The idea that a digital service (search) could change the way we behave as people would normally be ludicrous to consider. Before semantic search came along Google (and every other search engine) was busy indexing websites and struggling to sort through relevant information so that they could surface spam-free, high quality results in response to a search query.
The connection was a vertical one that linked the website with the search engine which then enabled the former to use the latter to amplify its presence and market in a traditional one-to-many style. Lacking from this proposition were attributes such as Trust, Quality and Authenticity, uniquely human concepts that had little room in a world of sales targets, brand values and machine code.
But semantic search changes all this. Because search now requires the detailed and exhaustive mapping of horizontal relationships in order to understand the true value of vertical ones, it has two very significant effects: First, it breaks down all the silos. You can no longer hope to market effectively through your website, for instance, without your website being associated with your company and that company being associated with real people. This is a first-degree of transparency that in the past was not even on the table as a requirement.
Second, your social footprint is key to the surfacing of information relevant to your business in search queries. Serendipitous discovery in search and friend’s connections and activity in Google’s personalized search increase the possibility of your website and its content surfacing for queries where it might be related but you would not think to directly optimize for.
This second aspect of search revolves around the precise mapping and weighing of online relationships: your friends’ network, your professional network, your activity and content resharing in each one, the activity of your friends in each one, your professional connections (the list goes on…). Basically, what your grandma told you about being able to tell “a man by the company he keeps” is now truer than it has ever been.
The net effect of this approach transforms marketing (including search) from a process that looks at people as consumer units that need to be supplied with the right stimulus in order to comply with the demands of the marketing message, to individuals with real needs, values, aspirations and dreams. This humanizing of marketing (and marketers) is nothing less than revolutionary. It is the ‘problem’ behind many of the missteps that large companies take and it is the ‘secret sauce’ behind some of the best marketing successes we have seen (like the “Epic Split” Volvo trucks commercial that hit all the right audience-resonance notes).
Those who “get it” will adapt, evolve. Those who don’t will make for some interesting case studies in the years to come.
See How Semantic Search Drives Trust and Creates Authority