Everything the we know about searching the web is constantly changing. New devices that change the way that we retrieve information are becoming available every day. We no longer have to sit down with our laptops and type a subject into our browser to find some relevant information. If we think of something that we need to know right now, we can get instant access to the information on our portable devices. This portability has changed everything, including our search behavior. So, to give you an idea of how our new search behavior is shaping the future I will provide insight into three different search techniques.
To better understand this topic, here’s a little information about how search happens, or how search engines work. There are three basic stages that make up a search engine, crawling, indexing and retrieval. Web crawlers are automated bots, or spiders, that scour the internet to acquire data about websites. They record titles, key words, images, and links to other pages. The crawler then adds the new links that it found to a list of places to crawl to next, in addition to re-crawling the pages that it has already visited to make sure that nothing has changed. Everything that the web crawlers retrieve is then indexed into vast databases. Then, once you make a query in a search engine, a ranking algorithm sorts through all of the indexed websites, which could be in the billions, to determine which are the most relevant to your search, and retrieves those sites for you.
One way that our search behaviors have changed, is not just the need for instantaneous information, but the need for all of the information given to us at one time, on one page. This can be done by something called meta search. Unfortunately, no search engine can index every single website on the internet, not even Google. Which is why you might get different results if you enter the same search query into Google and Yahoo. So, a meta search engine will search the databases of several different search engines to give you your results, as seen in the image below.
(By JakobVoss - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4952120 )
Some common meta search engines that you may, or may not have heard of include Dogpile, Metacrawler and Mamma. So, the next time you’re researching something, you should try one of these out and see if it happens to provide you with better results.
Apart from general search engines, there is one aspect of meta search that has really taken off, and that’s in booking travel arrangements. I’m sure that you’ve heard of Kayak and Trivago, well, they use meta search. That’s how they’re able to provide you with so many different prices for the same airfare or hotel room. They search all of the other travel sites and combine the results so that you can find the best deal. This is exactly what I mean about getting all of the information, at one time, on one page. Hopefully we will start seeing much more of this type of search available in the future, because it can definitely make life easier.
You may have heard people saying that voice search is the future, well, it’s not the future, it’s here, and in a big way. Actually, it’s everywhere now, and this trend started with Siri. Now, you can not only talk to your phone, but you can talk to your car, your watch and even your television remote and have them all perform searches for you. In the beginning, Siri was a bit of a disaster, she never seemed to really understand what you were saying and often got your searches completely wrong. Now, luckily, voice recognition software has greatly improved over the past few years and your devices can actually understand what you’re saying to them. Thanks to advances in this technology, you can now control all of your smart home gear with a virtual home assistant, like the Amazon Echo or Google Home. So, now you can change the temperature on your thermostat, dim the lights or perform web searches while you’re cooking dinner with just your voice.
You might be wondering why this technology is so important, and the main reason is accessibility. There might be times when your fingers or thumbs are too preoccupied to make a search, for instance, if you’re driving. You definitely don’t want to manually search through your playlist for a certain song, it’s much easier and safer to just tell your car to do it for you. Not to mention, voice search provides much easier access to the web for the disabled. Plus, an added bonus is that there are no advertisements on voice searches, for now at least.
Traditional Search Engines
We are all very familiar with traditional search engines, such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. We all still have to use computers at work and at school, so traditional search engines are not going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, the most common search engines are actually constantly improving upon their search algorithms to try to give you the best information possible. Actually, you may have noticed that Google has become much more intuitive over the past few years. This is in part due to Rank Brain, which is an artificial intelligence system that is incorporated into their search algorithm. Its main purpose is to use machine learning to better understand what you’re searching for, not just provide web pages that are based on key words.
Another way that traditional search is advancing is by providing personal searches. Say, for example, that you have an Android phone. Google is able to use information from the apps on your phone to get to know you and provide you with much more personal search results. This may seem a bit like an invasion of privacy, but if it helps you get search results that you really need, then it’s worth it.
Some people say that traditional search engines are soon going to be a thing of the past, but I disagree. It’s true that other forms of search, such as voice search and social search, are becoming more prevalent, but I think that there will always be a need to perform searches and get results from several relevant sources. This is something that voice search doesn’t really allow.
You might be asking yourself what the future of search really looks like. Well, we can expect our searches to be more relevant and intuitive, even more personal. We can expect more tech gadgets to try to simplify our lives, and I certainly hope that we can see a lot more meta searching in the future because the combination of information can be incredibly useful.
- What You Need to Know About the Voice Search Revolution - http://www.toprankblog.com/2016/06/voice-search-mnsummit/
- The Upcoming Social Media Evolution of ChatBots and Conversational Apps - http://www.edelman.com/post/social-media-evolution-chat-bots-conversational-apps/
- How to get ready for voice search - http://calq.com/blog/pubcon-slides-split/
- How Voice Search Will Change Digital Marketing — For the Better - https://moz.com/blog/how-voice-search-will-change-digital-marketing-for-the-better
- Metasearch engine - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metasearch_engine#/media/File:Meta-search-en.svg
- Optimizing for RankBrain... Should We Do It? (Is It Even Possible?) - https://moz.com/blog/optimizing-for-rankbrain-whiteboard-friday