The future of search

Some pundits say that search is dead. But it’s more that search – as we know it – is dead. That little search box in the upper corner of your screen spitting out results will soon take a back seat to a more proactive form of search.

Reactive search

Reactive search, aka question-and-answer search, pulls its weight only when someone asks it a question. So, somebody comes to your site or your intranet and says, “Okay, I’m interested in some information." And search responds: “Okay, here’s some information about this." But if organisations are doing it well, they take it a little bit further. They say, “Here’s some information that’s important to us that we want you to see." In these cases, they’re also using reactive search to promote information to their users.

Take, for example, someone who comes to your government site and searches for ‘driver’s licence’. If there have been recent changes to driver’s licence laws, you can promote that to them. However, you’re still waiting for them to enter a search term.

We do use reactive search as a way of guiding:

  • to content
  • to conversion points
  • towards goals and online objectives.

But it’s still reactive. It really works only when someone comes to it and engages it. A reactive search engine has all this stuff it wants to say, but it has to wait for someone to ask it a question.

Proactive search

Proactive search, on the other hand, is the future of search.

Proactive search:

  • gives you what you want
  • aligns with what the organisation wants
  • does so without you having to ask.

So how can this brand of search become a reality?

  1. Search must access information across all of your systems and index it so it can be found.
  2. Search must draw on the wealth of knowledge that organisations are gathering about their users. This information comes from a number of areas. It comes from analytics and from systems that build user-profile information. It also comes from other systems within an organisation that you might not typically view as traditional analytics platforms but that house a really rich set of complementary data about individual users.
  3. Search must provide contextually relevant information to users.

Proactive search occurs when we can combine all of these factors. We’re not there yet, but we are getting close.


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