This week, Google celebrated its 20th anniversary and used the occasion to discuss its plans for how search will change.

Google’s focus is still on the user and addressing their search intent with the best and most relevant content possible. However, they claim that there are three significant shifts in how they now think about search, which may prompt a change in how you approach your digital marketing.

Shift 1: From Answers to Journeys

A shift from ‘answers’ to ‘journeys‘ means that Google doesn’t believe that all of a user’s searches are one-time events. Instead, they will consider a user’s previous searches – and other online activity – and then assume connections. New search features will allow users to continue previous searches, to keep track of content to visit it again later and guide users towards their next step.

The addition of activity cards, collections, and dynamic organization introduces a new level of search engine optimization and a reconsideration of how a website should be structured.

Shift 2: Queryless Search.

Google will show you content and information that, it believes, will be relevant to your interests – whether you searched for it or not. This shift will be accomplished primarily through its new ‘feed’ feature. Google also announced the addition of new content types to their ‘discover’ tool, such as videos, visual content, and evergreen content. From Google 

“For example, when you’re planning your next trip, Discover might show an article with the best places to eat or sights to see. Suddenly, a travel article published three months ago is timely for you. This can also be useful as you’re taking up a new hobby or going deeper on a long-time interest.”

Shift 3: A More Visual Way of Finding Information

Google’s plan for a more visual search appears to be very similar to the current Twitter Moments feature, where a search results in a collection of facts and pieces that create a short story.

However, the two other features mentioned were the ability to visually preview content within search, and to continue your search journey after seeing your initial image result. This last one will have a significant impact on how your website will be structured, moving forward:

  • the authority of a web page will now be a more important factor in ranking order
  • they will prioritize fresher content, as a user is more likely to visit a site that has recently been updated
  • they now prioritize sites where the image is central to the page, and higher up on that page
  • they will show more context around images, including captions that display the title of the webpage where each image can be found

If you’re a visual brand or product, there’s a good chance that you read those bullets and realize you have a lot of website enhancement work ahead of you. If you’re an e-commerce brand, you’ll also want to know that they’re going to incorporate Google Lens into their image search, which will allow people to shop right from Google without ever leaving the image.

Search is in for a lot of change, which will impact much more than SEO, as Google’s ultimate plan is to make its search engine results page a one-stop shop for consumers. The silver lining is that most will be slow to adapt, so if you begin planning now (with the help of the right agency, of course) you may be able to gain some ground that will put you in an excellent position for the next 20 years of Google’s reign.