Watch Out! You’re About to Become a Query

digital busstop-com's "Big browser is watching you" image

digitalbusstop-com’s “Big browser is watching you” image

If you read the Wikipedia definition of “query,” you’ll learn that a web search query in computing is a “query entered by users into web search engines.”

What’s your favorite web search engine?  If you’re located here in the U.S., you’re likely to respond by stating, “Google,” “Yahoo,” or “Bing.”  If you live outside of the U.S., your answer could be the same or may be different.  In France, for example, you might offer up, “Voila,” as your response to the question.

What type of technology platform do you use most often to perform web search queries?  For example, do you most often conduct online searches using your mobile phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer?

Since the latest technology industry stats are predicting that mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common way to access the web by 2014, I would venture to guess that your response to the previous question might be, “mobile phone.”

Speaking of mobile computing and its potential impact on search engine optimization (SEO), did you by chance catch Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s videotaped interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week?

I enjoyed hearing Mayer’s predictions about the future of mobile computing and SEO, and I especially enjoyed hearing her predictions about how the concepts of personalization and customized search engine results will impact SEO moving forward.  Mayer suggested that personalization won’t replace search in the future but will become a critical part of search, stating:

“One provocative way to think about it is this…a lot of folks say, when you type into the search box, that’s your query.  In the future, you become the query…it’s what you type, it’s your background, it’s where you are, it’s your preferences, it’s what you looked at yesterday…and the search box can take all that as the input and come up with a set of results that are customized for you.  And, the nice thing is that if you’re the query, then 1-you can actually explicitly type in search terms, or you could just be the query passively…this is the notion that if we can pick up on your context…who you’re talking to, where you are, then can we actually provide useful information or a series of links, pictures, videos that are actually more useful in your current context because of that context?”

What do you think of Mayer’s suggestion that you, as a user of search engines, will become the query in the future?  Do you like the idea that your online actions, i.e. user preference “signals” that you emit, will be mapped to information supplied by online organizations who will be watching your every online move?  Do you think the benefits that you will gain from a more personalized online search experience in the future will outweigh any concerns you might hold about your online behavior being more closely tracked?

If the idea that your online search behavior will be more closely watched in the future bothers you, you may want to evolve your thinking.  According to Mayer, that future reality may be closer than you think.  “I think it’s probably going to happen in the next three to five years,” Mayer stated in her interview last week.

What Are You Searching For?

Google search image

Google search image

When was the last time you searched for information online using Google’s search engine?  Yesterday?  One hour ago?  Thirty minutes ago?

Considering recent stats on the average number of Google user searches that occur daily and annually, no doubt, it’s likely that you’ve used Google’s search engine recently.

Marketers today who are focused on search engine optimization (SEO) want to know your search behavior.  The more SEO-savvy are using free and paid online tools to discover the actual keywords that you’re choosing to type into the Google search box when you’re trying to locate the information that you’re seeking online.

For example, the Keyword Tool inside Google Adwords can be used by marketers to reveal that North Carolinians who are searching for information about the upcoming North Carolina State Fair event are actually typing in keywords such as, “NC state fair,” or, “state fair,” when conducting their online searches.

Have you ever noticed the auto population feature of the Google search engine?  When you begin to type specific search terms into the Google search box, you will automatically see several suggested search terms that represent the most commonly used search terms of other users in your surrounding geographic area.

Even if you’re not a marketer by trade, you can use Google’s auto population feature to discover the most common types of information that those around you are seeking.  How?

Try conducting a simple A-to-Z letter search approach.  Simply go to the Google search box and type the letter, “a,” and look at the automated suggested search terms.  Then, do the same for the letter, “b,” and the following letters in the alphabet. It’s a fun exercise.

I must confess, the other day, I used the A-to-Z letter search approach and found the results to be fascinating. For example, when I typed the single letter, “c,” into the Google search engine box, I saw the below auto populated search term suggestions:

  • confessions of a CF husband;
  • confessions of a homeschooler;
  • confessions of a dangerous mind;
  • confessions of a shopaholic;
  • confessions of a glamaholic; and
  • confessions of a cookbook queen.

Typing the letter, “d,” yielded these associated search suggestions:

  • dictionary;
  • delta;
  • durham bulls; and
  • dominoes.

As a blogger, I appreciate how this A-to-Z letter search approach can be a great tool to find content ideas that are current, relevant and popular for inclusion in future posts.

If you’re not a marketer or blogger, then learning the search habits of others may not be one of your primary concerns.

At the least, I hope the subject of this post reminds you of one of life’s truths:  sometimes when you search, you can find more than you’ve ever dreamed.

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