(and changed SEO forever)
When was the last time you used your desktop computer to find something using Google search? If you’re like six out of ten people you meet in the street today, that would have been sometime back in 2013 when, according to Comscore figures, desktop search peaked.
It’s been in decline ever since, relegated to those hours at work when we want to research something we want to buy and for in-depth knowledge searches which will require quite a lot of jumps to get to the answers we’re looking for. For everything else, there’s the smartphone and, in a pinch, the tablet.
Is Search Growing?
Mobile search is growing year-on-year and as the world’s storage of data accumulates and we become accustomed to doing more and more stuff on the go, on our devices, so are the number of queries fielded by search engines. Google alone processes some 40,000 search queries every second and Bing, in the US, is also reporting modest growth in its numbers.
But while the number of search queries are growing search itself no longer feels like search. Whether we use a photograph of a place, product or item and do a visual search or ask our device to give us the information we are looking for as we are out and about, the task feels more like activating a service to fulfill a need, rather than performing a search for something.
The difference, subtle as it is, is also significant for search engine optimizers (SEOs) and online businesses that rely on SEO to promote their presence. Why? Because it also signals a subtle shift in end-user behavior. People who knew, conceptually at the very least, that they needed to be able to speak at least a little bit of the language of search engines are becoming people who simply are unaware that there is such a thing as search engine behavior.
Search is Evolving
Search queries now are predominantly service and problem-orientated. They’re predominantly local and employ concepts and categories, as opposed to keywords. They also become more vague and interest-based. Looking for a downloadable version of ET for instance, when we cannot quite remember the name starts off with “big 80s film with extraterrestrial” as opposed to the somewhat more precise “Spielberg Science Fiction Movie”.
The effect search engines have on adaptive learning and transactive memory, first established back in 2011, is now in full swing and likely to continue.
Here’s what it means in practical terms:
- Websites that have poor organizational structures will suffer
- Websites that are information-poor in terms of products and services will suffer
- Websites that fail to employ structured data where they can will suffer
With all that suffering on offer is there a ray of hope for website owners? Yes, of course. With search results becoming contextual, personalized and highly targeted, those who take the trouble to update their websites with relevant information frequently will see an upsurge in relevant traffic and conversions.
With voice search and image search on the rise, websites that employ natural language that is directly relevant to their industry and subject matter will also see a similar upsurge, as will those who employ great quality photographs and then take the trouble to label them properly, use correct, descriptive Alt tags and, where possible, add a caption under the picture that further links it to the website’s services and the web page’s content.
As search becomes more and more invisible the winners of this trend will be those who understand that granularity in the data they create is key to being found.