as marketers. But with every challenge, comes opportunity.

Recognising when and where these opportunities present themselves is paramount. That is why we strive to keep on top of a fast paced and ever changing industry in order to have at hand our ideas for a connected world.

Watch this space.

By Chris Smith, SEO Executive