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The search engine as we know it is dying

The first-ever search engine, Archie, was an FTP site created in 1990. Then came a plethora of early stage search engines like Excite, Infoseek, Altavista. Yahoo entered the game in 1994, followed by Google.

Search has been evolving at break-neck speed for 27 years, and it’s only going to get faster. Even though Google Search is still a behemoth, it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of changing consumer behaviour.

Over the past few years, the definition of a search engine as we know it (a standalone site, where we input keyword queries and get back answers) has expanded and evolved.

There are new ways of inputting search queries (like images, videos and audio) and new search engine sources, including retail sites like Amazon and data repository sites like YouTube.

Here are some aspects of the search industry you should be paying attention to in the next one to three years.

Voice search

Beyond inputting keyboard queries, it’s now possible to search using speech, thanks to software in our phones, tablets and PCs.

Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana, Alexa: These voice assistants can increasingly understand spoken queries and return audio search results that are valuable to the user.

Taking this one step further, companies like Google (Google Home) and Amazon (Echo) are extending the reach of voice search right into the living room.

It is important to understand that not only is the search query entirely different to traditional search methods (spoken vs written), but also the context in which the query is being performed is different.

As shown at the recent Google I/O Conference, users will now be able to complete an entire takeaway order on Google Assistant purely by speech, without any physical data input.

Visual search

The ability to search for images and videos has improved in leaps and bounds over the past few years.

Far from just being able to recognise pictures, the recent announcement of Google Lens at the Google I/O conference now makes it possible to receive further information, or even take further actions.

Google showed one example of a person simply pointing their smartphone camera at the details on a router, enabling them to automatically connect to the relevant Wifi network.

On-site search engines

Some websites have become so large that they themselves have become a portal where users search for information.

Take YouTube for example, the second largest search engine in the world with more than one billion users.

Instead of going to a traditional search engine such as Google or Bing, users go directly to YouTube to search for videos they would like to watch.

Successful YouTube channel owners constantly stay on top of any changes to the internal YouTube search engine.

Another website that needs to be mentioned is Amazon.

With their impending entry into the Australian market in July 2017, their internal search engine and listings is something that every retailer should be getting familiar with.

With over $100,000 in sales every minute, being prominent within the platform as a retailer is crucial.


Although Google Search continues to be a driving force in the search marketing industry, marketers and advertisers looking to stay ahead of the competition should be actively exploring the next frontier of search.

Cheech Foo is an SEO expert and the director of Ignite Search.

2 Comments | Click to view comments

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Josh Cragg

May 31, 2017 at 8:31 am

Lets not forget the concept of personal subjective search.

Facebook is racking up personal reactions to everything, including recommendations by friends. etc. At the rate are going they will have the ability better serve answers to things like “Whats the best restaurant in my location”, giving the best restaurant tailored to my tastes, mixed with reviews from my peers and people who’s opinions I value.

I see a future where Facebook will play a much larger part of the search puzzle.

    Heather McIlvaine

    June 1, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Good point, Josh. So many people are crowdsourcing their Facebook friends for recommendations of things to do, places to eat in cities they’re traveling to/through…that is surely not going unnoticed by Facebook. Check out this interview we did with Facebook’s head of retail. Some good insights into how the company sees its role as a platform for everything!