April 10

Personalization Like Never Before: The Future of Search

In a recent article by Aaron Friedman, SEOs are given a glimpse of the future – or more accurately, their future.

We have already seen mobility become king in consumer Internet use, in web design strategies, and search. With the fast approaching mobile algorithm update, it is clear that mobile is the main concern of the here and now. But this begs the question: what comes next? Friedman argues that the future of “search” optimization is built on context rather than the user’s given device, and that it might transcend search altogether.

Integrating information that users provide for the apps they use on a daily basis is the jumping point for the context push, which makes sense. Search optimization – or good search optimization – is based on user intent, which is founded on their online behavior. With context, we take a step further into user behavior offline. How do we know what users are doing outside of their browsers? Going beyond information gathered in email and search patterns, apps and wearable technologies have opened the door to possibilities that were previously unheard of.

Now, with these new data sources, SEOs can learn more than just search history, online travel and purchase information, and other online contextual cues. We can potentially access information such as a user’s specific diet restrictions, how they slept last night, how they got to work, where they need to head for their next meeting, and what businesses are located along that route. With data such as this, digital marketers can provide information, special offers, and other deals exactly when users need it.

We see some of this happening right before our eyes with Google Now, If This Then That (IFTTT), and geo-specific in-store apps – but this is only the beginning. As application permissions become more integrated and SEOs collect more contextual data, we will likely see a completely new optimization landscape.

The future could potentially present a scenario where the race to first place in the eyes of consumers isn’t on a SERP, but rather which marketing message can be delivered straight to the user before they even realize their need. Relieving the consumer’s need to actually search for something could make everyone’s lives simpler, and allow businesses to target those who could immediately benefit from their services. However, this could also result in a dystopia of the user being bombarded by businesses every time they take a step.

Where is the balance? Only time will tell. Whether the future of search engines lies in a transition into “decision engines” as Friedman suggests, or whether a completely new technology changes the game, one thing is for certain: we will see personalization in optimization beyond anything we’ve ever seen before.