What’s Next for Search, SEO?

One of the points that will be high on the agenda at this year’s Online Marketing Show will be that the web has finally graduated from our PC monitors and now exists firmly in the air around us, waiting to be accessed at any given moment. Internet usage on mobile devices is now growing at the rate that was predicted some three or four years ago, making this year definitely, officially, the year of mobile… hooray!

It’s not all about mobile. Any number of devices during the next decade and beyond will be able to access the wonders of the Internet, and all of them will need to be able to search and quickly retrieve the information or websites that people are looking for. This is where search engines need to think about how their interfaces and results will work on any number of new devices.

Even on the biggest, prettiest smartphones, Google’s search results don’t fit on the screen, removing the majority of paid search listings that make up so much of Google’s revenue. If everyone were to use mobiles only to search for info, Google might even go bankrupt!

Google has a separate index for mobile devices, so it’s not as though they haven’t thought about this. But as the web becomes ever more accessible, two questions remain:

  1. How will search engines really help users find what they’re looking for, especially on the smaller devices?
  2. How will they continue to know what are the most important results for natural search?

The second question is particularly important for SEO. So much of what we do boils down to ensuring that the myriad of connections on the internet make it clear that our sites, or our clients’ sites, are viewed by the search engines as important. Not only important, but important for specific themes and keywords, and we manage this using techniques on and off the website itself.

So how does that change when people are using the Internet in different ways via different devices and potentially being given different results depending on what device they use? How will search engines know what is important, or whether something is more important for a mobile user than a tablet or laptop user?

There are still a lot of “ifs” involved here. Ultimately, the search engines might feel that what exists now is good enough to tell them which are the most important sites.

In SEO we’ve become accustomed in more recent times to viewing off-site optimization techniques as having the biggest impact on rankings. But perhaps there is an argument that for each device you will need a site specifically optimized for each different version of Google. Google for mobile, Google for smartphone, Google for tablets — each version might prefer different types of web property to display higher in the listings.

Ultimately, there isn’t a definitive answer right now. However, in the near future it’s likely that SEO will not only encompass social media (that’s if you believe it doesn’t already), but SEO teams may well need to ensure their skill-sets include a large degree of developer knowledge specifically for ensuring websites are compatible with multiple devices.

Join us for SES San Francisco August 16-20, 2010 during ClickZ’s Connected Marketing Week. The festival is packed with sessions covering PPC management, keyword research, search engine optimization (SEO), social media, ad networks and exchanges, e-mail marketing, the real time web, local search, mobile, duplicate content, multiple site issues, video optimization, site optimization and usability, while offering high-level strategy, keynotes, an expo floor with 100+ companies, networking events, parties and more!

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