The Future of Google Search Is…Less Search?

The changes that are likely coming down the pipeline for Google are going to be some of the most significant changes in recent years. As marketing becomes an even more integral part of the search engine, Google has plans to reinvigorate the search process, supplementing user experience with new features and eliminating others. And what’s arguably the integral feature of the existing search landscape—those blue links that take you to the pages that rank—is believed to be one feature that will be overshadowed, if not largely eliminated, as Google evolves.
So you’re probably wondering the same thing we are at this point—what does the absence of these blue links mean for search engine optimization? Let’s talk about it. 

Google Discover

In 2017, Google feed was launched as a way for users to browse relevant content without searching anything. Then, in September of 2018, the Google feed became Google Discover, with the company citing their vision for the future of search as one of the main reasons for the change. Especially as scrolling, quickly consuming large amounts of information, becomes the primary pastime on smartphones today, Google is investing in its own scrolling experience for users—and it might largely replace search in the near future. 
The content that Google Discover curates is based on a user’s search behavior and history. And much like the features that we have already gotten used to on our favorite social media platforms, this tool displays: 

  • Evergreen content
  • Customized feeds 
  • Content in multiple languages
  • Images and video, in addition to written content
  • According to Google, the results are personalized to a user’s level of expertise with a topic

While it’s unclear just how much Google Discover will dominate search, it’s important to keep it on your radar, not least because SEO efforts will need to be tailored for these kinds of recommendation engines if you want to score precious slots on the feed. 

Google Assistant

This Google product is another that’s not new but will be making new waves in search soon. Google Assistant is the AI-powered virtual sidekick that you can engage with on Android phones and smart home devices. One of the most important features of this technology with respect to SEO is its ability to engage in two way conversations. Assistant users can get answers to all the questions they might have previously typed into a search bar, without ever having to scroll through or read the search results. 
And with the rise of smart home devices and voice search, the results that Google Assistant delivers to its users are going to be increasingly important to optimize for. Familiarize yourself with the way people use this technology, with the algorithms, and the search results to create the most robust SEO strategy moving forward. 

Expected Shifts to the SERPs

Google announced its plans to enter a new era of search alongside their 20th anniversary back in September of 2018. And while they did add new driving principles, they’ve continued: 

  • Delivering based on search intent
  • Providing the highest quality, most relevant results
  • Functioning by an algorithm 
  • Using quality rating guidelines

This means that SEO-ers should continue by creating content with the end user in mind, publishing accurate and up-to-date content, and operating with Google’s quality rating guidelines in mind. But despite these familiar factors, Google plans to pivot on a few others. 

Answers to Journeys

So much of Google search is comprised of question and answer—and until now, Google has aimed to provide the shortest, most relevant answer to any question. But moving forward, the search engine will include features like “pick up where you left off,” shifting their focus from short answers to longer, ongoing information and solutions for people. 
And their new features on this front build off existing features, like suggestions on what to learn about next, based on search history, and activity cards that show previous pages visited and previous searches. 

No Questions Asked: Google Has Answers

In the future, Google wants to be able to answer questions before they even need to be asked, and Google Discover is leading this effort. By providing evergreen and fresh content, Discover will replace the need to enter a search query at all. And SEO efforts need to consider this heavily when devising strategy and creating or evaluating content. 

Text to Visual

Google will be changing the way they present search results by incorporating more visual content. They plan to start showing AMP stories and video compilations, curated by an algorithm. 
In addition to these new visual features, Google Image search will get some important updates. For one, pages with images that complement the content will rank better. And while these are all projected changes, which means that they aren’t the most present on most minds, SEO professionals have to keep these changes on the radar so that we can more seamlessly adapt. 

How Much of Search is Left for the Rest of Us?

You may have noticed how Google-centric these changes are. And, while Google hasn’t even rolled out all the changes it plans to make, the impacts are already being felt. By the end of the first quarter of 2019, zero click searches comprised nearly 50% of search actions on Google, while organic clicks to non-Google sites comprised only 41% of search actions. 
One of the main reasons for these numbers is that Google answers a great volume of questions with additional features like knowledge panels, “People Also Ask” boxes, and more. On top of that, though, Google currently directs more than 12% of traffic back to Alphabet-owned properties and other Google-owned entities like Maps and YouTube. This means that the opportunity for other sites to get clicks and traffic is diminishing. 
But how does this affect SEO efforts? 

The Impact on SEO

Capitalizing on these changes will depend on your familiarity with them starting now. You need to start considering the following: 

  • How can I focus less on search questions and more on context? 
  • Where does my site’s content fit into a user’s larger search journey?
  • How do I create content that people want to save to read again?
  • What type of user might Google interpret for this content, and how do we better tailor the content for that user?
  • How do we better integrate visuals and text for stronger content?

These changes have been said to push Google into a “post-content” era, as Google will be doing more curating and presenting excerpts of site content. And while the current elements of SEO practice, from keyword research to competitive analysis and more, still apply, the strategy behind these processes for increasing visibility will have to evolve. 
At Uptick, we keep our finger on the pulse of the industry. Digital marketing is dynamic, ever-changing, and we do the work to keep up. If you’re looking for guidance in your SEO efforts as the landscape changes, let’s talk.

About Lance

For nearly a decade, Lance has worked with Uptick in search engine optimization in some capacity, initially building our SEO department from the ground up. His expertise in the world of optimization makes him the ideal person to keep Uptick on the cutting edge of the ever-evolving SEO sphere. A graduate of Samford University, Lance is a member of Samford University’s Entrepreneurship, Management, and Marketing Advisory Board, creating the university’s first digital marketing course. He has spoken at the Birmingham chapter of the American Marketing Association, co-hosted ‘Grow With Google’ small business events, and presented to the Birmingham and Huntsville chapters of the Public Relations Council of Alabama. Currently, he spearheads Uptick’s SEO sales, business development, and overall strategies.

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