A look at the future of search with Google’s Amit Singhal at SXSW

Guy Kawasaki interviewing Amit Singhal at SXSW 2013.  Photo: Victoria Harres.

Guy Kawasaki interviewing Amit Singhal at SXSW 2013. Photo: Victoria Harres.

Today, Guy Kawasaki interviewed Amit Singhal, Google’s senior vice president of search.  Billed as a conversation about the future of search in mobile world, the conversation ranged into devices and other future Google projects.

To put the conversation in context, it’s worth repeating a fact Singhal dropped on the crowd in response to Kawasaki’s question “What really is on the internet?”

According to Singhal, everything is on the internet, and it’s sitting on more than 30 trillion web addresses, which in turn reside on some 250 million web domains.

The evolution of search

According to Singhal, who’s been with Google for 20 years and has a PhD in search, at the beginning, people didn’t expect search to work.  That’s changed entirely today – searches are growing increasingly granular and complex.  Additionally, people are searching all the time.  When desktop search volumes go down – at mealtimes, for example, and in the evenings – mobile search volumes increase.

How to gain search rank

Once again, the advice was simple – publish useful content that adds value.  However, Singhal made an interesting point – that search engine optimization is really about marketing your content to search engines – telling them what it’s about, and why it’s important.

When it comes to the mechanics of achieving rank, it’s important to keep something firmly in mind: A perfect search engine should know exactly what you mean, and give you exactly what you want, and that’s Google’s goal.  As Singhal said, search engines need to be comprehensive, relevant and fast.

Inbound links are one signal, but they use more than 200 other signals, including: on-page content, words in the title.

What’s in development now?

Google Now is one project Singhal mentioned, describing it as “… the things you need to know, just coming to you.

“The future of search would be bringing knowledge to the world in a completely multimodal environment,” noted Singhal.

He envisions Google Now as a perfect assistant – it’s by your side, you can talk to it and ask it things.  But it should also tell you things proactively, such as when traffic is bad and you need to leave a bit earlier than anticipated to get to your next meeting.

Other things on the collective minds at Google include the knowledge graph, speech recognition and natural language understanding, brought together, as Singhal says, to create “search magic.”

sarah avatarAuthor Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media, and is the author of the e-book “Unlocking Social Media for PR.”  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

 

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