Yes, this is a search marketing article. Yes, this is a database article. You’re in the right place.
As a search marketer, the phrase “keyword analysis” accounts for about twenty percent of my daily lexicon. Google, Yahoo and Bing keep us constantly guessing as to how we can best communicate what our clients do in a 160-character description, a keyword meta tag or a keenly crafted page title. Then those same search engines announce that meta data and descriptions serve as mere suggestions for algorithms – if that. In fact, it’s possible that all of our hard work might be in vain.
The bottom line is hard to grapple with. Search is dynamic. Search is frustrating. But keywords will not drive search forever. And yes, I come armed with supporting points.
After attending over twenty-five different technology discussions, panels, keynotes and conversations at SXSW 2012 in Austin, I gleaned a few insights regarding search and the human discovery process. After all, isn’t that exactly what search is – a human discovery process aided by technology?
So here it is. Six predictions illustrating why 2012 is the beginning of the end of search as we know it.
1. Search will not wait for us to figure out what we want. If you haven’t heard the term “big data”, do a keyword search to learn more. Ironically, big data exists to eliminate the need for a keyword. Big data is based on the assumption that by monitoring and tracking every log error file on our lap tops to GPS coordinates stored on our mobile devices, machines can figure out what we want before we know we want it. Ginger.io, an up and coming health sciences technology company, competed and placed in the SXSW Accelerator Awards with a mobile application that monitors behavioral analytics by turning mobile data into health insights. Ginger.io is built to identify patterns of sadness and depression before the patient even realizes they might be experiencing a bout of sadness or depression. Big data exists to create associations between our behaviors and our needs.
2. Search will derive new mechanisms based on neuroscience. Scientists can now create virtual brains that function utilizing a series of artificial circuits. This isn’t entirely new; it was a concept already common in the field of psychology when I completed my master’s thesis in 2009. An example of a project like this today is the Blue Brain Project currently underway in Switzerland. As of mid-2011, it appears that the Blue Brain project is in phase two of a multi-year projected research plan.
3. Search will live locally and possess omnipresence. If twenty percent of my daily search marketer lexicon surrounds the phrase “keyword analysis”, an equally important percentage of consideration surrounds a concept known as SoLoMo – short hand for social, local and mobile. The “local” part of the equation typically refers to a search engine algorithm’s ability to give priority to locally associated search engine results. Most searchers and consumers understand the “local” concept pretty well thanks to Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook Places and even newer location-based social applications like Highlight and Glancee. They understand that to check-in to various places requires the mobile device to share GPS coordinates and store that information in a database. What they might not realize is that when that data is stored search engines and mobile applications can reference it later to provide results better tailored to the searcher’s location. If search is automated using big data, search will never cease. Whether we know we’re searching or not, our devices constantly engage in little micro-searches for us. Search will possess omnipresence.
4. Search will reference our digital and physical worlds. The digital world and the physical world continue to become more integrated everyday. Although not directly related to search, I’ve provided a fascinating example of how technologists combine these worlds. Enter a technology called 3D printing. 3D printing is a new technology that allows printers to take a 3D computer generated graphic and print it as a plastic, plaster, or metal bust. For a demonstration of what 3D printing looks like check out this video from National Geographic. If you want to try this at home you can purchase your very own 3D printer within the range of $5,000 to over $17,000, and the technology is constantly changing. QR codes and face recognition technologies have already begun this combining of worlds, but it will only continue to become more sophisticated and advanced as we continue to develop new technologies.
5. Search will assume human-like characteristics. As Ray Kurzweil alluded to in his keynote presentation, IBM’s Watson and Apple’s Siri both present a case for the humanization of our machines. As our devices become smarter and more robotic, we perceive them as more human. Think of how the iPhone’s Siri might improve and evolve over the next few generations. What if we added a physically human form to Siri? Eventually we will naturally converse with our devices, perceive them as friends, ask them questions that require in depth analysis, engage with them in an increasingly more human social context.
6. Search will draw a great deal of controversy. At the end of the line is the issue that really goes without saying. Search, whether it is keyword driven or whether behavior tracking driven it will hold a great deal of controversy. Perhaps one of the most crucial panels I attended at SXSW was a panel titled “Big Data: Privacy Threat or Business Model?” We heard from the political minds of Jay Stanley a Senior Policy Analyst at the ACLU, Lillie Coney the Associate Director at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Molly Wood of CNET, and others. A crucial conversation is already taking place to answer questions like – How much data is too much? And at what point is the quantity of data collected so high that it is no longer worth the risk to our privacy? Another theme commonly discussed is whether the burden of privacy protection is a free market interest for businesses to monitor in the private sector or whether the government should regulate protection of private data. The important thing for consumers and searchers to understand is that search is going to change, devices will collect data on each of us and how we manage that change could impact our society as we continue to advance our technologies.
For the meantime, I’m afraid I have no choice but to continue to engage in keyword analysis, falling victim to the ever-changing requirements of Google, Bing and Yahoo. But someday, search may become as natural as breathing or walking. It will just be a very integrated extension of our curiosity and desire to discover new ideas in the world.
For more information about Unidev and services related to Big Data, please read about our partnership with machine data company, Splunk.