It knows what you want, it knows what you need, and it’s always there for you – no, it’s not the man (or woman) of your dreams. It’s Google.
As Will Critchlow explains in his recent Moz presentation, Google is focusing ever more on the context of searches in order to provide better, more relevant results for Internet users. Critchlow refers to this trend as “query enhancement.”
In the olden days of yore, circa 1990s, a “query” was defined as the key phrase used as the starting point for an online search – for example, “restaurants in Paris.” Google relied exclusively on that key phrase to produce results.
Now, we are seeing the emergence of what Critchlow terms the “new query.” The new query is comprised of two parts: the explicit query, such as “restaurants in Paris,” and the implicit query, or the context of the search. Where are you? What kind of device are you using to perform the search? What time is it? What’s your recent search history?
Google uses this information to provide search results that are personalized and relevant to the searcher’s current situation. Looking for a cool bar while you’re out on the town? Just search for “bar,” and Google will calculate your location, the time of day, your history, and poof! The closest, top-rated bars are at your fingertips.
Tom Anthony states that Google already uses at least 57 implicit signals, a number that continues to grow as Google gathers even more information. For instance, Google recently announced a new Android API that enables apps to recognize whether the phone user is walking, cycling or driving. Anthony suggests that this information might soon be a part of the implicit query; if your phone recognizes that you are walking, a search for “breakfast” will yield closer restaurant options than it would if you were driving.
Of course, many of us are still in the habit of giving Google additional information. I was recently searching for a Greenville spa and found myself dutifully typing “spas in Greenville.” Today, I searched for “spas,” and voila! My trusty boyfriend Google knew exactly what I wanted. As Internet users begin to adapt to the new query, Critchlow predicts that explicit queries will diminish as implicit queries expand.
In fact, with applications like Google Now, we can receive information without even asking for it. The Google Now app provides informational “cards” that are automatically updated with information you need throughout the day. Trying out a new restaurant? Check your phone – the best dishes will already be listed for you. Trying to catch a flight? Google Now automatically pulls up live flight info and traffic information.
So what does the new query mean for content marketing? Should we kick keywords to the curb? Definitely not. As stated in a recent Econsultancy article, we still have to remember the basics. While keywords may not be as significant as they once were, they are still necessary to achieve high search rankings. After all, even if Google knows exactly what you’re looking for, it still needs to be able to find search results that fit your needs.
The query enhancement trend also underscores the importance of optimizing for mobile. If a potential customer is searching for businesses in your area, and your website shows up on his or her phone, the customer expects to be able to interact with your website then and there. If people can’t easily pull up your menu or call for reservations from your mobile website, there’s a good chance they will move on to your competitor’s site.
As search queries continue to evolve, it is imperative that content marketing strategies evolve with them. So stay on top of the trends; otherwise, Google might leave you brokenhearted.
Laurel Reese – Assistant Project Manager