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The Future of SEO/SEM?

A thriving industry segment has grown up around SEO/SEM and getting your brand name at the top of the Google results page (paid or otherwise). Over time the algorithms have become more complex and more difficult to “game” and penalties incurred for trying to cheat the system. But how will Google, with 83% of the search engine market, fare in a future where ever growing mobile phone usage and voice recognition applications drive natural language queries through new channels?

Why is search still so important? Ninety percent of purchases start with an online search; ninety percent of those searchers have faith in the results returned; 50% of mobile searches are looking for local solutions and 61% of those result in an actual purchase. So, the mobile search channel is a big deal and getting bigger. But how many people instead of pulling up a browser and doing a Google search are now talking to Siri, Alexa, Google Now or Cortana, and what does that imply for the future?

When you talk to your “voice assistant” they parse your words into a question, send the result to a Web service, and speak or display an answer. Cortana corrects its initial voice-transcription to more sensible questions before your eyes. Each service then sends your input to its own high-powered servers, and responds with information or the appropriate action—such as starting a text message or delivering a factoid.

For information requests, Siri does not involve Google in the process. So, does the best voice assistant implementation have the opportunity to usurp Google’s pre-eminence in search by being the one who refines a natural language query and interprets (or manipulates) both the questions and the results before responding to the user with an answer?

I believe IBM’s Watson program is a sleeping giant in this area. It not only has leading edge NLP but also has the ability to follow logical threads in dialogs to a conclusion. Imagine not just talking to an assistant, but to an advisor. In a bad weather situation, instead of “Give me directions for the fastest path to the airport” we could be asking “Should I try to make my flight or just hire a rental car?” Now that would be useful ….

What can we do about it? – Take a look at your SEM strategy and see how invested you may be in Google. Start thinking how to incorporate other players in your search profile management with these new voice assisted channels.

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