Each year Rand Fishkin, the CEO of Moz.com, makes some predictions for the future of search engine optimisation whilst reflecting on the previous year.
For 2014 he has made 6 predictions for the marketing world. These range from Twitter creating an “Insights” style page for businesses similar to Facebook, through to people updating their job description to “content marketing” rather than promoting themselves as an SEO or SMO. Interestingly we saw Moz drop the prefix “SEO” from their name in 2013. Which I believe is in order to shrug off the negative associations with SEO and to help steer Mozzers towards the next level in digital marketing, rather than remaining focused simply on keywords and link building.
The most interesting prediction for 2014 from Rand though, has to be that he feels Google will experiment with dropping organic search from its results in certain industries altogether.
We Will See Google Test Search Results with No External, Organic Listings
As Google continues to get more and more aggressive with things like knowledge graph, visual ads, and instant answers, I suspect we’ll see some of the first result sets that have no traditional, external-pointing, organic links whatsoever. Google may keep some links as references to the source they’re bringing in, but they won’t be in the classic organic results format we’ve seen from them over the last 15 years.
Side note: This will scare the poop out of many marketers, but it probably (hopefully?) won’t expand much beyond the experimental/limited release phase.
Since 2007, Google have provided us with what they call “Universal search results”. This meant that rather than providing news, video image and other types of formats as separate entities (what is known as vertical search) to a standard web search, they also became blended into those results in standard organic Google searches too.
At the time this change was made to the SERPS, they informed us that the changes were in order to offer a better experience to the searcher. Google was already looking at the semantics of language, and how it is used by those searching its index everyday. The shorter the query, the more chance that the searcher would receive a blended “Universal” result, in order to try and fulfill the searchers needs, whatever they may be.
Since then, we are seeing more and more dynamic result sets across Google, as the engineers behind the code relentlessly tweak the algorithm in order to fight spam and encourage webmasters to focus on one thing, and that one thing is user experience. The knowledge graph, instant answers, and other seemingly insignificant changes to the masses, has all contributed towards this effort. But if Google were to remove all of the organic search results from that dynamic results page, regardless of the industry (comparison sites, travel and loan companies would be my bet if they did roll this out), then what are left with? The answer to that question is simply advertisements. If Google takes away the organic search results then wouldn’t they be more akin to an advertising platform rather than a search engine?
At the start of last year I wrote about Google introducing more advertisements into search. How for some searches, like “credit card” for instance, we are presented with results that have the Google “Compare Credit Cards” comparison engine presented above the organic search results. As a business, Google have to find ways to monetise their search engine service. Advertisements are one of the most lucrative ways to do so. However, the more advertisements are inserted into the search engine, the more both webmasters and users take a dislike to the service as a search engine.
Throughout 2013 we saw frustrations rise significantly from webmasters and search engine users, and we even witnessed Microsofts “Bing It On campaign” which asked users to choose from both their own, and Google results sets to see which users preferred. However nothing seemed to sway Google from its monopoly on search, and in reference to Rands first prediction of 2014, I don’t think anything or anyone will this year either.
Its disappointing that while Google preaches user experience to all webmasters, including how many ads is most suitable to host above the fold of a website homepage, they seem to feel that themselves are exempt from this. Searchers use Google to search the web, if the results are not presented fairly and organically, but rather as a list of links that paid to be there, then they cease to become a search engine, and turn into the largest paid directory in the world.
Sorry Rand. We’re still in January but I’m already predicting a score for you of -2 on this one. Lets re-evaluate next year.
Image Source: Nakeva Corothers