What will search look like five years from now? Most marketers and search experts don't want to venture a guess because of the speed at which engineers innovate at Google, Microsoft Bing, Yahoo and Facebook is just too fast. Others going out on a limb to express their thoughts had mixed opinions.
Microsoft and Facebook made interesting advancements yesterday by announcing the integration of social signals into Bing. It makes me wonder what search engines will look like in two to five years and whether advertisers will need technology like retargeting or behavioral targeting to serve up relevant ads to consumers or will the ads rely more on signals from our social connections.
comScore Chief Research Officer Joshua Chasin doesn't believe consumers want a social Web. "I think they want a functioning Web, a high performance Web," he wrote in a blog post.
Consumers will get a high performance Web, but one with social signals built in. Microsoft and Facebook gave us the beginnings of social search, but it will be a long journey. The challenge isn't with functionality, but rather growing it into something "far more powerful than what we see today," according to Forrester Research Analyst Augie Ray.
Within five years, Aaron Goldman, chief marketing officer at Kenshoo, predicts search will give us information, entertainment or commerce through apps that know our preferences and return not only the best results but the actions we want to take.
Delivering on this promise, the search engines of the future will tap APIs from virtually every content publisher, brand manufacturer, and retailer to deliver immediately actionable opportunities. Goldman says making the experience more relevant means weighting "likes" more heavily than "links" in the search engine algorithms. No more hiding because location will be automatically factored in.
Say good-bye to siloed advertising campaigns. In two to five years, search optimization will become the foundation of any online marketing effort, especially social media marketing, according to Li Evans, co-founder and CEO of LiBeck Integrated Marketing, an online marketing firm specializing in blending online marketing channels. Although search will not disappear, siloed channels will integrate into each other. Mobile strategies will need to have elements of search and social, and social media will need to integrate with PPC, email and offline efforts to work successfully, she says.
Reliable-SEO Founder David Harry says Microsoft and Facebook have not said whether social signals will integrate into the regular index, which would influence ranking in search engine queries. He believes Microsoft's and Facebook's announcement yesterday is akin to "Google's 'other people in your network' type of presentation in search engine result pages," where it times into real-time search, Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed and others.
In organic results, integrating social can become more profitable than paid search because there is no associated cost with sending search engine bots the signals to ultimately improve your rankings, Harry says.
Pointing to several Google and Bing patents, Harry says searchers will likely see social ad targeting based on people in their network including likes and clicks. Social ad targeting, however, differs from social signals in SERPs, he explains. "Targeting users of a social graph in paid advertising is about showing ads and learning what the various groups are prone to click on," he says. "Using these as a signal for the regular search index brings up the problem of spammers. It wouldn't take much for a programmer to start targeting these signals via mass user accts and bots."
Spam controls will need to improve, agrees Dana Lookadoo, SEO Consultant, Yo! Yo! SEO. She believes social will blend into search. Searchers won't view Facebook, Twitter or whatever big social platform at the time as being separate from search engines such as Google or Bing. Everything will fall under a large umbrella.
It truly seems as if all roads lead through search. In fact, it's this December's theme for the Search Insider Summit in Park City, Utah, Dec. 8-11. The conference offers a think-tank type of environment for top search professional. Speakers include executives from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Digg, Facebook and Ball State University. Come join us.
If you would like to submit an idea for a panel or participate as a speaker, please submit queries to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.