Predictions about Google and its search engine in the future exist mostly in the realm of science fiction. Massive takeovers of major businesses and technology giants seem like the stuff of dreams. But just as universal credit and debit cards sprang to life in Edward Bellamy’s novel Looking Backward way back in 1888, Google continues to make fiction reality as it rolls out advanced semantic search technology, driverless cars, and modular phones.
In digital marketing, you have to be truly one step ahead of the technology that drives your industry. To do so, experts make as many data-based, logical decisions as possible about what tomorrow holds. Not the least critical of digital marketing’s unpredictable but powerful tools is Google Search, our friend and enemy. Even the wildest predictions about what’s under the hood of the machine that processes each of our Internet searches could prove to be an incredible boon to the efforts we make to succeed alongside our clients.
As we nervously await the next wave of change in Google’s search algorithm, we have formulated a few thought-provoking ideas about where the search engine might go and what grand plans it has to continue its conquest of the infinitely expanding Internet space.
Ads-Only Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)
Sure, a SERP completely filled with ads sounds preposterous, but paid search revenue is the main source of income for Google, and ads are what allow the company to continue to make improvements in search and beyond. In 2011, money from paid search accounted for 96% of Google’s income. Licensing and other sources made up the remaining 4%, which can’t even fund Google’s employee base. Their income doesn’t come from organic search, as noble as Google’s intentions may be.
To see why we believe Google may start leaning toward an ads-only model, try a search for a popular service in your area. Here, we tried plumbing.
We were served four ads, one of which had an extended description, and three of which displayed links straight past the landing page to different parts of the company’s website.
Below that, there was a handy map and the beginning of a list of business information. The organic information was nearly cut off, and classic organic search results didn’t even make an appearance above the fold.
That number could increase if most searchers are faced with ad-only SERPs. It’s most likely that ads would only be served when Google believes the searcher intends to buy or rent goods and services. Those searching for information rather than a place to sink their money still seem to prefer organic search results.
But even organic results could turn into a money maker for Google. Already, paid search ads are starting to blend in with organic search results. Though Google’s approach to ad labeling in the SERPs is still far more eye-catching than competitors such as Bing, differentiation between paid search results and organic search results has become much subtler over time.
Look at Search Engine Land‘s history of the appearance of ads just in the last 10 years:
The elimination of a defining color in the background of paid search results was only the first step. The Ad label also no longer has a distinct color, and the overall appearance of the search result largely resembles an organic search result. Webmasters may end up paying for their information to be displayed in Google one day – but that might violate Google’s Don’t Be Evil policy.
Complete Google Integration
Productivity tools such as Gmail and Google Docs, internationalization tools like Google Translate, and even wacky and unusual ventures such as the Google Earth Flight Simulator and the Google Art Project are likely to be fully integrated into one another one day. Already, Google’s main suite of office software and search engine flow together more seamlessly than we could have imagined. Agencies like ours are moving to all-Google work platforms, which we find increases productivity (and drastically decreases frustration).
As Google gets better at learning where the hiccups in work productivity, online shopping, Internet research, and GPS pathfinding occur, small but important integrations occur within the grand structure of their multiple software offerings. For example, Google Drive is available in your browser and on your desktop, and you can access it when sending emails or when using a long list of supporting apps such as our office chat client, Slack.
You may one day be able to cycle through a comprehensive list of Google products to come up with a complete solution to your query with integration at a high level. Imagine sharing a Google Doc with your coworker on a chat client, then opening that doc to find a business proposal for a new client with a Google Map of their location and service area. Look closer into that map and you’ll find Google Search results that highlight their competitors, which links to Google Shopping so you can get an idea of the price range of your potential client’s good and services.
You can do all of that now, but you’ll have to take a few extra steps to input information manually. However, Google continues to learn and serve the needs of searchers, and they’re learning ways to get you the information you need before you even know you need it – which could also lead to search dominion of a more massive scale.
A Total Takeover of Search
All searches, not just basic search queries, could one day become the domain of Google. Think airline ticket sales and hotel bookings, restaurant reservations and online orders – all of the services to which Google Search normally leads could be served from a SERP.
The search engine giant is already creeping in on what was once the territory of informational websites. The Knowledge Graph is an incredibly handy addition to Google Search results; it allows searchers to gather fast facts and synopses for common queries without ever having to go past Google’s SERP. But what if their ability to bypass websites entirely to gather information moves into sales?
We might one day see simple search forms for available flights, electrician appointments, movie ticket sales, and similar search-based goods and services sales shift to the might of Google.
If AdWords-like technology develops, competitive companies might bid for a spot at the top of the SERP where users can input all of the information necessary to obtain their goods or services before they even see the company’s home page. You can get a sneak peek of what it might look like if you type a relevant query into Google Search:
When we tried to buy airline tickets, we were treated to a handy, prominently-displayed form that already knows from which airport we want to take off. Just enter a destination and Google Flights will start showing you a list of available flights and prices similar to Google Shopping results. If the technology continues to evolve, companies will need to supply only a database of information to Google instead of developing their own search software to integrate into their websites.
Not every consumer uses Google, however, and direct-to-site visits are still a major source of website traffic, especially for well-known brands. Google and corporate America would need to create a phenomenal public awareness campaign if such a sweeping change were to happen, but it’s still not outside the realm of possibility.
Global Mapping and Exploration
Google has rapidly expanded both its Google Earth and Google Maps platforms as they have gained popularity. An unbelievable amount of Earth is now rendered in real-time 3D for use with both products. Google Street View currently covers most developed nations as well as large business and tourist destinations in developing nations. As growth continues, we’ll be able to explore more of our planet faster from the comfort of our homes and offices.
That means Google Search queries may sometimes be answerable just by exploring your Google Maps or Google Earth apps. Wondering what kind of architecture you can find in central Italy? Curious about the shops available at the mid-point of Mount Fuji? Just plant yourself on-location using Google Street View and look around to find out. Large-scale discovery may well fill information gaps in which content isn’t available or hasn’t been written – and could inspire the development of new and important content, as well.
Artificially Intelligent Digital Assistants
There’s a race happening behind the scenes as major software developers are upgrading and tweaking their digital assistants to try to eliminate the need to type queries. The goal is to create digital assistants that understand and respond with natural language to humans who input queries using voice commands. If successful, digital assistants will scour sources of information to draw conclusions about real questions posed by real people.
Google has recently entered the ring, too, with Google Assistant. After finding that 20% of mobile search queries were made using voice features on mobile phones, Google saw an opportunity to improve the search experience in a major way by developing a digital assistant that runs on the Google Search engine. It is capable of two-way conversation using ever-improving natural language processing algorithms.
If Google continues to upgrade its Google Translate capabilities and learn from the follies and mistakes of searchers, it could turn a majority of search, mobile or not, into voice-activated and controlled search.
Though users will likely make the transition to digital assistants slower than the technology will develop, the lively competition between Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon asserts that they may know the value of digital assistantship well before we, the consumers, do.
Our Influence on the Future of Search
The way we use search, just like the way we use language, defines what lies ahead for our search engines. By using search in a way that is intuitive for you as an individual, you sway the actions of search giants such as Google. Your vote in the future of search may be only one vote, but it’s a powerful vote nonetheless, so if you find a particular feature of search that you enjoy, use it as often as you can.
All of us are moving the data that moves decision makers to pour time and energy into improving our life experiences, so ensure that the decisions they make will benefit you by actively using Google Search the way you love to use it most.
TL;DR – Google’s future is forever mysterious, but we have a few educated guesses to make. To increase revenue and create an advertising utopia, Google might make all-ad SERPs the norm. Software integration will likely improve, and may lead to a takeover of on-site product and service searches. Google’s fully explorable 3D earth could mitigate the need for some hard search queries, and digital assistants might lead to a new wave of search overall. No matter what, Google Search is what you make it, so use it every day to your advantage.
The experts at Leverage Marketing are on top of the future of Google Search, social media, email marketing, and everything else digital marketing. Let us help change the way you think about your marketing strategy on and offline. Call us today at 512-572-0460 to learn how we can superpower your Internet presence – then subscribe to our newsletter now so you don’t miss any more of our incredible marketing news and tips.
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