Here at Passion Digital, we believe that big changes are coming in the world of Search over the next 12 months. We’ll break them down in two areas: discoverability/search engines and content.
Discoverability, search engine and technical SEO changes
In a world where most companies are now online, it’s getting more and more complicated to rank well in popular search engines (like Google and YouTube) and make your content stand out in this heavily saturated search-space.
We believe that, in the next year, publishers and brands will focus on making their products and content discoverable on a more diverse number of content platforms. We are slowly starting to see branded content appearing on entertainment platforms like Netflix or Amazon Video in the form of documentaries, product placement or brand-sponsored stories. Even retail sites like Amazon, eBay and Etsy are getting involved. Brands need to start thinking on how to appear and shine on these platforms if they want to compete.
The increase of paid competition is another reason why publishers and brands are, in some cases subconsciously, moving away from traditional search engines such as Google. With the inclusion of a fourth paid result on normal SERPs and the introduction of paid results on Google maps for local searches, brands need to spend more time working on the appearance and performance of their organic results as they do with their paid ones. Moz has already stated this year we could see a dip of up to 70% in organic click-through rates. It’s no surprise that smaller brands give up competing with brands that have the budget to always appear on paid results.
At the same time, we believe technical SEO will be less important as content management systems become increasingly SEO-friendly and web agencies become better trained in the art of SEO. There will come a time where a client with a perfectly optimised website, 100/100 site speed, no indexation problems and an efficient site structure will arrive… and ask you to make them ‘rank first on Google’. Everyday technical SEO, Screaming Frog crawls, keyword research, htaccess and http responses are already becoming the responsibility of some content marketers.
The rise of voice search is also happening. Google gave us the choice, and we are using it. Now it is time for Google to raise up its game and give us the responses that we are looking for, and not only reading up a paragraph from Wikipedia. Conversational search is in its infancy, but Google will give much more informed responses in future.
In addition to this, Google’s plans for the future will continue to place more emphasis on implicit signals and user intent; paying testament to this is the fact that Google recently published a patent outlining plans to utilise biometrics (heart rate, eye movement, facial expressions) to judge emotional response to search results in order to measure their quality. It may be unrealistic to expect this coming within the next 12 months, but it’s certainly worth considering as something that will be happening sooner or later!
We are saturated with content. We are saturated with written content; we are saturated with visual content (please, no more infographics); and we are quickly becoming saturated with video content. Content follows us around the web. Wherever we are, as long as we have a connected device, we are consuming content in all available formats.
Here at Passion Digital, we are strong believers that the next content format that will make an impact will be audio. When looking at trends, we can see podcasts were extremely popular during a time in 2007, but since the beginning of 2015, the popularity of the term has begun to increase again. We can see it clearly in Google’s Keyword Planner, where the volume of searches for the terms has almost doubled in the last year:
But what makes podcasts and audio content different? Once downloaded, you can consume it at any time, doing other things, and without the need of a connected device. You can consume the content while you are in the car commuting to work, or doing the ironing, or working out. You are no longer a Wifi slave.
We see this content format working really well for an entertainment or informative point of view, but were we see it working as part of our everyday life, will be when Google starts using this audio content as search results for voice search queries.
An example: A couple are driving in a car with Google GPS set up to get to Chester Zoo. Google says that the Chester Zoo is closed due to refurbishments. The couple ask, “Ok, Google: where can we go near Chester zoo that is nice?”
In this case, we think Google will search for audio content related to things to do around Chester, let you choose what to do and where to go via conversation, give you the weather in the location and give you directions. We are already close to these types of results; we’re just missing enough audio content on the web for Google to be able to index it, understand it, and serve it at the right time.
Of course, we cannot rely solely on audio content. There are other trending content formats that will become more prominent that any brand wishing to be seen as connected, competent, reactive and available should use. For example:
- Live video streaming (Facebook Live, Periscope)
- Creation of life-changing product as part of content/awareness campaigns (Volvo’s Life Paint or Nivea’s Kid Tracker)
- Virtual Reality as part of content campaigns (this has made a big come back, similarly to podcasts, and clearly needs a big budget)
All in all, we foresee a big change in the Search industry, not only in the next 12 months but the years to come. The diversification of search engines, the increase in paid competition, the decay of technical SEOs and traditional link building and the saturation of content will shape the future of search, making the digital universe quite different to how we know it currently.