The changing face of how we search (and what it means for the future of SEO)

Reading last weeks Sunday Times, I came across a fascinating article about the developments in in-car technology; developments that I believe will represent new and exciting challenges for search marketers in the future.

The new Audi A8, for example will have a navigation system with Google Earth and Google search capability built into its ‘digital cockpit’ for drivers.

The Prius V hybrid that is due to launch later this year, will include Toyota’s Entune System. This will allow drivers and passengers to search the web and buy cinema tickets or reserve tables at restaurants, for example; all controlled by voice or text.

This ability to search from within a car’s cockpit represents one way in which the physical act of searching is changing. Consider the methods by which you can search in 2011; on your mobile phone, on a tablet computer such as the iPad, via your television and now from within the comfort of your car. Whilst most of these still rely on the traditional browser-based search experience, a driver’s method of searching will need to be quite different. In this case, voice activated search will become more prominent; search results might also be relayed back to the driver by the same means.

What is really interesting (and exciting) is how the discipline of search engine optimisation (SEO) will need to need to adapt and evolve to such advances in technology. In much the same way as the growth in smart phone technology has seen the need for marketers to create mobile enabled websites and applications; will we see something similar with in-car technology? Will search marketers need to create and optimise content for in-car search systems? At the very least, it will heighten the importance of claiming and maintaining local search listings (Google Places, for example) as car parks, restaurants, hotels and cinema listings will be high on the list of priorities for drivers.

For me, one thing is abundantly clear; if SEO’s are creating and optimising content in a wider range of formats, and for a wider range of platforms and devices, this is far removed from the notion of optimising for search engines in the traditional sense (browser based). Indeed, the term SEO might become redundant. In my view, it is already dated; it fails to represent the blurring lines with other disciplines such as social media, and most problematically it has a major reputation issue.

And it is this reputation issue that makes SEO such an easy target for doubters, the ignorant and the odd attention seeker with regular claims that SEO is dead (or dying). The advances in car technology, in my view, represent how they could not be further from the truth.

Granted, SEO, as a term to adequately describe what SEO actually entails (and what it will entail in the future), may be dying. But as long as people ARE searching, there will always be a need for search marketers to create content, optimise that content, and ensure it is visible on the platforms and devices where consumers expect to be able to find it.

And in that much, SEO is very much alive…it just needs a re-brand to reflect the very different world we live in now compared to when the term was coined in the mid 1990’s!

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