As we move into another new year there are once again a new set of predictions, hopes and concerns as to the direction of digital marketing over the next twelve months and beyond. There are so many exciting developments set to take place and I'm really looking forward to seeing how these take hold in 2018. One of the interesting areas I've observed across many trends is the recurrence of two themes: artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. These two closely related subjects seem to be taking hold across a number of areas, including marketing automation, digital creative, personalization and marketing technology. However, it's the influence of AI and machine learning on the future of search that I'd like to explore in some detail in this article and the potential implications on business and marketing.
If you've been using voice search technology from Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, or Google Home more than you did in previous years then you're a part of a large and growing trend that's impacting the way we search for information and make purchases. In fact, Dominos knows this very well, and allows customers to order a pizza just by speaking into a smart device.
Organisations are now resorting to artificial intelligence to enhance their search engine ranking. Search engine optimisation (SEO), which is an important criterion for gaining traffic, has a tremendous scope to be improved by AI and machine learning -- and not just for keywords and phrases. AI algorithms can help make better sense of parameters like search history, browsing history, activities within a website, and others to deliver a better experience. Since the time when SEO meant a simple optimisation of landing pages on desktop, to the present day where it indulges in more complex processes of enhancing content and engaging audience on various platforms, SEO has been a game changer in the online world. SEO gained importance when Google revealed that they used RankBrain, an ML algorithm, to process their search results in a unique way.
The Internet changes rapidly, which means marketers and business leaders must hurry to change with it. While most Internet searches were once done on laptops and desktops, people are now using their smartphones with similar devices to conduct searches for information, local businesses, products, and services. That shift was closely followed by another somewhat more distinctive shift called artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted voice search. In the past, a smartphone user would need to type a question or phrase into Google or another search engine to get a set of results to sift through. Now, AIs like Siri and Alexa – which reside in smart speakers and on smartphones, tablets, and laptops – have changed the way users are searching for the information, products, and services they need.
As human beings, we use our voices for conversation. When we interact with voice interfaces, therefore, our natural instinct is to apply the same rules that we would to a human conversation. We expect to be understood, but more than this, we expect the entity we're conversing with to remember the history of our conversation and understand the context of any following remarks. For some time, major search companies like Google and Bing have worked to teach their search engines to understand queries in natural language. Natural language search queries are queries that sound natural spoken aloud, such as, "How high is the Empire State building?"