What Is the Real Future of Search?

Posted by Julia Wisniewski, SEO Analyst

If you have your pulse on the SEO industry, then you undoubtedly have come across an article or two questioning the future of Search Engine Optimization. As an SEO professional, this question lurks in the back of my brain constantly. On its surface, the very act of questioning search can send search professionals into a tail spin. Many industry experts have written articles on the matter and I have aggregated a few of the most recent ones here to get a perspective on the future of search from the front lines.

First of all, there is no question that search will change.  It is changing as we speak. Google and other search engines have been changing their algorithms to serve fresher, more targeted results pages for some time now. They are penalizing over SEO’d websites and favoring unique, new content.

In addition, data collection from search engines is getting more and more robust. We are learning more about searchers and their intent as we measure different kinds of actions and conversions. Thus, the question is no longer whether there is a future of search. I think many marketers will agree that search is an integral part of a successful strategy. The speculation lies in what search will look like one, five, and ten years from now. There are two points to consider when it comes to the future of search.

First, according to an article by SEOMoz, the evolving state of APIs will have a profound impact on the industry (API stands for application programming interface, which is just a way of describing programming language). The argument presented is as such: the web has evolved from simple blue links on a Google results page to mobile applications, Siri and blended search results; therefore, more and more searchers can get the information they need from websites without ever having to visit one. For example, when one asks Siri a question about the weather, she pulls information from Yahoo!, but one never actually goes to the Yahoo! website. APIs within search results will just continue to become more and more prevalent, making the act of actually visiting websites obsolete.

Second, Google says that the future of search is context based. In traditional Google fashion, it doesn’t elaborate much on what this might look like. However, Google claims that those who have questioned the future of search have “actually dreamt the future of the search engine already.” They picture Google controlling searchers’ navigation of the web even more than they do now. I imagine this looks more like an application than like the Google that we picture today. Google wants to get its hands on more aspects of the online experience and deliver them to the user in its own language and on its own platform.

A recent article by Forbes took a look at the work a specific company is doing to improve on Google’s (and other traditional search engine’s) approach to search. Stremor Corp’s new website unpartial.com uses Liquid Helium, a “language heuristics engine,” that analyzes the bias of different political articles individually in order to give more content-personalized results. Getting this deep into the content of a site is something Google has yet to master and this article claims that this technology could eventually be expanded out to more than just politics, thus revolutionizing the state of SEO as we know it. By analyzing the context, intent and credibility of the content, Liquid Helium goes a few steps beyond just linking websites through collections of similar words. Although this is a new burgeoning technology, I am sure Google and the rest are already doing their best to implement something similar.

So is it time to let that gnawing question that plagues most SEOs get the best of us? Should we change careers and learn a new skill? I don’t think so. However, it’s easy for me to say, working for a company that emphasizes solving problems as opposed to creating the best solution that falls under the category of SEO.

If you are a business looking to get a leg up in the marketplace, creating public or private APIs will eventually become more commonplace among successful Internet marketers. Also, cultivating content will become ever more crucial as search engines begin to scan that content for context, intent and expertise.

We may not be able to visualize the future of search, but we can always challenge the status quo of search engine marketing to create the future of search that we see fit.

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