How Google search is evolving right now

When Universal Search was introduced three years ago it was cool, and now it just got better. Google’s “new spring look”, unveiled this month, promises to increase the power of search by organising the results using a left hand panel. In Google’s own words, it’s “contextually relevant navigation”.

This pulls together the genius behind Universal Search, Search Options and Google Squared. Nice, but it kind of looks like Microsoft’s Bing. Some of us are already getting this blend of content from images, maps, books, video, and news into our web results, and the walls that traditionally separated our various search properties have been broken.

So what?

It makes searching simple by slicing and dicing the results. Being able to view results in a timeline only entrenches the need for fresher content. It is about being optimised to show results for different kinds of content too. Images and videos that are well optimised with target keywords and the proper anchor text will get bumped to the top. Press releases with product launches will create a news buzz. Going local with Google Places and refreshing Google Base product lists will become second nature. It is the integration of the vast amounts of information available into one simple set of search results that makes it that much smarter.

Mobile searching

Google is constantly ‘pimping up’ its mobile search platform and the ways to conduct your searches. You can simply type your query on Google search on your mobile, talk into an Android or iPhone App, or text your query to a Google SMS number. Guess who’s ahead of the curve? Over 21% of searches in Kenya were from mobile devices in October 2009. At present, 6% of searches are from mobile devices in Africa and 3.5% in Asia compared, to 1.5% in Europe and 2.8% in North America. (Statistics Source Link)

So what?

Connectivity, affordability and usability are crucial for mobile search to work seamlessly. As tariffs continue to decrease, users will increase. Expect to see more mobile-friendly sites that are consumer friendly. Since Google SMS practically reaches the mass market in the developing world, goods and services are among the plethora of other queries users can be searching for. The East Africans are ahead in this game, but expect others to latch on and see more brands in this space. We’ll see more people become familiar with Google Trader, which can be the next step after search, but remaining within the simple SMS platform.

More personal results

Whether you’re signed in or not, Google will now deliver results tailored to you.  Google is doing this in two ways.

One way is through signed-in personalisation, which has been around for almost five years now. When you’re signed in, Google personalises your search experience based on your web history. The second way is through signed-out customisation, the new kid on the block. When you’re not signed in, Google customises your search experience based on past search information linked to your browser, using a 180-days of search activity stored in your browser’s cookie.

So what?

The earth hasn’t really moved, but do not be surprised to see different results for the same query. Some people may get frustrated if they check ranking regularly, as the element of randomness from each random searcher’s behaviour will make it hard to keep tabs on where you are in the SERPS (Search Engine Results Page). Start to marvel at more engaging websites as they try to maximise loyalty, and don’t be surprised to see paid listings pick up where natural listings falls short.

Results from your social circle

Social search is designed to help you discover relevant publicly-accessible content from your social circle. Google serves these results at the bottom of the SERPS under “Results from people in your social circle.”  This will include websites, blogs, public profiles and other content linked from your friends’ Google profiles, and will also tap into relevant articles from your Google Reader subscriptions.

So what?

You can add or remove the people from social networks that are linked to your Google profile, contacts or Gmail chat list. These results can only be improved by enhancing your Google profile with links to your public social sites like Twitter and Flickr, as well as links to other public content. The idea of a social circle is to grow it to increase your influence, so don’t be shy to add (not spam) people and establish good connections. Google Reader will also become more relevant and useful.

Real-time search improvements

Unless you’ve been in prison or have been hiding in a cave, you’ve probably become familiar with real-time search. Google went full throttle with this last December and it hasn’t just included live tweets, blogs, news and other web content. They’ve also added “hot topics” to Google Trends to show the most common topics people are publishing to the web in real-time. Google was slightly behind Bing with this, but seems to have taken the lead by incorporating real-time results in the SERPS.

So what?

What’s happening right now is only a query and click away. Search will get plenty of influence from what’s happening around you. There’s the added functionality of being able to zoom in and search for what’s happening nearby. This could work well where outreach and outside broadcasting still plays a big part in marketing products and services. After all, we’ve all gone mobile.

Google and your eyes

Google Goggles is the über-cool visual search product. You take a picture and Goggles will tell you what the picture is about.  Google wants Goggles to be an extension of your eyes and give you the ability to search by sight. They want to bring search tools to humans and not make humans adjust to search tools.

So what?

Imagine a world where you can take a picture of anything – a museum piece, a book, a car, a painting or picture – the engine then describes it, tells you if you can buy it, where you can buy it, and what the comparative prices are. There’s no “So what?” Just get the Android app.



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