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August 06, 2013

Contextual Search Improving Both Web and Mobile Results

By TMCnet Special Guest
T.N. Gray , Digital Marketing Specialist

The future of online search is here, and it’s all about context.

While the idea behind contextual search is not a new one, up until now implementing a viable system that delivered accurate query results, as well as related topics, has been spotty at best. In fact, even search-giant Google (News - Alert) discontinued its “Related Searches” function earlier this year and now focuses on a location-based mobile platform designed to deliver results based on previous requests.

However, contextual search – an algorithm’s ability to recognize numerous factors beyond the lone requested term -- is seeing an uptick in practical applications across numerous spectrums of the Web and mobile computing.

For example, at mediander.com – a website that provides visitors access to a universe of contextual information and curated products – a random search on just about any topic serves up detailed and relevant results on that subject, as well as up to an additional 50 more topics associated with the original request.

“Mediander.com is about cultural context,” said Michael Fine, founder and CEO of Mediander™. “Context is what came before the news, and it’s what you’ll want long after reading the headlines.”

That’s because the site leverages a unique technology that connects millions of topics and provides a vast array contextual search results. It’s this type of contextual search that is creating a new Web dynamic.

Let’s say a student is working on a thesis about the Vietnam War and they need some information on the Pentagon Papers.  A simple search on Mediander leads to a search results page. Once they select the CONNECT S button for the subject, detailed information on that subject, as well as up to 50 key players and topics from that that period of American History are offered to the user. Click on any of those 50 subjects and they’ll dig even deeper. The opportunities to discover are limitless. And this can be achieved for just about any subject.

Contextual Search for Mobile

As mobile search continues to mature into a valuable tool for marketers, the idea of creating these types of contextual platforms to serve up relevant content is also evolving. Consider Google Now: This mobile search technology is based on some of the same contextual search principals; however, the platform uses its natural language user interface to provide relevant location-based answers.

“One thing we’re testing right now is a very local hyper-local news card, which is really useful,” said Johanna Wright, vice president of search and assist at Google, according to a report in Quartz. "It teaches me things about my neighborhood. For example, I found out Miss Mexico came to my son’s school, I saw that [the local] Chipotle was giving out burritos, and someone was stabbed in the park near my house. It’s very, very targeted to you and your interests.”

Now imagine you’re a marketer of a local business hopping to attract repeat business from customers passing through your neighborhood. The ability to target them based on location and previous behavior (i.e., they’ve been there before) can greatly increase your businesses financial prospects.

This location is the second part or part of contextual search and is increasingly important as mobile computing continues to get more sophisticated. In fact, the two most important aspects of contextual search are relevancy and location. While the Mediander algorithm is focused on presenting the most relevant and related results, Google is moving to combine the two in order to serve results on the go.

Why is this important? Because mobile Web content consumption continues to see double-digit growth in the United States. And with 138.5 million people currently owning  smartphones (58 percent mobile market penetration) , according to research group comScore (News - Alert), marketers are will continue to increase their spend in this space.

If you’re not already thinking about contextual search, it’s time to look into it now.

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T.N. Gray is a Digital Marketing Specialist with a passion for SEO and mobile strategies.




Edited by Rich Steeves
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