Look ahead if you will – to the future! We’ll all wear silver jumpsuits and drive teardrop-shaped flying cars. These will be polished to a reflective sheen by our robot butlers. That’s cool, but as an SEO guy I have to ask: “SEO is changing every day, so what will I be doing to pay for my flying car and faithful robot butler in say, ten years’ time?”
Good question. I’m not going to pretend I have a definite answer but I will look at three big ideas that I think will influence 2018-era SEO:
Digital Natives Grow Up
By September 2018, members of the 18-24 year old demographic will have never known a pre-Google world. Assuming an advanced searcher starts at 10 years of age, we can extend the range of”native” searchers into age 38. These searchers will be members of the workforce. They’ll know how to search reflexively, and will do so to investigate complex, practical topics. Search methods will obviously change as well (see The Semantic Web Matures, below), but these searchers would have grown up adapting to search engine evolution – they’ve learned how to learn.
SEO Effect: Vertical and long tail search elements will move from peripheral to central parts of an SEO strategy because searchers won’t come together to look for the same popular keyword sets as frequently. The exceptions will be time sensitive fads and trends (if the latest robot butler is as hot as the iPhone, for instance), but everyday searches will be highly individualized.
Ubiquitous Computing and Augmented Reality
This sounds like definite “silver jumpsuit” territory – very sci-fi – but even though virtual reality failed (who wants to wear a dorky helmet?) its conceptual cousin will merge with omnipresent, post-Wifi access and advanced mobile computing to bring search to physical environments. For those not in the know, Augmented Reality (AR) combines real-world and digital information. By looking at a building in the real world, a future searcher will be able to call up information on the businesses inside it and reviews of their services. He’ll even be able to tag it with the equivalent of Digg or Stumbleupon, leaving a virtual mark on a real object. This will all route through a sunglasses or contact lens-sized monitor, along with other interfaces that are intuitive and virtually invisible.
SEO Effect: SEO will take physical relationships into account. It won’t just be about who’s loudest online, but who’s loudest on a particular street. If a restaurant gets bad reviews, you’ll see them through your sunglasses, floating right over its sign. Lead metrics will change, too. Who cares about mere clickthroughs when you can tell if somebody actually asks an ad for directions, follows them to a business and buys something inside?
The Semantic Web Matures
Right now, semantic analysis is in its infancy. You can use Google to ask natural language questionsÂ but the results get iffy when you use contractions, slang or if you look for obscure information. Type “Who is the president of the US?” and you’ll get the right answer. Type “Who’s the president of the US?” and as of this entry, you won’t. They’ll eventually iron this out, however, leading to pure natural language search. Semantic search will also be able to compare multiple results based on criteria that would have previously required human judgment. People will never rely on natural language exclusively because there will always be useful keywords, searches targeting specific phrases and so on, but consider this: In the future, when somebody asks for the “Cheapest flying car widget,” they’ll get a real answer indexed from billions of listed prices, not pages that just happen to have those words on it.
SEO Effect: Keywords will become an SEO strategy’s garnish, not its main course. Meaningful, clearly-written (and spoken, and filmed – Google will learn to watch TV as well as play it) content will be even more important than it is now because you’ll need it to hit target semantic factors.
The Future’s So Bright
. . . I’ve got to wear (Augmented Reality) shades when I follow an ad to a clothier selling the hottest silver jumpsuits. Of course, if I show up at the door and a floating news item says gold jumpsuits are in, an SEO pro isn’t doing his job. Fix me a snack, robo-butler! I see a potential client and need to create a proposal!