Search is evolving and affecting search behavior. This has implications for content marketers across the digital space as they seek new and cost-effective ways to dominate search and attract organic traffic.
For decades search has been text-based where people type search queries into search engines and get answers in SERPs.
These days voice search is getting louder and set to capture over 50% of search by 2020, with billions of smart speakers and devices being sold and installed in households across the globe.
In this article, we will highlight the history of search engines, how do search engines work and finally, the evolution of search and its implications for marketers, but first
The History of Search Engines
Search has become an integral part of our lives. Reports say 5.6 billion searches are conducted each day via Google. In fact, “Google” has become a verb, a synonym for search.
Before this, we mostly got information from books, libraries, peers, experts, radio, television, newspaper, gossip, etc. Now, information is at our fingertips, at the click of a button.
Below is a brief timeline highlighting the history and evolution of search engines:
How Search Engines Work
Search engines are information retrieval systems. When users enter a query, the search engine, using certain algorithms, comb the world wide web or internet, in search of relevant answers.
These answers are returned in search engine results pages (SERPs) and served to searchers, who now decide which to pick or click, which contains the most relevant, helpful answers or information.
Search engines work by
- Web Crawling: Bots periodically visit and crawl sites scanning for content.
- Indexing: Crawled pages are stored and organized by title, heading, etc. Indexed pages like this make up SERPs.
- Ranking: Ranks and displays results to search queries by order of relevance, from the most to the least relevant and from Page 1 to Page 20 for Google.
As searchers enter queries, search engines scan indexed pages for content containing words that closely match the keywords entered, using an algorithm to rank relevant pages into a set of results(SERPs).
Some Popular Search Engines
- Google – This is the most visited site and the largest search engine on earth. It’s video arm, YouTube, is the second largest search engine. Other Google services include Map, Images, Gmail, Google+, Google Docs, and many more.
- Bing –This Microsoft powered search engine is the biggest alternative to Google and YouTube. It offers search suggestions on the side column and provides extra search options for users. It also supports easy integration with Facebook, Apple, and other Windows-based devices.
- Yahoo – This is the fourth most popular search engine. One of its best features is its famous free email service. Yahoo teamed up with Microsoft to feature Bing search results.
The Evolution of Search: How Search is Changing & Implications for Marketers
- Text-Based Search
From single word robotic-sounding keywords to long-tail keywords, text-based search has evolved and is evolving. Long-tail keywords tend to be more targeted. Content creators who optimize for long-tail keywords are more intentional in creating content around such keywords. Such content can rank high for relevance, and hence make it to Google page one.
Marketers must implement SEO best practices, invest in keyword research and create high-value content for users. Content should be optimized for headlines, h-tags, keywords. Google also favors mobile responsive sites, so you should optimize for mobile as well as improve website loading speed.
- Social Media Search
Social media search isn’t much of a big deal at the moment, as users mostly search for other users on social networks. This can include hundreds of results similar to the query.
Businesses can also be searched for on social media using the native search function. Marketers have also used hashtags to optimize their social media posts. This can give extra visibility.
There are more advanced tools marketers can now employ to facilitate social media search. Tools like Social Searcher also help to monitor real-time mentions on social media. This can also be used for competitive analysis.
Since its launch in 2002, voice or conversational search has gained traction with the introduction of digital voice assistants like Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant, and Alexa. It uses speech recognition to search the web. Instead of typing, a user engages a digital assistant with conversational queries. The digital assistant searches the web and returns with only one best answer that suits the query in a featured snippet which it reads out to the user. This new and growing trend will impact most present-day customer journey maps.
With more than one billion voice searches happening each month, voice search is the future of search. By 2020, 50% of searches will be carried out using voice. Therefore, marketers like you that want to stay ahead and thrive should start planning your voice search strategy to enable you to optimize your content for voice search and occupy the featured snippets real estate which voice search relies heavily on.
As consumer behavior and technology evolve, search will also evolve to suit the growing needs of users. Work on improving and optimizing your content for better SEO and online presence and discoverability as search evolves even further.