The Future of SEO — Does it look Bright?

Future of SEO

Let me tell you a story: As an SEO professional, I’m looking for actionable tips and tricks on optimizing websites for search engines. I’ve read most of the blog posts on ahrefs, Backlinko, and SEMrush. I’ve watched hundreds of webinars and I’ve also listened to plenty of podcasts.

But:

One thing I’ve learned doing and teaching SEO is that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to ranking websites. It’s constantly changing and you should too. If you are not changing or testing new approaches — SEO might be very well “dead” for you.

Google rolls out new updates(hello Medic Update, BERT) — search engines get smarter, and consumer behaviour changes over time.

There’s no doubt that the future of SEO industry is a hot topic and every sane marketer would like to know what’s coming. Today, I want to share my list of SEO predictions that will help you stay ahead of the game, no matter which update rolls out next.

Brand Awareness First

Let me guess: As an SEO professional, you spend lots of time doing on-page and off-page optimization. From doing keyword research to communicating with freelance copywriters, most SEO marketers are pressed for time to raise brand awareness.

However, generating significant brand exposure and awareness goes hand in hand with optimizing for search engines and users alike. Once you have gained customer’s trust, you can stay one step ahead of your competitors. Depending on Google updates there is a chance to lose some positions. However, capitalizing on your business name is a proven way to get branded traffic to your site.

Look:

When you think about fast-food restaurants, which companies come to your mind? One survey says that McDonald’s is the most popular fast-food chain, and Google proves it:

This means that SEO marketers should pay attention to building brand awareness, too. Once you’ve built a brand, you can expect word-of-mouth advertising, peers’ recommendations, and therefore more search interest.

fast food restaurant, mcdonalds, seo
fast food restaurant, mcdonalds, seo

Users over Crawlers

To be frank, back in 2016, I didn’t care much about UX improvements. With an idea to generate more and more traffic, I wanted to “sharpen” every page so it will look great when search engines crawl it, without thinking too-too much about the end-user. Wrong.

Mostly, those days are far behind us. Luckily, I’ve improved a lot since then, and I can assure you that the strategy doesn’t work that well anymore. If you think about your end-user and their search journey — it’s nearly impossible to get any meaningful results. Why? You must not confuse yourself with being able to “build & rank” website vs. providing actual value to the user.

Moreover, search algorithms have evolved over the last years. Today, they are smarter and more efficient and take into account how searchers interact with the search results. Let’s take Google RankBrain algorithm, for example, which uses Machine Learning algorithms & UX signals to determine the most relevant result for a search engine query.

In short, if you want to make Google happier, put your users first. Here’s how to take care of them:

  • Know your audience well: Do research to understand your website visitors, their intents, behaviour, and needs. For example, once you know the way they search online, you can update your SEO strategy accordingly.
  • Focus on UX: As an SEO marketer, you must know about the bounce rate. Users are only getting pickier, and they are more likely to leave your website without browsing it unless it’s user-friendly & fast.
UX SEO
UX SEO
  • Post long-form useful content: No matter what your business niche is, whether you’re a B2C or B2B company, you always sell to people. And believe it or not, those people want to get an extensive solution to their problem. They want to find proof that your company and product can benefit them, so long-form useful content definitely helps.*

*Conditions apply — does not help most of the ecomm websites/product pages. Although, will be helpful for extensive product reviews, guides, testimonials etc.

Today, it’s not enough to get your product online to acquire & retain customers. With the amount of branded information that bombards users from all sides, people become more demanding: they don’t wish to wait much to get what they are looking for. For companies, this means that engaging and useful content gives a competitive advantage over competitors. Any proof needed? Try to google ‘link building’ and analyze the results: It’s very likely that articles from MOZ, Backlinko, and Ahrefs rank in the top 10.

In short, it does not necessarily mean you’re competing with someone who “puts their products first”; you can compete in an “informational” space as well. Every link on the Internet is some sort of a product your users consume. Also, remember that your visitors don’t care about your brand until it provides value to them, and search engines want to ensure they deliver the best results, too.

The ‘On-the-Go’ Mentality

With the rapid growth of technologies, people get an opportunity to handle many things on the go: We call friends, send messages, organize video conferences, pay bills, shop online, find favourite recipes etc. With every tiny bit of improvement in technology, people tend to become more & more impatient on the Internet. Back in 2001, you would wait 5 minutes to load a page, now you want your 1080p video with that quesadilla recipe to download in milliseconds.

So, what does it all mean? People changed their online behaviours in the last 2 decades quite a bit. More and more users:

  • Conduct search queries on the phone: Today, 63.4% of phone users access the internet from their smartphone, and 72.6% of internet users will access the web solely via their smartphones by 2025. It’s no surprise that Google has announced mobile-first indexing to ensure that users get proper results when using phones.
  • Value their time: With a variety of options on the market, modern users have no patience when it comes to page loading time. The longer it takes to load the page, the faster your users will abandon it — the more $$$ you’ll lose. (to be entirely correct, you’ll lose the opportunity to earn more)

For SEO professionals, this means that strategies should be adapted to reflect that consumer behaviour. In other words, it’s important to remember that your website should be optimized for mobile devices. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • redesign for mobile pages
  • use readable fonts and clickable elements on the page
  • improve page load time
  • optimize for Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
  • Utilize PWA technology to create “like an app experience”

AI Revolution

Over the last few years, artificial intelligence (AI) has evolved significantly: From content/ad personalization to the voice assistants, AI makes huge leaps to become an integral part of our day-to-day life. When it comes to SEO, artificial intelligence (machine learning algorithms that can teach themselves the more data they consume) affects the way search engines rank pages.

In plain English, search engines become smarter with the help of AI, so it’s getting very hard to trick Google. (Not impossible, but I would not recommend it if you’re serious in the long-run). With the core Google algorithm updates like Panda (2011), Penguin (2012), RankBrain (2015) it’s imperative to provide the best content to avoid Google penalties & stay in the game. Moreover, it’s easier to build a solid backlink portfolio as authoritative websites might want to feature your content on their site.

Google has been using machine learning to determine the quality of your site since 2011. Currently, RankBrain analyzes how users interact with search results. Specifically, its job is to look at organic CTR, dwell time, bounce rate, and pogo-sticking. Based on that data algorithm tries to deliver the most relevant results to the user.

Want to know what SEO experts think about the role of AI? Take a look at the quote by Jordan Kasteler, an agency-level SEO consultant:

Here’s a Tweet from Rand Fishkin:

How to prepare for “AI-geddon”?

My PRO Tips

  • Work even harder (make that content, video even better)
  • Improve UX, experiment (look at amazon site 10 years ago & now)
  • Test new strategies
  • Don’t fool your users and Google — focus on providing value

The Growth of Voice Search

Do you remember our ‘on-the-go’ mentality? Since people do so many tasks with the help of their smartphones, it’s no wonder that 50% of all searches will be conducted via voice by 2020.

It’s twice faster to conduct a voice search than type your query as it doesn’t require much effort or skills — just say OK Google to your smart-device or tap voice search button (a microphone icon) and speak aloud your query:

Using voice search is faster than typing, so more and more people give it a try to save time and get answers to their queries in a comfortable way. In fact, 42% of smart speaker owners say that their devices are essential to their daily lives.

OK, I can tell you a lot about this one, but let’s save time: Read my article on voice search optimization on LinkedIn.

To sum it all up

With a focus on users and their search interests, SEO is evolving together with the major search engines. As a SEO professional, I keep up with the trends and try to learn something new every day. That does not apply only to SEO, I believe having such a philosophy could help you succeed in any field. Internet is not static, it’s “moving” constantly so should you.

If you want to stay one step ahead of your competitors and get more website traffic, customers, and sales — adapt your strategies quickly. Don’t wait to jump on the bandwagon — experiment with your site and see what works best.

Have I left something off the list? Share your thoughts in the comments.

SEO by day, Professor by Night 💻🎓 Digital Nomad. Frequent traveller > GoPro Enthusiast. Affiliate business owner 👨🏻‍💻I love Digital Marketing and SEO.