Important changes are happening at Google and, in a world where marketing and algorithms intersect, those changes are largely happening under the radar.
The future of search looks like it will have considerably less search in it, and this isn’t just about the end of the 10 blue links, but about much more fundamental changes.
Let’s talk about some of those changes now, and what they mean for SEO.
Google Discover is a content recommendation engine that suggests content across the web based on a user’s search history and behavior.
Discover isn’t completely new (it was introduced in December of 2016 as Google Feed). But Google made an important change in late October (announced in September) when they added it to the Google homepage.
The revamp and rebranding to Discover added features like:
- Topic headers to categorize feed results.
- More images and videos.
- Evergreen content, as opposed to just fresh content.
- A toggle to tell Google if you want more or less content similar to a recommendation.
- Google claims the recommendations are personalized to your level of expertise with a topic.
Google Discover hardly feels revolutionary at first. In fact, it feels overdue.
Our social media feeds are already dominated by content recommendation engines, and the YouTube content recommendation engine is responsible for 70%of the time spent on the site.
But Discover could have massive implications for the future of how users interact with content of the web.
While it’s unlikely Discover will ever reach the 70% level of YouTube’s content recommendation engine, if it swallows even a relatively small portion of Google search, say 10%, no SEO strategy will be complete without a tactic for earning that kind of traffic, especially since it will allow businesses to reach potential customers who aren’t even searching for the relevant terms yet.
For most users, Google Assistant is a quiet and largely invisible revolution.
Its introduction to Android devices in February 2017 likely left most users feeling like it was little more than an upgraded Google Now, and in a sense that’s exactly what it is.
But as Google Assistant grows, it will increasingly influence how users interact with the web and decrease reliance on search.
Like its predecessor, Assistant can:
- Search the web.
- Schedule events and alarms.
- Show Google account info.
- Adjust device settings.
But the crucial difference is its ability to engage in two-way conversations, allowing users to get answers from the system without ever even looking at a search result.
An incredibly important change for the future of business and the web is the introduction of Google Express, the capability to add products to a shopping cart and order them entirely through Assistant.
But this feature is limited to businesses that are explicitly partnered with Google Express, an incredibly dramatic change from the Google search engine and its crawling of the open web.
Assistant can also identify what some images are. Google Duplex, an upcoming feature, will also allow Assistant to call businesses to schedule appointments and other similar actions on the user’s behalf.
The more users rely on Assistant, the less they will rely on Google search results, and the more businesses who hope to adapt will need to think of other ways to:
- Leverage Assistant’s algorithms and other emerging technologies to fill in the gaps.
- Adjust their SEO strategies to target the kind of behavior that is exclusive to search and search alone.
Google’s Declaration of a New Direction
Circa Google’s 20th anniversary, Google announced that its search product was closing an old chapter and opening a new one, with important new driving principles added.
They started by clarifying that these old principles wouldn’t be going away:
- Focusing on serving the user’s information needs.
- Providing the most relevant, high-quality information as quickly as possible.
- Using an algorithmic approach.
- Rigorously testing every change, including using quality rating guidelines to define search goals.
This means you should continue:
- Putting the user first.
- Being accurate and relevant.
- Having some knowledge of algorithms.
- Meeting Google’s quality rating guidelines.