Search Engine Optimization or SEO is regarded as an essential part of any serious digital marketing strategy.
Last year, it was estimated that businesses invested more than $65 billion on SEO services, and that number is projected to climb to over $70 billion by 2018.
SEO is a constantly changing and growing industry. The hardest thing in the world of search is predicting what will come next.
With this article, we will not necessarily make any predictions but we will highlight what the current SEO trends say about the direction of search, and how to prepare for it.
A.I will Make Search More Personal than Ever
When Google announced RankBrain last year, the search world lost their minds. Today, we still don’t know much about RankBrain, other than that it’s among Google’s top three search ranking factors.
RankBrain is a machine-learning artificial intelligence system that helps Google process some of its search results.
Launched in early 2015, it is primarily focused on helping refine queries that Google processes, but the company says that the system is also used to help rank web pages.
Over time, as the machines learn patterns and understand content, results will get more and more accurate. The other benefit to A.I is that it will kill black-hat SEO
Artificial Intelligence or A.I, the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, is a scary proposition for many people.
So it was no surprise that the SEO fraternity got in an uproar when Google announced ‘RankBrain’ last year.
Though the SEO world doesn't know much about RankBrain, Google says it is the third most significant ranking factor in their algorithm.
So whether or not the SEO world approves it or not, A.I will be the future of search.
Google wants to get rid of black-hat SEO and A.I will be the primary ammunition used to kill it.
A.I will also make search more personal than ever. Most people question the ability of machines to perform functions at the level of humans but over time, as the machines learn patterns and understand content, results will get more and more accurate.
User Experience will Play a Larger Role
The word SEO intimidates the average person as it is deemed as work for the ‘computer geeks’.
Even though SEO has many technical elements to it, today’s SEO professionals not only need to have a technical understanding of how to optimize websites and content for search engines, they also need to understand how people interact with the web.
Google is obsessed with the user and as search results become more and more customized, user experience (UX) is going to play a larger role in search.
The smartphone surge continues ushering in a new era of mobile media marketing and mobile web design. According to Statista, mobile internet penetration will grow to 61.2 percent worldwide in 2018.
Not surprisingly, mobile has quickly become a major source of internet browsing hence the introduction of AMP Project (Accelerated Mobile Pages), which primarily aims to facilitate higher performance and engagement on mobile devices.
In 2016 mobile overtook desktop as the primary device used to access websites. A recent report from Hitwise also claims that mobile search in the US is roughly 58 percent of overall search query volume.
We have moved into a mobile-first world which has changed the way we operate. And Google, the kings of search, is being proactive and capitalizing on the shift.
Traditionally, Google operated from a single index of documents when pulling search queries. Today, it’s in the process of creating another index for mobile, which puts the nail in the coffin for a desktop-first approach.
Responsive website design is perhaps Google’s first recommendation in delivering mobile-friendly content.
But users don’t just want something that looks nice on mobile devices, they also want speed, even more so than good design.
Google’s own research shows that 53 percent of people will leave a site that fails to load in three seconds or less.
This is one of the main reasons Google and others have been pushing the AMP project. AMP content is already featuring prominently in mobile search results, often above the organic listings.
The Bridging of the Search and Social Media Gap
Google receives 3.5 billion searches on a daily basis. Believe it or not, Facebook is not that far behind with 1.5 billion searches every day.
You might be thinking that these searches are just about people. Well actually, the majority of searches are for content shared by other Facebook users.
Renowned SEO expert Neil Patel believes that in five years, the debate on whether social media platforms help SEO or not will be put to rest.
Patel is confident that social and search will integrate to become the web. Social profiles will not only help indexing websites, but search engines will possibly index social content.
It is a plausible prediction as social media content is already appearing in search engine results.
Tweets from authoritative Twitter accounts (with a huge following) are now indexed by Google and appear in SERPs.
The search and social gap will be bridged, which will be a game changer for social media marketing.
In fact, with Facebook pushing ‘Instant Articles’ expect other social media channels to follow suit and show full content on their own platforms to retain the users.
Social Media is poised to play an important role in search results in Web 3.0. Social platforms might even become the primary source of content discovery.
So with the imminent decentralization of content outside of websites, marketers might need to adopt different social media marketing optimization techniques in the future.
Personal Digital Assistance and Voice SEO
The virtual personal assistant war will rage on for the foreseeable future – Google Now or Siri or Amazon Echo, pick your choice.
These virtual personal assistants answer your queries on pretty much everything you really need. Expect them to get even smarter as the technology advances.
So you might be thinking, what does Google Now or Siri have to do with search.
Google has been serving personalized search results since 2009 but expects that to increase in the next five years.
With the increase in the dependency of mobile phones, voice-activated personal assistants to answer search queries have become more relevant.
These assistants actually serve the most relevant result to you as it’s more personal. It will eliminate the hassle of typing in matching keywords.
In fact, five years from now users might not need to structure search queries or use keywords as personal assistants will become smart enough to have a natural human conversation with you.
Personalization will become the center stage with digital assistance and voice SEO.
Patel believes that even traditional link building might become obsolete. So, marketers will have to become more creative with their marketing campaigns to garner exposure to brands.
So with all the SEO trends, the world of search engine optimization might seem like its headed for extinction.
No it's not.
Just expect revolutionary changes.