TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talks are famous for bringing together key figures that are shaping the world’s future: and that’s exactly what Munich based entrepreneur Marcus Tandler discussed in his speech, “The Future of Search,” at this year’s TEDxMunich conference.
Check it out here:
A Brief Summary
After recapping the history of search engines and their evolution up until this point, Tandler jumped right into a topic that’s always on the minds of SEOs: the future of search, and why Google is at the center of it (3:55): it boils down to mobilizing search.
Though Apple pioneered it, Google has dominated mobile search strategy by distributing a free mobile operating system. According to Tandler, about 80% of all smartphones now run on Android. Tandler also pointed out that Matt Cutts himself has indicated that mobile traffic will soon overtake desktop traffic to Google’s homepage. (6:10) Searching the internet using cell phones, though something we take for granted now, is a massive, purposeful step forward for future search technology like Google Glass. And someday, in the not so distant future, it will seem archaic.
Throughout Tandler’s TED talk, he describes the myriad of technology that Google has adopted to advance search engine computing methods ( Search + Your World, Google Now, Behavio, the Venice update, etc.) Yet search itself – the user’s behavior, needs, and expectations- has also evolved. (9:18) Users now expect current events to appear at the top of the results, and for Google to answer (sometimes extremely) specific questions we have. “Search engine expectations changed,” Tandler explains, “and search engines have no recourse but to respond.” (10:35)
Already, Google is tasked with anticipating what its users will search for before they do in order to stay on top of current events in search results. Yet Google representatives are hinting that this is only the beginning. Perhaps the most insightful glimpse into the future of Google’s search engine came at about 12:30 in the video, where Tandler quotes Sergey Brin, Google’s cofounder: “My vision when we started Google 15 years ago was that eventually you wouldn’t have to have a search query at all. You’d just have information come to you as you need it.”
Imagine a future where you don’t search for information; it comes to you.
For this to work, Tandler explains, “you have to have two main components: personalization and context.”
Moving from Web Search to Contextual Search
We’re not there yet, but the future definitely appears to be on the horizon. Tandler goes on to describe in detail an example of the pioneer technology in the works for search engine usage (13:25). Behavio uses open sensing framework called Funf, which “attempts to predict what a user might do next based on the current and last eight various sensors on their phone.” These sensors include not only your frequent destinations, but how you are getting there: via walking, cycling, driving, or maybe someday, hover-boarding. This will enable Google to give you a heads up before you even ask for one about traffic jams, a particular movie’s ratings, or any other information you may need to make your life just a little easier.
This shift toward “contextual search” just confirms what SEOs are already aware of: when it comes to improving a site’s visibility in the search engine results, keywords just ain’t cuttin’ it anymore. In order to provide context, sites must have good content. As Google predicts search behavior, SEOs must follow along and predict search engine technology. And if mobile isn’t already a part of your site’s SEO strategy… you better get there, quick.
The Bottom Line
Google is moving toward technology that not only gathers information about your present (where you are, your search history – I could go on but it could get scary; check out Nick’s blog instead), but also about your future. The purpose? Not to control you, as some conspiracy theorists might suggest – but to make your search experience as intuitive and personalized as possible.
Google has brought us glimpses of the future with the promise of cars that drive themselves, eyewear that allows us to gather information as easily as talking, and someday, even search engines that seem to read our minds and foretell our futures. Each of these devices, which may have seemed like science fiction just ten years ago, all serve one goal: to make it as easy as possible for us to use Google search as much as possible, even in moments (commuting in our driverless hybrid rocket-car, for instance, or carrying an armful of cyber-groceries or futuristic space gear, etc.) that would have made it impossible to do so now.
What are your thoughts?
We’d love to hear what you think – conspiracy theories and all – about how Google is leading us into the future of search and what that looks like for SEO.