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The New Search: What Google Discover and AI Mean for Marketers

Published: October 12, 2018

Author: Colin Guidi

In late September 2018, Google published several announcements, on the eve of its 20th anniversary of search, that alluded to a larger shift towards a visually heightened search experience.
Below is a wrap-up of those announcements (centered around three significant, AI-powered shifts in search), as well as our overall take on the significance behind the coming changes.
So what exactly are those “3 fundamental shifts” … ?

  1. The shift from queries to providing a queryless way to get to information. This shift will help search engines surface relevant information related to your interests, even when you don’t have a specific query in mind.
  2. The shift from text to a more visual way of finding information. This will bring more visual content to Search and include a complete redesign of Google Images to help easily surface information.
  3. The shift from answers to journeys. This shift will help you resume tasks where you left off, and learn new interests and hobbies.

Let’s dig into each of these to see how they’ll work and what they mean for marketers.

Discover New Information with No Query Required?

The Google Feed (launched in 2017) is getting a makeover. Enter: Discover.
Next to each topic name is a Discover icon, which you’ll also see in Search for an ever-growing set of topics. Tap “Follow” to start seeing more about that topic in your experience.
Without entering a query, you can just click on Discover to find new topics that interest you. Clicking on a topic takes you into Search, where you scroll and can add (Follow) new topics that help to build out your online content experience.
Google’s example: When you’re planning your next trip, Discover might show an article with the best places to eat or sights to see. Suddenly, a travel article published three months ago is timely for you.

Looks cool, right? So where’s it going to show up? Well…

Browse More Useful Visual Content in Search

Google is using AI to construct AMP Stories for surfacing in Search. These include “stories about notable people – like celebrities and athletes – providing a glimpse into facts and important moments in their lives in a rich, visual format.”
This format lets you easily tap to the articles for more information. Let’s take cooking/TV star Giada De Laurentiis as an example:

Implementing AI means that Google will let you visually preview topics with Featured Videos in Search. “Using computer vision, we’re now able to deeply understand the content of a video and help you quickly find the most useful information in a new experience called featured videos.”
Another Google-given example: Let’s say you’re planning a hiking trip to Zion National Park. You want to check out videos on what to expect and ideas of sites to visit — but you don’t know the names of anything to query. Featured Videos would show you the most relevant videos for subtopics related to your hiking trip:

Google Images have also been re-engineered to provide users with visual journeys. When you come to Google Images for help on a task, the page where the image lives is important. Over the past year, the Google Images algorithm was overhauled to rank results that have both great images and great content on the page.

Take a Smoother Search Journey

Google’s introduction of Activity Cards “will help you pick up from where you left off in Search. When you revisit a query related to a task you’ve started in the past, we’ll show you a card with relevant pages you’ve already visited and previous queries you’ve done on this topic.”
Note that these cards won’t appear for every search; Google will only show them when they’re deemed “useful.” The user will have full control; you can remove results from history, put pause on letting the cards appear, or choose to omit them altogether.


With these visual updates — namely, Google Discover — “rolling out over the next few weeks,”  mobile users will be presented with quite a different search experience. Queryless discovery of content, much like when a user is navigating around a social media platform, presents a very interesting and challenging way of optimizing content to meet end-user needs.
In short, there could be less searching and more discovering in the future, with Google relying upon Artificial Intelligence to provide visual journeys in a timely manner. This all further pushes the notion of Google moving away from being just a Search Engine and entering the realm of an Experience Engine. Marketers will need to reorient their thinking to make sure their online brand and content are part of a mobile user’s discovery experience — whether they’re telling you what they’re looking for or not.
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