Something has been happening on the Google SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages). It is the very thing that the FTC just closed the case on. It is the delivery on the promise that Larry and Sergey made from the beginning. That Google would organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible. The keywords (pun intended) are “organize” and “access”. You see none of this information has ever belonged to Google. They are just the interface.
Ah, the interface. Not long ago it was about getting you off Google as quickly as possible:
“Our goal is to make sure that people can find what they’re looking for and get off the page as quickly as possible.”
- Marissa Mayer, January 2007
Call it better organization, quicker access or more relevance but more and more the middle layer of the “result” is pushed a step closer. Nothing that has ever happened in Search, NOTHING, is as disruptive.
“we’re trying to move from answers that are link-based to answers that are algorithmically based, where we can actually compute the right answer. And we now have enough artificial intelligence technology and enough scale and so forth that we can”
- Eric Schmidt, May 2011
This is having impact across digital media that few have thought about yet. Even fewer have strategies to succeed in this new era. The quickest losers (some examples below) will be weather queries (goodbye Weather Channel on the web, hello Weather Channel as an app), online dictionaries (goodbye AdSense revenue) and of course Wikipedia.
Wikipedia will be the largest loser.
In many respects Wikipedia came to epitomize the first era of commercial Search. Those 10 blue text links and always near the top of those results, Wikipedia. Those days are over.
Wikipedia will still serve a great purpose for Google. It will still get massive traffic. It will always be the standard bearer for user generated content and the possibilities of webscale. But its glory days are behind it. A whole generation of web users are coming online that will never have a need for it. Traffic will drop precipitously and over time support. The rise in mobile devices (as the example queries above so clearly demonstrate) will only serve to expedite this.
The fact that so few people even in digital media have been paying attention to this sea change is not new for Search. Search snuck up on people to begin with. Many people thought directories, especially Yahoo and ODP would rule forever. Search ads were not even counted by the Interactive Adverting Bureau their first few years of existence. Things called Rich Snippets, Linked Data and RDFa are changing everything and this is boring stuff for most media people because they have no concept of the consequences.
Maybe it is because these changes have been a slow boil. I first wrote about this stuff (can it be?) 6.5 years ago. But while the pace of change has been slow its result is the culmination of everything people thought the web would become, especially its inventor.
All of this is going to be advantageous to Google’s bottom line. They are just too smart and have been preparing for this too long. Google gets justifiably raked over the coals for lack of understanding how to leverage the changes in web use. They get far, far, too little respect for their vision and understanding of how to leverage the changes in web technology.
Fewer searchers leaving Google and going to other sites mean more people clicking on ads on Google O&O. It means Google takes even more share of digital ad spend – now approaching the value of all of print and half of television.
Where does that leave everyone else?
1) Brands will be more important than ever
2) EVERYONE will be in the advertising/marketing business
3) Content must have value beyond the “rich snippet”
Navigating that construct will be where the game is played.
The search for information has changed forever. It is now right in front of you. Next will be getting it to you before you even know you need it. Until then, enjoy the relevance and plan your digital media strategies accordingly.