Keyword Search Is Dead – An Obituary

“Have Fun and Keep Googling” – so said Larry Page in 1998- and the world followed. Merrily and famously so- with daily 8.5 Billion Searches on Google Alone. Google became the world’s knowledge repository and with that, anyone with a browser and the internet became empowered with access to unlimited knowledge.

Looking for a cheap flight to Timbuktu- google it, want to find out if you need to carry your umbrella to the tube station, google it, want to buy pasta in Somalia – Just Google it and you would be spoilt for choices- with over 7 Million results for pasta in Somalia.

Google has managed to learn – and learn it did, with people telling them what they want. Every time we type into Google for our information needs, we tell google what we are looking for. Maybe it is informational intent, or buying intent- everything has created a repository of unparallel search data and people’s needs- and Google has done an amazing job of classifying and understanding what people want through its search data. This is what is Google’s superpower. It has created for itself a competitive advantage which was not to be challenged and it has thrived leaps and bounds due to that. That is, till now.

Things are dramatically changing – and with that search is poised for a disruption. Customers do not need 7 Million results for Pasta in Somalia, they actually just need one for their lunch hangout during that day. What they don’t search on Google is, what they really need. The unstated needs of the regular searchers and putting their needs in context is what Google still misses. With the billions of searches it gets, google does get a fair idea about what the customer wants, but unless the searcher explicitly tells Google that they are looking for a “top-rated restaurant which serves pasta with pawns”, in all likely hood, the searcher would have to sift through at least 4-5 top links ( and that too, because of the time on hand they would allocate to find what they need- else by the time they are able to go through 7 million results, it would take them a lifetime- so forget About lunch!) and pick their choices.

What is now changing is – the advent of ChatGPT and AI and ML-trained models that can understand the context of the search and understand conversational searches. Semantic Search combined with Natural Language processing is evolving and will take the forefront of the search. When ChatGPT was being developed, Google had to issue a “code red”- which meant that they recognized that with NLP-based chatbots- and the technological advances coming into play, google felt threatened for its search product- which is the core of their offering and has allowed them to be an undisputed leader since decades. A Forbes article describes that Google called in all hands possible to the deck including the Founders Larry and Sergei to help with this situation. Google – now is working on its own AI engine based on LaMDA- and thus the search scape as we now see it – will change dramatically as the market leader will now use AI and NLP to be closely integrated with their search results.

What We at Fullestop expect now with this and how Search Engine Optimization as an industry will change forever.

1. Fewer Search results

a). No longer than 7 million results for queries will be seen. At best, these numbers were just a way for Google to show its prowess at analyzing related pages to that query. Any search engine would likely limit the results to the best match results- or actually allow prompts to allow narrowing the results to best matches- and to be extremely relevant to the user.

b). Long Tail Keywords will convert to Long Tail Conversations and hence limiting the number of search results would be possible.

2. Contextual understanding of the search will grow

So if a coffee shop near me is searched, top results should factor in the closest coffee shops (which it does even now), Customer reviews – in order to understand the quality of the product – with the use of NLP – to say, coffee is great, service is Brilliant – and quick turnaround possible will happen.

a). The keyword inputted may also trigger a counter question to the searcher – basically, prompts which would be contextual and will allow the users to tell the engines what exactly they are looking for.

b). This could be questions like “Are you OK with the coffee shop being a bit farther away, but having Top reviews for coffee’s taste” Or for that matter, is quick turnaround important for you?

c). Searchers will then be able to get more relevant results to their unstated needs. Things that they really want- with their contextual targeting.

3. Entity recognition

So if a coffee shop near me is searched, top results should factor in the closest coffee shops (which it does even now), Customer reviews – in order to understand the quality of the product – with the use of NLP – to say, coffee is great, service is Brilliant – and quick turnaround possible will happen.

a). By identifying entities within a search query, search engines are and will provide more relevant results related to the specific person, place, or thing being searched for.

b). Underlying attributes for the entities will gain more prominence – Good, Bad, tasty, gourmet, dark- can describe coffee and these will come into play with understanding what will be more liked by the consumer and what would not be appreciated by the consumer.

What does it mean for Businesses?

Looking at the landscape, the businesses will really need to focus on what their core offering to the customers is- It sounds clichéd, but it would now be more important to understand the context of what their customers need and map it with their communication outreach. Extensive efforts to understand unstated needs and research will be important so that they can go beyond – Good Coffee to say, Gourmet coffee roasted to perfection with Soy Milk. Product descriptions will need to be extensive and detailed. Details will rule the search.

The ability to create unique content – which is beyond informative – but is intuitive, addresses real questions, and delivers insights which can educate your customers and visitors to your digital assets will become the burning need. Content written for Search engine rankings will not work- as of today, Engines have been advising the same, but this will become more prominent – as users will only come to the sites which are answering their exact needs. The Keyword is “exact” needs – if a searcher is looking for gourmet coffee with a quick turnaround time and with five-star reviews which are vetted, and your offerings match that, in all likelihood, your pages will rank for that conversation – that will also mean that your conversions will skyrocket because your offerings will match exactly what your customers want. In other terms, Broad Keywords really will die- exact matches will fly.

Brands need to Deliver on what they say they stand for. Right now, searchers look for services/products and then shortlist the top 3-4 businesses that they would like to evaluate and then research for attributes like “Quality”, “Customer feedback”, “prices” or any other feedback that they can see either on the businesses website or via third party reviews. Conversational searches will be a part of the instructions to the search engine to look for businesses which meet their needs. Contextually, in order to understand if a business match to the standards or needs of the Searcher- Online reviews should become extremely important as a data point.

In this new era, businesses must prioritize understanding their customers’ unstated needs and focus on creating unique, intuitive, and insightful content that addresses real questions. Detailed product descriptions and a strong emphasis on delivering exactly what the customer wants will become essential for success.

Generative Search: The Evolution Beyond Keyword Search-CTA Button

Businesses will also need to ensure that their online reputation, in the form of verified and trusted reviews, is well-maintained to stay relevant in the context of conversational searches. As broad keywords fade into obsolescence, being able to meet customers’ exact needs through tailored search results will be crucial for business growth and customer satisfaction.

Ultimately, this shift towards AI-based conversational search engines will empower businesses to fine-tune their digital strategies and foster stronger connections with their customers. Embracing these changes and adapting to the evolving landscape will be key for businesses to thrive in the era of advanced natural language processing and more precise search results. Google already has rolled out “generative search” which will destroy conventional SEO practices.

Concepts like ToFu, MoFu and BoFu need to be revisited by all marketers and businesses – catching the customer’s attention at the top of the funnel will be more important than ever as the interaction with customers will need to start with the buyer’s journey. Trust will have to be won through education and close interaction with the customers. Capturing what customers have to say – in real terms- is critical. The web doesn’t always allow for one on one conversations with customers. Tools like needs to be deployed to mass-generate customer conversations and generate insights from these conversations. Automated and manually administered polls will become mandatory and intent understanding will be important for businesses. But again, we are going back to the same old Adage, listen to your customers and understand their needs- but what is now more important is, this will have to be at a scale and AI tools must be used to capture, analyze and generate meaningful insights from the conversations.

In all, it’s time to change – again, and in order to stay competitive- Embrace the new World!