The Future of Web Content

Ever wonder what the future of the Web may look like?

I came across an interesting article today entitled, “The Future of Technical SEO is Open Data”.  One of the open statements mentions “how brands can use their data to secure organic visibility across a wide range of apps, platforms and devices.”  Further in the article the author makes a correct assumption in that the way in which we consume the Internet has radically shifted from desktop to mobile devices. For over a year now, according to Comscore, Mobile internet usage has overtaken Desktop in the US. In addition, mobile users spend 90% of their time using Apps instead of Browsers to access the internet. 

In addition, Google confirmed that worldwide they are now seeing more searches on Mobile Devices than Desktop. Google is in the middle of radically adapting their search journey, giving more and more prominence to surfacing knowledge graph results or content from Apps instead of Websites.  Makes sense right?  Google is trying to keep you on their web properties as opposed to going to some third party website.  Does this mean we can expect a decline in our Search traffic?  Well most likely yes, because Search has changed and is continually changing.  The biggest change that I expect is in terms of voice search.  Search has morphed into using more of a conversational query (as opposed to a keyword query) to deliver results.  With the majority of people accessing the Web from mobile devices this makes sense, but the idea that websites will become extinct just as the dinosaurs did may be taking it a little too far.

A World without Websites

So then is it possible that we will live in a world without websites?  I cannot see that happening.  For one, what will happen to all of that data?  Google has indexed more than a trillion pages of content.  That data is simply not going to morph into an App.  What’s more likely to happen is that, that data will need to be marked up for machine learning.  Machines (i.e. Google’s RankBrain for an example) will then determine how best to serve up that content.

A second reason why websites will/may always exist is because not every business will have or will be able to develop an App.  We still have radio ads, we still have TV ads, and don’t forget that Google makes all of it’s revenue from pay per click ads on their SERPs (Search Results Pages)… without SERPs how will Google make their money?  In-App pay-per-click?  Apps are cool I use them, but I only use a few, and I would guess that you only use a few as well (less than you might realize).  I disagree that Apps are the way of the future.  App SERPS in Google?  Sure but if a business does not have an app (which many do not) and a given business is an authority or industry leader on <insert topic, product or service name here> then how can Google (or any other search engine) possibly serve up the most relevant results?  I’ve been involved in Search for nearly two decades, I’ve seen a lot of changes in Google and in Search, machine learning will continue to be leveraged but that does’t mean that the AI knows best.  You can build a super computer or a Star Trek computer, but someone will need to monitor and guide it.  I’ll argue that since RankBrain (which has been rolling for a year or more… much longer than when Google announced it in October 2015) results for my “conversational queries have been quite poor in all honesty.  Quite often I’m not finding the information that I am looking for… at least not right away.

A world without websites just does not make sense to me.  Data has to be hosted somewhere.  The article mentioned above goes onto state that “User studies have repeatedly shown that on the whole, people prefer using mobile apps over mobile websites”… well no kidding have you seen how terrible some websites (responsive sites included) look?  For those of you that use Facebook what do you prefer the App or the Website?  Trick question, how many of you who use Facebook on your phone realize that you are using the Facebook App?  And that’s the thing some users treat apps and websites and synonymous entities.  So then maybe a world without websites is possible?  I just don’t see it.

Mobile App vs Mobile Website

The big difference between Apps and websites is that Google or Apple decide what Apps are allowed on their respective stores and control how the Apps interact with each other.  In this case the information highway is a one-way street.  Well not exactly but you get my point.  The Web was intended to be a vast universe where people could access the websites they needed to, to obtain the information that they are looking for.  While Google use complex algorithms and machine learning to serve up Web results, users are looking for reputable sources and accurate and timely information.

The future of websites?  Hmm that’s an interesting question.  I think that structured data becomes even more important as we “train” machines about our content and our data.  The aforementioned article does state that wen innovation is dying and that all websites look the same.  I’d have to agree with that.  We do need more creativity in how we present our content.  The closing statement of the article from may be the important piece of all:

“When it comes to online presence, brands need to start accepting that they will be progressively become an ‘entity’ in which users become aware of and purchase a brand’s products and services through a variety of applications, devices and platforms rather than a website directly.”

This is true, but my opinion is that websites will continue to be part of the equation and that business owners and brand builders will need to develop a more nimble approach to their content and marketing efforts.

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The Future of Web Content

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