You may have heard of a grandmother’s polite query on Google that drove Twitter crazy. “Please translate these roman numerals mcmxcviii thank you,” May Ashworth, 86, from Liverpool typed into the Google search bar a couple of days ago.

Shared by her grandson, Ben, the tweet has been retweeted more than 16,000 times and has attracted the attention of the media.

Such polite searches may sound funny and cute, especially coming from an octogenarian, but what most users don’t realise is that this is the kind of query Google prefers. Called Natural Language search, this new algorithm overtook a type of search that dominated the web in the early 1990s.

Keyword search vs natural language search

Keyword search pulls up vast information that makes it difficult to find what you are after. In the days when keyword search was the norm, the context behind a search was difficult to process. Further adding keywords to isolate the result did the opposite, as it only added more irrelevant information into the pool.

According to Search Engine Watch, natural language search delivers more effective and targeted outcome.  Basically, users type their queries in a more conversational manner (similar to how Grandma May Googled, but less polite), unlike keyword-based search where queries are broken down into relevant terms.

If you Google “what are the colours of the rainbow?” in keyword-based search, you will go for something like, “enumerate rainbow colours” or simply, “rainbow colours”.

The results of natural language queries are more on point, saving users time and effort in combining different keywords to get the information they need. “Search engines – particularly Google – have improved their search capabilities so much over the years that people expect to find exactly what they’re looking for on the first try,” according to Search Engine Watch.

The future of search

In the same manner as Natural Language search caught up to keyword search, voice search is now gaining momentum.

In a talk at the Futurapolis conference in Toulouse last year, Behshad Behzadi, director of search innovation at Google’s Zurich lab, said that majority of searches now happen on mobile devices by speech. As such, the company’s larger goal is to try to build the ultimate personal assistant.

From Google Now, Siri, and Cortana, to Alexa and Facebook M, information is provided at the push of a button, or in Google’s case, saying the magic words, “OK Google”.

In a survey conducted by MindMeld, a company that provides voice search technologies, 60 percent of smartphone users in the US started using voice search within the past year.

How businesses can keep up

Many businesses rely on search, keywords, SEO, AdWords, and many other forms of digital marketing to amp up visitors and sales. Will the ever-changing search algorithms affect the way they do their business? Yes, definitely.

The age of voice search brings many changes, but there is nothing major to be worried about, according to an article published by Moz. Rather than looking at this newcomer as a threat, businesses should see it as an opportunity.

As voice search takes the limelight, businesses and digital marketers could gear up early and adjust their strategies. “We’re poised to see this industry take a seismic shift. It’s exciting and exhilarating most of all because we can be a part of the change,” the author wrote.

Bambrick is a digital marketing agency that embraces change. If you want to know more about search and how you could use it as leverage in your business, talk to us today. Our Brisbane SEO team has helped over 500 individual businesses in our 15 years of trade. These businesses include a vast array of SME’s, large publically listed and privately held corporations, and not-for-profit organisations.