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A few weeks ago, Twitter announced that advertisers can use broad match to target keywords contained within tweets, demonstrating that Twitter is taking a tip from Google’s monetization strategies.

A month ago, Pinterest announced that it doubled revenue sent to retailers on Black Friday. Pinterest-driven revenue more than tripled on Cyber Monday. The average pin now generates $0.78 in sales and drives two visits to a company’s website.

A year ago, Google started charging for Google Product Listing Ads.  Today, for some queries, Product Listing Ads are the first thing shown on Google’s search engine results page – above both unpaid algorithmic search results and AdWords text ads.

And perhaps in a not too distant future, marketers will be able to buy ads on a pay-per-gaze and pay-per-emotion basis on Google Glass.

Pins, Tweets, search engine queries, gazes and even pupil dilation have one thing in common that makes them so valuable to brands – they contain details on what consumers want.

The key challenge for brands is how to show relevant ads across an ever-increasing array of devices and user interfaces.

Lessons from the semantic Web

The semantic web – like Google’s Knowledge Graph and Microsoft’s Satori – promises to dramatically improve the relevance and usefulness of algorithmic search engine results.  By organizing knowledge around entities connected via a graph of relationships, the semantic web is a giant step forward in better serving consumers as it helps surface the underlying intent in search-engine inquiries.

Here’s a brief example of the semantic web in action helps illustrate how it can better serve consumers.

When searching for “Nicolas Cage,” the left side of the Google search results page is what search looks like without the sematic web – a bunch of links essentially organized by popularity and/or authoritativeness.  Alternatively, the right side of the search results page shows structured knowledge about Nicolas Cage. Chances are, the right side of the page is much more useful to the average user than the left side of the page.

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How marketers can benefit from a commercial semantic Web

The semantic Web is a powerful technology for search engines, but for marketers to benefit from it, each query – or intent – needs to be mapped to Google and/or Microsoft’s entities. Consumer intent also needs to be mapped to the products and services sold by marketers – the marketers’ entities. For this to happen, a commercial semantic web is needed.

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Here’s an analogy: Consumer behavior across digital channels is like different dialects of Chinese. The underlying consumer intent behind the different behaviors is like written Chinese – all the different behaviors (dialects) can map back to one common language. The semantic Web organizes knowledge into entities, and is like a completely different language, like Spanish. Google and Microsoft provide the translation from written Chinese to Spanish. Meanwhile, marketers speak an entirely differently language – one of their own products and services. This language may as well be Russian.

In order for marketers to avoid becoming experts in device-specific or interface-specific consumer behavior, a commercial semantic web is needed to (a) organize knowledge around marketers’ entities, and (b) allow a one-time translation between consumer intents (written Chinese) and marketers’ products and services (Russian).

Once everyone is speaking the same language, a one-time, device-specific or interface-specific “grammar” that maps consumer behavior to consumer intent would need to be defined.  For example, on Google Glass, a gaze of more than five seconds might be associated with an intent to buy the same item. A Facebook post with the word “hungry” in it while in Foster City, Calif. might map to an intent to eat soon (in and around Foster City).

While Google and Microsoft have led the charge in the semantic Web to date, the semantic web primarily improves algorithmic search results for consumers. For brands to benefit for the semantic Web, a commercial semantic web that maps consumer intent to marketers’ products and services is needed. A commercial semantic Web would make digital marketing across different devices and interfaces much more scalable and economic. It would also allow marketers to focus more on the underlying consumer intent, and less on the device-specific (or interface-specific) behaviors. In turn, consumers will receive more useful ads across all their devices and interfaces.

In other words, it’s the underlying intent that matters, not the user interface. This is the future of digital experiences, and it will be here before you know it.

[Image via lostateminor]