Monday, 19 September 2016 03:04

Looking Into The Crystal Ball: What's Coming In Google's Next Big Update?


When Google GOOGL -0.52% tells you to jump, you ask how high. For the better part of 20 years, the search engine giant has been making changes to its core algorithm that have dictated the path of online marketing. Search engine optimizers and content marketers alike have made dramatic changes to their strategies in order to comply with Google’s latest updates and avoid getting penalized, and are constantly trying to anticipate Google’s next major shakeup.

But in 2016, we haven’t seen much in the way of new Google updates—there was a second mobile-friendly update and a handful of points of volatility, but nothing on the order of the major disruptors like Panda and Penguin that came before.

So when is Google’s next big update coming, and what can we expect from it?

Why Google Has Slowed Down

First, I want to examine why Google has slowed down in terms of releases. This provides insight into Google’s motivation, and might help us predict where it’s going from here.

    Stability. When Google first started rolling out updates, it was plagued with a number of problems, ranging from bugs and poor search results to spammers trying to exploit the system. Most of its updates, even through the early 2010s, were designed to eliminate these imperfections. Now, Google has reached a status quo—it’s an amazing, hard-to-exploit search system these days, and while any system can always use refinements, it doesn’t require the kinds of major overhauls it once needed.

    Micro-updates. Google has also opted for smaller, more bite-sized versions of its updates. The original heavy hitters, Panda and Penguin, were completely disrupted search rankings. Today, we’re more used to seeing small points of volatility as Google rolls out smaller updates over a longer period of time. This may have been done deliberately to minimize SERP disruption.

    RankBrain and machine learning. Another, newer motivation for fewer updates comes from a major new update from last year—the machine learning algorithm RankBrain, which is designed to learn from user queries and do a better job of interpreting user needs. RankBrain is capable of updating itself, and I’d be willing to bet Google is interested in rolling out more, similarly intelligent systems in the future. Such a self-updating mass of algorithms would invariably be less volatile, with smaller, less predictable changes in search rankings over time.

    Fewer disruptions.

    There are also fewer significant, game-changing technology updates forcing Google to keep up. The rise of mobile Internet access forced Google to roll out Mobilegeddon, but beyond that, our online experiences haven’t fundamentally changed recently. With no outside influences, Google is more comfortable with self-maintaining.

    • App preferences. Google may be pushing the popularity of apps over traditional websites with some of its recent updates. For example, app deep linking is allowing in-app content to be accessed from mobile devices, and app streaming is allowing the access of apps from devices where those apps aren’t even installed.
    • Direct information provision. Google also wants to make users happier by cutting out an entire step of the process, giving them direct information rather than making them click through to different sites to find what they’re looking for. The Knowledge Graph is a great example of this.
    • Content quality. There’s never a time when Google isn’t pushing for better overall content on the web. Many of its updates have had to do with increasing its standards for measuring the quality of content, and I imagine that trend will continue, even if it does so in smaller, less noticeable forms.
    • Integrated interactive experiences. Google is also rolling out more interactive experiences for users in the body of SERPs, including calculators, shopping options, and even travel options. I expect this functionality to expand and diversify in the near future.

    Wild Cards

    There are also a few “wild cards” in the mix, which could have a major impact on how we use technology, and thus how Google aims to serve our needs.

    • AR and VR. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are still technologies in their infancy, but early trends indicate these could be major institutions in the near future that influence how we search for things (not to mention how we interact with the world around us).
    • The Internet of Things. A network of interconnected devices in every home would have a dramatic impact on how we search, and how we’d need search results to be delivered to us. With Google already working on in-home search options, this could significantly affect the future of the search engine.
    • Search competition. There’s always the chance that Google ceases to be the dominant search engine entirely. It seems preposterous at this point, but it’s always technologies you don’t see coming that end up rising to the top.

    My Bottom-Line Prediction

    With all this information in mind, I can venture to guess that we won’t see a dramatic overhaul of Google search rankings in any significant context for quite some time. The next big paradigm shift I envision will be a gradual one, as Google’s preferences for machine learning and direct in-SERP experiences converge to transform the search experience into a more direct means of accessing content. Combined with its preferential treatment toward apps, organic click-through rates could suffer a major blow in the coming years, but we won’t see it roll out in the span of a single update. Instead, we’ll see it unfold in bits and pieces, to the point where it’s hardly even noticeable.

    Source :


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