For years the traffic metaphor was a bad but widely used one to describe the visitors viewing your site. A few days ago the new Tesla Model S has been unveiled. Most people focused on the environmental impact of this visionary electric car but some noted that the Google founders are big investors in Tesla Motors.
One of the first mass produced electric cars might become the first Google car as well. The metaphor of traffic will become reality. People will drive around like they browse and Google will offer local search results and ads on the go.
“The vehicle, which can accelerate from 0-60 mph in under 6 seconds and hit a top speed of 130 miles per hour, will feature a 17-inch touch-screen with 3G connectivity, allowing drivers to check Google Maps or other data.”
This is not science fiction, it’s logical and feasible. What does that mean for search and SEO:
Cars as browsers
People are talking about the mobile revolution all the time but even with the ubiquity of smartphones with easy Internet access people do not use them all the time for information retrieval. Phones are still a distraction and are mostly used for making calls and taking photographs. Car navigation systems in contrast are working in the background and lead you to your goal. In a way they decide when to talk to you and how to guide you to your desired destination. In future your Google car, be it the Tesla Sedan or any other Google enabled car will just ask “where do you want to go” and you will say “Chinese food”. Then the car will take you there, to the next or highest rated Chines restaurant.
Searchers drop by instantly
Like today with virtual visitors people who have found you online in their Google car might drop by a minute later. This could go even so far that Google might rank you according to business hours.
Streets as links
You’re just a virtual company only offering stuff via your warehouses? Well, in 2010 upwards you might get ignored by car browsing customers. No real life presence will mean no real traffic. The more streets lead to shop the better the ranking? Why not, it reflects real life.
User generated pics
Imagine Google cars taking images and videos automatically with their built in webcams. Already Google Maps is enhanced by user generated images. With Google cars owned by lots of people you won’t be able to run your business in a dilapidated building.
Myriads of reviews
Like in Sci-Fi movies people might actually talk with their Google cars. They will say things like “the food here sucked big time” and this might become a review visible for others automatically.
With Google cars personalized local data will become one of the key decision making factors. I’m not talking solely about reviews. Information like “5 friends of yours visited this restaurant this week” might be enough for you to choose this one over the one on the other side of the street.
The StumbleUpon discovery functionality will most probably become quite popular with real time Google car browsers. Especially when traveling you don’t know in most cases where to go. You will rely on your Google car mediated information, the UGC pics, the reviews, the friends who were already there but in many cases you will leave it to your car to suggest the next location. You will want it to surprise you according to your interests of course.
So as you see Web 3.0 will actually be not about the semantic Web or whatever it is presumed to be now, it will be users browsing in real life using city streets and roads to browse the world in Google cars. When search traffic becomes real traffic SEO will become a holistic discipline of optimizing your business making it reachable for real people in real life as well as virtual searchers.
As the Tesla Model S is to roll out at the end of 2010 a google car with all its ramifications might become wide spread by 2011 or 12.
So in just 3 years the SEO industry might be already completely different from now.