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29 September 2022
What it means when search becomes more visual
At Google’s search event this week revealed several ways in which its core search product would be adapting to the growing trend that young internet users are searching more visually-led platforms; the changes speak to a deeper philosophical shift that could have a big change on the way the massive business of search advertising operates.
Why it matters
In 2021, Google made $149 billion in advertising revenues on its core business of which search plays a huge part – not only to Google’s business, but by search accounting for 34% of the world’s ad spend in 2020. Big changes to a business this big are worth paying attention to.
Its Search On event revealed a suite of new ways in which to search and in which to shop on Google – both will be of huge interest to the marketing discipline. While we won’t rehash them all here, they uncover two trends:
Searching by vibe: visual search and voice note search are incoming.
Search isn’t about finding one right answer but a method of discovery.
Where it’s going
This second point is articulated neatly in a good piece on tech site The Verge, in which it observes that search has evolved into a “system for exploration, for discovery, for trying to learn things about which there are no obvious answers.”
While users are usually ahead of platforms in this regard – as evidenced by Google’s own admission that around 40% of young users go to TikTok or Instagram (when looking for a place for lunch) – it’s a significant shift.
This has fed a new feature, Exploration, which will be coming to iOS devices soon via Google’s dedicated app currently dedicated to travel and tourism topics, offering suggestions that help users explore. While nothing is set yet, this is likely to affect the ways in which search ad buyers reach their targets.
Looking to China, where the trend toward the visual is more developed, VC-turned-media company a16z explores some of the adaptations that businesses have made in order to become searchable on Douyin (TikTok in China).
Sourced from Google, WARC, The Verge, New York Times, a16z