“All of a sudden, we’ve lost a lot of control,’ he said. ‘We can’t turn off our internet; we can’t turn off our smartphones; we can’t turn off our computers. You used to ask a smart person a question. Now, who do you ask? It starts with g-o, and it’s not God…”
― Steve Wozniak
I can’t really remember where I heard that quote for the first time, but it’s a line that always stuck with me. At first glance, it’s a line that we can all laugh at and identify with in our modern world. However, if you take a step back and really start to think about it, it has some pretty major sociological, technological, theological and philosophical implications.
Like many people alive today, I can clearly remember a time before Google was even a “thing,” other than that familiar two-syllable word from math class years ago. In case your math is a little fuzzy, a Googol is 10 to the power of 100, or the digit 1 followed by 100 zeros. Of course, there are people older than me who can clearly remember a time before computers were available in homes. For those more senior than that, I’m sure the days before inventions like the television can be clearly recalled.
I can’t even begin to picture what today’s omnipresent “tech world” must feel like to my 98-year old Grandma’s generation. Can you imagine it? I often think of what our world will be like when I reach that age. Rather intriguing, exciting, soothing and scary, all at the same time. I include soothing in there, because just think about how much easier so many tasks are today than they were before smartphones. Everything from getting GPS directions for a trip, to entering a concert, to capturing life’s moments via photo and video in 4K HD, and even paying for things, have been streamlined to be easily handled by a singular device that fits in your pocket. I feel pretty much plugged into technology trends, but can’t even fathom where things will be 70 years from now, when I’ll be 97.
Another great feature of that smartphone in your pocket? The ability to get answers to your questions on demand. Back in the ‘00s era, I remember seeing this commercial on TV when you could only get an iPhone if you were on AT&T.
That concept was so new at that time and was an obvious selling point for this new piece of technology. How cool is that!? They settled a bet right there on the spot, in a quick, clear and easy fashion! It sure made me want to ditch my flip phone and make the upgrade. Fast forward to 2019, and just about everyone I know has an iPhone, Galaxy or Pixel in their pocket. Bets are immediately settled, “tip of the tongue” conversation points are swiftly deciphered, home improvement projects are done on the spot, along with countless other pieces of ‘on demand information’ that make our lives immensely simpler in many ways.
The ability for Google to answer questions quickly has evolved along with the technology in the phones themselves since then. I recently gave a webinar that dove deeper into this, but Google’s evolution towards the ‘Star Trek’ style voice enabled computer is easy to see, and it hasn’t gotten that way by accident.
Going back to the early 2010’s, engineers and product managers from the top down at Google Search were explaining their vision for voice enabled search that would answer questions asked of it. Now consider the products you can purchase and what you can do today with Google Search.
Pretty cool stuff if you ask me, and very much in-line with their vision 7+ years ago. How has Google gotten to the point where they can do this? Well, there are a few ways.
- Knowledge Graph – Think of this as Google’s Encyclopedia of persons, places, things, events, etc. that appear to the right of the traditional set of organic search results. This is how Google makes better sense of things in the ‘real world’ as they relate to search queries performed. This idea of how these facts are interwoven into our reality is critical to return answers to questions.
- Schema – Based on an agreed-upon set of standards for marking up data on the web, schemas help search engines read pieces of web content more like a human does, while also giving them the information necessary about everything from Recipes to Events to Creative Works and beyond. I personally believe that this is, and will continue to be, the main driver to enable really powerful voice search in the future. This is a major driver of Google for Jobs and up-to date Events in various locations. These schemas strengthen Google’s real-world knowledge and combine it with a sense of time, both now and in the future.
- Featured Snippets – Featured Snippets have also been referred to as ranking in the ‘Zero’ position, since they appear BEFORE the actual organic search listings. Think of them as Google’s AI trying to figure out what you’re asking, scan the actual top organic search results, and then return one back that might answer your search query. Google says that the “summary is a snippet extracted programmatically from what a visitor sees on your web page.” This study showed that 80% of Google Home results come from snippets.
- Direct Search Integration via Partnerships – There are a few waysthat this can take effect. If you search for the weather near you, you’ll get specific functionality that shows the current weather, along with a 7-day forecast. You’ll also see a little link that says, ‘More on weather.com’. This comes from a partnership between the two companies, as opposed to Google Bot crawling and indexing weather related content. Or, you may see tweets directly within Google’s search results for timely, relevant search queries. Once again, this comes from a partnership deal between Google and Twitter, where Google is fed Twitter data in real-time. This allows Google to build them into their search results more effectively, rather than trying to navigate Twitter’s byzantine world with search spiders. There are other instances of this, and each specific set of search results feeds Google the data needed to return specific, up to date results.
- Google’s Own Integration & Sponsored – The little set of paid ads above and to the right (RIP) aren’t the only sponsored listings you’ll come across. Google returns sponsored results directly in relation to certain queries like ‘Flights’, or other product-focused queries. Each is tied back to the specific search query, with actionable results right there for the user.
Think of all those vectors as ‘data fuel’ to power Google’s Star Trek answer computer. I’m sure that they leverage even more areas than those highlighted above. What we see today is a far cry from that set of ten organic search results that we all saw 10+ years ago, and in some ways I miss the democratic days of highlighting the fruits of web publishers’ labor, and letting the end user decide how they want to ‘surf The Net’.
We’re all mostly focused on recruitment though, right? Google for Jobs falls clearly in this pattern of delivering unique search results based on the user’s intent. Specific jobs are returned for specific queries, using the user’s IP or GPS info to return nearby results when necessary. These are driven by schema, and as long as all of the technical requirements are in place, you’re delivering Google the fuel needed to power their jobs-focused answer computer. It is a jobs-focused answer computer powered by Machine Learning AI designed around understanding the relationship of individual skills to jobs themselves, nonetheless.
The up to date, localized search result format within Google for Jobs is perfect for a Google Home speaker or other Google voice enabled device to read back. I can easily see this relationship between a job seeker and these devices, with the jobs of interest read back based on the voice query. From there, they could conveniently be bookmarked to view later, or sent to Gmail for later application. For companies that take advantage of Google Hire, why couldn’t the candidate apply to the job right there with their voice? From there, Google Hire could easily confirm an interview time, and save it in that user’s Google Calendar. All handled through voice and artificial intelligence: yes, intriguing, exciting, soothing and a little scary, all at the same time.
I’m going to be taking a little time off to become a dad again, but be sure to come check back in the upcoming weeks. I’ll get into some great ways to use Google’s Search Console to measure your Google for Jobs performance, along with some of the macro-traffic patterns that we’ve been seeing compared to 2018.
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