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SEO 13 min read March 28, 2018

The Future Of Search: Optimizing For Everything, Not Just Search Engines & An Interview
With Kevin Gibbons

The Future Of Search: Optimizing For Everything, Not Just Search Engines & An Interview With Kevin Gibbons
The Future Of Search: Optimizing For Everything, Not Just Search Engines & An Interview With Kevin Gibbons 16261788135404
Elena K.
Editorial Head at Serpstat
Last week our team visited SEMPRO conference, where we met and spoke to lots of great speakers.
Kevin Gibbons' talk was all about the future of search, and it's something I am excited to share with you on our blog.

He's graciously agreed to chat with me about where he sees the search is going. This post is some kind of a mix of the fragments from Kevin's talk and the thoughts he shared with me after it. Hope you'll enjoy it as much
as I did :)
Kevin Gibbons is the CEO and co-founder of BlueGlass – a strategy-driven SEO & content marketing agency based in London, UK. Kevin has experience working with a number of large brands, and sets the vision on where BlueGlass is going as an agency.
— Why did you decide to talk about the future of search?
— I've been in SEO for 15 years and it's kind of a good point to think about what will search look like in 15 years. Now I'm at an interesting stage where it's good to look back at where did we start, where did we become from, and how did things change in that time period. And I would say even to where we are today SEO changed a lot. When I started doing SEO, Alta Vista, Ask Jeeves, Lycos were the most popular search engines. Does anyone remember them now? Yahoo may have stayed around a bit longer but it's potentially kind of dying more of a slow death. When you look back at 2000-2003 this seems like the ages ago but it was 15 years. So I think it's interesting to see how things have already developed.
The Future Of Search: Optimizing For Everything, Not Just Search Engines & An Interview With Kevin Gibbons 16261788135405
— What are the skills an SEO specialist of the future should have? Do they differ from those that are important now?
— When I started SEO was more always manipulation in some ways definitely technical. And now it's much more creative, PR-driven, still technical in terms of skill sets, and I see that continuing moving forwards. The things like a voice search and home devices are becoming very big, and that's potentially a different skill set we haven't even considered for. Let's take Alexa skills, no no one would have been speak about how to create them even two years ago. I think in terms of marketing you need to be more well-rounded. But at the same time, everything is getting a lot more specialized, and key is having a team with different people who specialize in different areas. It's almost too much for one person these days to do SEO to a high standard because there are so many aspects of SEO.
The Future Of Search: Optimizing For Everything, Not Just Search Engines & An Interview With Kevin Gibbons 16261788135405
— What do you think of mobile apps from marketing perspective? Should we integrate app store optimization into the marketing strategy?
— People are using mobile apps more than their mobile browser. It's more than 19% for mobile apps versus 23% for browser. While 32% use both at different times. Apps are really key, we've noticed a big demand in app store optimization just over the last year. And the reason is obvious: if someone has downloaded your app, they don't need to go to Google. People don't see your competitors, they go straight to you. It makes a lot of sense that people will try to get you on their app. If that's what people want to use generally, you can't stop them from doing that. When you think about future trends, having an app should be something that you have. If you haven't got already, you should certainly be thinking about that.
The Future Of Search: Optimizing For Everything, Not Just Search Engines & An Interview With Kevin Gibbons 16261788135405
— What do you think of the fast-rising voice search trend? Will everyone have a personal Jarvis like the one Tony Stark has? ;)
— Again it seems very futuristic to think that way, but when you think in 10-50 years ahead it's not that unrealistic. And there's a study by ComScore that said 50% of searches would be voice and it pointed 2020, which is two years away.
The Future Of Search: Optimizing For Everything, Not Just Search Engines & An Interview With Kevin Gibbons 16261788135406
So, yes I think in terms where things are going, it could get to that level. Right now the home devices are answering quick questions. So it's more "what's the weather outside today" or "what's the time zone in Allen" for example, and where you can get a quick and easy response. It's not so much "where should I go on holiday next year," something to take the research away from you and take the decision away from you. But the more people have them in the home, more people will use them quite clearly. So I think it's almost just get started, and it will be interesting to see how far this goes.
— How to follow this trend? Share some tips based on your experience.
— The small thing is just start. So one thing we did: we had someone in our team to learn as much as possible about Alexa skills and create an Alexa skill. So he created something, where if you ask Alexa using a different app "who's the best SEO agency in the UK," then responds and says "Blue Glass one, you can search for BlueGlass here". It's just a little bit of fun to learn how this works.

If we're not thinking about it as it's not mainstream and not popular today, it means that when it does get popular, we could be left behind. So my advice is to focus on what works today as if you go to prioritize your work by value. The voice search still won't be top of the list, but if you ignore it completely, you could be left behind. So that's why I think it's worth invest in a bit of time into just experimenting. I've always learned just by trying to do things myself making mistakes most of time and learning from it. So the more curious you can be in just keep things going, and some of them will pay off. It might be things that are interesting to learn about, but it doesn't actually take off. But unless you try a few things like that, no one knows what the future has in store basically.
— Is this important for all niches to pay attention to voice search?
— I think everyone should explore. People ask questions in Google today about pretty much every industry and topic, that's how people research online. If they replace that search query online with a voice command, it's largely the same thing. That's why you should think about questions people are asking. There's a really good tool called Answer The Public that you can use to get predicted questions around these topics. Have a look at stuff like that, because that will give you ideas around what people are searching for in voice.

And then to answer your question, yes some industries will be more topical than others to voice queries. Certainly, if you're kind of predicting weather, for example, that is should be front of mind for you today. But if you're an owner of a B2B business, it might not be something you should be concerned about right now, but again it doesn't mean you completely ignore it.
The Future Of Search: Optimizing For Everything, Not Just Search Engines & An Interview With Kevin Gibbons 16261788135406
— You mentioned virtual reality as one of the things marketers have to optimize for. Lots of people associate VR with games and having fun. How to integrate it into a marketing strategy?
— I had the same concern, I couldn't see how this could be relevant to marketers. I saw a talk from an expert in that area, and I asked him several questions after a talk. And his answers made me see things in a different way. Let us take a look at a specific example. You visit a new city, and you want to understand where to go tonight. You ask "where's the best pub or nightclub in Los Angeles?" whilst wearing a virtual reality headset, and probably more augmented reality in this case. You will be given two or three options of dance floors, bars and you can see it's a lot more engaging and visual in terms of what people are doing. And the headset will notice from the reaction in your eyes which one you like the most.
That should help you make the decision on where you're going.

And when you fill it up to a marketing perspective, the marketer's challenge is to create the content that is triggered for that question and then to be the most engaging experience to make people's eyes light up and want to go there. So if you can look at it that way, it still requires VR taking off. How heavily mobile phone brands, like Apple for example, will promote VR headsets along with their devices, it would take whether that goes mainstream or not. If it does, I can see here a big use and popularity behind it. But even today it's a big if as to whether people will start using VR and AR much more frequently, but that's a marketing angle behind it definitely.
The Future Of Search: Optimizing For Everything, Not Just Search Engines & An Interview With Kevin Gibbons 16261788135406
— Google is now hiding the organic listings from some search results. What do you think of this update? Will Google go further in displaying answer without any search results?
— Right now it's an experiment. And it will depend on whether people prefer this or not as to whether they roll it out more heavily. I think it gives a very big signal in terms where Google wants to go. An experiment is never a "let's just do it for this and leave it there," it will get rolled out more heavily if they find the positive reaction.

I look at this at two different ways. From SEO side it's frustrating, because if you're number one and you've overnight lost all of your traffic as there's no longer organic results, just one box. And actually from a searcher perspective, I think it's quite a good result and it it makes sense. Let's consider an example. I landed in Kiev yesterday, when I landed I wanted to know what the time was. I didn't want to an opinion, so I wanted to one correct answer.
The Future Of Search: Optimizing For Everything, Not Just Search Engines & An Interview With Kevin Gibbons 16261788135407
On March 20, Danny Sullivan announced that Google has stopped this test for now.
One question I asked myself is around "is the future basically with no websites," because we already have featured snippets, voice search, virtual reality. None of those require a website, and that's again quite a scary thought from a marketing perspective. But if that's where we tried to look at where users are going, and if they don't want to see a website as they can get an answer to a question without seeing the website, then the way you're doing things has to change.
Here's the video version of this interview.
P.S. Honestly speaking, it was my first experience with recording a live video-interview and I was very nervous. So don't judge the quality, please.

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