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The Future of Marketing Is Semantic: Invisible Meaning

This post is the second in a multi-part series about the future of marketing and the role that semantic, context and intent will have on how we experience the Internet.

Uncovering The Meaning Of Your Search

So the search of yesteryear is gone. No more keyword only focused searches, at least not if you want the very best results.

For a minute, let’s forget the big words here. Contextual, semantic…After a while they all start to sound a bit like an MBA dissertation and less like a critical marketing topic. However, do not, for a minute, kid yourself or allow the buzzwords to distract you from the seismic shift that is taking place.  Let’s choose a new word: Conversation.

Let’s Have a Conversation, With a Search Engine

In the future, and really even today, the most qualified and successful searches are going to be driven by conversations.

When Google Hummingbird was launched, Google used the idea of conversation rather than keyword as one of the biggest evolutions taking place with the new algorithm.  So rather than thinking of search in terms of just the keywords given, Google can now look for meaning behind the words that you enter in your search query.

In my last post on the subject I talked about a couple searching out a dining experience, and how rather than plugging in only words like “Steakhouse” or “Chicago,” they would today look to plug in, “Where can we get a great steak in Chicago?”

Before search had the capability of better understanding the meaning behind search, if you were to enter that entire phrase, the search engine wouldn’t know whether you meant a restaurant or a grocery store. Further, it would have very little data to qualify what makes a steak great. It would have likely used spiders and other white hat SEO practices to find sites that have the words Chicago and steak in them.

With Hummingbird, and more importantly the advances in semantic search, the search engine is now able to understand more of the nuance of what you are searching for. For instance, it could likely make out that you are looking to go out for a steak rather than find a store that sells them raw. Furthermore, it can work to find results that take into consideration your exact location to better filter results than just all of the steakhouses in Chicago.

In addition, the semantic web has the potential to integrate your query with your referent network. Since we are widely influenced by others’ opinions online, why not incorporate social into the search results to further “conversationalize” the web?

Marrying Social Search and Semantic Search

Now that search has evolved and we can more or less ask questions to our search engine much like we would to another person, doesn’t it just make sense that the evolution of the web is to incorporate social results into semantic search?

Let’s revisit the Steakhouse example one more time. When I ask conversationally for the best places to get a great steak in Chicago, semantic search works by looking for meaning beyond just the keywords. So as mentioned above, it will strive to better understand what I’m really asking, and not just analyze the words.

By overlaying Social Search into the equation, now the web can work to extract meaning from my query but also look for people within my social networks from Google, Facebook and others to help provide me with experiential data. Ideally from those I am closest to as well as those who are most influential on certain topics or within certain communities. Furthermore, social search can poll sites such as Yelp, Trip Advisor and other review sites where user generated content is providing supporting data for my query.

Say my first result following my query is Gibson’s Steakhouse in Chicago. Chances are if the establishment has a great product there will be people on the web talking about it. So rather than just seeing the results that my query created, now I can quickly and easily see what others are saying about it both on the review sites and perhaps more importantly people who I am connected to socially.

While some may say that local search has been doing this for some time, there is a certain amount of truth to that, but the biggest difference is that local search is generally a process done as more of a “drill down” where you start with an overarching subject matter and then you pick a location and then local data comes up to tell you the locations, hours, and reviews.

Furthermore, local never really tied influence marketing or social input into the equation. A review on Yelp may be helpful and specific, but if a close friend or relative had an opinion about the restaurant it would likely be more influential on the potential consumer.

The Future of Marketing Is Semantic, Conversational and Social

As we can see, the web is changing directionally, from keyword to conversation the evolution is being used to better understand what the buyer wants.

As marketers, this will continue to impact our content marketing, social media and our traditional print and communication channels. As we seek to create and keep customers in a world where the buyer has the Internet at their disposal, we will need to consider not just what information we have out there, but how we are making it accessible through the marriage of paid, owned and earned channels in a digital world gone semantic.

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