4. Search beyond the keyword

Tim Lawrence

Head of Strategy & Planning

What is it?

Stability has allowed the search market to grow unfettered to over half of digital ad spend and nearly 30% of the entire UK market. But the way we search is changing, and this will challenge both Google and brands to think about how and where searches are made, as much as the keywords themselves.

How will this impact you?

Whilst the desktop search era ended a number of years ago, the way search queries are entered has only recently begun to shift, providing Google (and its advertisers) new challenges. The Google algorithm was built on text search, and in a way, on how we’ve ‘learnt’ to enter queries (we know ‘car insurance’ will return the listings needed without being framed as a question but this isn’t how we speak) – new search query methods such as voice, image and product are all challenging Google’s algorithm.


Voice: Brands must also now contend with changes in the way we enter queries. Thanks to voice assistants in devices such as smart speakers, cars and smart TVs, voice search is on the rise. And as well as Google Assistant, there are new platforms like Alexa, Siri, Cortana and Bixby, all using artificial intelligence (AI) to understand search without a keyboard.


Image: Visual search remains less developed, but ecommerce players Amazon, eBay and China’s Alibaba are among a growing list of companies providing visual search tools. This technology is also filtering into social media properties like Snapchat, where users can now take a picture of an item and buy it on Amazon.


Product: Amazon has overtaken Google as the origin of product searches; 54% of product searches start on Amazon, compared to 46% on Google (The Competitive State of eCommerce Marketplaces, 2018, Jumpshot).

The iCrossing view

With more ways of searching and more platforms available, it’s important to reassess your approach to search, paying attention to the changes. With voice search, for example:

  • Terms tend to be longer and more colloquial

  • With directions, searches often relate to where the device is. A simple desktop search of ‘Hilton hotels in London’ can transform to ‘Hilton hotels near me’ (mobile), ‘directions to the nearest Hilton hotel’ (in car) or ‘is there a Hilton hotel in Green Park?’ (smart speaker).


As queries become broader, to remain at the top of SERP positions across multiple platforms it’s important that brands provide search engines with all the information they can using schema, images and featured snippets, as well as updating high-ranking sources like Wikipedia.



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iX 2020 Trends

2020 Trends

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