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How contextualisation will change the search environment

How contextualisation will change the search environment
Precision Marketing's Head of Biddable Media, Paul Kasamias, talks about the future of search in relation to mobile and how the drive for contextualization will change the search environment.

At the heart of all marketing practices is the audience: defining your target audience is the basic element that underpins all advertising campaigns. Search marketing has long suffered from a detachment from the audience as keywords are strong signals for intent but poor signals for an audience. A keyword rarely signifies age, gender, location, behaviours, interests and other defining characteristics of an audience.

Over the past few years, Google has been encouraging Adwords advertisers to consider context and more signals can now be incorporated: weather, location, device, gender and more are available to enable search marketers to consider their audience as well as the keyword intent signals.

The future of search is a transformation from a pull mechanism to a fusion of push and pull marketing.

Search results are becoming unqueried and proactive through the increased availability of contextual data from connected devices. Search is now more than a search box: it transcends websites, platforms, apps and is increasingly ever-present across connected devices. Users can search across apps, data, files whilst the major operating systems are working to surface this information in the most accessible manner. Through virtual personal assistant (VPA) software such as Siri, Cortana and Google Now, operating systems are working to deliver search results before users even think about searching – pushing out this information. By using the valuable contextual information contained within smartphones and other similar devices, these VPAs assume that users are always searching and always looking to discover. As they proactively provide weather or travel information before being queried, these tools are curating information and data on a personalised level, answering to the user’s every unasked for need - it’s what the creators of Ask Jeeves always imagined for their erstwhile butler.

The entry point for search is no longer a search box – the entry point is anywhere the user is armed with a connected device.

Recent research suggests there will be 170 million wearables in use by 2017. As information flows continuously from VPAs in our connected lifestyles and in the time poor world of Tinderised swipe decision making, what is surfaced by a VPA will have high value. Some analysts suggest VPAs are ultimately based on logic therefore decision-making informed by VPAs will become more rational – potentially what Facebook’s ‘Moneypenny’ is. However, with the wealth of data that will become available, and since advertising is Google’s largest revenue stream, VPAs will look to monetise. Recent consumer research has shown that 62% would want a free VPA service, therefore this is likely going to be need to be ad-funded. Ads could be surfaced amongst the recommendations and suggestions without a query ever being entered. These could be targeted using hyper-signals that advertisers have never had access to before: this could be unique combinations of heart rate, location (which could be a moving location if travelling as well as interact with beacons), atmosphere (not just the outside weather conditions), upcoming schedule and so much more. The wealth of signals pouring into VPAs will enrich search with contextual data in a manner never before imagined.

The pull marketing elements of search remain: users may still query for information in the way they have for decades. But the evolution of virtual assistants, armed with rich audience data means that search can also become a precision-targeted push media. Through VPAs and whatever the next evolution of our connected lifestyle is, discovering information, content and products will always be at the core of what users are doing and what search makes possible.

Paul Kasamias is Head of Biddable Media UK at Precision Marketing.

To learn more about search engine marketing, from planning a PPC and an SEO campaign through to ongoing search engine optimisation strategies and integrated media planning, book a place to take the IPA Search Certificate.

Last updated 21/07/2015

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