What The Future Holds For Search

by on December 1, 2010 | posted in SEO Theory

What will happen to SEO in 2011? My answer? I don’t care.

365 days is a long time, yes. But what happens during that timespan doesn’t concern us – much. On a long enough timeline, it’s only slightly more important than what happens next week, or tomorrow. If we have long enough foresight in a way that ensures our career or our future – we know that it’s not 2011 that matters – it’s the next 20 to 30 years. I am infinitely confident that SEO – and search – will be a factor for the breadth of 2011 – but the future is something else entirely.

What Christmas did for me, besides emptying my pocketbook, is help me further understand the mindset of those in the deep, aged recesses of my family – and furthermore, the rest of the world. How many times did you – as an SEO or webmaster – explain what you did to your parents or grandparents and actually have them understand what you do?

Do you really think you could cycle back in a week’s time, ask them, and have them accurately reflect what you actually do? I doubt it.

The reason for this? These people – your grandparents, mostly, and to a lesser extent, a lot of our parents – have aged past the ability to be queued into the “early adopter” niche. They almost unanimously are also incapable of joining the early or late majority – and sometimes, even the laggards, and as such, will never be capable of using search engines as a primary product information mechanism. When they need a sweatshirt, they go to the mall. They don’t go to Amazon. And they don’t go to NewEgg.

There is a definite and absolute correlation between age and ability to adopt new technology. Why this is I am not entirely certain of. I constantly ask people why they think this is and their reaction, frequently, is that “the olds were never used to frequent and constant technology influx, so they are incapable of fitting in properly to a frequent, necessary adoption cycle” – and this, maybe, might be true. And maybe, when the new tech gets old, we will be cable of buying the new Hologram Generator at 80 – but whether that is true is yet to be seen.

What matters, though, is there is a current sect that is almost unanimously incapable of new product adoption. Somewhere in the middle – between 30 and 50 – the search engines adopters begin to filter off. More and more of these older people are incapable of buying products on search engines, or don’t see Google or Bing as a primary buying mechanism. The older they get, the more they use it begins to kilter off. Maybe they use it only to find a barber. Or learn about Russia. For many, a buying paranoia exists.

But this, like many things, will end. Search is here to stay. So, a crazy, exciting future exists – at least for SEOs.

Population increases will not move upward proportionally with the number of people that use search – search users will outgrow it. For us younger, more used-to-it generation, search will be something that stays, forever. I will Google – or whatever – until I am laid to rest. When the unadept sect dies – more and more users that are used to technology will monopolize the world, and the United States, environment. This means that the population of people who search for “shoes” will increase at an immense rate – and at an immense rate that is non-linear – because it is not directly proportional to the increase in population.


This means that SEO – and PPC – is just getting started. More and more people will be using search every day, until the early adopters of Google age and die off. After that, the increase will no longer increase at a rate non-linear to population – but it’s also very possible that something else beyond search – as we imagine it – will be happening.

The Lowering Cost of Transportation

This isn’t the only factor that belies the increasingly advantageous future available to search.  Every day, more and more people become aware of the fundamental disadvantage buying at physical locations creates for them, the user. Impulse buys will forever be a factor, but even then, the likelihood of that continues to shrink. Amazon Prime allows people to get next-day shipping for an entire year – why give a shit about impulse buys when you can get products at significantly lower prices – delivered in the next twenty-four hours? Every day, more and more people become aware of this – including from this post.

Bullet trains are a distinct – and increasingly close – possibility. Other travel improvements are likely, so shipping prices will continue to fall. As such, more merchants will see that it is in their best interests to offer these price reductions online – whether or not they directly connect with transportation drops. This will not fall at the same rate that other overhead, physical costs do – such as labor and rent costs – so it will be an increasingly large disadvantage to offer a physical storefront, when people can get their goods delivered the next day – every time. Amazon will soon become the next Wal Mart – because their online offerings will clip away at jobs in a large and distinct way.

Gary Vaynerchuk’s belief that “internet hasn’t even had sex yet” is immensely true. At some point, Amazon, Google, and others will become the outward “big brother” than Wal-Mart currently is, physically, and another subset will defect to exclusively refer to toothpaste bogs, toilet paper blogs and other referendums to find their authoritative sources online. This exists already, for the diehard niche – but I imagine it will increasingly increase, even for the naiveté, as they seek to pass over those that monopolize the industry for those “little men” – while still not immensely overpaying for a physical, local storefront.

Certain barriers to this exist. Gasoline supplies (and monopolies) don’t guarantee that transportation costs will continue to drop proportionally with technology improvements. Hybrid cars, though, are out there, and I imagine that a purely electric car – at scale – seems likely in the future. But even if transportation costs don’t drop as we would hope, as search volume increases, more and more online retailers will become aware that more and more of the world is using the internet to buy products, and quickly – and as such, will offer the best prices there, directly, instead of at their physical storefront.

And those that don’t will be left in the cold.

Unless, of course – this happens.

Push-Pull and the Monopolistic Search Dynamic

The more this occurs, the more it will be increasingly obvious to the entire population that Google, for all intensive purposes, controls the United States economy. At any given time this increasing proportion of domestic spend – and the ability for Google to directly create their own products to cannibalize it for themselves – means that an eventual balancing act will occur where Google will at once attempt to push forward profits — but also avoid governmental regulation. How they do this – and publicize these changes to the buying population – may ultimately decide whether or not they persist or eventually burn away as many other search companies have.

How – and when – the government decides to interject may come down to as simple a thing as who runs in office – so it may be increasingly important for SEOs to look, there, for the future of how things are done in their industry.

Whether or not Google persists, search volume, clearly, will continue to grow at a rate beyond actual population. And that’s an exciting thing for us, the SEOs, working the industry. We have the first mover advantage. Things might have been easier for us to rank sites in 2000, but now, even in increasingly mature markets, potential future profit is larger – especially for those who get in now.

For those that can sell that effectively to decision makers, invest and then pivot accordingly – a rich future awaits.

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