The future of search engines
27 March 2023
In recent years, online search engines have been an essential tool for navigating the vast sea of information available on the internet. For decades, users have relied on search engines to find everything from recipes to the latest news or their favourite movies.
Not surprisingly, thanks to new technologies and formats, the world of searching is undergoing a major transformation. One example is TikTok, which, thanks to its personalised and easy-to-consume content, has gained popularity as a search engine among the younger generation. On the other hand, Artificial Intelligence is changing the rules of the game, with a host of new features and advantages that have attracted numerous users in a short time.
If you want to keep up to date with the latest developments in online search engines and take advantage of all the opportunities they bring to your brand, read on to be part of the future of search.
How has Google evolved over the last 20 years?
Google has led the search world for years, but there have been many criticisms about the current experience on the platform. Some say that its results have deteriorated, but so far no other player has been able to replace it.
Many users and SEO professionals believe that Google’s search results have worsened over the years: less useful results, less reliable sources, and more ads disguised as answers, making it take longer than before to find the information they need.
However, this is not necessarily due to the workings of Google itself, but rather to the exponential growth in the number of websites that exist on the internet: a former Google employee explained that in the early days they had around 30 million websites, whereas today, it is estimated that there are around one billion. The internet has become increasingly accessible globally, so that it is no longer a “luxury”, but a part of everyday life for millions of people. Consequently, the number of available websites has increased, and although there is more quantity, not all content is of quality. This means that in the vast sea of content, it is more difficult for users to find the information they are looking for.
On the other hand, the internet is a field with little regulation, with the exception of data protection. While Google has conditioned “webmasters” to adhere to higher quality standards through updates and changes to its algorithms, it is not strictly responsible for doing so.
If anything, the company can positively influence the ranking of websites that have chosen to comply with its best practices, but it is not Google’s responsibility to regulate Internet content. Ultimately, the responsibility would lie with national or European legislation.
In reality, Google’s advances in Artificial Intelligence and natural language processing, with BERT and MUM in recent years and now with LAMBDA (Bard), have enabled it to deliver much higher quality search results than in its early days, which is why its search engine is still by far the most widely used today.
Google’s updates have always been focused on filtering results better and offering the best UX. Neither Yahoo nor Bing (MSN Search), which were already in use when Google started in 1998, have been able to follow in its footsteps or to catch up, and are today anecdotal competitors: Google accounts for more than 95% of searches, followed by Bing (2.9%) and Yahoo (0.98%). Currently, it is estimated that 228 million searches are made on Google per hour, 5.5 million per day and 2 billion per year.
Even when its competitors try to get ahead, Google’s response is often almost immediate. Just a few days after Microsoft announced the implementation of ChatGPT in Bing, Google introduced Bard, a very high-quality chat based on LAMBDA. To give an anecdote, one of Google’s employees is reported to have claimed that, after talking to him about philosophical issues, Bard had developed a conscience of its own. In addition to Bard, Google has also introduced new features for Android search that allow more information to be obtained through Google Lens and combined image and text searches.
Given its expertise and the amount of data it has accumulated after years of leading the sector, everything indicates that even if another competitor were to emerge, Google would have enough tools to remain the search engine of choice for users.
Content-first: TikTok positions itself as the preferred search engine of Generation Z.
TikTok became one of the most downloaded apps in the world in 2018 and 2019, and its success continued in 2020 and 2021, because during the pandemic many people turned to this social network to continue connecting with other people and to distract themselves.
However, the younger generation’s use of the platform goes far beyond entertainment; for many, TikTok is also an important source of information. According to a study conducted by Google among US users aged 18-24, approximately 40% use platforms such as TikTok or Instagram to conduct searches instead of using traditional search engines such as Google. Their expectations and the way they search also provide a stark contrast, as they focus on asking questions that have a visual answer rather than a textual explanation.
There is no doubt that SEO for social media and video is a bet for the future, but how has social media become the search engine of choice for Generation Z? In addition to offering short, easy-to-consume videos, it has an algorithm that generates personalised recommendations to save time and effort when searching for information. Its content combines entertainment and information, allowing users to learn while having fun. Instead of having to read long texts, TikTok answers users’ searches through simple and quick videos.
But all that glitters is not gold: while TikTok can be a great ally, it can also be a source of misinformation, which could lead to big problems, especially given its popularity among the younger generation.
The influence of ChatGPT and other AI tools on searching and content creation.
The interest that ChatGPT has generated cannot be doubted, as it is the fastest-growing platform in the history of the internet. In just two months, it has reached 100 million users, a figure that took TikTok nine months to reach.
The widespread use of AI in SEO has several important consequences. First, it improves the search engine experience by better identifying the context and motivation of users, enabling more accurate and detailed responses. In addition, the incorporation of these chats in Bing and Google means that the user will no longer need to visit several web pages to find the information they need, but will be provided directly by the chat. As a result, a website will have to offer much more than just informative content to remain attractive to users.
Another important consequence is that ChatGPT can be used for keyword research, which speeds up the process of keyword research and the listing of topics for blog articles or questions for a FAQ section. This is especially useful in more technical fields, where the SEO manager does not have specific knowledge of the subject matter.
In addition, this technology allows content to be generated automatically, from short summaries to full articles. The generated content can be in any language, without linguistic errors. However, it will still need to be reviewed by a person, as there is a risk of publishing content that is outdated, unsuitable for users or too similar to that of another website that was created with the same AI.
Finally, ChatGPT can be used as a wizard to generate scripts or code, which applies to various aspects, such as generating regex for Screaming Frog or Google Tag Manager, complex formulas in Excel or Google Sheets, creating code for structured data, conditions for a robots.txt, custom settings for the Facebook pixel in PPC campaigns, or downloading data from APIs.
In short, AI makes it possible to improve the quality of understanding users’ searches, provide them with better answers and streamline the processes of content generation, analytics and digital marketing optimisation.
But it is important to remember that many of these tasks, at least for now, will still require the supervision of a person to verify and validate the AI results.
Keys to investing in the future of digital marketing.
Knowing all this, we need to be forward-thinking. It’s time to decide what to invest in today to be ready for the future: should we create more video content, is it better to produce more web content for AI to recap? Here are some key points for your brand to consider:
1. Technologies like AI and automation.
Investing in them will help us achieve better results, while freeing us up to spend more time on analysis, reflection and strategic insights that bring more value to the customer.
2. GA4 and data analysis.
Data collection and analysis is key to making informed decisions and improving marketing strategy. It is essential to invest in data analysis tools that allow us to know our user better and detect changing trends as early as possible to be prepared for the future.
3. Quality content.
Content is still king in digital marketing and will therefore be one of the areas where marketers will invest the most this year. Creating high-quality content, focused on the user and adapted to different formats and platforms (blogs, podcasts, TikTok), will be fundamental to connect with our target audience. And here the ‘human factor’ is key: AI-generated content is being criticised for not showing sources, so creators who demonstrate EEAT will be increasingly valued. Content will no longer be limited to answering “what?”, “how?” and “how much?” questions, because that information will already be readily available in chats. More than ever, human touch will be needed to give added and differential value to the data and ideas that AI generates.
4. User experience.
Due to the sheer amount of supply and competition that exists today, user experience is a crucial element of differentiation. Investing in technologies and strategies that analyse and improve the online user experience, and maximise the chances of conversion, will make the difference.
We help you transform this situation into an opportunity for your brand.
At Estudio 34 and Good Rebels, we are prepared to take advantage of all the opportunities that will arise in the future of online search. Our 360º digital vision includes knowledge in SEO, SEM, analytics and CRO, which will help us to be one step ahead of the trends and help our clients with proposals that will increase the efficiency of their digital strategy.
In a reality characterised by constant change, at Estudio 34 we have the ability to create value propositions with a high degree of customisation, to adapt to the specific needs of each client. All this is possible thanks to our extensive experience in the design and implementation of our own tools and technical solutions.
But beyond hard skills, we know that the most important thing is to be able to adapt to new paradigms and not be afraid of change, but to be part of it, to have a proactive role in the digital ecosystem.
What about you – are you ready to take advantage of all the opportunities offered by the search engine revolution?