The Wall Street Journal announced that Google will be updating their search algorithm in the coming weeks/months.
There are some important changes that could affect the lead generation industry that you should know about.
First, what is “Semantic Search?”
Semantic search is basically understanding the context in which you ask a question. This is how Siri for iOS works also.
Example – Lets say if you are talking to your friend about a future trip to Las Vegas. Your friend already knows you love good steaks, so the first thing out of their mouth is “you must check out this steak restaurant at the Palazzo!”
The semantic aspect of this is that your friend has known you for years and knows your likes, dislikes and your budget potentially. They use their own experience to quickly rattle off a handful of things you can do in Las Vegas.
Implications in search.
Most likely you are not having a conversation with your Google page. You enter in short search queries in hopes of researching various topics. EG – “Things to do in Vegas.”
With the new search algorithm Google may recommend a list of things to do and may push down other organic results. It may also determine that a restaurant ad is more relevant to you rather than a flight advertisement.
How does this work?
Google being Google does not release much detail but they say it is based on “attributes” from your personal search history, various websites and other common searches. Google is trying to become skynet in someways.
Why is Google doing this?
Lots of reasons!
- Google is battling Facebook. They know Facebook’s search is horrible. Most people still need to get info from Google. By making search potentially more context based, it may increase usage of sites like Google+ (this is a really convoluted way to get more users)
- This user flow is really tailored towards mobile users. Making Google a 1 page website and offering multiple types of results for one search is key to increasing user interaction.
- This user flow is also great for a voice based mobile device. Imagine calling Google and getting this information read to you? At the end of the call it will ask you to connect to X advertiser. Return of the click to call lead gen model!
- SEO has created a sea of garbage websites. Google knows no one goes past page one of the search results. Making page 1 more relevant is key for them long term. Creating content for Google via SEO and not users is counter -intuitive long term. They are hoping this allows them to be more useful. Creating a pivot this large is pretty scary. It is like transitioning everyone on Earth from gas to electric cars. You have already built a huge infrastructure around gas, the switching cost is pretty high.
What does this mean for lead generation?
Google is no longer agnostic. They are your competitor and friend at the same time.
Head terms are going to be affected the most. In the WSJ article an early alpha tester said it could change up to 20% of your search traffic. This is huge.
It is hard to say if this is going to affect long tail terms in the short term but if the system learns fast enough, this should have an equal affect for head and long tail terms.
From a PPC perspective, it should technically drop the number of impressions you get. It should technically increase your CTR if your ads are highly targeted. From a conversion perspective, it really comes down to how your ad groups are structured. If they have specific term groups but general landing pages there is an argument to be made that your C2C will actually drop, but that is not a new statement.
What will be the effect on Google’s stock price?
In the short term I can see this potentially lowering revenue. If such a massive portion of your revenue comes from advertising and linking to your index, presenting information before the click should technically reduce revenue. In the short term I would say there is a dip in their stock price and long term I could see massive growth based on the mobile usage. Most likely analysts will jump on this and push the stock lower to create a lucrative short environment knowing full well that the long term is positive.
This is assuming that they don’t launch any new revenue models like the “speak to connect” ad model. Given that mobile usage of Google is increasing fast, the attention should be really on how can you get in front a mobile user with semantic search. Without knowing more about Google’s Semantic Search, it will be hard to recommend anything at the moment. I strongly suggest contacting your Google Rep for more info.
Thoughts? Comments? If you have an inside line to Google what are you asking them?