What is The Future of Search? Answered by Neil Patel

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NP Digital - Neil Patel

Future of Search

by Neil Patel at CODE 2023

Imagine a world where search engines do more than just return results; a world where AI understands your needs before you even type a query. Neil Patel, the co-founder of the globally acclaimed Ad Agency, NP Digital, recently provided us with a glimpse into this exciting future at CODE 2023 by Expand My Business.

In his thought-provoking presentation titled ‘Search Beyond the Search,’ Neil Patel broke down the ever-evolving world of search, transcending the boundaries of Google and Bing to explore the untapped potential in this dynamic landscape.

As the driving force behind NP Digital, operating in nine countries, working with over 70 esteemed clients, and boasting a shelf full of awards and testimonials, Neil Patel is uniquely positioned to share insights based on real-world data. His expertise extends to India with NP Digital India, where his team collaborates with industry giants like Tata and Reliance. In essence, Patel is at the forefront of understanding the future of search, and he’s here to share his vision with you.

In this blog, we’ll embark on a journey through Neil Patel’s revelations at CODE 2023, where he uncovers the secrets of search’s evolution. We’ll explore the rise of AI, hidden motivations that drive search, and the compelling reasons why businesses need to embrace a multi-channel approach. Patel’s insights aren’t just for marketers; they’re a window into the future for anyone intrigued by the ever-changing landscape of search. So, let’s dive in and discover the transformative insights that Neil Patel has to offer.

Introduction: Search Beyond Search 

“Hey, everyone. My name is Neil Patel, and welcome to CODE 2023 by Expand My Business. Today, I’m going to talk about the Future of Search. I’m going to go beyond what you’re used to and what you’re learning about. Yes, I’m going to talk about some AI stuff, as you guys have been seeing; it’s the hot topic. So let’s dive right in!

So the title of the presentation, as I mentioned, is ‘Search Beyond the Search,’ and this is what we’re going to get into so we can break down the future of search. When I say ‘Beyond search,’ the reason I say this is most people think of search as just Google and Bing, and there’s way more to search than just those two platforms, which again we’ll dive into in a bit. My name is Neil Patel, and I’m the co-founder of NP Digital, a global Ad Agency that helps people generate more traffic to their websites and increase sales. We also have an India office, NP Digital India, where we have a team of 100 to 200 people that work on a lot of different accounts like Tata and Reliance and a lot of companies like that in which we help them with their marketing. We’re in over nine different countries, we work with over 70 different accounts, we have won a lot of different awards, and we also have a lot of testimonials. More importantly, we’re seeing a ton of data; all this data is helping us break down what’s happening, what the trends are, and how companies need to adapt.”

The Need for Search and Search Transformation

“So first off. I want to discuss the need for search and search transformation; look, search is an ongoing human need and will never cease to exist. Fun fact for you: you know, even though people are searching from the moment they’re born and a baby crawling on the floor, they’re constantly looking for new things, but the need to constantly learn more and search for more doesn’t end there. Just imagine this, and this is a fun fact, and this is from Google:

15% of all Google searches have never been searched before. That means today, out of all the billions of people that are searching or even this week or this month, 15% of those searches have never been searched before.

That just shows you that there’s so much untapped potential within the industry because a lot of people are still curious and learning new things. When you also compare all the channels out there, search engines were more than two times more valuable than email, five times more valuable than online maps, and 50 times more valuable than social media. This is from an MIT study.”

Understanding the Emotional Journey in Search

“This is what people would say: Hey, what if some of these channels didn’t exist or how much compensation would you need to give up various digital channels and services? People want to search more than any other channel, even though people talk about Instagram and Facebook and TikTok. Although in India, you can’t use TikTok. Search, even though it’s not talked about as much, is what people really love and need in their lives because it solves a lot of problems, it transforms people, it gives them the knowledge that they’re looking for on any topic. And you’re seeing this with a lot of people craving AI because it allows them to learn and do more with what they’re learning, with things like Chat GPT or Bard. 

The Search Journey: Awareness to Action

When people are searching in this, right here, the screenshot is from Google. There are different phases from awareness to interest to decision to action. In essence, these are different parts of a funnel. Some people are just interested in a topic, some people are interested in taking action, such as making a purchase, and there are all these steps in between. When you create content that helps people with their whole journey, you’re much more likely to generate more traffic and sales. 

Navigating the Emotional Path of Search

This is the emotional journey people go through when searching, and this is from Google. Keywords are also directional, and it helps guide search engines as well as you on what you should be looking for. I’ll give you a great example of this: If someone is searching for that their head hurts, is it that their head hurts because someone took a hammer and hit them on the head or that they have a headache.”

Context Matters: Customizing Search Results

Context is super important, and search is continually trying to figure out the context. When you form a search, depending on the platform you’re using, the results you’ll get are different. See, most people, especially in India, when they think of search, Google’s the main search engine. Bing isn’t as popular, but it’s not just there. YouTube is the second most popular search engine; I understand it’s owned by Google, but it’s still the second most popular search engine. Then there’s also a search on Pinterest and also on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, and the list is never-ending. 

Contextualization in the World of Search

You know, I want you to think about it this way. If you type in Amsterdam, you’re going to get different results depending on the platform you’re using. On Google, you can get showtimes; on YouTube, you may find trailers; on Pinterest, you may find images of the city, and the same with TikTok and Instagram. On Twitter, you may find the latest news that’s happening. The results are going to vary depending on the platform you are using.

AI’s Impact on Content Creation

AI's Impact on Content Creation

See, before, when people were creating content and doing marketing as a business, as a marketer, it wasn’t that hard to stand out. There’s this image we call it here in the States, ‘Where’s Waldo’; in the UK, they call it ‘Where’s Wall-E,’ and the goal is you look at an image, and you need to find the guy with a t-shirt that’s in white and red stripes.”

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“Now, the image on the left, there’s a Waldo or Wall-E in there. He’s actually, I’ll use my mouse to point; I don’t know if you guys can see, but he’s right there. And when you look at him, you know he stands out; he’s different. But now, everyone’s looking the same, especially because of AI, Chat GPT, and Bard. 

Crafting the Future of Content with AI

And here’s what I mean by that:

All these tools are creating a massive amount of content creation. Even tools like Mid-Journey; Mid Journey can help you create images on anything. You can say, ‘I’m looking to put an elephant in space with the background of the Moon, and I want the elephant in an astronaut suit eating some peanuts,’ and Mid-Journey will create that image for you. Chat GPT can help you write any articles; Bard can too. Heck, they can even help you create tools; the game Pong was created in 60 seconds using Chat GPT.

We’re just at the beginning of AI, but here’s what’s crazy : If you look at how long it took some of these platforms to receive a million users, look at how many months it took Netflix or Twitter or Facebook and Instagram. Everyone thought that was fast; well, Chat GPT saw a million users within the first five days.

“I kid you not, five days, that’s it. It was so quick, and it just shows that AI is going to change the landscape, and everyone is going to be using it to create content. Look, there were decades where nothing was happening, but now it feels like there are weeks where decades are happening. That’s how fast things are changing with AI, especially when it comes to search and how we get here.

The Meteoric Rise of AI in Search

When you look at a survey from McKinsey from 2017 to 2022, the adoption of AI has more than doubled, but now it’s pretty much flatlined around 50 to 60%; it’s somewhere around there, and we’re just at the beginning. In this presentation, I’m not going to focus too much on AI because people right now are overestimating what AI can do for them in the short run and underestimating what it can do for them in the long run! And let me repeat myself –

In the short run, people are overestimating, in which they believe AI can solve all their problems, and that’s not the case. In the long run, people are just scratching the surface and imagining what AI can do. In the long run, it’ll be able to do much more than people can even imagine, but you just have to be patient and give it time.

Neil Patel

Balancing AI and Advertising in Search

And even with search, these platforms aren’t just going to crush advertising. Google generates over a hundred billion dollars a year in revenue from ads. They’re not just going to say, ‘Hey, let’s do AI and don’t worry about ads or organic results.’ They generate over 30 billion dollars a year from their ad network or partner network, like things like ad sets, and a lot of those sites get their traffic from organic results like SEO. So they’re not just going to make do with this and get away with it because it would crush a lot of their revenue.

The Branding Advantage in Search

The Branding Advantage in Search

Now, let’s move into the hidden motivations of search. Look, as Eric Schmidt once said, ‘Brands are the solution, not the problem. Brands are how you start up the successful.’ He was the ex-CEO and Chairman of Alphabet, which is Google. Being able to lead and motivate people is perhaps the most valuable quality a brand can have. If you look at what ranks not just on Google but most platforms, they like showcasing brands more because they know they’re less likely to create fake information. You need to, in essence, build a brand. If you look at the term ‘shoes’ and ‘Nike.'”

Nike globally is searched more than shoes. I understand Nike has more products than shoes, but that’s the power of a brand. If you look at Uber in the United States, it’s bigger than the whole taxi cab industry. Again, the power of a brand.

Neil Patel

Content Strategy for Search Domination

When you’re focusing on creating content to appeal to search, it’s not just about appealing to the customer and trying to get them to buy. You need to create content not just on the product or the service, but you need to talk about all the problems customers may face because that’s what they’re searching for. You need to answer all those problems so that when they go to your website, you’ve built up that trust. They can learn about your products, your services, and any other problems they’re facing, which will make them more likely to remember your brand, evangelize it, and buy from you versus the competition. This is where we need to look at content.

See, most people just create content around the product and service, which I just talked about, or you know, a little bit more of top-of-funnel terms like some awareness, but they’re not really focusing on the problems people are facing or those new searches that 15% of searches that are new and have never been searched before.

Neil Patel

The Content Conundrum: Educate to Elevate Sales

If you want a list of that 15% of searches that have never been searched before, you can actually get a lot of them from Answer The Public. It breaks down and showcases a lot of the search terms that are popular and are just starting to be searched, and those are the ones that you should consider leveraging and integrating within your content strategy, your SEO strategy, and even your page strategy. Look, it comes down to the Content Paradox.

The more people that learn about your product or service without buying your product or service, the more people are likely to buy from you, and that’s why education is key. Again, you need to go after that 15% of searches that most people don’t target.

Neil Patel

Another cool thing about search is they’re really trying to adapt to people. 87 people searched Google for gun control at the same time across the United States. They were logged out; they were using Incognito, in essence, private browsing. They saw 19 domains ordered 31 different ways, in essence.”

Peak-End Rule: The Science of Lasting Impressions

“Google is trying to use all that data to give you the best experience, and they’re going to continually do that more often in the future, especially with the changes they’re making with Bard and AI when you’re creating your content. I want you to keep in mind the peak-end rule; this is how people remember you; this is what they think about you. So, how can you get them to really love your brand, your product, your service? You need to create amazing experiences toward the beginning of when someone buys your product and, of course, at the end as well. This is how people remember you.

For example, if someone buys a bike from you, a bicycle, you want to make sure that you’re creating that amazing moment where they can learn how to ride. They’re going to get an amazing experience; they’re going to get freedom. The wind in their hair (although I don’t have much hair), and of course, in between, they may fall and scrape their knees and get hurt while they’re learning to ride a bike.

But at the end, the first peak was that moment where they’re like, ‘Oh my God, I can get in some of these experiences.’ Maybe you have to put on training wheels on that bike for them to get that. But in between, they may fall, and that’s where you get the gray errors, and they may scrape their knees or get a little hurt. But at the end, once they can ride on their own, they don’t need training wheels, and they’re riding with their friends and having a ton of fun. It’s going to create another positive experience. That’s the peak-end rule; it’s these positive emotions that create memories, and it’s done a lot of times by value and how they remember their product and service when they’re interacting with it.

Adapting to Diverse User Behavior and Platforms

Now let’s transition into multiple searches and answers’ impact in once. We’re going beyond search, so what most people don’t know: When you look at the average media usage in an internet minute as of August 2021 (I know this data is a little bit old, but it’s still very similar today), and this is coming from Domo, which is an analytics company here in the United States, when they were looking at pretty much the whole internet, TikTok, more people were spending an average minute on TikTok or Facebook Live or iMessage. Google searches were a fraction of what they’re spending when it comes to videos watched on TikTok or even Instagram. It just tells you search isn’t where most people spend their time, but it is where they’re finding a lot of value.

When you look at the most search queries on Google, you know, 60% of them are brands : YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp, Amazon, Instagram.

Neil Patel

Right, these are all brands, even Gmail is a brand. And when you look at 40% of the top queries, they’re social platforms, which is massive. And when you look at the seventh and ninth place, it talks about internationalization, Google translates, and seventh is translate as well. The number third one, you know, I don’t know why people on Google search for Google, but they do, and of course, there are shopping terms as well, which is Amazon. But here’s an interesting quote, and this is from a Google SVP:

In our study, something like almost 40% of young people when they’re looking for a place for lunch don’t go to Google Maps or search; they go to TikTok and Instagram. Look, just because Google is leveraging AI, and so is Bing, it doesn’t mean the other platforms won’t, and people are using the other platforms to make decisions and also search, and you’ve got to adapt.

SVP, Google

“You know in the United States, we had a company called Blockbuster. Most people don’t know about it now because Netflix ate their lunch, and now everyone uses Netflix instead of Blockbuster. Why should you have to drive to the store to rent a movie when you can just click some buttons on your TV? Even with YouTube, YouTube’s ad business is almost matching the revenue of Netflix. That’s how popular YouTube is getting. Us teens have chosen YouTube over Netflix for the first time ever, and that’s continually changing over time. That’s from Business Insider, so you need to adapt.

And we saw that with the digital convenience in which there was a major shift on how people work and live. Some people are working from home and using Zoom, and lives have changed, and the same has gone with marketing and advertising in which people are just spending their money on search and let’s say social. But now, it’s where they’re spending their money on places like Amazon marketing, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Reddit, and media buys. It’s all over. It’s not one platform that is just getting all the revenue; it’s now money is being spread across multiple channels, and not just search.

Now when you think about some of these platforms, you know, they can affect decisions just as much as a query that someone may type in. For example, holiday shopping is happening earlier and across several months, and 40% of shoppers go to Google when researching a purchase that they plan to make in-store or online. And people, 89% agree that YouTube creators give the best information about products or brands. Hence, YouTube is also the second most popular search engine, which I mentioned earlier. So you can’t just optimize for Google; you got to look at all the platforms.

Zero-Click Content: AI’s Disruptive Force

There’s also web stories; this is Google’s version of Instagram. They also added shorts to YouTube. Web stories aren’t doing that well, but they’re adding it, just like they’re adding AI. And there’s always going to be zero-click content, whether it’s Google or YouTube or Tik Tok or Instagram or Facebook or LinkedIn. There’s always zero-click content that’s not going to go away. You’re going to see more of that with AI, and that’s okay.

According to Danny Sullivan from Google,

Google has consistently driven more traffic to websites each and every single year to other websites, so just keep that in mind. Don’t be too worried about AI; they’re not going to crush everything from SEO to paid because they still need it to generate income, and they’re also doing a lot of other changes, like annotations to ads to make them stand out. They’re also making it where they’re integrating ads within the AI, which can also help generate more sales.

Danny Sullivan

And consumer behaviors are changing; people are using a lot of different platforms to figure out, ‘What should I make purchases on?’ And if you look at the graphs and the descriptions, right, some are read product descriptions on posts to learn more about the brand. And when you look at this, a lot of people strongly agree with a lot of these sentiments or somewhat agree or don’t know, and they’re neutral. But when you look at these three categories, they make up the majority. That means people are adapting; they’re not just using one platform; they’re using them all, in a sense. Omni channel is going to be the future for people deciding where they’re going to purchase. That doesn’t just mean people are going to use their desktop computers or mobile devices; I’m talking about they’re going to use different platforms to educate themselves and make different decisions.

Mastering the Future of Search

So now let’s dive into dominating the search. This is the last section; it’s pretty quick. I can’t emphasize enough that you need to be omni-channeled to do well, and you need to build a brand. Without these two things, it’s going to be hard to stand out, and you’re going to get lost in the long look. Search engines and platforms tell you what works for most, their algorithms, and they give you these steps and data. A lot of this stuff is already regurgitating around the web, so I’m not going to go over it one by one. The same with LinkedIn and Facebook. But the thing that I learned, and this is what I wanted to wrap up with, is if you want to do well. And that’s why I showed you LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram, and all the platforms;

Search isn’t just Google. You need to be on all the platforms. If you’re not on all the platforms, you’re not going to be winning.

Neil Patel

And that’s why my Ad Agency’s expansion offices are all around the world; we are doing marketing on all the platforms, whether it’s WeChat in China or TikTok in India or whatever platform it is, we’re marketing on all of them. We’re going omni-channel, and we found that the future of search isn’t just text search; that’s what we all talked about. It’s video search; it’s voice search; it’s also video search where people are searching for video content. So if you’re not doing omni-channel with text, voice, and video, you’re not going to do well in the future because you need to market on all the platforms because as I mentioned earlier, that’s what people are doing.

So, I’m just going to wrap it up by saying thank you, guys, for attending. I appreciate it; I hope you guys have an amazing day. Thank you for listening to my presentation. My Twitter handle is Neil Patel, and again, thank you for having me at CODE 2023 Expand My Business, and thank you for letting me present my thoughts on the future of search.”

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Neil Patel

Helping You Succeed Through Online Marketing!

Hey, this is Neil! I want to help you with your marketing. After founding CrazyEgg, Kissmetrics, and other multimillion-dollar companies, today I work to grow Ubersuggest and my agency NP Digital. As a marketer, I’ve also helped companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP, and Viacom grow their revenue.

Neil Patel