Search engine optimization or SEO, a term that once amounted to little more than stuffing a page full of keywords has become an advanced science in recent years. Nobody that actually knows (Google) will really tell you how to get your content ranked fast. However if you actually follow their webmaster guidelines you’ll be way ahead of the pack.
But what is SEO?
Search engine optimization is a blanket term for numerous strategies used to make a web page appear in the top of the search engine results page (SERP) in search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo. Basically, it involves selecting your target topics, defining high traffic keywords, tailoring your page or blog post to suit it, and then hustling to get backlinks and social media exposure. In this day and age the competition makes it really difficult to target high volume keywords, which makes the long tail strategy a goldmine for starters.
There’s no denying that Google has won the search engine wars. Their domination of the search engine market has led most SEO to be geared towards pleasing Google’s algorithms. But this doesn’t mean that the future is certain.
For the longest time starting a search engine was like a suicide mission because of Google’s iron fist. People seem to be getting more skeptical of Google’s data practices and profiteering off our data. There’s actually a new search engine on the block called Ecosia, which promises to plant trees with 80% of their profits. They’re gaining traction with 7 million users at the time of writing. If you care about the environment you should take a look at them! Check out my full review of Ecosia’s search engine, including a comparison of how well it works and a look at what tree projects you’d be supporting by using Ecosia.
As I just mentioned, SEO used to involve little more than finding the right keywords and stuffing pages with them, however, Google’s algorithms get more and more advanced (and life-like) every single year. It looks like the future of SEO will have a lot less to do with keywords and a lot more to do with readability and a user friendly experience.
For more on that, we asked a group of industry experts…
What’s the future of SEO?
Here’s what they had to say…
Anthony De Guzman, SEO Specialist at Shopify
Greg Kristan, Owner of TM Blast
Think of it like this. You have some core pages on your site that can’t rank on page one in Google or Bing. To improve these pages, you change the title tag, build some links, write new content, add new pictures, and more, but nothing changes regarding the rank position. With a log file, you can see exactly what Google and Bing look at when they come to your site. You can discover what sections of your site are wasting their crawl budget and not seeing these changes. You can experiment with changes to your sitemap and fetch pattern to see if you can direct Google and Bing to crawl your most essential pages better.”
Think of it like this. You have some core pages on your site that can’t rank on page one in Google or Bing. To improve these pages, you change the title tag, build some links, write new content, add new pictures, and more, but nothing changes regarding the rank position.
With a log file, you can see exactly what Google and Bing look at when they come to your site. You can discover what sections of your site are wasting their crawl budget and not seeing these changes. You can experiment with changes to your sitemap and fetch pattern to see if you can direct Google and Bing to crawl your most essential pages better.”
Rachel Stephens, SEO & Customer Behavior Analyst at Totally Promotional
However, paid will operate more like organic and will not go to the highest bid, but the highest bidder with a great user experience that matches the searcher’s intent. Overall, if you want search engine traffic in the next 10-15 years, you will need a great site and focus on user experience.”
Anthony Neal Macri, Founder of ANM Digital Consulting
Google has been tinkering with their new RankBrain algorithm for a little over a year now.
At first glance, AI might seem like the end of the SEO industry. Search engine optimization professionals think that none of the “tricks” they used to get rankings will work. In my opinion, however, a more intelligent and human search engine can only benefit SEO professionals.
As digital marketers and SEO professionals we must change they way we think. Instead of thinking from the perspective of a search engine and how to create content to please an algorithm, we must think as a site or business owner and ultimately as the person entering the query on the search engine.
This is how the AI will determine ranking, and that is what a smart digital marketer will ask themselves when developing a campaign instead of thinking about what kind of links they should build or what type of keyword density they should be aiming for.”
Tyler Thursby , Senior SEO Analyst at Zion and Zion
In what truly sounds like science fiction, Elon Musk recently announced Neuralink – a company with the ambitious goal of merging human brains with artificial intelligence. Musk believes a biological link with AI is a crucial step toward mitigating the looming threat of human irrelevance. As evident through innovations like self-driving cars, machines are poised to disrupt the fabric of our society as we know it. AI will change far more than search.”
Greg Secrist, Co-Founder & CEO of BKA Content
Even though Google will become much smarter with AI and RankBrain, it will still need a database of quality information to pull from, meaning the content on your site will never cease to be important. Search results will continue to become much more direct and succinct. Rather than needing to fish through websites for the answer, you’ll be given it directly, much like the way the Google Quick Answer Box works now. This means that the way content is written may change to be more precise, but content will never go away.”
Antonio Johnson, Head of SEO at Power Digital Marketing
As IoT comes to proliferate and voice search becomes more of a standard, we will see less of a dependency on keyword-focused strategies and have a paradigm shift towards a user-first approach in marketing. With careful consideration of the data and how that data impacts and influences user behavior (or vice-versa), being able to provide the most useful resources as a brand and being able to give proper signals to the search engine of those benefits will give the SEO-of-the-future their largest advantage.
With the strategic understanding and real-world application of cross channel initiatives in social, paid advertising, and conversion rate optimization, the SEO-of-the-future will have the unique adeptness to bridge the gap between once siloed channels. Creating content and resources that solve real problems are the key to finding success in Organic Search today and in the future!”
Kent Lewis, President & Founder of Anvil
SEO will continue to evolve to keep up with Google’s focus on user experience and improving context. That means successful SEO efforts will focus on optimization of deep content, as well as multimedia via schema markup/rich snippets. We’ve already seen the migration to deeper content (higher word counts) in Q1 of this year and expect the trend to continue.
SEO Will Go Native
With ad blockers becoming increasingly prevalent, SEO professionals will focus more on development of original content than ever before. While native advertising will increase in 2017 and beyond, many brands are focusing more on authoring in-depth blog posts, articles and ebooks as their own publishers.
SEO Will Integrate With PR
PR has ALWAYS been a key component of successful SEO efforts, per my articles from years ago. The evolution of earned and owned media have only made the trend more prevalent. We’ve been working with PR teams and professionals to create compelling stories, articles, events and press releases to positively impact SEO and reputation management for 16 years.”
Scott Colenutt , Head of Digital at SiteVisibility
Between 1990 (first search engine) and 2007 (launch of the iPhone) we had fewer connected devices and sources of information. This meant that we all relied heavily on organic search (notably, Google).
SEO was a huge part of this information economy. From a marketing perspective, it made complete sense to try and arbitrage this new medium.
Since 2007 our behaviours and needs have rapidly developed. In less than a decade we’ve gone from smartphones to smart homes.
We’re now trying to establish the best way of using these mediums and devices for function.
I don’t think SEO will exist in 10 years. I think search engine indexes designed to serve billions of searchers will be outpaced by our desire for personalised function.
The Internet of Personalised Things.”
Bradley Shaw, Owner, Digital Marketing & Online Consulting Expert at SEO Expert Brad Inc.
SEO will center on the creation of great content that can come in a variety of forms: textual, images, videos, interactive applications, and more. This is what traditional advertising experts are excel at; they just have to adjust it for the user behavior on the web.
Link building will evolve into relationship building. Relationships and networking will be a core pillar of SEO success.
SEO professionals that do not develop and understand the fundamentals of traditional marketing will find it tough to succeed.”
Bryce Liggins , Senior Marketing Strategist at Brolik
Everything will be found and discovered online, and “online” will occupy even more shapes and sizes than it does today. Without SEOs filling business content (from product inventory to blog articles) with metadata, and planning and adapting content for the connected, intelligent world, the businesses themselves will sink into oblivion.”
Pat Ahern, Director of Traffic Generation at Junto
As this happens SEOs will transition to the lawyers of the online world. Today, the primary purpose of an SEO is to integrate search strategy into every other element of a business’ online presence (web development, content creation, social media, PR, etc) in a way that aligns with the rules of search engines to maximize search rankings, and SEOs will continue to move more and more in this direction.”
Ben Lloyd, COO at Property Moose
Rhys Wynne, Director of Winwar Media
Hannah Corbett, Inbound Marketing Manager for EdgeThreeSixty
Chetan Saxena , Head Of Digital Marketing at DigitalSuccess
Current fad is about Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), Voice Search and Mobile Search and in near future mobile is likely to steal the thunder in a big way so webmasters with poor UI on smaller screen would lose out in the race. Lighter pages with crisp CTA would continue to be the vital elements for SEO success. While all these are the expected SEO trends, post the roll out of RankBrain, Google has a lot of thrust on machine learning. Google has incorporated deep learning into its search engine and with its head of AI taking over search, the company seems to believe this is the way forward. Artificial Intelligence will give more importance to search queries than individual keywords. Search algorithms will be based more on aggregation of concepts and entity recognition rather than traditional tactics.”
Dan Mallette, Enterprise Account Manager & SEO Specialist at InVue Digital & Hearst DMS
Seth Gilgus, Digital Marketing Specialist at Online Optimism
While advertising and public relations are pillars of a company’s business model, SEO offers an incredible advantage since it uniquely and organically targets individuals who are interested in a company’s specific service or product. Business owners will start relying more heavily on quality SEO as opposed to using just traditional PR and advertising.”
Carlos Crespo, Managing Partner at Motoza
As the world gets more connected, the concept will remain the same. It’s about who, and how many, people are talking about your brand. Just how that information spreads, will be different.”
Ricardo Nuñez, Search Marketing Specialist, President of Lusosystems, Inc.
Steve Pritchard, Managing Director of It Works Agency
Aaron Watts, Digital Marketing & PR Executive at DuoCall
We’re likely to get to a situation where our search engines are looking deeper and deeper into our websites in order to determine if it’s worthy of being presented to people in the SERP’s. Authority through trusted links will become even more important and this will see more and more people creating shareable, engaging content.”
Hussein Ebied, Senior Director of Search at PACIFIC
As a result, marketers who look beyond keyword rankings but rather address people’s intents, needs and questions in their content will have better chances of organic success. Secondly, keyword research will never be the same with Google’s tightening grasp over its own data, SEOs are going to find it more difficult to analyze keyword trends and search volumes so identifying and implementing research solutions that will fill these gaps will be of top importance.”
Chris Hornak, Owner of Blog Hands
Justin Handley, Founder & President of Web Mission Control
Melysha Acharya , Founder of Really Affordable SEO
Content writers will evolve into on-page SEO Experts. There isn’t a degree for SEO Specifically (and there may very well never be). But content and the optimization of that content will always be important for search. I see the two merging into one, with content writers becoming more valuable, the more they learn how to optimize their articles.”