3 Predictions For The Future of Search

Search engines were built for a purpose: to bring together the web’s data and allow users to find information, products, services, or whatever else they are looking for from a single window. But the web is a very different place from the 80s and 90s when search engines like AOL, Yahoo, and Google were formed or even the early 20th century when Bing hit the scene.

Today, users are no longer beginning their online journeys with a quick Google search. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to see where their journeys begin. Social media and messaging and mobile apps are syphoning traffic away from search engines, that’s for sure — Facebook receives about 1.5 billion searches every day. And users are more often going directly to a company’s Facebook page or through a referral link in an Instagram models’ profile to complete their transactions.

But don’t be fooled into thinking this shift means search is dead; rather, it’s just changing. In fact, we’re already well into a new era of SEO that is less dominated by the SERPs and more shaped by our smartphones and social media platforms.

To find out what this emerging landscape means for your business, we’ve put together four predictions that are proving to be hugely influential in shaping the future of search.

1. Mobile first and last

Traditional search was built for desktop browsing. But after Google revealed almost three years ago that mobile search queries overtook those from desktops, and more recently that mobile media sites have become the main source of e-commerce, it’s clear that some drastic changes need to be made.

The question is, how does search adapt and accommodate the rising number of smartphone users? WeChat, China’s massive multi-purpose social media mobile application software, may have the answer.

Although it was originally an instant messaging app, the company has expanded its offering to it’s approx 1 billion users by delivering a number of other bots and apps within its design. Users can play games, buy film tickets, book taxis, manage their bank accounts, and much more. All without ever going near a search engine. Rather than exist independently from search engines, though, we may see search integrate with such apps for more efficient content and service discovery.

2. Learning link language

A big debate among digital marketers has been whether links will survive as a prominent SEO ranking factor. Although the jury is still out, it’s clear that as search engines become smarter, the focus is going to move more from the link itself and toward the language in which it is embedded.

The rising importance of context and language supports the idea that brand mentions may be the new links, but it doesn’t quite justify it. The two theories are grounded in the same idea, though: the future of SEO is all about user experience.

For instance, the standard of user experience of your page and any linking pages say everything Google need to know. If your site has a low bounce rate, high click-through rate, and impressive on-page time score, then a few backlinks from partners aren’t going to turn the verdict. Likewise, if you have tons of backlinks but your user experience sucks, then no matter how many you get, they’re not going to save you.

3. A social way to search

Although some search engines integrate social sharing into their algorithms, it’s still impossible to search the vast databases of social media platforms unless you’re a member and logged in. But the sheer magnitude of content on social media networks and the size of their audiences won’t be ignored by search engines for much longer.

If social media and search are to co-exist together, search engines will start to index social content in a bid to retain their market share and improve users’ overall experience. We can see this in the partnership between Google and Twitter that has enabled Tweets from authoritative Twitter accounts to be indexed and appear in the SERPs.

Whereas today the web seems to be divided up into numerous specialised platforms, it is destined to become increasingly integrated — if for the sake of pleasing the user, for striking profitable partnerships. Marketers and businesses, therefore, need to start thinking about SEO not as a single activity that starts with a search engine, but as an ever-flowing process that has no definitive boundaries or limitations. This will be too great a challenge for some, but a huge opportunity for others — which side will you be on?

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Alistair Hague

Alistair Hague

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