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Google's updated app embodies more proactive version of search

Google search

Google introduced a mobile-friendly label for search results

Google has updated its flagship mobile application to focus less on cold searches and function more as a curated feed of what users might be interested in, presenting an interesting opportunity of which marketers can take advantage.

The new update sees the regular Google home screen replaced with two streams – Feed and Upcoming. The two streams together are an attempt to make the Google app a bit more proactive in helping consumers find what they are looking for.

"The jury is still out on what the Google feed updates mean for brand marketers, ultimately the verdict will depend on how open Google’s API’s are, to what extent bands are prepared with relevant content and offers that Google determines a be of service to the individual at scale, and the level of control individuals have over their digital self," said Michael Becker, co-founder and managing partner at mCordis. "What Google is doing is separating content feeds into general results and an “upcoming feed,” a feed that is derived by Google’s prediction of what will be most relevant to the individual.

Google Assistant
Google’s main app has long been little more than a copy of the standard Google home page – the Google logo with an empty search bar.

But now Google is attempting to make its app a bit more proactive in terms of what users can do with it, in an attempt to drive more engagement and motivate users to begin interacting with content as opposed to starting at a blank screen.

The way Google has gone about this is through one big new feature. The main page now has two feeds that the user can switch between, each with a different kind of content that they might want to see.


The first, simply called Feed, shows the users a variety of content from different sources, including articles, videos, social media posts and more to help them find the kinds of things they might be interested in. This feature uses Google’s robust history and cookie tracking to help recommend appropriate content.

The second feed is called Upcoming and it shows a more personalized stream of content, including appointments, weather, emails and other things that are specific to the users themselves. This feed is more for users who want to get up to date on how their day, week or month is looking. 

The two feeds represent a significant departure for Google in terms of what kind of content it wants to be front and center in a consumer’s life.

It is telling that of the two, Feed is the default. Feed is the one that features outside content and has the most potential for marketers who want to get their message in front of consumers quickly and easily, encouraging them to click and engage right from the home screen, rather than waiting for them to seek out the brands themselves.

"As brands prepare for being of service to the individual by going beyond offering typical brand content and begin offering content that is tailored to meet the needs of individuals, it is possible that the upcoming feed could be an incredibly valuable channel for brands," Mr. Becker said. "Google could help brands cut through all the clutter and make it to the top of an individual’s feed.

"One way to make this better is for a brand to work with Google on probabilistic algorithms. Another will be for brands to start working with individuals on the individual’s terms through an emerging class of personal information management services, including the personal data stores.

"The personal data store will make it possible for individuals to specify their preferences and signal intent; brands, and Google alike, can use the informed access provided by individuals, the individual controlled information, to help the industry better serve them.

Social search
Google attempting to make their flagship app a more productive and proactive part of consumers’ lives should come as no surprise to those who have been following the search giant’s trends over the past few years.

Google has moved beyond being a simple platform for searching and wants to make its technology an indispensable part of the consumer experience, a permanent assistant who is able to help and suggest in an active way.


The brand’s Google Assistant program, which will come built-in to its highly anticipated Pixel phones, is the biggest attempt to bridge the gap between passive and proactive search.

Google is also attempting to bridge the gap between search and commerce by allowing consumers to order food through the Google Maps app (see story).

Meanwhile, on the marketing side, virtual reality is the next frontier that Google is throwing its weight into, with big names such as the Wall Street Journal announcing virtual reality apps compatible with Google’s Daydream VR hardware (see story).

With these updates and new platforms on the near horizon, Google is set to loom even larger over the tech landscape in more ways than one. 

"As this time it is unclear how they will capitalize on this," Mr. Becker said. "We’ll have to wait and see as to what Google supports and how they plan on integrating paid and organic content into these feeds."

"The most likely scenarios are that Google will be able to signal to the marketplace an individual’s intent and sell premium space to brands that Google determines has the most relevance to individual in the particular micro-moments. It will be important for Google and Brands to be careful, however; people could end up getting creeped out with this and find it very intrusive, the market may take advantage of individual’s apathy when it comes to privacy and self-determination of one’s digital sovereignty, or individuals may start taking back control.

"As this time it is unclear how they will capitalize on this," Mr. Becker said. "We’ll have to wait and see as to what Google supports and how they plan on integrating paid and organic content into these feeds." "The most likely scenarios are that Google will be able to signal to the marketplace an individual’s intent and sell premium space to brands that Google determines has the most relevance to individual in the particular micro-moments. It will be important for Google and Brands to be careful, however; people could end up getting creeped out with this and find it very intrusive, the market may take advantage of individual’s apathy when it comes to privacy and self-determination of one’s digital sovereignty, or individuals may start taking back control."

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Danny Parisi is staff writer on Mobile Marketer, New York. Reach him at danny@napean.com.

 
Related content: Software and technology, mobile, mobile marketing, google, search, social, app

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