Day 3 of SMX West kicked off with a group keynote titled Generation Next: Search In The Coming Decade moderated by Search Engine Land’s Executive Editor Chris Sherman and Gord Hotchkiss, President and CEO of Enquiro.
The panel of speakers included representatives from the major search engines – Brad Goldberg of Microsoft, Larry Heck with Yahoo! and Peter Norvig of Google – discussing where they see search going in the next decade.
Will search as we know it will survive?
Larry noted that consumers are having more expectations for search. Search will absolutely survive and verticalization will increase.
Peter said that search will disappear as it will become invisible and more interactive, more second nature and part of core life. We’ve all become cyborgs in a way.
Brad said we’re not going to throw search away, but build upon it, evolving gradually. What’s going to change more is the user experience – where they ask it and on what device. Search will become pervasive.
How can we interact with the huge amount of information out there?
People are likely to pose queries differently on other devices, as opposed to on a PC, said Brad. Peter says average queries will probably become longer, but harder to get results back on tiny screens.
Implications for search marketers?
Larry sees advertisers more able to take advantage of mobile opportunities for promotions for pushing discounts, directions, etc. As that grows and advertisers come online, we’ll see more there.
We need to maintain the distinction between actual results and advertising, though, he said.
Peter sees the user having more control over ads in the future, whether it’s TV or search.
Will contextual suggestions be more prominent?
Larry sees search playing more in the foreground and in the background, targeting people to specific queries, for instance what comes up on their personal search or at the office.
Do you see search coming as a personal assistant as mentioned by Louis Monier?
Larry thinks it’s a good idea, but an incredibly hard challenge, very surprised if it took form.
Peter thinks we’re pretty good at short term searches, but supporting a personal assistant would be a long term search strategy, much more difficult.
Brad says the search engine is a tool to make like more efficient, but the idea of letting the search engine go off on its own might be OK for small tasks, but the human needs to be a part of the process, making a personal assistant impractical for now.
How smart can search get in the next five years?
Peter says we’re getting better, bringing in books, videos and we’re just starting to take off. Larry says a lot of it will be from the users becoming more sophisticated as well as technical advances. Brad thinks a better question is how much better will the partnership between the human and the machine will be. The search engines are becoming much better partners to humans.
What’s it going to take to get local search as good as it can be?
Peter says part of it is getting the local content. Brad agrees. The mom/pop shop needs to know it’s available and use it.
Do ads need to be more engaging (louder) on the search page?
Larry said search has grown to be an ad product that can be quantified, probably easier than any other type of advertising. Marketers can measure results easily. We’ll see a diversity of ad types in the future, including some that we can’t even imagine today. The readings are there for advertisers to test freely using different formats (video, audio, etc.) and add or drop what does and doesn’t work.
How good does personalization have to be?
Peter says he sees search as not being all personal, but fragmented. There are times when results don’t need to be personalized, but more generic. Brad says that if you can identify what someone is trying to accomplish, you can make the result feel like it’s personalized, but not necessarily so.
Will blended search kill traditional SEO?
The group sees more opportunities, rather than fewer. Creative thinking will make the difference with so many new vehicles to explore. As the serps become richer, there’s more to leverage. The SEO will have to change their way of thinking about search results.
What’s cool in interfaces?
What’s happening in the mobile space, not only from phones and pocket devices, but also things like searching from you automobile, to be able to search from away from your PC. We’ve got a way to go in terms of opening up platforms, but it’s all happening.
What do you want five years from today?
Larry: More vertical searching will make the search experience better.
Peter: Go beyond matching keywords.
Brad: Access to search everywhere.