The changeable and erratic nature of SEO makes for a multidimensional, unstable, and complex practice. It is a market in which the rewards are greatest for those brands which are able to keep pace with evolving paradigms and adapt and employ the latest techniques and technology.
We live in a world that is constantly predicting future paradigms. With businesses investing more than $50 billion on SEO services annually, it is important to keep pace with changes in the SEO economy to ensure this money is spent on techniques that are going to be effective in optimizing sites for search engines.
So, without further ado and unfortunately without the DeLorean time travel machine that Marty McFly and Doc Brown famously used, let’s take a glimpse into what the future of SEO could hold. You might be envisioning grand changes, but the predictions aren’t so shocking.
Where we’re at now
From keyword stuffing to readability, SEO has experienced different stages prior to the form it takes today.
For decades, search engines based their rankings on a well-defined and complex set of rules that ex-Google SEO spokesperson Matt Cutts helpfully made transparent. Companies who exploited these rules – for example keyword density and authoritative back-linking – were the ones who reaped the biggest rewards.
Today, search engines are obsessed with search intent as opposed to keyword matching. This means SEO which prioritizes well-written content that is highly relevant to the user is more likely to be effective than any amount of high-traffic keyword stuffing.
The future of SEO is AI
Debates are aplenty in the media about the next technological transformation likely being artificial intelligence. Indeed, AI is predicted to cause the next biggest stir to the ingredients pot for effective SEO in the near future.
In fact, through Clearscope and Google’s RankBrain, it has already graced the SEO world with its presence.
Clearscope can give you advice on how to compete with the SEO efforts of competitors by breaking down the first 30 search results that are produced for any keyword. Meanwhile, the relatively new RankBrain helps Google provide users with more relevant search results, exhibiting the changing focus to the user.
In future decades, AI will only further develop and reward those companies which emphasize personalized and quality content.
In other words, the overall aim of SEO (readability) will not change; but the means to achieve this aim will (AI and “Smart Content” – more on this later).
The benefits of AI to SEO
SEO is a data-dense world: keyword density, the domain authority of external links and the index search engine bots attach to sites are all quantified. It’s all about the numbers and this lends itself perfectly to the benefits of AI.
Though AI is entirely dependent on the accuracy of the data it is fed, keeping track of tools and datasets across platforms will be easier and more accurate with the aid of AI. Eventually, AI will evolve to produce its own instructions via a process called machine learning.
Secondly, AI will be able to help you meet the demands of search engine algorithms. With today’s focus being on readability and relevance to audience, AI, through analysis of website traffic and social media behavior, will be able to give companies a clearer idea of the audience they need to be targeting to maximize results. In turn, AI will identify what content specific audiences appreciate, helping efforts to produce content that satisfies search engine criteria and customers.
Technology such as “Smart Content” will be able to modify landing pages based on the information AI has collected about the user, increasing engagement with potential customers.
Finally, it is predicted that AI will be able to write a sound high school essay by 2026 and an award-winning novel before 2050. If so, AI will more than help companies meet the quality-driven demands of search engines.
How fast do companies need to adapt?
The future depicted in the foregoing might not be so distant. It could well materialize within the next 20 years.
But you can be doing something about this now. The most successful companies have a thick temporal bandwidth and look to the future. It is going to be important to keep up with any changes to SEO in the future in order to maintain optimization of your sites for search engines and avoid being left behind employing ancient SEO practice.
Sarah is the head of guest posts outreach and an SEO expert. Her interests are search engine optimisation, social media and brand management.