Search’s Next Big Thing(s)

SEO is a constantly changing and evolving industry. The trends and tactics used to stay ahead and ensure ranking success, change with search engine algorithm updates. SEO before the Google’s ‘Florida’ update looked quite different to SEO afterward, and  the same applies to other major algorithm changes like Panda.

So what will search, in general, look like in the future and what will be the impact upon SEO?

I  feel that two major themes will be key to search, those being personalisation, and social search.

Google + screenshot

Google + is already influencing search rankings

Search is definitely becoming a lot more personalised. The days of generic results showing up in Google are now over. Factors beyond marketer’s control such as location, browsing history, personal interests etc. are starting to have an obvious influence on results which show up in the SERP’s. This trend will continue as Google struggles to make results hyper-targeted.

The main two functions of search engines are to provide quality and relevance for users in its results. The relevance factor is now being increased to the level where individuals will have their own unique universe online. We have already started to see this with social media sites such as Facebook.

The risks of this include an overload of ‘information junk food’ with the healthy stuff being side-lined. For example: individuals, who searched the term ‘Egypt’ during the political revolution, often had no results related to politics, while others did.

Rather than search being able to expand knowledge and provide a wider range of stories there is a danger that it will become so personalised it will hinder knowledge.

We have all seen the rise of social media and monitored this in the SEO industry with interest. It is an obvious trend that search is becoming more social, highlighted by Google’s attempted incursions into the social media sphere with Google Wave and most recently in Google+.

Interest in Google+ according to Google Insights is now plummeting, but the effect that social signals could have on search, if incorporated into a click-through rate algorithm is yet to be well understood.

We know that early tests show around 300% growth in CTR when a member of a user’s social network appears next to a search result.

This interaction between real humans, just like we see on YouTube (the second biggest search engine in the world and also owned by Google) will have a significant effect on personalising results in the future.

Google has always been social in the way that it has monitored trends, it is now going further in the way that a person’s social network and web of likes may start to be taken into account in their results. Although Google+ is not making the earthquake that many predicted, it still points the way to the future of search.

Search marketing is an evolving art and the days of links, links and more links are long gone. Algorithms are expanding to include more factors that are beyond a webmaster’s control and are ultimately controlled by the user themselves. To keep up with trend social strategies will become even more vital in (if not the crux of), search marketing in the years to come.

The last aspect regarding the future of search which I believe will be much less prominent than social and personalised, is regarding what is known as relational search. Intelligent search summed up by the WireDoo search engine, or Google’s WDYL, both currently in development, seek to bring about relationships in search results, pulling more than just results around one particular term but other terms that could also be related such as a housing search also showing local crime rates, offering users a wider range of information.

The Google wonder wheel that vanished into obscurity was an early attempt at bringing about relationships between relevant terms but on a much narrower basis.

What do you think is the future of search? Comments are welcome below.