The fragmentation of Google search

In the days when going online meant either staying home and staring at our desktop monitor or going to work and logging in at a desk machine search was the interface and its instantly recognizable “ten little blue links” format. 

Over the past six years technology has hit a critical acceleration point and artificial intelligence and machine learning have changed everything.

When the interface through which we access information and get things done has changed, it stands to reason that search itself is also changing. Search has got smarter because it understands intent and context and it has also become an integral component of artificial intelligence.

There’s a very good reason for this. Semantic search uses real-world knowledge to establish entities, understand search user intent and determine context. Real-world knowledge allows artificial intelligence (AI) in all its manifestations to transition from being a party trick to actually being useful.  

Search is Now Everywhere

In the process search has quietly and seemingly organically, fragmented. This means that search plays a role in many different actions and contexts which are not overtly branded as search in the way we understand the “ten little blue links”. 

Examples of this can be seen in Google Assistant that uses search technology to power its ever-widening knowledge base. Waze that guides drivers all over the world. Google maps whose functionality is changing all the time. Google Now that uses information gleamed from the device, user behavior, other Google products (like Gmail and YouTube and search) to pull together a seamless, customized service for its user. 

The list is far from exhaustive and will only increase so the real question here is: “So what?”

From Search Engines to People

Just as semantic search transitioned the importance of search from “strings” (i.e. unconnected bits of data) to “things” (see video below for an introduction to semantic search) it also made possible another transition along the lines of “from machine-read factors to human psychology”.

Basically when search is no longer an action that requires the activation of a specific search interface and the conscious structure of a search query, it becomes behavior-specific. This means that the factors which now drive success in search for marketers are no longer just the rote of “200+ factors” that determine ranking in search which have been the preoccupation of search engine optimizers or on-page SEO, or keywords. These have now expanded to also include: 

  • reach and influence
  • reputation and branding
  • value and impact
  • values and vision
  • style and attitude

Success in search now requires us to understand people and what motivates them not search engines and what governs them.

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