Editor’s note: Ted Baxa works with social media marketing firm Three Ships Media.
RALEIGH, N.C. – When Apple first unveiled the iPhone 4s, there was a collective disappointment from many consumers that we wouldn’t be treated to an entirely new device in the form of an iPhone 5.
But Siri—the voice-activated digital assistant and killer feature of the iPhone 4s, has quickly won rave reviews. Of particular interest to digital marketers—or any followers of technology—is the potentially transformative impact on search Siri may have. I’ve summarized some articles on the topic below.
(1) Inc. Magazine: “The End of SEO as We Know It”
Siri, the killer feature of the iPhone 4s, represents advancement in speech recognition, but of greater importance is what it can do after the speech is recognized–determining what app, service, or site should be opened to satisfy the user’s request. The author suggests that the use of Siri as a discovery engine will eventually reduce the use of Google. For example, if you ask Siri to “find the closest Italian restaurant” Siri uses a combination of your location and data from Yelp to serve its answer, bypassing Google entirely. Having achieved a top ranking for “Raleigh Italian restaurant” on Google wouldn’t matter in that case.
(2) TechCrunch: “Eric Schmidt is Right: Google’s Glory Days are Over”
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt has been testifying before Congress in defense of Google on anti-trust accusations. So an important caveat–Schmidt’s entire motivation in these interactions is to convince Congress Google doesn’t enjoy an unchallenged, dominant monopoly on search, even if it does. Nevertheless, he focused much of a recent letter on the threat to Google posed by Siri, which he calls “an entirely new approach to search technology” that represents a “significant development.”
As this TechCrunch article says,
“This is because Siri transforms computers from “passive” participants in the search process to “active” ones and in so doing urinates [typically highbrow TechCrunch] all over Google’s model. Instead of taking queries and then passively spitting out 10 blue links—which you then have to mine for the correct information—Siri actively goes and gets the correct information, herself. If you don’t give Siri the input she needs, she’ll ask you directed questions until you do. If the goal of your search is a specific action (like buying a movie ticket, reserving a table or calling a taxi), Siri can skip all the steps Googling would require and just do it.”
(3) The venture capitalist Gary Morgenthaler furthers this point in another post on TechCrunch, “How Siri Will Eat Google’s Lunch”
Incidentally, Morgenthaler’s firm was the first investor in Siri in 2008, but he makes an interesting distinction between Siri and Google’s Voice Search.
“Siri allows free-flowing natural language interaction with computers, whereas Google requires you to speak like a robot. Google Voice Actions (GVA) is not bad for what it does, but Siri leaves it far behind as the last vestige of the 20th century in human-computer interface. Speaking technically, GVA supports speech recognition and simple agent behaviors, whereas Siri understands language, models knowledge and applies logic, in addition. As a result, Siri creates a far more intelligent and human-like experience for users.”
My Own Thoughts
My own feeling is that Google doesn’t have much to worry about in the near-term, but this sort of technology, along with the much-publicized threat of Facebook as a social discovery engine, is likely to be a game-changer in the future. It also highlights challenges of traditional SEO, as you’re fighting two risks:
1. Google can change its algorithm overnight, rendering the value you thought you created by say, acquiring thousands of low-quality links in bulk, worthless.
2. The options for consumers seeking to find information are only growing, so a site owner who invests substantial resources in optimizing for Google based on data that shows it drives 80% of new visits may find its forecasted payback period invalidated if Google’s stranglehold on connecting people with new information wanes.
As I’m writing this, one of my colleagues asked me if I know of any good florists in the area. I don’t.
So he asked his iPhone 4s: “Where’s the best place to buy flowers.” Siri responded, “I found a number of florists. Eighteen of them are relatively close to you. I’ve sorted them by rating.”
That’s a heck of a lot better than a list of blue links from Google.
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