What does Web 3.0 mean for search?

The signs of fundamental change are all around us.

Digital assistants reside within our living rooms, we consume Internet-based services everywhere, and we are creating data every second of the day.

A sense pervades of being constantly connected through devices that communicate with each other. The experience of using the Internet is therefore markedly different to what it was 10 years ago.

What we don’t quite have is a universally accepted label for this era of digital development.

The phrase “Web 3.0” was first coined back in 2006. Viewed by some industry insiders back then as an “unobtainable dream“, the idea of Web 3.0 has remained elusive.

However, as technology catches up and the tech giants figure out ways to make sense of the reams of unstructured data we create every second, the dream seems much more obtainable than ever before. In fact, many argue it is already a reality.

So what exactly is Web 3.0? What makes it so different from Web 2.0? And what do marketers need to do today to prepare for this revolution?

What is Web 3.0?

This is a more contentious question than it might at first seem. Many opinions exist on the topic, but the general consensus is that Web 3.0 ushers in an entirely new way of creating websites, of interacting with them, and of utilizing the data that these interactions generate.

Techopedia’s definition contains a clear depiction of how big this change is:

“Web 3.0 will be a complete reinvention of the web, something that Web 2.0 was not. Web 2.0 was simply an evolution from the original Web.”

Web 1.0 was essentially a repository of information that people could read passively, without being able to shape the information or add their own. The move to Web 2.0 was given concrete shape in everyday aspects of online life, such as submitting product reviews on Amazon or launching a personal blog. People were to become very active participants online, whether on social media or on reputable news sites.

Web_2.0

An overhaul in how the Web functions is necessary, if we look at the raw statistics. Global Internet traffic has passed one zettabyte (that’s one trillion gigabytes); over 4 billion people will have Internet access by 2020; over 60,000 searches are performed on Google every second.

All that data creates possibilities, albeit only if we are equipped to harness them. We imagine hyper-personalized, fluid, targeted online interactions between brands and consumers, but bringing this idea to fruition is a very complex logistical task.

By converting unstructured data into structured data (simple updates like Schema.org have helped with this), and by ensuring all databases communicate with each other in the same language, lots of new opportunities arise.

Robots talking

Put succinctly, Web 3.0 will allow us to make sense of all the data that digital devices create.

It can be seen as a Web that thinks for itself, rather than just following commands.

This is built on a decentralized, secure platform that allows much more privacy for consumers than they currently have.

It is easy to spot some threads within this narrative: the use of artificial intelligence, the potential for a blockchain-based solution for storing and sharing data, and the evolution of the semantic web to provide personalized experiences.

We can summarize our definition by identifying five key factors that set Web 3.0 apart from its earlier incarnation:

Artificial intelligence

AI will be used in every walk of life to carry out computational tasks humans are incapable of completing. It will also make decisions for us, whether in driverless cars or in our digital marketing strategies.

Virtual & augmented reality 

Brands are tapping into the possibilities these technologies bring, providing an entirely new way of connecting that goes far beyond what a static screen can provide.

The semantic web

By finally understanding the data each individual creates, technology companies can gain insight into context. This has been a significant push for Google for some time, particularly with the respective launches of Hummingbird and RankBrain. The aim is to go beyond the dictionary definition of each word and comprehend what consumers are using phrases to mean at that particular moment.

Internet of things 

A true defining feature of Web 3.0 is the proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) ‘smart’ devices. Examples such as Amazon Echo are well-known, but there are plans to add Internet connectivity to every aspect of our lives.

Seamless connectivity

Until now, data has been stored in various formats and communication between data sets can be challenging. Web 3.0 really comes into its own when data exchanges are seamless and ubiquitous.

This is achieved when Internet-connected devices are omnipresent, from the home to the workplace and everywhere in between; but those devices need to be able to communicate with each other. When that happens, the digital assistant in your car can ask the fridge if you’re out of milk and if so, to order some from Amazon.

How will Web 3.0 change online interactions?

The way we source information and find products is still far from frictionless. For example, consider the planning of an upcoming holiday. We could buy a package deal and that would remove a lot of the administrative tasks, but it would be far from a tailored product.

In reality, most of us will search for deals on flights, research hotels, read travel guides, and talk to people who have been to the destination before via social media.

Google holiday

That is a vast improvement on the holiday-booking process pre-Internet. However, Web 3.0 will take this much further.

Instead of conducting multiple searches in different places, one prompt would be sufficient to pull together all the relevant information. To take our holiday example, we could say to an Internet connected device, “I’m looking for a holiday in Italy later this year with the family, what are my options?” The digital assistant will then dip into its vast interconnected list of databases to retrieve relevant information and organize it, based on your query and provide the best options in one interface.

Everything from flights to meals to cultural attractions will be pulled together into a truly personalized list of recommendations.

How will Web 3.0 affect search marketing?

The example above provides a clear indication of how much things are changing. Optimizing title tags for a higher click-through rate won’t really cut it when an AI-powered digital assistant is bypassing these signals to identify the right content to answer a query.

Search marketers’ focus should shift towards understanding the different preferences of their user base and creating multimedia content that responds to this. As people become more comfortable with using voice-based digital assistants, we can expect search trends to move away from the likes of [italy holidays 2017] and towards more specific, long-tail queries.

Searcher behaviors are deeply entrenched and slow to change, but they do change. Recent research from Google showed the drop-off in “near me” queries as users come to expect that results will be local, without adding a geo-modifier.

Google near me

Added to August’s news that Microsoft’s speech recognition system has reached a new accuracy milestone, we get a sense that these long-heralded changes are finally coming to pass. Voice search is on the rise, mobile device usage shows no use of relenting, and search engines are using this data to create better interactions.

Search marketers need to keep up. The first step is to ensure that all content is clearly labeled for search engines. Microdata can be used to achieve this and Schema.org mark-up remains just as vital as it has been for the past few years.

The core objective when we create new content should be to facilitate its serving to users, no matter where they are or which device they are using. Keyword targeting still matters, but we need to maintain a more nuanced idea of what our consumers really mean.

Google’s Quick Answers initiative is a particularly telling development in this sense. On the face of it, it seems a rather innocuous and helpful change, but at a deeper level it tells us a lot more. We are moving away from screen-based interfaces that provide lots of choices; consumers want the right answer to their query.

Performance measurement will continue to change, of course. The idea of tracking keyword level ranking positions remains attractive, but its use as an accurate barometer of how a site is performing has waned significantly. SEO goals should be much more closely aligned to business objectives, which can only be a healthy development.

We are moving into an age of flux, where the comforting-but-illusory constants of old are replaced by shifting and slippery notions of ‘meaning’ and context’. Those that are ready to adapt soonest will profit most.

Web 3.0: What do search marketers need to know?

  • Web 3.0 will change how people search, how search engines process their queries, and how results are displayed. These changes have been in process for years now, but they are starting to have tangible impacts on how we find information online.
  • This is driven by improvements in how search engines understand the meaning of queries by harnessing huge amounts of unstructured data and transforming it into something structured and significant.
  • Web 3.0 will also bring with it a new way of creating digital assets. The old ideas of creating a static website will be replaced by hyper-personalized experiences that vary in their messaging and their media formats.
  • AI-powered digital assistants are starting to usher in new behaviors. What search marketers should focus on is creating the right digital assets for their consumers and ensuring that any search engine can locate and serve this content as seamlessly as possible.