Google’s not just a search engine
Search may be its core product, but Google has its fingers in many, many more pies; all manner of products and projects that you might not have even known about. Everything from space elevators to cancer research and driverless cars.
But the question I have is this: how will these products impact what we do as search marketers? Every new product, be it hardware or software, usually entails a plethora of opportunities that entice marketing think-tanks into devising new ways of pushing products and services into the faces of more prospective consumers.
So what we’re going to do here is take a look at the publicised projects Google has on its plate, then predict how search could be applied to that project and what might change as a result.
This is an innovative take on headwear that allows you a new way of being constantly connected to the World Wide Web. The applications for this are nearly limitless and I can think of a million ways in which this could be a great tool in our everyday lives. I’m not much of a cook, but imagine having a recipe right there in front of your eyes without even having to touch or look at a recipe book? What about having driving directions without a GPS unit in the car but still clearly visible?
This definitely has potential for search. People are going to need to find information through their glasses, whether that’s driving directions, recipes or a thousand other things. How would those search results appear? Result page real estate will probably be highly condensed, so competition for those top spots is going to be even tougher. How much of that available space is AdWords going to dominate?
Looking at the information Google already provides, it seems Google Glass is a fair distance away from achieving this yet (although there are signs that search results are integrated), but the consequences for user behaviour are dramatic too. Voice activation is going to be the way forward, much like we’re now seeing Google change as it adapts for increasing mobile adoption. Search queries are more likely to be question orientated rather than broad terms.
The potential for purchase-orientated phrases will be great too and the changes in user behaviour may alter the ways in which people search for products on a much more local scale. This could potentially be true of shopping. Imagine you’re in the high street, looking for a product you know is sold in several locations. You could search for that product in the local area to find out which shop sells it cheaper or maybe even has a sale on.
Mobile – watches
Samsung has broken the ice with watch-based devices. They recently announced “Gear Fit”, which helps you live a more active life by feeding biometric information to your phone. Not far away will be connectivity between all your devices, regardless of brand. You’ll be able to activate everything around the home from your watch via the Internet, perhaps start your driverless car and download a new route to the GPS in it.
How will this impact search? It’s early days but applications like this go beyond what we’re familiar with now, which is the standard 10 results on one page. The dynamics and mechanics of search results – and perhaps even the algorithms that determine ranking – will dramatically change in order to cope with altering search behaviour. Due to the small space available on a watch interface, results may even implement parallax or horizontal scrolling.
The Space Elevator
Yes, Google is working on an elevator into space. Amazing I know. It’ll work like a ribbon extending out of the atmosphere and attaching to an orbiting counterweight. It’s said to be used for scientific discovery but I’m sure tourism will filter in down the line as well. It won’t be happening any time soon, for numerous reasons, but again there are some interesting implications for search. Is www.google.space or www.google.moon even available?!
I like the thought of sitting in my agency office and performing search engine optimisation for space-based search results. That’s just plain cool. We’re talking ‘Futurama’ stuff here, but how could space travel impact search? I have no idea, just like my Grandparents had no idea that the Internet was possible. We’ll find out. Perhaps not in my lifetime but I’m sure it’s written in the stars (sorry). I think I can safely say one thing though, my bets are on Burger King being the first first food chain in there. Hell, they got into Camp Bastion quick enough! I’m predicting optimisation for the following queries “Fast food restaurant near asteroid B” or perhaps “Best rates on space elevator seats”. We’ll see!
Nest – home thermostats
Last month Google acquired ‘Nest’, a remote home thermostat originally devised by the geniuses at Apple, for $3.2 billion. Futuristic films have been rife with home appliances accessible from mobile devices and now it seems this is coming true. Personally I’m excited by the prospect of telling my coffee machine to prepare a cup of my favourite brand ready for when I walk through the door after work. But how on earth does this impact search?
Thermostats – probably not very much. But this is the first step in a myriad of possibilities that could potentially lead to new search functionality. Imagine this scenario following my previous examples:
I open my phone, click the ‘home’ app and say “Coffee machine, Columbian, 1820”. The coffee machine provides a response in text on my phone: “Sorry, I’m all out of Columbian coffee”. Maybe it provides me with some alternatives I have in stock but where it gets interesting is if it offers options as to where I can pick up some more on the way home from work: “You can buy more of the same from …” and then shows me stores on the way home, with products I can buy, best prices and maybe some offers too.
This is search and this is something (whether coffee , a mechanic or a business conference venue) for which we in the future may have to optimise. Not only will we have to think about changing user behaviour, but the mechanics of optimising too. Will we be thinking less about page title tags and more about the granular side of products and services? These technologies lend themselves to changes in user behaviour that suggest much more specific searches and needs.
Personally, I’m not a fan of this. Much like many people thought the Internet would die a fashion trend death, I’m a bit scared of it. Not having control over a machine in which you’re putting your own and your passengers’ lives in the hands of? No thanks. I’m not ready for that yet. However, this is the future; safety in increasingly crowded roads through digitally controlled vehicles.
There’s quite a few prospective search opportunities here too. Everything from local SEO to competition for roadside rest stops and garages (“Who along my route in the next 10 miles has the cheaper fuel?”) will be on the cards. What about when you’re sitting in your car as it’s driving itself? We’re all going to be using devices, whether that’s streaming TV to the back seat headrests, playing games or even working.
It’s an exciting and somewhat scary new world we’re entering and search is always going to be present. As long as people have the need to find information (which, by the way, they always will) through whatever medium they choose, there are always going to be opportunities for search. We’re no longer going to be optimising for PC, tablet, mobile; we’ll be optimising for a huge array of devices. Perhaps even different search engines, including Google. Who’s to say that their current engine is going to be the best choice for watch based searches? Or even when searching from a driverless car?
The possibilities are endless and we’re the lucky ones in the middle of the action!