The future of search and what we can expect in 2017

04 April 2017

The future of search and what we can expect in 2017

The internet is so impossibly huge that finding what is relevant to you has become quite a challenge. Guiding people to the information they need has become the mission of some of the world’s biggest, richest and most influential companies and 2017 could see some very interesting developments in this area.

A growing trend towards voice search

Voice search has its limitations and probably always will (e.g. in environments with a lot of background noise, or, by contrast, places where quiet is expected, such as libraries). At the same time, it has two major advantages over “traditional” typed searches. One is that it can be a whole lot more convenient than trying to tap away on the small screen of a mobile device and the other is that it allows users to keep their hands free, which can be a huge benefit in all kinds of situations from nursing a baby to following instructions read to you by the search engine. Given that Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft are all clearly committed to the technology, it’s a safe bet that they’ll be working to push it further forward in 2017.

More work on predictive searches

Web users expect the internet to give them exactly what they need – now, if not sooner. Speed of response is becoming increasingly important, from real-world customer service to its digital counterpart, quick returns on searches. Just as companies try to predict what their (potential) customers are going to want to know and to provide them with the information they need before they think to ask for it, so search engines are working hard on predictive searches, trying to anticipate what it is their users are looking for and delivering it with the maximum possible speed. Again, the major tech companies are all behind this, so expect to see improvements in the technology in 2017.

Google providing the answer rather than directing people to the reference

Companies that have built a business around providing straightforward, factual information (e.g. stock prices and weather forecasts) may be feeling rather nervous about the fact that Google has now started providing users with the answer to their specific query on the search results page, rather than just providing them with a list of sites where they could find that information.

It’s still rather early to see what impact this will have over the long term. In principle, it’s possible that Google could score an own goal with this in the sense that driving sources of information out of business could ultimately wind up hurting Google itself. On the other hand, you could equally argue that sites that really do nothing more than provide basic, factual, information are adding very little to the quality of the internet and that Google might well, therefore, be doing the world a favour by pushing a few of them on to pastures new.

Sites that provide original, engaging content would appear to have little to nothing to fear from Google’s approach, so focus on expanding on basic information and providing more information than the snapshot Google provides on its search results page, to give users a good reason to click through to your website.