Where's Search Headed in 5 yrs? 10 yrs?

Politico

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So I was just reading this article about Google's new machine learning - https://www.theverge.com/2021/9/29/22698504/google-search-on-event-ai-mum-google-lens-update-changes

And it got me thinking - where is search headed? I first dabbled in SEO around 2010. It's been 10 years and a fuck ton has changed.

Not only is it consistently harder to rank over time, it's consistently harder to actually get the traffic from the SERP. The majority (I'm talkin 90%+) of my traffic comes from organic search. We're competing with not only advertisers who take up the entire top of the fold, but also google itself which takes up a larger and larger portion of the top of the fold.

And reading that article I couldn't help but think Google's ultimate goal shifted from indexing and presenting the best information on the web, to Google itself being the "source" for the best info on the web.

Featured snippets, Question boxes, full lyric sheets, sidebar info boxes, video excerpts and more. And let's not even mention voice search with Google Home/Android

I'm thinking Google will eventually stop sending traffic to anyone at all because it will understand a searcher's query, pull the relevant pieces of information from it's index, mash it up, contextualize it and serve it up to the user without the need to leave the SERP.

It's already like that, but I'm talking on a much larger scale - to the point where SEO becomes futile and essentially useless.

I know the algo is still clunky and unable to pull this off extremely well, but what happens in 5 years/10 years/etc? Time moves fast - 10 years ago ranking was a breeze and highly profitable with a couple articles and a few PBNs. Nowadays, less so.

So... where are we at in 2030?
 

Ryuzaki

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Google absolutely wants to be an answer engine and not a search engine. Same goal for the user, same result for the user, different result for Google and the rest of us.

I'm thinking Google will eventually stop sending traffic to anyone at all because it will understand a searcher's query, pull the relevant pieces of information from it's index, mash it up, contextualize it and serve it up to the user without the need to leave the SERP.
If this happens then anti-competitive lawsuits will fly out the wazoo. Not that Google cares. They've been absorbing the fines in the EU several times and keep on trucking.

In my opinion, the real danger is when AI content gets decent enough to pass and the size of the web increases many orders more exponentially than it does now. At that point, we'll be leaving the Orwellian nightmare we have now of censorship and move into the Huxleyan nightmare of drowning in info.

At that point, I see people abandoning most of the web. Even curation sites like Reddit and Facebook will matter less. What'll matter is stuff like Substack where you know a real person is writing and you enjoy their personal brand. Another thing I see rising is video content. Basically anything that can't be shortcutted by AI content that still takes a real person, a real face, a real brand to produce, and something that isn't replicable at scale. Eventually quantity won't matter more than quality, once the AI hounds are unleashed to destroy the web. Subscriptions & Follows and all those mechanisms will be the saving grace, and attention will once again reign as the top-of-the-funnel currency so you can finally get to the real currency.

Google has to be thinking about this too already as they continue to do stupid things like release more advanced AI writing algorithms to the public. Which makes you wonder about author profiles and all that. If they're doing that, it's because they think their competitors won't be able to keep up and only they will survive. When you get big enough, like Facebook and the government colluding with that fake whistleblower to bring down more sanctioned censorship, it's because Facebook knows they can afford all of the man-power to dance around regulations while others can't. Same goes for Google. When you're big enough, you don't worry about barriers to entry. You create monopolistic barriers of extinction for everyone else.
 

Politico

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In my opinion, the real danger is when AI content gets decent enough to pass and the size of the web increases many orders more exponentially than it does now.

Great writeup overall but this is particularly a great point as it relates to the future of information - when AI is creating believably human content (be it text/audio/video) we are going to go through a 40 year Noah level flood of information that will either usher in the golden age of high quality, independent content (like through substack as you mentioned) or be used to try and re-establish the credibility and authority of society's "approved" institutions.
 
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Agree with Ryuzaki that AI content is what will really impact us all hard.

What's stopping Google from using these technologies to create their own websites with completely unique content that is spun from content from other websites? Your search for something on Google, see ads, and links to articles that lead you to other pages that are also dynamically generated by Google with more ads.

And what they are doing is nothing different from what we do today; except that we use human writers to do the same thing.

The only thing I think could stop Google from doing this is that they need SEOs and webmasters as much as we need them. If web publishing doesn't pay, people are going to stop making websites that Google can scrape and spin from.
 
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As Ryu says personal brand will become the angle that we publishers can continue to attract eyeballs in the face of Google becoming its ultimate goal which is an answer engine.

Personal brand and brands with an authentic unique voice will dominate the non question and answer based web.

Most of my biggest successes have been based on personal brand type content rather than factual question answer themed content so maybe that is tinting my view on things but it seems to make logical sense.

I'm out of here in around 2 years though so what do I care :wink: