Google marked its 20th birthday by reinforcing its core mission of organising all the world’s information and making it universally accessible — and announcing how advancements in artificial intelligence are now shaping that mission.
The vision Google outlined in a series of blog posts demonstrates the dramatic impact artificial intelligence (AI) is having on the search user’s experience and the format and relevance of search results in emerging discovery services. It’s essential for digital marketers to understand how AI influences the consumer experience, today and down the road, to make sure their brands can be found by customers.
In looking ahead to Google’s next chapter, the “fundamental” changes reflect how people find the information they immediately want:
Journeys Over Queries
Google’s own optimisation of results, the rise of mobile search, and the growing adoption of voice-enabled devices have emphasised quick and succinct answers to questions like “how many calories are in a Big Mac?” or “where is the nearest ATM?” But our searches are often part of larger research endeavours: moving to a new city, for example, or seeking comprehensive information about a medical provider, or considering a major purchase like a car or an appliance.
Google promises new features to help users resume and expand previous searches, making it easier for users to learn something new about the subjects, places and products they want to know more about. One new feature Google has added is “Activity Cards,” Essentially an update to its two-year-old “Knowledge Cards,” Activity Cards surface relevant information in Google Assistant that are related to your interests, even when you don’t have a specific query in mind.
Advanced Knowledge and Advanced Discovery
The rise of AI and machine learning to drive personalised services means that answers have to be available even before a user has even asked for it. For Google, that means going from responding to stated queries to providing a “queryless way” to get information.
Just as Activity Cards reflect the evolution of the Google Feed, Google’s approach to delivering relevant content and information is also making significant advances. Rather than placing a particular value on the popularity of a piece of information, consumers are seeing content that is customised to their specific interests at a specific moment (especially when consumers on looking to their smartphones or voice assistants for immediate info).
In addition, quickness is not the only virtue Google’s new discovery tools are emphasising. Deeper dives into users’ areas of expressed interest are also promised. Therefore, it’s not enough for brands’ relevant information to be up-to-date and accurate. It’s not enough for stores to be “mobile optimised.” Those are all table-stakes at this point. Now, and in the future, it will be more crucial for brands to have information that has more details and depth than their competitors — and that is structured correctly so Google and other search and discovery services understand it.
While voice-activated search usage has seen explosive growth over the past year, technology to support visual search is also improving. Google is leveraging these advancements to deliver more rich, more relevant image and video search results across Google Images and Google Lens, helping users find the information they want using their smartphone camera instead of a keyword.
All these advancements represent the ways AI is shaping touchpoints that consumers have used to connect digital information into real-world, real-time activity.
What does all this mean for digital marketers? On one hand, increased personalisation of digital information presents an opportunity to get your brand and products in front of high-intent consumers. On the other, how can you help consumers find your business in a world where Google is serving up such personalised information? By maintaining the most comprehensive, consistent, up-to-date, visually representative business information and brand assets across all interactive touchpoints. More than ever, the competition among brands to be “the best answer” within Google’s system will require much more than managing keywords — it will require both a deep understanding of customer search intent and an effective strategy for managing the brand’s digital knowledge to align with that intent.