What does the rise of AI mean for search marketing?

Artificial Intelligence is trending hard in the world of digital marketing.

From (almost) self-driving cars to recommendations on Netflix, you’ve probably noticed the machines taking over. Personal virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana are taking care of our life admin, while Amazon Echo and Google Home are taking the internet of things to the next level, anticipating our every need and improving as they go.

Sure, there’s a certain creep factor in the idea that your computer knows more about you than your closest friends, but AI and machine learning are revolutionising the way we live and the way we do business.

So what does this mean for the relationship between consumers and brands? How is AI changing the face, and interface, of customer experience and search marketing?

Machine learning is disrupting traditional SEO

Using billions of data points, AI uses machine learning to analyse user behaviour and provide a tailored consumer experience.

Google’s Hummingbird algorithm understands context and conversational language – it reads between the lines to understand user intent and provide the most relevant response in the quickest time possible.

In the past, we had to engage with machines on their terms. We learned to type stilted search terms like ‘best flowers London’, taking out unnecessary filler words that might confuse the search engine. Now the machines are speaking our language. We can ask ‘where’s the best place to buy flowers in London?’ and the device will order your Mother’s day bouquet.

This is changing how consumers search, and how businesses should approach search marketing.

SEO’s not dead, but it’s all about user intent

Keywords have evolved. With machine learning focused on usability and natural language, anticipating user intent is where it’s at. What do your customers want to know and why? How relevant is your site to answering that question?

If your website is not optimised for this shift to semantic searching, you won’t show up in the SERP. This is crucial, especially as changes in paid listings mean less space is available for organic search results.

Voice search is changing the user interface

VoiceLabs estimate that by the end of this year, there will be 33m voice-first devices in circulation. Google says 20% of searches are by voice, often using virtual assistants like Siri, Cortana, Echo and Alexa.

VAs and voice searching impact on organic searching, because users might not even see the search results to make a selection. The VA gives us what it considers to be the most relevant answer based on what it thinks we want.

You’re going to need content that wins the battle for users’ eyes and the VA algorithms.

Zero UI

Voice searching is moving us towards Zero UI.

Coined by Fjord’s Andy Goodman, Zero UI means moving away from screens and interfacing with devices in a natural way, by conversing and gesturing.

Imagine asking Siri a simple question about how to fix your bike, and having the correct spare part delivered to your door at a convenient time, without ever looking at a screen.

This is a paradigm shift for web design and digital marketing. Your site won’t just need to work on desktop and mobile, it’ll need to work for devices with no screen at all.

And where next?  Will voice search be replaced by thought?  Elon Musk and Neuralink certainly think so.

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