News, Articles & Knowledge

The Future of Search

Posted by Zoë on 01-Dec-2022 12:56:43
| 8 Minute Read

 Search, or the practice of using online SEP’s (Search Engine Platforms) to search for information, is an everyday part of life, both at home and at work. In fact, search is so embedded in how we live, many of us never give a thought to how easily and how often we turn to online platforms to discover the information we need, be it a historical fact, a phone number for that new restaurant, booking tickets or just the satisfaction of idle curiosity.


Image courtesy of 

Given that the use of online search engines, and increasingly other types of platforms, is so entrenched in everyday life, the facility to search online hasn’t really been around for that long, comparatively. The internet only came into being in the early 1990s, alongside early search engines such as Lycos, AltaVista and Yahoo. By 1998, Google had been launched and search, as a function, was well on its way to becoming indispensable.

In the 20-plus years since the birth of Google, the company has seemingly taken over the world. Not only dominating the online search engine market, but also the ways in which businesses can advertise to searchers on its platform, (amongst a myriad other Google-shaped fingers in pies!). In 2022, according to Statista, Google commands a search market share of 83%. However, it looks as though Google’s dominance in the search market might finally be challenged…


How and Why is Search Changing?

There is no one clear answer to this question. As ever, the truth is that changes in search are being driven by a number of varying factors that are all having an effect in the way users search.

Typically, different factors have affected different segments of the market. For example, the advent of the pandemic in 2020 had a direct impact on the growth of ecommerce, which, in turn, drove businesses to evolve their ecommerce offerings and focus more on their digital marketing. A direct consequence of that shift from bricks and mortar retail to ecommerce, was a move amongst segments of the consumer market who had previously not bought online, to start using ecommerce, and to also start using other forms of digital communication such as social media.


Image courtesy of 

Digital First Strategy

The dramatic effect of the pandemic on the digital landscape also forced the pace of the existing shift to digital first marketing models amongst B2C and B2B marketers. Digital first is essentially a strategy that focuses on the consumer as primarily a digital being, and so concentrates on delivering the brand messaging and excellent service provision, digitally.  


Understanding The Shift to Organic Search Away From Paid Search

A consequence of the digital first movement being accelerated by the pandemic, is an ongoing escalation in competitive noise in the marketplace that has impacted the efficacy of Pay Per Click advertising (PPC) investment for many businesses. Market noise, competition, rising costs and lower returns have forced businesses to reduce reliance on PPC and re-focus on organic search, alternative channels, reduction in friction and better user experience. With that refocusing on organic search, and a move to digital first, businesses are having to become more strategic and more creative in their SEO strategies, while search engines like Google are responding by making the requirements of their algorithms ever more specific and stringent. The recent Google Helpful Content update is a case in point. The Innovation Visual team are constantly evaluating and adjusting our clients’ search strategies to stay abreast and ahead of changes in the search landscape.


Why Google Is Dominant In Search

The simple answer is that it provided better results faster at the start of its life. While Yahoo and AltaVista had search as part of a complex home page and bragged about the number of sites in their indexes, Google had a page that just had a search box and focused on result quality. Google then developed a range of free services that complemented its mission of organising the World’s information in a way that gave it market knowledge. It has been clever in ensuring that its core search offering to consumers is their first choice and then uses the huge amount of data it has from other sources to monetise this traffic most effectively. That said, things are changing, especially in terms of where users are choosing to search. Google is still dominant, but search engines are not the default tool for search any more.


Who Are the New Players in the Search Market?

As we have seen from the meteoric rise of YouTube and the significant rise in how video can positively impact SEO, it is a channel that engages in a way that plain text content rarely can. It is this visual engagement that social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, in particular, have leveraged to drive outstanding success.

Learning from YouTube’s example, these social platforms have understood that by investing in search tools, they can make the content on their platforms work even harder, enabling users to use the platform as a video-based search engine for recommendations, tutorials, opinions, and ideas. Suddenly, the future of search seems significantly more diverse.


Image courtesy of 

What Platforms Are Starting to Challenge Traditional Search?

The short answer is social media apps. We have already looked at YouTube and how it has become the world’s second largest search engine, despite not actually being a search engine. Coming up fast are the social platforms referenced above, specifically TikTok and Instagram, and to a lesser extent Facebook. Of course, from a solely B2B point of view, social media is key and LinkedIn cannot be discounted either, especially from a community support point of view.


Image courtesy of 

In terms of ecommerce, while social platforms are typically used for research and recommendations, users are turning to multiples like Amazon for shopping (Multiples in this context refers to businesses that collate and sell/resell a broad scope of items from a range of brands and manufacturers) and Pinterest for inspiration, in place of more general search engines.

Voice Search and Smart Speakers

While not strictly a platform, we cannot discount voice search and the associated smart speakers/devices that have become commonplace and entrenched in modern life over the past few years.

These devices straddle traditional search, relying on Google for answers to questions but also accessing platforms like Amazon (e.g., the Amazon Echo range) for shopping queries, Spotify for music and other integrated tools to deliver a full support service.

The platform owners (Amazon, Google and Apple primarily) have been quite opaque in providing data on the usage of their platforms as withholding it gives them a competitive advantage.

While it is thought that voice search has not taken off in the way it was predicted pre-pandemic, it is still certainly a factor to consider, particularly for the B2C market, especially as research that is available suggests  32% of people use voice-activated search daily instead of typing, 43% of people shop online via voice-enabled devices and 58% of consumers find local businesses using voice-activated search. As the smart speaker market is expected to grow to $30 billion by 2024, it is clear they are no passing phase and voice search needs to be considered as part of any cohesive search marketing strategy, particularly for the B2B and ecommerce sectors.

The Emergence of Generative AI 

Generative AI – Artificial Intelligence that can generate new content rather than analysing or acting on existing data – has made a huge leap forward in the past two years. Using natural language processing, AI can now generate content and the results are frighteningly good. A multitude of tools have appeared that allow you to create original blogs, images, or videos simply by prompting the machine with one or two sentences.

AI can also now answer questions in a more natural, frictionless manner which could completely disrupt the world of search as we know it. Current systems can provide a concise answer to complex questions, a bit like an expert on the subject. The problem is they don’t cite their sources which would remove the friction of having to look at various pages but would also make it harder to check if they’re right.

People have already been experimenting with AI-powered search and it’s impressive!


What Does the Future of Search Look Like?

While it is not realistic to think that Google is truly under any real threat…yet…, it is feasible to assume that search will diversify and that other channels will grow to fulfil a role in the way users search the internet. After all, it’s already happening, Google themselves have acknowledged the shift, with a Google Senior Vice President, Prabhakar Raghavan commenting,  “40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search, they go to TikTok or Instagram.”

Platforms like TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram are developing location tools to support searches based on ‘near me’, helping users to find products and services locally. Currently in testing, TikTok’s new ‘Nearby’ content feed will enhance its existing ‘For You’ and ‘Following’ feeds. These features will further support users in using these social platforms for search, allowing them to combine traditional search with recommendations and inspiration based on image and video content.

It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that, looking forward, social media platforms are likely to capture a greater percentage of the search market as time moves on, especially in younger demographics, and that is an opportunity not to be missed. The trick for marketers will be understanding how this evolution in search can best be leveraged to drive results for their business specifically.

We devote a significant amount of time each month to ensuring our team is abreast of changes in paid and organic search, so they can evaluate and adjust our clients’ strategies accordingly. Video is already a key part of most of our clients’ strategies including filming, creating, and optimising social channels. This ensures that the work we do responds to changes in the market effectively and in a timely way. If you’d like to speak to us about how we could support your business to leverage opportunities in search as it evolves then why not get in touch?


Planning A Future-Friendly Search Strategy

How Do Audience Demographics Influence Search?

The way a user searches is heavily influenced by the way they use the internet. Demographic research can tell us a lot about they behave, where they can be found online, their preferences and how best to engage with them. Understanding target audience demographics is essential for marketers to design the right marketing strategy to connect with them. Particularly now, it is essential to understand how target audiences are likely to search, and whether social media is part of their toolkit. For example, targeting the over 60’s market on Snapchat is unlikely to be successful. However, it is dangerous to make assumptions about demographics and how they operate online; making the wrong guess could lead to a mis-directed and ineffective strategy that doesn’t engage. With that in mind, you also need to consider that audiences aren’t typically static, they age, interests change and your personas and demographic targeting strategy needs to flex and evolve to allow for that change.



Images above courtesy of 

Six Tips For Planning The Right Search Strategy For Your Business

So, how do marketers take best advantage of the evidence that search is evolving? The Innovation Visual team are constantly researching, testing and measuring to make sure our approach for our clients is the one most suitable for their business and their audiences. Essentially, it comes down to getting the basics right. They are:

  1. Establishing accurate audience personas to get a clear understanding of who your key audiences are, their jobs to be done, pain points and how they behave digitally. Knowing what platforms your audiences use, and how they use them, is key.
  2. Developing a content strategy that focuses on the production of detailed, helpful content, specifically designed to respond to target keyword searches, that can be used across the platforms are scenarios that your personas frequent. That includes putting together text, video and imagery in informative, useful and compelling ways.
  3. Optimising existing content for all of traditional, voice and social search options.
  4. Ensuring that the organisation’s digital presence is effective, frictionless and easy to use. That is largely the website but might also include the right social profiles, social commerce interfaces, apps, and communication channels. Bearing in mind the typical attention span of a website user, a fast, efficient website with logical user journeys and the right calls to action is essential to maintaining engagement and retention.
  5. Tying all these foundation elements together by promoting your content with the right omnichannel, digital-first marketing strategy. It should bring in all of the relevant platforms and channels, and be designed to meet your target audiences online in the places they inhabit and the places they search, with the information they need and a clear journey to follow. You should spend a third of your time creating content, and two thirds promoting it!
  6. Testing, testing, testing. The only way to understand if a strategy is working is to test it. That relies on accurate data gathering, effective analysis and insightful reporting and the right MarTech solution can make this stage far easier to manage.

Getting Started with Your Search Focused Strategy

Assuming you get the basics we’ve outlined above right, the future of search across all the digital channels as they evolve, represents an opportunity to get ahead of the competition and ensure your do not fall behind.

Getting all the elements right and using them to develop an effective strategy is the most important part though and possibly also the most daunting. The Innovation Visual team are a skilled group of digital marketers, experienced across organic and paid search, strategy, MarTech, web development, videography and content. If you are not working with us already then why not get in touch today and talk to us about making sure your digital marking strategy is ready for the future of search?


Topics: SEO, Technology, Strategy, Digital Marketing, Paid Search, Effective Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)