A Terminator World?
For the last several days both Alyson and I have been teaching several SEO workshops and the question of artificial intelligence (AI) in search came up. One of the many fun things about online marketing is change. Search behavior has evolved since Google launched in the late nineties. In this post I’ll explore where artificial intelligence is meeting search.
Our Interaction with Machines
How we interact with machines is evolving. Think about the prevalence of smartphones in our society. Mobile adoption is exponentially rising. Do you use voice commands like “OK, Google” or Siri? Touch screens — both for tablets and laptops — are now commonly used. What about texting? Do you use a miniaturized keyboard or a microphone? We’re now mobile and expect our technology to make our lives easier.
So what does that have to do with organic search?
Smarter, More Intuitive Search Algorithm
In their quest to create a smarter, more intuitive algorithm, Google hired Ray Kurzweil in 2013 as Director of Engineering. You may have heard of Kurzweil’s controversial opinions about “singularity,” a point where artificial intelligence overtakes human thinking. Sounds a bit like science fiction (Terminator) becoming reality.
Google also made tech headlines in September with their Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab. In layman’s terms (yes, my degree in quantum engineering will appear in the mail any day now;), quantum computers would theoretically complete incredibly long, complex calculations in a short timeframe. This computing ability could be applied to advanced encryption techniques and medical research (e.g., analyzing genes). In essence, quantum computers are really fast and really smart.
Quantum computers would make AI in search feasible. Understanding search intent — accurately determining context to produce more relevant search results — is extraordinarily complex. A machine that learns and closely anticipates how humans search is powerful. And a little scary.
The Hummingbird release in September 2013 was the first step toward AI in search. According to a Copyblogger article, they demonstrated how Google’s search algorithm handles more conversational questions. It shows how we search — via a keyboard or voice — changes the search queries and therefore results.
We’ve taken baby steps towards AI in search. It will take time for search algorithms to think like a human. Even so, the amount of search data collects will continue to rise. Make no mistake. Google is gathering the information for business reasons. And, in my humble opinion, privacy on the web is an illusion.
So what’s the implication for SEO?
Keywords aren’t dead. Completing keyword research to connect the dots between your product/service to how potential customers look for you is the basis of our current online marketing reality. In the background, milestones for AI in search will inch toward.
What are your thoughts about AI in search?
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