Semantic Search and What it Means to Businesses
As I write this post I am conscious of the fact that we live in unprecedented times. The web, a medium that’s always been hallmarked by speed in development has accelerated its rate of change to such an extent that to miss a day feels like you’ve almost lost touch.
The principal reason for this, is semantic search – a paradigm shift in the fullest sense of the word that’s making itself felt across every business vertical. Because search powers the way we access the web it also changes the way we interact with web technologies. This, in turn impacts upon the way we use it to access services, buy products and find information.
When everything is contextual success online is reduced to the simplicity of meaning (which is where semantics come in) the success of your product or service is guaranteed only when it actually means something to the person who will see it (i.e. it provides an answer to a problem in a transactional or informational way, or it helps them expand their knowledge).
From a purely business point of view the pertinent question at this point is “What do I need to do to make this happen?”
The simplicity of the question hides a complexity of actions required not least because surfacing in search now involves a much more holistic, authentic and yes, honest, approach than ever before with the requirement that a business not only behaves like a person but is also personable.
A tall order? Yes, especially when you consider that you now need to have a set of behaviours that come easy to the individual (who, essentially, is operating using pretty much the same brand dynamic) but are hard to implement for the company or brand:
- Have a clear, distinctive brand voice.
- Project a clear set of values that form a common bond between your business and your prospects.
- Deliver content in multiple channels in a personable, accessible way.
- Deliver content that has real value for the end user.
- Have a strong social media presence.
- Make Google+ central to your social media efforts.
Screenless Computers are Coming
Why is the list above so important? Well, because semantic search is all about a rethinking of the way we interface with computers in order to get information. A lot of the current digital marketing thinking that revolves around search is based on the assumption of the familiar “ten little blue links” and a screen to see it all in.
The move to mobile with its highly contextualized, location-aware search results and the frequently used Google Voice search is challenge enough for most businesses. Take the screen away and suddenly the concept of these “ten little blue links” disappears completely and with it every traditional marketing plan that took search into account.
When the only way to interface with a computer (and the semantic web) is voice, as in a conversation, suddenly being found in search changes from the game of statistical chance it was in the past to a firm recommendation made by an intelligent program.
For that to happen and your business to be recommended you have to have engaged in the activities of the list above long enough for Google to have formed a granular picture of who you are and what you do.
Scott Huffman, head of the Conversation Search group at Google has said that: “It’s now so inexpensive to have a powerful computing device in my car or lapel, that if you think about form factors, they won’t all have keyboards or screens.” When you hear that form factors are changing you know that the characteristics of the semantic web are at play:
- Intense Personalisation
The activities on that list are part of the steps required in order to build your identity and reputation and create high-confidence in who you are, in search. The critical thing here is it has to start now. Building a reputation and an identity takes time. It’s not the kind of thing that will happen overnight regardless of how much manpower and money you’re willing to throw at it.
For the clever marketer and the savvy businessman that process has to start now.