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What Does the Future of Online Search Look Like?

Online search has evolved so gradually that many people find it hard to track its growth. One day, voice-based search seemed like a dumb gimmick that only heard what you said half the time. The next day, it felt like voice search had been working well for years. 

But the fact is, over the 20ish years it’s been around, online search has changed dramatically. It has evolved from a clunky, barely-functional tool for finding specific webpages to being the ultimate channel for knowledge and discovery. With just a phrase, you can summon accurate information on any topic, get answers to any common question, find the exact product you’re looking for, or simply discover more about a subject. 

So where do we go from here? How does search get better? And how could it change our interactions with technology overall? 

How Search Has Evolved

Before we can look into the future, we have to look at the past. How has search evolved to date? 

The frontrunner in the search engine world is Google. It became the dominant online search competitor from the moment it entered the scene, and today, it retains share of nearly two-thirds of all online searches. Its brand is synonymous with online search, and it continues to set standards for how other search engines operate. 

It’s important to remember that Google, now owned by Alphabet, is a for-profit company. The service is free and accessible to anyone with an internet connection, but ultimately, Google is interested in making money. Its main source of revenue is advertising; when people click ads, the businesses who placed those ads pay a small sum of money to Google. 

Accordingly, to serve the best ads and attract as many money-generating users as possible, Google is incentivized to give users the best possible experience. 

This amounts to achieving several sub-goals, including: 

  • Providing more relevant results. Google has long been the primary search engine choice because of its ability to conjure up relevant results—in other words, to provide users with content that matches their queries. In the old days, this amounted to finding content that contained keywords and phrases similar to what was included in the user’s query. But over time, this evolved to Google systematically understanding the intent behind user queries as well as the purpose of content throughout the web. Today, it can find much more intelligent, qualitative matches. 
  • Providing more authoritative results. Additionally, Google has evolved to provide more authoritative results. Just because something is a topical match doesn’t mean it’s trustworthy—or that it’s going to be satisfying to an end user. The web is filled with spam and low-quality content, and part of Google’s job is to filter that content out. Over the years, it has developed much higher quality standards, capable of detecting spammy links, bad writing, and other signs that a website shouldn’t be trusted. 
  • Providing a quicker, more intuitive interface. Google has also developed its search engine to provide users with a faster, more intuitive interface. You can get results almost instantaneously, even if you search a convoluted phrase—and you can search using any number of different methods, such as voice-based search. 
  • Providing direct information and answers. Google has also attempted to simplify and hasten the search process by giving users direct information—rather than merely directing them to a website that might have the answer. If you search for a relatively simple, answerable question (like “who was the first President of the United States?â€�), you’ll get an immediate answer—no clicking required. This not only makes the user experience simpler and more enjoyable, it also keeps the user on Google for a longer period of time, increasing the likelihood that they’ll click an ad. 

We can expect Google to continue evolving along these pathways. But what could further evolution along these lines look like? 

New Ways to Interact With Search Engines

First, we’ll likely see the emergence of new ways to interact with search engines. Rather than simply typing in a query or using our voices, we’ll have a variety of new modes of engagement. 

  • New devices. For starters, we’ll see search become more integrated with a wider range of devices. Already, we’re conducting searches with our laptops, smartphones, tablets, and speakers throughout the house. In the future, the internet of things may introduce us to even newer, more innovative modes of engagements. Search-capable devices may be practically everywhere. 
  • Conversations. Voice search has already represented a massive breakthrough, so what if we could search in a more interactive way—like through conversation? Having a search “agentâ€� guide us through our search could give us even more customization options—and give us more relevant results than ever. 
  • Gestures. What’s even faster and easier than searching with your voice? In the future, you may be able to search using simple gestures. With the right device and ample user prep, it could be possible to use gestures like pointing, nodding, or even blinking to search and browse results. 
  • Thoughts. Though likely reserved for the distant future, a brain-AI interface (like Neuralink) could even make it possible to search using only your thoughts. 

Personalization and Prediction 

In some ways, Google can be considered a data company. Its advertising network relies heavily on its ability to give advertisers meaningful data about their advertising targets. Additionally, search results already rely heavily on user data; your demographic group, your previous search history, and even the way you interact online can all shape your search results. 

In the future, this data-centric search model will grow to become even more powerful. Driven by big data and artificial intelligence (AI), Google and other search engines may be capable of actively predicting your searches before you execute them, providing you with results they think you need before you truly need them. At the very least, we’ll see even more personalized experiences, with search results tailored specifically for individuals based on a litany of data points. 

Alternatives to Google

While Google continues to retain ownership of the largest share of online search, there are other search competitors that are slowly rising. For example, Bing is every bit as functional as Google, with some distinct advantages, and DuckDuckGo is becoming an increasingly popular choice for users concerned about privacy. Additionally, there’s plenty of room for a new, agile, innovative startup to disrupt the industry—potentially rethinking search from the ground up. 

In the coming years, we could see a paradigm shift here. It all depends on the entrepreneurs and programmers at competing tech companies and startups. If a new player or an existing competitor finds a way to unseat Google, it would probably be because they offer a fundamentally different experience—one that’s difficult to imagine, given our immense familiarity with the current scope of online search. 

Higher Quality Standards

Though difficult to execute from a programming perspective, Google and its rival search engines could make a push to introduce even higher quality standards than before. Despite their best efforts, there’s still an abundance of badly written content and irrelevant links on the internet. Additionally, search engine optimization (SEO) makes it almost trivially easy for skilled content creators to manipulate search rankings in their favor. More advanced techniques could potentially filter content based on depth, accuracy, and possibly even intention—clearing up search results with better content than ever. 

It’s unlikely that we’ll see a major transformation of search in the next few years. For the foreseeable future, we’ll likely witness a gradual unfolding of new features and small updates to the search engines we’ve come to know and love. But beyond that, as new innovators attempt to disrupt the industry and older players strive to remain dominant, we could see a fundamental rethinking of the average search experience. By the end of the decade, online search could be practically unrecognizable. 

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Why Big Tech Companies are Building Cities, and Why Many are Worried

tech companies building cities

Situated in Menlo Park, south of San Francisco, is a 59 acre of land adjacent to the Facebook campus, this piece of land is proposed to be a fully self-contained and functional city called Willow Village. Here is why big tech companies are building cities, and why many are worried.

However, there is one notable thing about Willow Village that makes it different from other communities in the US; it is owned and being developed by American social media giant, Facebook Inc. Proposed Plan for Willow Village, source: menlopark.org

The Facebook Village

In a few years’ time, Facebook employees will be able to work, live, and sleep without leaving the property of the 5th most valuable tech company in the world. This city is proposed to have more than 1500 homes, a pharmacy, a grocery store, office buildings, conference spaces, a 193 room hotel, and a public park.

Recently, there has been a trend of big tech getting involved in large construction projects with Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, investing One Billion Dollars in its plans to build 20000 homes in Mountain View and Apple finishing one of the world’s most expensive buildings; Apple Park estimated at Five Billion Dollars.

Privately Owned Cities

The future will surely see employees of large tech companies living luxury lives in private owned cities, rent-free, and with many benefits in the comfort of the property owned by the company they work for.

The financial crisis of 2008 ushered in a dramatic change in the way individuals choose college degrees. While the total number of available jobs took a downward turn during the recession, college students were far more likely to stay in school or go back and apply for a more marketable major. More people applied to majors that were more marketable or could provide better jobs rather than majors that interested them. 

According to a 2005 study, unemployment rates have an effect on the way people choose college majors, this can be seen in the way majors related to healthcare, engineering and computer science exploded after the great recession while the number of applicants in education, philosophy, and religious studies saw a decline. 

With the average salary of a US computer and information technology worker being $88,240which is $39,810 more than the average salary of all other occupations — it is easy to see why high school graduates are flocking to these majors in large numbers. 

Computer science students

With the influx of computer science students, many people wonder why the market is not saturated. Students are picking college majors according to their career prospects, getting a degree in computer science is easy to obtain and salaries are exceptionally high, which means the market should be flooded with computer scientists.

The problem is that demand for computer scientists has increased tremendously, however, the market is not flooded because universities have a hard time producing computer science professors, which in turn reduces the number of computer science graduates.

Rather than having to wait at least nine years to get a bachelor’s, masters, and then a doctorate, CS graduates would rather enter the job market and get paid the same salary they would have if they worked as a college teacher or even more because of the extra five years experience.

Why Are Tech Companies Building Cities?

The shortage of computer science professors has put universities in a tight spot, they can either choose to accept a particular amount of high school graduates applying for computer science majors, or they can increase class sizes to increase the number of CS graduates and risk hitting the staff to student ratio and lowering the schools ranking.

New shortage in grads

Today, there is a shortage of computer science graduates, so tech companies or organizations that wish to employ these graduates have to go the extra mile to please them with high salaries, stock options, bonuses, and many more benefits or, risk losing them to other nearby tech companies, leaving employees with an advantage.

Due to the fact that tech companies are so concentrated in certain areas like Silicon Valley, changing jobs is especially easy with huge tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple; being just a couple of miles from one another, Tech companies have a hard time retaining their employees as employees do not even have to change homes if they decide to switch jobs. Tech companies, therefore, have especially low turnover rates.

Average stay of employee in one company

The average employee at Google or Apple stays a little less than 2 years before calling it quits. The low retention rates of tech companies pose a huge problem and many are striving to remedy it.

Ways to garner retention of employees

With the low retention rate of employees, companies have to find new ways to retain their employees thus employers have to go the extra mile to make workers happy, with gym memberships, cell phones, fitness, and wellness programs, wifi equipped busses and subsidized uber rides.

A very good and effective way of keeping employees though is to involve themselves in every aspect of their lives. This is where company-owned homes come in, It is much harder to leave a company if that same company owns your home and that of your friends and family. 

By increasing employees’ dependence on the company, we can surely expect to see the average lifespan of employees increase, Companies have been trying to do this by building homes, with Facebook, even going as much as paying a $10000 bonus to employees who live close to the office.

Why Many Other Businesses (and People) are Worried

All the many benefits employees get from companies trying to keep them, surely increase employees’ well-being and retention rates, which is beneficial to both staff and organizations but might come at the expense of society.

Companies try to make commuting to work more enjoyable and living with the ultimate goal of increasing employees’ retention rates by providing transport like wifi equipped buses, cab rides and houses for employees, but by doing so, they use public infrastructure like bus stops without improving the quality of public transportation.

Affordable housing

Because of the tech boom and the concentration of tech companies in tech hubs like New York and San Francisco, housing has been made less affordable as there has been an increase in the average rent of these cities.

There have been a lot of concerns about the fact that as big tech companies expand their physical presence, the line between public and private is blurred.

Not only are the lines blurred, but local governments find themselves not governing but being governed by these companies.

Take for example; in 2014, facebook funded a police station next to its campus along with offering to pay an officer $200000 as a yearly salary. It is time for the country to reevaluate the power companies have over the government.

Please add your opinion in the comments. I’d like to know.

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How Can Publishers Grow Traffic After the Latest Google Update?

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*Mentioned products, tools in the article are non-affiliated and non-sponsored.

After Google announced its latest core update on May 4th, more and more publishers have faced a significant drop in their traffic. Having armed with key data and metrics, I would like to share with you four major tips on how to recover from this traffic crack.

1. Get your blog featured in Google News

According to SimilarWeb.com Google News currently has over 500M monthly visits. As it is the dream of most online publishers to reach an audience this big, this is the chance to distribute your content to a readership that is already well-established.

The potential of Google News is incredible and can help you to become one of the most featured blogs in your industry.

Let’s compare Ahref’s results on how organic traffic has changed from April to June for two Setupad publishers -– Publisher A and Publisher B.

Publisher’s A website is dedicated to the news category and displayed in Google News.

On the other hand, Publisher’s B website is about recipes and food and is not featured in Google News.

According to the figure below, on April 26th, organic traffic was greater for Publisher B. The Publisher B results could lead us to think that after Google’s latest update, Publisher B would see a heavier drop in organic traffic in comparison to a Publisher A, who is in Google News.

Grow your website's traffic Apr.

The figure below shows that both publishers experienced a drop in organic traffic after the latest Google Update. However, for Publisher A, organic traffic decreased only by 28K, while Publisher B experienced a drop over 51K in organic traffic.

Grow your website's traffic Jun.

What should you keep in mind?

  • Your content has to be optimized for search engines, so make sure you are running SEO.
  • Google News SEO can help you to get listed in top stories, and thus increase your website traffic.

2. Site audit for your website

A site or website audit helps you to track your page’s performance and evaluate how you are achieving traffic goals. By running a site audit, you can understand whether the website is optimized or not and whether it is friendly to search engines.

After the site audit, you can gain a clear picture of what is wrong with your site and the errors you should fix. By fixing and optimizing your website, you can attract more visitors and generate more leads.

This audit gives you a strategic plan to help you take the right action.

  • You can compare your site results with that of your competitors to gain a competitive advantage.
  • Evaluate your site’s overall SEO efforts and make corresponding improvements.
  • Fix any errors, such as broken images, non-compressed images, etc.

Remember that it’s perfectly alright if you cannot manage to improve everything at once, but these changes can be made over time.

The main difference between site and content audit is that a site audit also evaluates not only the content of your website but also its technical performance.

3. Content audit for your website

If you want to know which pages of your website are ranked lower due to the update, a content audit will help.

With a content audit, you can track how well your blog articles and landing pages are performing, as well as the quality of your engagement with your audience.

By running content audits and analysis, you can see which articles and pages have to be updated and re-written.

One of the greatest tools to help you analyze your content is Screaming Frog. This tool conducts an SEO audit of your website and checks the first 500 URLs for free. It helps you identify which pages have dropped in performance due to the update. Definitely recommended.

4. Improve user experience (UX)

After doing your site and content audit, continue with improving UX. The truth is, if your user experience is bad, you cannot hope for good results in search engines and rankings. Since search engine algorithm updates have become more advanced, user searches have become the top priority and play a considerably essential role in website ranking.

Where to start and what to check?

Make sure your content is clean and readable. Remember to emphasize your headings, so that it’s understandable for users and matches what they expect to read.

Check if you use colors that are consistent and echo your brand values. You can create a brand book or so-called style guide that includes the main elements that constitute your brand. Doing this can help you create strategic guidelines that drive all aspects of your brand.

A well-designed site or a blog will boost your engagement. But remember that the focus should be on blocks that users see first— for example, testimonials on the homepage. Testimonials can also help you gain users and create great UX experience.

Key takeaway

One of the most important things you can do for your site is observing your analytics and identifying unexpected changes in your traffic.

Remember that after running a site and content audit, you should fix any errors as soon as possible. This will help you increase your website’s traffic.

Get your blog displayed in Google News. It can take you two to four weeks to get approved, but if you undergo the approval process, rest assured that traffic will go up.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t attempt to win Google over its updates. Google focuses on providing the best experience for its users, so it makes sense that websites with great UX rank higher and gain more traffic. As a publisher, your long-term goal should be to provide a better user experience, which will later result in less traffic loss due to algorithm updates.

*Mentioned products, tools in the article are non-affiliated and non-sponsored.

Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio; Pexels

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