With the rise of AI-powered technology, user search behavior is in a constant state of change. Voice assistants, such as Siri and Alexa, have transformed search queries into colloquial conversations. Google Lens has made visual searches a reality. ChatGPT has emerged as a new prompt-based search engine. All of these developments create new ways of searching and present a challenge to marketers to determine how to navigate the search landscape as user needs and preferences evolve.
The Continuous Evolution of Search Behavior
Speaking to technology as if we are conversing with a friend has become a natural instinct in this new tech age. Picture it. You’re driving to your parents’ house for dinner and notice you’re low on gas. What do you do? *raises phone to speak* “Hey Google, can you tell me where the nearest gas station is?” Voice assistants have created an easier, frictionless, and in this case, safer option for getting the information you’re seeking in lieu of physically typing your query into a search bar. More than 1 billion voice searches occur each month globally, which is predicted to continue to grow.
How should marketers adapt?
In response to the longer, question-based queries that voice assistants have introduced, search teams must modify their approach to keep pace with changing search behavior. Since 27% of voice searches take place on mobile devices, it’s critical that marketers either maintain the mobile-friendliness of their brand’s site or create a microsite that is optimized for mobile devices. A mobile-optimized site will create a more seamless search experience for users who start their quest for information using a voice assistant. It’s also important to develop a content strategy on your brand’s site based on keywords related to your product and/or service offerings in order to rank higher on search results pages. Quality content increases the likelihood of being the trusted source selected to answer a user’s voice question.
The gas station example also alludes to the fact that voice searches are used frequently in a local context. Search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) teams need to collaborate together to develop a local search strategy to ensure your brand is at the fingertips of a user’s inquiries regarding surrounding businesses and services. If applicable to your brand, maintaining a local-friendly site as well, including store locations and hours of operation, will help place your brand at the forefront of a local-based search.
Advances in technology have made visual search another avenue for information seekers. Google Lens, which launched in 2017, is the predominant platform leading the way for visual search. To visually search, a user can either upload an image directly from their camera roll or capture a new picture in the Google app, and Google will analyze the image to provide relevant image and content results. For example, if you come across a plant on your morning walk that you want to know more about, you can take a photo and Google will provide relevant search results, such as the plant’s name, care instructions, or a shopping ad of a local nursery where you can purchase said plant.
Google shared that people use Lens for 12 billion visual searches per month, which is a 4x increase in just two years. With this kind of YoY growth, visual search most certainly needs to be a consideration when planning a brand’s search strategy.
How should marketers adapt?
Visual search makes product images the hero of the ad, so it’s key for marketers to focus on creative. Maintain your brand’s product catalogs, ensuring all offerings are up-to-date and highlighted with high-quality imagery. For example, if you’re promoting travel coffee mugs, having all color options available in the product catalog will provide a seamless search experience. If a user visually searches for a pink mug, the product ad will provide a link to purchase the pink mug that best fits their interests.
It’s also imperative to understand which visuals drive your audience to make that all important click to navigate to your brand’s website. Creative A/B tests should be a core component of your search strategy in order to nimbly optimize toward the highest performing images.
Let’s not forget about the elephant in the room – Generative AI. AI chatbots, such as ChatGPT, have emerged as a supplementary search engine. Currently, ChatGPT generates responses for 10 million searches per day compared to Google at 8.5 billion searches. While Google firmly maintains first position in the search volume leaderboard, ChatGPT search volume continues to grow, and therefore, must be proactively accounted for.
How should marketers adapt?
Generative AI chatbots are creating a rise in colloquial, prompt-based search queries which will flow over into conventional search engines. As a result, marketers should deploy new long-tail keywords to keep pace with these new search queries. In addition, these longer phrases will require a marketer to distill intent and provide relevant, concise information within the ad or evergreen website content to help keep engagement high.
Generative AI can also be utilized as a research tool to inform your brand’s content strategy. Monitoring chat bot inquiries can help you understand what consumers are frequently searching for before purchasing a product or selecting a service. As general themes are identified, create content that proactively answers those questions and update it regularly based on changing inquiries.
AI is igniting rapid changes in the search landscape. The key to navigating these uncharted waters will be understanding the impacts to search behavior and the changes in consumers needs and preferences. Maintaining a nimble, test-and-learn approach will help marketers find the secret sauce to their ever-evolving search strategy.