The BrightonSEO Conference always brings together some of the smartest minds in the digital marketing industry and packs them into the Brighton dome for 8 hours of non stop brain cram, sharing of information and super learning about the future of getting businesses more visibility on the web.
2014’s BrightonSEO keynote presentation from Ian Miller, search director of Crafted Media, was probably the most profound marketing presentation of the year It’s title?
Predicting The Future Of Google And Why It’s No Longer A Search Company.
The title and content of Ian’s talk is scarily very true.
Recent research results from comScore show Google have nearly a 68% share of the search market in 2014, meaning when people search for something on the web, nearly everyone is “Googling It”.
Google’s domination of understanding human wants, meant that businesses hungry to get more customers sought out a new breed of professionals that knew how to get them to the top of search engine results.
The SEO professional’s job is to make sure that their business and products were the ones that got the visibility when potential customers took to the web to find a solution to their problems. But things have changed. It’s not just about a web search anymore.
Google is no longer just a search engine; it’s becoming a part of everyone’s digital life. Perhaps it’s time we changed the term Search Engine Optimization to Life Data Optimisation. To cannibalise that well-worn phrase; SEO is dead, long live LDO.
If you need proof of that take a look at the staggeringly long list of companies that Google has acquired over the last few years. They’re collecting data about the lives of your potential customers in an unprecedented way.
All of the companies on that list that Google have acquired are data sources for their Knowledge Vault, helping Google understand your needs and wants better than you do yourself.
Here are just a few ways that Google is collecting life data through the companies it’s acquired (and saying that this summary is scratching the surface is a huge understatement).
The social Sat Nav company Waze has data about your car journeys, where you go, and if you interact with other drivers during the journey, why you’re going, where you buy petrol on the way, where your break stops are how long you’re stopping there.
The recent launch of Internet Service Provider Google Fiber in the US (no doubt rolling out to a country near you soon) means that Google will be able to track every bit and byte of data that goes in an out of your home internet connection. What you view, what you buy, what you listen to. Everything.
Project Loon is serving up internet via wireless access enabled balloons hovering over territories where there is no internet access, connecting people for the first time to the outside world. Great for the locals, more data for Google.
Google Glass will be monitoring your daily commute, Drop Cam will be monitoring your home, Nest Labs will be helping you automate your home, MyEnergy will be monitoring your online utility usage. You guessed it, these are all sources of data for Google’s Knowledge Vault.
Every day you retire for the day, the automated curtain closer will let Google know, and as you get into bed to read a chapter of your favourite eBook on your Android tablet, you’ll unlock the device with a facial recognition system (supplied by PittPatt, another Google company) and Google will take a snapshot of how your face has weathered the day. That one could be useful for the plastic surgeons advertising with Google.
We have Google Mail for email communications, Google Chrome for web surfing, and even Google Chromebooks for the hardware to host it all on. These are all anticipative data sources for Google’s search result algorithm. If you’re a blogger stand by for a shock. Google may be moving into the WordPress space with a content management system of its own offering their own built-in advertising. It’ll know who you’re influencing, everything about your reputation, who reads you and why. It’ll understand your readers, serve them product ads that are highly relevant, giving your blog readers a better visitor experience (and collecting their data along the way).
Earlier this year Google purchased DeepMind, an artificial intelligence engine that helps machines think like humans. Could this be the engine they’ll use to aggregate the life data they collect?
Businesses that are still focussing their time and money on singular SEO goals such as organic keyword optimisation, domain age, inbound link counting and a whole list of other tactics that have passed their sell by date will want to understand this. Google search results are becoming holistic.
In his BrightonSEO keynote, Ian Miller predicted that Google is going to change fast over the next few years. It’s going to be about more than just web search, we’re moving towards contextual search.
Google Is Not Evil, It Will Become Your Cybernetic Friend…
Ian Miller Crafted Media
In the future, Google will serve up the best search results based not on the content of a web page, but on it’s context. Content appears not to be the king for Google, the new mantra seems to be “Context Is King”.
Google wants to be anticipative in its approach to serving up search results too, and the reason for this is that the way people search is changing rapidly. Google no longer wants to wait for you to decide to search for a solution, it want’s to offer you the solution before you even know you have a problem yourself.
If your Waze Sat Nav knows your car journey and where you stop for petrol, it can serve you up ads for other products that you can buy when you stop of for fuel. It’ll know that you last charged your portable flashlight 2 years ago and need some batteries for it in case you break down.
It’ll even deliver money off coupons for that your favourite energy drink (the one you purchase at home regularly through Google Shopping). Your Android smart watch of course already knows your thirsty right now because it’s measured your hydration levels from its biometric sensors during the journey too.
If this level of data knowledge scares you, Miller argues that Google is not evil. Google will become your cybernetic friend, helping you with all aspects of your life.
If that is really true, then businesses really do have to reshape their digital marketing strategies and particularly their thinking about SEO.
Every part of your online marketing has to provide an incredibly valuable and genuine reason why someone will be interested in your products and services. How will it really help them, how will it really improve their life, what is the deep purpose and value your product or service provides. If your business and it’s products or services don’t offer a true value proposition, games up. Google will know.
If anticipative and contextual search results does turn out to be the future of Google then we could be heading towards a digital version of that misty eyed vision of pre-computer village life, where your local greengrocer stocked up on oranges in Autumn, ready to make sure Mrs Jones and her children had enough vitamin C in them to ward off the upcoming season of influenza.
It’s a connected version of the world where in a dusty old ironmonger shop the man behind the counter had just the right size of replacement wing nut to fix your broken table, and when you walked into a department store they had just the right kind of check shirt you wanted, in your favourite colour too.
So what does this mean for your business and it’s future visibility online?
Whilst it might at first glance seem overwhelmingly complex, actually it’s very simple. Google wants you to be the best and most relevant source of everything in your market.
For Google to favour you, you’ll need the best products, the best customer service, be offering exactly what people want, when they want it and where they want it (to the nth degree).
Your products and service won’t just need to get good reviews, they’ll need to be intrinsically loved by the customer (remember the Google smart watch could measure heartbeats and other biological data, Google Glass can see the product. If a customer is wearing these whilst using your products, Google will know what your customer is feeling without a review).
The message is clear. Stop focusing solely on optimising your business for search results, and start concentrating on optimising your business to serve your customer’s digital lives. Your marketing team will need a holistic approach and understand all parts of your business, not just the silo they might be operating in.
Make sure you have people on board who can understand your customer’s life data and make sense of it, because that’s what you need to optimise for in the future if you want your business to be found in the digital world.
It might sound simplistically basic to condense online marketing down to one word – “Serve”, but if Google achieve their goals it’s the only way your business will survive online.
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