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Why My Search Engine Use Is Dwindling and Why Yours Will Too

Some days I pretty much live online. When I have a question, need a phone number, am bored, I go online to find what I need. Online behavior has supplanted many things that simply used to be.

I no longer have a use for phone directories, or for that matter phones, and my online content consumption has done away with my need for a newspaper and television.

Recently, however, I’ve noticed a shift in one very specific aspect of my online behavior, one that will have growing significance for marketers, and that’s in the area of search. Was a time when I would conduct dozens, sometimes hundreds, of searches using my search engine of choice. (I’ve been at this a while so for now it’s Google, but there was a time when a tool called AltaVista rocked the house.)

My use of search engine technology is slowly being replaced by the use of apps that provide me with answers relevant to my personal needs. My guess is that while you may not have taken note, you’re doing less and less in search engines and more and more in answer engines.

This trend highlights the marketers need to go beyond SEO and PPC and move even deeper into the worlds of social networks, mobile marketing and app based local marketplaces.

Apps inside social networks are providing answers. Apps inside social bookmark sites are providing interesting reading. Apps in content curation tools like Storify are providing relevant context for content. Apps on mobile devices, such as Yelp’s, are helping you find bars and restaurants. Apps using QR readers are helping you find deeper information on companies and products. Apps are providing you with sports scores, movie times, videos and images.

One of the elements of the new iPhone 4S that is getting a great deal of buzz is the Siri app. This app, billed as your personal assistant, is a potential game changer. A great deal of the buzz is still over the coolness factor and all the things it can do for you, but I think the real issue is what it doesn’t do for you – it doesn’t give you search engine results.

Think about how the world of search changes if Siri and the third party tools that one hopes Apple and other innovators create becomes habit. Right now the Siri app gives you answers that are personalized for you without giving you thousands of search results. If Siri gets very good at this kind of thing, people may ditch search engines for all but pure and competitive research.

Since Google’s primary revenue engine feeds on advertising in search, the trend of moving to apps that bypass Google altogether is a tremendous threat and I think it’s safe to say you can look for this kind of answer engine technology on a host of Android phones in the near future.

So, what about you, think about it a minute, are you moving your search behavior to apps? What does this mean for your business? What does this trend suggest for you in 2012?

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