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Marissa Mayer, the Vice President of Search Products and UX, announced Google's new "contextual discovery" concept to an audience at the Le Web conference in Paris last week.
The idea behind "search without search" has not yet been fully explained; suffice to say that it is about delivering or "pushing" content to the user based on their geographic location, context and browsing history before they have searched for it.
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As Google aren't going to reveal anything till the middle of 2011, for now I have to use a mixture of internet hearsay and my own speculation to consider how this may effect a number of areas, including online marketing and the search engine user experience.
When users see unbelievably accurate or relevant geographic or contextual results, often initial feelings of awe replaced by a fear of the consequences of this information being stored or kept by a business. Google has already encountered a swirling crowd of contention over the amount of private and personal data they have been storing from users.
With this new search concept being facilitated by users surrendering their browsing history, personal information, web habits and friends, this new idea could create a new monster of a privacy issue for Google and lead users to opt out of the system before it can even take off.
GPS-enabled mobile phones may be very good at established your exact location to then use for delivering geo-targeted results and information to but computers are a different story. A computer's IP address is the most common method search engines use to figure out where you are based. This can prove incorrect if your IP address comes from a server hosted in a different location, or if your server is being redirected through a server in another country. This could obviously produce incorrect "contextual" information that may give a negative user experience.
Every time a new search concept or algorithm update is released or mentioned, every SEO across the world wonders: "How is this going to affect my/clients' results?". The distinct lack of information currently available means we can only speculate as to how this latest update will affect SEO: if users see more closely defined and personalised results, it will be harder for SEO experts to predict and plan campaigns to target certain local search terms or key phrases as it's highly likely that every user will see different results.
As Mayer pointed out in her speech, one of the most challenging aspects of implementing a new search concept is how you display it in the browser or search engine page. Again, as this is something that hasn't been revealed we can only worry and ponder how it may affect PPC advertising. After the last local search implementations included a map which covered PPC ads as the user scrolled, my thoughts aren't very optimistic for PPC considerations in this new update. However, as PPC is one of Google's main revenue streams it would be foolish to hinder or harm it's proficiency in generating cash.
For now boys and girls, we will have to be patient as the contextual search 'reveal' is scheduled for mid 2011. But if you have any further information or thoughts on "contextual discovery" please comment below.