As we approach the end of the year, you’ll be starting to see a bunch of “SEO for 2015″ articles. Well I’m going to do you one better…I’m writing one to help you rank better not just a few months from now (come on – anyone can do THAT, right?) but five YEARS from now. Admittedly I’m probably not going to be able to make some offhand references to some of my favorite shows and pop-culture, but I will try to keep this article meaningful. While I listed 2020 in the title, this is more meant to mean “the future past the current state of algorithms” and not necessarily 2020 (though it will be interesting to look back then and see how close or far off I was in when things will happen).
What we’re really going to be looking at here is what technologies Google is advancing on and what that will mean for SEO and Internet marketers. Before I begin, I’m going to give a big thanks to Bill Slawski (and not my first). On his blog SEO by the Sea, Bill does an excellent job of Google patent analysis and helps put them in terms and applications we can all make sense of. I say this now as he’s a solid reason I’ve been able to stay ahead of many technologies.
Alright, now let’s get to it …
A picture. For those of you in my age group, you’ll remember watching The Jetsons and thinking about how cool that world would be. Well, all that coolness comes with a cost and here’s the rub, we don’t want to pay for it. We want to continue adding cooler technology to our lives but we don’t want the price tag that goes with it, but it has to be paid for. And so companies will develop it and give it to us for virtually nothing but a tiny little bit of our privacy. And then a bit more.
So, what this means is that we are on the road to an enormously convenient future with a lot of cool gadgets and nick-knacks and we’ll give up a ton of our privacy and personal information in exchange for that. At the lowest level, to illustrate the point, I’d simply need to ask you when the last time you read a license agreement for software or the permission for an app you were installing. OK, so let’s assume we’ll give up our information and privacy to corporations pretty freely for neat things that are shiny, what does that have to do with SEO in 2020? Now that we know what we’ll give up, let’s look at what’s in the works to help separate you from your information but give you a big payoff in convenience…
Google Likes Robots (in a “Nest”)
The biggest change coming has to do with the “always on” or, as I like to think, “always trackable” status of our lives and it’s not slowing down. Our desire for convenience and to own “Rosie the robot” gives companies like Google huge leverage and I’m not going to pretend I’m not easily seduced by it.
If we look to the acquisition of a myriad of robotics companies and nest, we can see the writing on the wall. Military applications aside, it is clear that they are looking for further integration into your home. It may not be directly – I have a hunch they’ll simply be providing a free or very low cost infrastructure to manufacturers of devices similar to what they did with Android, giving them a reach into areas of your life they otherwise couldn’t touch. Imagine a world where they know when you’re out of bread, what climate you prefer, whether your house is dirty or not, and how often you eat out. Now imagine marketing into that world.
To really get a grasp on this point one needs simply to look to their recently granted patent, “System and method for enhancing user search results by determining a television program currently being displayed in proximity to an electronic device.” What we’re seeing here (Cliff Notes) is Google using your device to listen in and pay attention to your television and use that to augment search results. Sorry guys, your guilty pleasure watching of reality TV is no longer secret, but can be used to adjust your search results. Now, carry that one step further – why not listen in to determine if there’s yelling in the house or if you’ve just been intimate and use that information? Now again, imagine marketing into that world.
And it gets more interesting.
You Are the Borg
All right, I warned you that I might make a few references to pop culture but being the person that I am, my references are pretty nerdy so you’ll have to bare with me.
Stepping past Google Glass, they’ve also now been granted a number of patents around contact lenses. Likely taking their lead from the fact that we want data access but don’t want to look like nerds or get booted out of pubs, they’re taking it to the next level and planting more directly on your body when only you can see it. Now, imagine marketing into that.
Well, that’s not all you’re going to be marketing into. Take that one step further and imagine that users are identifiable whether they want to be or not…
That’s the Orwellian rabbit-hole that that the recently granted Google patent, “Using peer devices to locate a mobile device” takes us down. To be clear, this patent does not cover gathering identity information, but it does cover the usage of various other connected devices to determine your location. Other devices like (to use the points above) your fridge, your thermostat, or just the other Android phones around you.
While this unto itself is only a minor aid to marketers (again re-establishing location when it was absent), one doesn’t have to stretch much to take it one step further and allow for additional user data to be established furthering their quest for perfection in advertising. They’re just helping us by taking the perky individual’s settings out of the equation.
And All This Is Awesome Because…
We have on our marketing hats right now. While some of the points made above and surely many patents I haven’t even touched on here (and likely – thousands I haven’t even read) may make one worry for their privacy, that’s not really the point, and like a frog that doesn’t leap from a pot of water slowly brought to a boil – these areas will be quietly and slowly adopted and what might seem like a show-stopper today will simply be the way things are tomorrow.
So what 2020 looks like as an Internet marketer is very different from today. Targeting capabilities will clearly be leaps-and-bounds ahead of where they are today. Imagine if you will that you’re a pub. A Google device detects the yelling discussed above, it’s 7 p.m. on a Monday night, and your device leaves your residence. Morality aside, that’s a pretty good time for the drink special to pop up on your phone (or dare I say…contacts). And don’t worry about the drive home, your Google Car knows right where you want to go and will get you back safe and sound.
As an Internet marketer, I set aside the part of me that cringes at the inevitable loss of privacy inherent in the future and look instead to the opportunities. Each device a user engages with will be monitored and their preferences stored. Our targeting capabilities will be unparalleled, surpassing what even a user themselves may know they want until it is shown to them. It is our job to continue to watch not just what the algorithms are doing but what their patents are showing us they are interested in pursuing. It is through this that we get a firmer understanding of what the future holds for us, the marketers, and the data and user patterns we will have access to. And believe me, the examples listed above are just the very small tip of the iceberg.