One small step for Google, One giant step for search

by Peter Young on June 15, 2011 · 1 comment

I watched in the Google Inside Search presentation yesterday in a state of awe, amazement and in certain instances bewilderment. In one amazing hour, Google outlined a clear strategy for the future where mobile and voice are thrust into the spotlight with the launch of a range of new tools aimed at really consolidating Google as the leader in search whether that be mobile or desktop, typed or voice driven, text or even image.

During the hour or so long presentation, Google unveilved at least four new products for the market including Google Voice for Desktop, Google Goggles with Translate, Search by Image and Instant Pages, with a new features and functionality added to the mobile homepage. Much of the new range of tools are centric around mobile devices, and when one looks at some of the data that came out of the presentation this isn’t suprising. This included:

  • Search on desktop during the week is fairly constant however a noticeable dip is evident over the weekend periods (down Saturday,slightly up Sunday)
  • Counter to this, mobile actually peaks on Saturday and Sunday with week periods actually seeing considerably less usage
  • A similar trend can be seen one they analysed time usage. Desktop searches were particularly high during ‘work hours’ and fell away from around 9pm onwards. This trend on mobile went far further and extended to around 1am.

Revised Google Image layout
This pattern of mobile/desktop interplay is almost consistent all the way through the data they provide, and the focus on mobile is hugely evident in terms of future strategy for Google moving forward. Thus it is not surprising to see Google revising the layout of their mobile homepage. The new homepage features links to three main options namely restaurants, coffee and pubs & bars, with further options for fast food, whats nearby, shops, cashpoints, petrol and attractions all accessible via the more option. Google have also further enhanced the search functionality by incorporating a query builder to allow searchers to build up the query using a number of ‘+’ based keyword prompts. With tablets offering slightly different functionality to that of a mobile phone, Google has also tweaked the layout and usability for tablet based devices to be more in line with the enhanced functionality and experience that tablets provide. This was particularly noticeable in the image based search that Google displayed in the presentation, and certainly should improve the tablet experience should they continue to develop this. The one caveat is that obviously all of the result set relies on Google Local information and as such I would suggest there is still work to be done here, but I personally love the revised functionality that the new mobile search functionality provides.

Google Voice
Voice based search would appear to be another of Google’s focal points for the foreseeable future. Coupled with the increased usage of mobile over the last couple of years, voice search has grown 6x during the course of the last 12 months, quite an astounding figure in my opinion. With Google obviously seeing this as a growth area, the potential for this to be troublesome to Google is obvious. Voice recognition systems rely on accuracy to work, and thus the ability to understand what is being said is vital. Further to that mass takeup of voice based search is not going to happen until there is consistency in terms of all platforms being able to utilise it. Google used the example of 230 Billion words worth of data required to be handled in order to make voice search work correctly – something they have been able to do using the vast array of hardware they have at their disposal.

With this mass uptake in voice, not to mention the vast resource Google would appear to have put into the backend of the voice recognition framework it perhaps isn’t surprising to see Google launched Google Voice for desktop – not something I personally thought I needed but I guess some people may have a requirement for it. It should be noted that Google did highlight further functionality within Goggles to handles Translate functionality something that along with the voice functionality is quite a sweet addition to the toolkit – although perhaps not something that hasn’t been seen before.

Google search by image.
First impressions – wow. Very very impressive technology at first glance however I would suggest from some initial tests, perhaps needs a little refining as the image below would suggest.

That said from today onwards, you will be able to search Google using an image rather than traditional text – or even the revised voice based – functionality and I would suggest is likely to work far better on examples such as that provided in the example at Inside Search. Further enhancements will need to be made to handle the nuances of facial recognition but to be honest thats possibly a different post. However one has to look at the way Google has started labelling image search recently to see how the progression of image recognition within Google – and one has to suggest that this would seem are more than natural extention of this functionality. Further to that the obvious usage of this for link acquisition or blogger outreach in particular is fairly obvious – particularly in terms of identifying potential brand ambassadors.

Instant Pages
Its been just under a year since we saw the introduction of Google Instant, a marmite type product that some hate and some love – you make your decision on that one – however I personally think we are likely to have a similar reaction to this. First of all however it worth noting that the rollout of Google Instant has been considerably expanded to include 32 languages on multiple devices globally. Whilst Google Instant has had a significant impact on search time (2-5 seconds according to Google) the incorporation of Instant Pages should reduce this time even further.

To put this in context Google provided some figures….
It currently takes about 9 seconds for someone to enter a query; milliseconds for Google to do its business, then 15 seconds for users to pick a result. As we mentioned before the introduction of Google Instant saved between 2-5 seconds on this process. What effectively Google Instant Pages sounds like is that results which Google perceives will be highly clicked on (Google can work this out), they will prerender the page saving around another 2-5 seconds on the user query time.

Personally I have to say, I had no problem with the time taken to return results within the current result set – however there are obvious people that must be creaming themselves at the thought of another 2-5 seconds saved in terms of their page loading. One can’t help feeling the only people that would worry about that much time saving is likely to be the vast array of automated serp scrapers but that may be my misguided judgement….

Google Instant Pages available this week in the Chrome beta or developer version offers it today.

What does this mean for us
Well theres no doubting that Local search is big for Google very big – and mobile is a fundamental device to facilitate. It is a major surprise therefore to see Google create entry points therefore to allow searchers to quickly and easily access information in whatever format they find comfortable and it would be interesting if they didn’t continue this innovation moving forward. In particular, I would suggest the following points are particularly key

  • Slow sites are a factor. Whilst we are not going back to old school 100k files any more, I would suggest an eye is kept on how long your pages take to load and optimised where possible.
  • Think about hosting – not just for geo-targeting purposes.
  • If you aren’t using Google Places – and can – do so. If you are using Google Places make sure your results are as optimised as possible.
  • Optimise your images and make sure they are of good quality. Google looks at more than just image names and context.
  • From a PPC perspective, think about device usage. Day parting in particular could be see some benefits from tailored device specific day parting in line with mobile usage….
  • Make sure your site is mobile friendly. Users can and will potentially be looking at it.
  • SEO isn’t a desktop text vehicle any more. Its so much more and as marketeers you need to be thinking across, text, imagery, local, products and mobile. If your not your missing a considerable proportion of the pie…..

Further reading:
Google Announces a Number of New Search Features
Google Voice Search & Search By Image Comes To Desktops

Google+ Comments

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Stacey Cavanagh June 23, 2011 at 7:38 am

Love image search. It’s brilliant…

A friend of my boyfriend’s was recently stung when he went on a date with someone he met online only to find she looked, well, ‘different’ offline than on. I suppose if he’d been able to Google the image she was using on her profile he might have found it in several different places!!

Loving having one central location for all news and features around search as well. I’m not really getting Instant Pages yet though – maybe I will change my mind with time.

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