Croud x Captify event round-up: Exploring the evolution of search

Last week we joined forces with Search Intelligence leader Captify to host a joint event at their London HQ. The event explored how search is evolving, and how brands should be responding to changes in search behaviour and the technology that enables it.

The evening event brought together digital marketers from a wide array of sectors, along with representatives from Croud and Captify, to discuss the latest developments in the search space – from voice search to the promise of machine learning.

How Bose capitalised on Search Intelligence

Tehya Reardon, Senior Client Strategy Executive at Captify, walked the audience through how Bose and Captify partnered for a game-changing product launch across three international markets in a completely new category for the brand.

Utilising dynamic data-driven audience strategies, this campaign established Bose in the consumer wellness space and connected the new Bose noise-masking Sleepbuds with the people who needed them the most.

Tehya walked the audience through how the campaign:

  • Unlocked new hidden audiences – to expand reach beyond the pre-launch target audience
  • Drove reach, awareness and consideration at scale – a full-funnel activation through video, interactive rich media and display formats
  • Achieved results beyond expectations – exposed consumers were up to 36X more likely to go on to search for Bose Sleepbuds

If you weren’t able to make it, you can download the full Bose case study here.

Known unknowns: The future of search

Third to take to the stage was Duncan Nichols, Croud’s Director of Planning & Strategy, who took inspiration from a much-derided speech made by Donald Rumsfeld in exploring the three key ways in which we search – and how these are likely to evolve in the future.

Croud x Captify: The Evolution of Search

1. Known unknowns: How we search for things we understand

Generally speaking, online search has always been a means of surfacing known unknowns – the things we know that we don’t know, but that we have some information about – whether that’s a name, place, date, or product. Using this as a jumping off point, the searcher has historically done the hard work in carrying out the research online, until the known unknown becomes a known known.

And as marketers, up until now, it’s always been our job to understand the intent behind that search. For instance, what are people really looking for when they search for ‘mobile phones’? Are they interested in buying, or in reading reviews about the latest releases?

Over the last few years, however, this dynamic has started to change. Bolstered by rapid developments in machine learning, Google is using semantic search to contextualise searches – that is, to understand and categorise in order to provide more relevant information, using signals such as searcher location, synonyms, time, and natural language processing. In a sense, this can be seen as a trade-off between the search engine and brands – by providing Google with additional structured to boost relevancy and fuel the ML that informs site and search categorisation, brands can expect far stronger visibility and traffic.

As such, data quality is becoming increasingly important, with advanced feed optimisation, well-thought-out schema markup, and highly optimised Google My Business listings being just some of the areas that brands need to focus on in order to boost visibility and tap into relevant opportunities – whether searches are informational, transactional, or local in nature.

Examples of informational, transactional and local search results

Ultimately these developments will not only result in a faster progression from unknown known to known known, but will also mean that more and more of the consumer’s information gathering will happen within the Google ecosystem, shifting Google from a portal towards a destination in its own right.

The logical next step in this progression is the completion of transactional queries within the search engine results page. Google Shopping ads are now subject to similar rigour as organic listings when it comes to structured data; feed quality is enormously important, and with the right schema markup in place, Google can now pull Merchant Centre listings directly from your website. That structured data helps to populate new, advanced Shopping units that present consumers with products that are consistent across a number of different parameters. In the case of mobile phones, that could cover contract length, memory or colour. Once we start to see the same payment integrations in search that are now possible for logged-in users through Google Home, we’ll begin to see transactions completed directly in-SERP, ruling out the need for a visit to a website at all.

Voice search will continue to grow as an important means of uncovering known unknowns. We’ll still need a prompt to help us discover things through voice, but how brands respond to that will depend on the environment. The queries submitted as voice-to-text (i.e., into search engines directly) will most likely remain long-tail, informational and transactional in nature. To prepare for growth in this space, brands should invest in keyword research and SQR analysis on emerging voice terms to optimise their copy and landing page experience towards voice users. Optimisation to terms submitted to voice assistants will require greater investment in establishing brand tone-of-voice and ensuring that is captured within data marked up on-site.

2. Unknown knowns: How we search for things we’ve forgotten

Google is also getting much smarter when it comes to recognising and surfacing subjects that a user has previously searched for, reintroducing them to previous queries they may have forgotten about (or only been semi-conscious of at the time – something I’m guilty of).

Google will also offer ‘follow-up’ queries that people tend to search for afterwards, leveraging machine learning capabilities and prompting users to continue their journey through search. In addition, Dynamic Organization is a new feature that will present related topics to users through the knowledge graph; this will use data about subjects that other people have gone on to research to recommend additional information that might be useful.

Google search

3. Unknown unknowns: How we search for things when we don’t know where to start

The aspect of search that will prove to be the most interesting in coming years – and the most difficult to predict – will be the discovery of unknown unknowns, or the way in which we’ll search for things when we don’t know where to start. This is where three important areas come into play – namely, predictive search, visual search, and curated search.

Google’s Discover feature is an example of an emerging predictive search technique, surfacing relevant content to users, even when they’re not searching. All of this is done through the Google app, which (as it ensures users are logged in to their Google accounts) allows for a clearer view of complete search journeys and stronger predictions. And according to Google, over 800 million people use the feed each month to stay up to date on their interests – so it’s definitely another area to keep a close eye on. As well as offering additional prospecting opportunities, features such as this should allow brands to gain a better understanding of how product combinations and themes work alongside each other.

At the same time, visual search is becoming more reliable, and an error rate declines, uptake will undoubtedly increase. Although there is a risk that is becoming a gimmick, something used mainly as an experiential device, there are definite applications in industries such as fashion where runway and day-to-day product will be supercharged by visual search. Pinterest already sees 600m visual searches per month, suggesting there is definite scope for the category to grow.

image recognition

Google’s developments in machine learning, semantic search and search categorisation, but will also require more psychographic signals that mark users out for their cultural tastes, as well as their leanings across spheres as distinct as politics and fashion.

All in all, search will become a more diverse, demanding environment for brands, with a wide range of new audience signals, formats and platform changes to contend with. And as a result, advertising will become even more complex – but the opportunities available to brands that embrace the evolution of search will be countless.

If you’d like to find out more, check out the event materials here, or get in touch with us today.

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