Google I/O and the Push for Better Context

Dan Lyons
Dan Lyons

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Google-IOGoogle's big I/O conference launched today, with a raft of product rollouts and introductions, including a new music service and improvements to its Maps app and Google+ social network. But the big-picture takeaway, to me anyway, was that Google, across almost every part of its business, is trying to create a world where websites know more and more about us and where marketers can deliver better, more tailored information and content.

Case in point: Google announced it is making its Google Now service available on the desktop via its Chrome browser. Google Now is a voice-recognizing smart assistant. It has been available on Android smartphones since last year, and it lets you ask questions with voice commands. (It's sort of like Apple's Siri, if Siri actually worked.)

To activate Google Now on the desktop, you just say, "Okay, Google," then ask your question. If you have Google Now working on desktop and mobile devices, you'll be able to do things like tell your computer at work, "Remind me to take out the garbage when I get home," and when you pull into your driveway and your smartphone senses you're at home, you'll get a spoken reminder. 

Google Now brings together information from your calendar, Gmail, and other Google apps, and combines it with GPS and Maps. People who sat through the demo at Google I/O today described it as mind-blowing. "This is the future," wrote Steve Kovach at Business Insider

Predictive Information and the Importance of Context

The coolest thing about Google Now is its ability to give you predictive, contextual information -- for example, when you're sitting here at your office, it will tell you how long it will take you to drive home, based on current traffic conditions.

Google's long-term goal is to create a system that gives you information before you even ask for it -- and maybe even before you know you need it. And with the technologies announced today, Google took another step toward it.

This is all of special relevance for marketers. As Forrester Research analyst Anthony Mullen pointed out in a blog post today, "The Future of Marketing is (Better) Context." Mullen points out that context means more than just location. It will involve sifting signals from multiple sources, understanding people as individuals, and using that information at every stage of the marketing funnel.

Google's emphasis on context -- delivering the right information to the right people at the right time -- is one of the main reasons we're excited about Google Now. As a marketer, when you leverage contextual information to decide what content to share with your visitor next (such as that visitor's past interactions with your website, their particular interests, and their stage in the buying process), your marketing becomes much more relevant, catering to your audience at an individual level. As a result, it also becomes much more effective, since your prospects are much more likely to click through to a piece of content that speaks to their particular needs.

Not only that -- it makes your marketing more lovable, too.

What do you think about Google's I/O announcements? 

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