Yesterday Dave Coplin opened the real time search session at the Search Engine Strategies conference at The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, London.
Dave kicked off the aptly named “I want it now” session by asking the audience to step away from the idea of search as a revenue stream and focus on the consumer experience. Search engines acts as our window into the internet and it’s this relationship that makes the prospect of search so rich.
Dave explored the idea that we need to broaden how we think about the measure of speed (in the context of real time search to a much more holistic approach that looks not to the tactical “transactional answers” e.g. what time is the next train?, where is the restaurant? etc. but to focus more on the broader decision that the individual is trying to make e.g. Where should I go out for dinner? The trick is to blend all of the implied transactions (e.g. Which restaurant? Where is it? How do I get there and What should I order? ) into a single session that enables the individual to make a real time decision.
The evolution of the internet has taken us beyond the text based, hyperlinked metaphor from which it emerged into a world rich with multimedia content, social sentiment and geospatial information that is increasingly being leveraged not by browsers but applications on our smartphones. In order to make the most of the real time opportunity we must find a way of bringing these domains together within the context of the outcome the individual is trying to achieve.
Moving on from these information domains, he also explored how we need to evolve our understanding and thinking of “user intent” a concept forged several years ago that reflected a very different internet from the one we have today. Dave explained that modern search sees need to join up the different domains of intent (navigational, informational and transactional) into some kind of uber-intent that is far more reflective of how we as humans make decisions and conduct our lives. It is in this are that the real potential lies for search.
In order to improve the search process, Bing’s Head of Search advised that we need to understand more about what people want when they enter a query. This can be challenging as covert tactics lead to suspicion and lack of trust and overt tactics (i.e. asking people) can equally be problematic and time consuming. The solution is to focus on two key factors: the value proposition for the user has to be right and well-formed and secondly, the whole process needs to be transparent and manageable by the user.
Finally, Dave explored the concept of relevancy over trust, claiming that without a reference point to relate search results to, their significance is drastically reduced. By establishing what our friends and social groups think and blending that sentiment into the results, we can better understand their significance, have greater trust (either + or -) and thereby make a much more informed decision.
Summarising, in Dave’s definition, real time search is not yet with us today, but his message equally showed how the potential of real time search offers us an incredible resource that promises to change the way we live work and play. Our collective challenge however is to make it far more cohesive and intelligent – more than just a seemingly endless series of transactions. Check out what Dave had to say when he caught up with Microsoft Advertising’s Mel Carson
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