Google knows what you want. And more importantly it knows what you want NOW! Not soon, or tomorrow, or even next week. No, Google knows what you want now. And if you let it, it will tell you. Of course, what I’m talking about – Google Now, is nothing new. It launched officially over a year ago, but back then only Android users on Jellybean could benefit from being told that their journey to work would be disrupted by delays. Although, if you live in London like I do, you probably don’t need Google to tell you that… Anyway, now the service is available to a number of other devices, including iPhones and iPads, through the Google Search app.
The difference between Google Now and other previous Google launches, is that Google Now actually takes search as step further by predicting what you want, based on its ability to learn about your search behaviour. A few colleagues in the office have been talking about Google Now and how it learns where they live, where they work and other rather worrying/exciting (delete where applicable) aspects of your life.
Of course, at the moment Google Now is in its infancy and so its application might not seem that impressive. I’ve just downloaded the app on my iPhone and all it’s telling me is the weather (21 degrees – which I could probably tell by being outside) and how long it will take me to get to work. Nothing that impressive, or even worrying. It’s also possible that for some, Google Now will actually be terrifying. It could be seen as an invasion of privacy or eerily predictive. And perhaps it could be seen as almost too useful – for those who are always late for meetings, Google Now means they’ll have no excuse for getting stuck in traffic!
Also, as with most recent Google products, it appears as though users will only get the full benefit of Google Now if they are also using other Google products such as Gmail, Google+ etc. Another case of Google nepotism, which I think could, unfortunately, see it struggle to take off in the way you’d hope.
But its potential is fascinating, not just for the general consumer, but also for search marketers. From a marketer’s point of view, Google Now could be perfect as it means Google is providing unparalleled levels of results for users’ search needs, especially in the local field. Thus providing plenty of search result areas, or ‘cards’, that marketers can capitalise on. Though it would beg the question – how does a company ensure their website is suggested by Google if that consumer isn’t actually typing anything into Google? It’s a challenge most search marketers should be salivating over though.
For me, one development which can’t come soon enough, and could really change the landscape, is push notifications. Depending on your OS this might not seem like a big deal, but if Google starts pushing my iPhone to notify about things I need – based on my previous search history – that would be great. For example, if I buy festival tickets this year, Google Now might decide to let me know about the weather forecast at the festival site before I leave through a notification. Then I’ll know whether to pack my wellies or sunglasses or both before I leave.
So, while Google Now might not be quite as ‘Now’ as it claims and it still needs some development to ensure it lives up to its potential, it won’t take long before its recommending hotels to stay at and restaurants to visit after you book your next holiday. What will be interesting to see is how search marketing will have to adapt and strategies will have to be adjusted to ensure a site is top of the list in Google Now’s recommendations.