I think we can all agree that search engines have dominated internet marketing in the last 10 years and will probably dominate in the foreseeable future. As I wrote in a recent article on the Next Internet Phenomenon, it’s interesting to think about the future of the internet and, in this case, the future of search.
Let’s first look at how far search has come…
Remember AOL Keywords?
When the internet and world wide web began exploding in popularity in the 1990s, it was America Online (AOL) in the US that dominated. Do you remember seeing a Toyota commercial, for example, saying “visit us at AOL keyword ‘Toyota’”. Logging on AOL and typing in a keyword to visit a company’s page on AOL was one of the main forms of internet search and navigation. Beyond that, you would have to know the direct URL to enter into a web browser or use AOL’s search function to find what you were looking for.
Google Becomes a Verb
There were search engines and online directories at the same time AOL was popular but they were not well known in the early 90’s or very effective for finding what you were looking for. Several search engines popped up in the 90’s including Yahoo, Altavista Infoseek, and the obscure search engine that I used for too many years called Teoma (It actually is still functioning)
I remember finally trying Google because everyone was talking about it. I resisted at first but finally realized what everyone was realizing about Google – The search results were very good. They seemed to be very relevant and higher quality than what I was accustomed to with other search engines. These high quality search results in Google, among other things, is one of the main reasons that “Google” has become a verb and is now dominating 65%+ market share of online search.
The battle is now on for search market share as the small search engines have faded. Google dominates and Yahoo, Bing, and Ask clamor to pick up the scraps that Google drops from the table.
Google Now and the Future of Search
With Google dominating in search technology and market share, we would be crazy not to look to them to predict the future of search. Here are some of the key indicators of what might be happening to search in the years to come.
Growth of Mobile
With the growth of mobile, search volume is up because a Google search is always at our fingertips. Mobile search is also bringing on the popularity of voice search which can have huge implications for search terms on mobile devices and PCs since people speak differently than they type.
Google has already launched personalized search for users who are logged in to a Google account and now even for users not logged in. Google can change the ranking of search results based on past search behavior, geo-targeting, and more. There is no doubt other search engines will follow and search will become more and more personalized.
Google Now and Predictive Search
Check out the video below for an overview of Google Now, a new technology coming to Android that uses geo-targeting to predict the information you might need like weather, directions, movie reviews, or train schedules.
This is the beginning of predictive search, meaning that a search engine is actually providing the information before you even ask for it. It’s simply predicting what you will need based on your location or other online activity.
Think about the things you search for and the ways that a search engine could provide them for you before you even ask. Maybe your phone can tell you’re watching a certain sports game and will pull up news and stats on the game automatically. Or maybe you’re on your PC and encounter a problem in Photoshop. Instead of typing in the problem you’re having, wouldn’t it be nice if a search engine already identified the problem you were having and displayed search results. I’m not saying I know HOW this would work. I’m just saying it probably WILL work eventually. What do you think?
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The Look Of SEPRS (Search Engine Results Pages)
As advanced as search engines are with their fast indexing and complex algorithms, the search engines results pages are pretty boring. I appreciate that they are usually kept simple and clean, but don’t they seem a bit rudimentary for the internet age we are browsing in?
The SEPRS are already changing with Rich Snippets in Google but I think the SERPS will change even more drastically in years to come. Some possible changes might be a better preview of the page you are thinking of clicking (Google actually has this now), maybe more social cues ranking the usefulness of the page, or maybe options for browsing the page without leaving the search results page. The options are endless but it is a balancing act to provide functionality while not cluttering up the results pages and degrading the overall search experience… it’s a delicate balance.
Regardless of the changes that are coming, I don’t think we will be “Googling” in quite the same way 10 years from now. What are the changes that you expect to see in the next 10 years of online search?
The Personalized Search “based on past search behavior” can be extremely annoying. Example: I searched for (1) car insurance, (2) LED monitor and (3) hotel room in Vegas. Since then I’m aggressively bombarded with ads related to (1) + (2) + (3) (and other issues I dared to search for) many months AFTER the issues were taken care of. A searchelerator like DiCheetal is designed to graciously fix this problem: it lets the user personalize the search for the best search experience possible.
This is pretty great list. Search engines have definitely evolved so much (I miss AOL Keywords! So simple), but I think the real innovation is going to be niche vertical search engines. Search is huge, but the niche is where there’s growth. Think of sites like Kayak and Orbitz that combines a focus with personal search. Once it becomes more common place (which is what my company is working on) we’ll see an explosion in search.
Wow, I didn’t know people miss AOL keywords. I guess they were pretty simple. Kinda like the “I’m feeling lucky” button on Google. I guess I wonder if vertical search sites can have the relevancy that large search engines have. I can’t think of too many niche search engines I use currently. Maybe you’re right though and they will be increasing in the near future.
I know what you mean Dan. That’s one thing that’s annoying about personalized search and targeted ads. I was looking online at gas log fireplace last year and I would get a google banner ad on every website for the next 6 months for a gas log website. It would be cool if there was a way to tell Google “I’m no longer interested in gas logs.” This manual response would allow them to keep the ads much more fresh and relevant.