A WSJ article about upcoming “big” changes to Google Search prompted some head scratching at Seedwalker last week. The writer talked about how Google will be overhauling how search results are displayed in the coming months by using semantic search to -
- Display results by context e.g. differentiate when a user is searching for jaguar (the animal) vs. jaguar (the car) and display results according.
- Display defining characteristics of item (being searched) on the search results page itself e.g. the height and location of Mt. Everest.
Don’t panic just yet
To begin with, Google has been using semantic search since 2003, as detailed by Search Engine Land here. Google will likely ramp this up over time and that’s great news for both users and publishers. Users find what they’re looking for and publishers get qualified traffic. So no big news here.
What about displaying defining characteristics or direct answers to the questions on the search results pages itself? Clearly this is good news for users who get answers without additional clicks – they won’t have to first enter the search keyword, then click on a link on the search results page. Instead the answer will appear under the search box itself. Sound familiar? Here’s an example of what we get today -
And another example we’re used to seeing -
So this isn’t exactly news either. If Google does ramp this up over time – and they would need to, in order to compete with both social networks and Bing – this is again a boon for both users and brands. Users get the information they’re looking for with minimum clicks, brand websites can then focus on communicating other news rather than using valuable real estate on (critical yet basic) information such as location, store hours etc.
While not exactly new, these changes underscore the urgency for brands to identify what about them appeals to their fans, and engage on those platforms. Yes, it’s easy to shrug off content strategy as yet another buzz word, but the truth is that good content has been the secret sauce for savvy brands like Coca Cola and Red Bull for years…”content” is merely shorthand for communicating this secret sauce in easily understood terms in today’s market. As brands begin to rely less on the Google organic search crutch, look to newer companies like Warby Parker and Birchbox for what works. Deliver well-researched, consistently good quality content often. Be altruistic content sharers i.e. don’t talk about yourself all the time. Experiment constantly. Empower content producers to take risks. And look to your analytics on what works. Most of all, have a bit of fun with the brand and don’t take yourself too seriously.