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Future of Search Moves to AI & Personal Virtual Assistants

A couple of weeks ago, Google dropped a cool $500 million on an Artificial Intelligence start-up company called Deep Mind. Deep Mind has been very successful in its first 3 years and has a promising future. It has been known to compete for employee talent with the Silicon Valley powerhouses like Google and Facebook. Not too far behind, Yahoo announced today that they will be donating $10 Million to Carnegie Mellon University to support “InMind,” to develop a next generation intelligent assistant and enhanced personalization capabilities. The future of search is aiming to give each individual user a personal assistant that can understand their needs and wants.

We first saw some subtle moves in the direction of a personal assistant in 2012 when Apple introduced Siri, and Google introduced the Knowledge Graph. Siri is an intelligent personal assistant that uses natural language user interface to answer questions and make recommendations. Of course, as we all know, Siri is not perfect and can use major improvements. Google Knowledge Graph uses a knowledge base by Google to improve Google’s search results with semantic-search information gathered from a plethora of sources. Its goal is to allow users to gather information to resolve their inquiry without having to navigate to other sites, saving the user time and hassle.

Next, in 2013, Google released their newest algorithm update called Google Hummingbird. The update claims to offer a more human way to interact with users and provide a more direct answer to the user’s queries. Conversational search is becoming an everyday practice with tools like Siri, Watson and Google Now. With the new algorithm, Google can now better answer those longer-tail queries even if the webpage is no specifically optimized for the long-tail keywords.

With the news of Yahoo and Google investing in AI, you can bet your bottom dollar that this trend towards intelligent personal assistants will continue and grow exponentially. The robots that currently crawl your website and report back to Google will soon have consciousness. Your products using Siri, or products like Google Glass, will soon be able to read your mind and give you the exact information you are looking for. The overall goal is to offer the user a truly semantic search. The goal is to have your device fully understand your question, draw information from the aforementioned Knowledge Graph (or knowledge base) and interact with you to give the absolute best answer to your question. Google and Yahoo want their robots to actually know and understand the topics being searched, hence, the hundreds of millions of dollars being invested in Artificial Intelligence. This can only be achieved when the machines can learn to teach themselves (Terminator anyone?).

Futurist Ray Kurzweil is overseeing the Knowledge Graph project and is currently working on “Google Brain”. Kurzweil is most known for his 2005 book about Singularity, the moment when artificial intelligence progresses to the point of a greater-than-human intelligence, which Kurzweil believes will radically changing civilization, human nature and perhaps allow humans to live forever. He believes that by 2018, Google Brain will have revolutionized search as we know it and by 2029, there will be machines that fully understand human language and emotion. It is truly mind-blowing stuff.

What does all of this mean for the future of SEO and your company’s website? Well, we aren’t completely sure yet, but we can assume content will be much, much more important and keywords will be much less relevant. Alt tags will be less relevant as Google is already close to determining what a photo is of without any additional content. Google’s goal is to create a search engine that fully understands and comprehends the billions of documents on the internet. As Kurzweil explains it “PageRank and keywords would be replaced by natural language and voice recognition to make Google your always-on cybernetic friend”. The internet and search engines alike will constantly be evolving and the more you can pay attention to the changes and updates, the better your website and business will fare in the long run.

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