Arriving back home in the Lone Star State to attend SXSW, one of the many presentations that I watched was Guy Kawasaki, author of Alltop, interview Google’s Senior Vice President of Search, Amit Singhal. I have seen both of these gentleman speak in the past and I always find a ton of useful insight that I can immediately use in my work. Amit spoke of the type of search engine Google is aiming to build and he shared his excitement of the fact that more and more searches are conducted on mobile devices in place of traditional desktops and laptops.
When asked of the basic search algorithm, Amit said
“The perfect search engine should know exactly what you mean, and give you exactly what you want. The perfect search engine also has to be comprehensive, relevant and fast.
He also pointed out that Google uses over 200 search signals in the algorithm to return relevant results to us, of which keywords is just one component. When Kawasaki asked questions about the specific details of the algorithm (he said the algorithm itself is many more lines of code than he could possibly read) he did say that Google’s goal is to build a search engine that works like the Star Trek computer. You ask a question, and it returns a contextually relevant result.
To illustrate, he said when he searches in Google he uses natural language. What is the weather today? Who is Barrack Obama? And then, (and this was the bit I liked), ‘who is his wife?’. A search like that, performed immediately after the Obama one, will produce the ‘right’ answer as Google understands that it’s Obama’s wife he is asking about.
For content producers, digital marketing companies and website owners, the key implication was clear (and he repeated it often). Produce high quality content and cater to your audience. Produce high quality, relevant content, and produce for your audience. Not for the search engines. Digital marketing techniques like SEO were important to ensure your site could be indexed, but what is really important for good rankings, Amit reinforced, was relevant, customer-centric content.
His tip for digital marketers when it comes to search – “Work for your customers” when it comes to producing content. I like the simplicity of that answer. Serve your customers, clients and prospects with relevant content and the search results usually take care of themselves.
On the question of whether he sees Facebook as a threat to Google, or the future of Facebook search, Singhal said that time will tell if people want to search within Facebook … and Google will continue doing what they do to produce the ‘Star Trek’ computer of search.
Future Developments in Search
As he wrapped up his hour-long fireside chat with Singhal, Kawasaki asked him of the challenges still facing Google in terms of developing search.
Their focus is now on four areas
- Knowledge Craft – tapping into the collective knowledge of the internet
- Speech Recognition
- Natural Language Understanding
- Conversational Language
These four areas are increasingly important as search goes mobile – not just on our mobile devices but as we move into the era of Google Glass and similar … where ‘searches’ will be conducted as we move about our lives, without even ‘reaching’ for a device, rather, just interacting with it.
My challenge to myself and my readers is how are we going to think differently about search? Knowing that customers and prospects are mobile, does that change the messaging we serve?