The evolution of SEO: what’s next?

SEO: noun; short for Search Engine Optimisation. Defined by MOZ as the “practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.”
As a website owner, it is imperative you are ensuring you have meaningful impact to both the quality and quantity of the traffic you are attracting. It is essentially vital that your online success is measurable in terms of the appearance of your site on search engine result pages (SERPs). Understandably, the first thing that may come to mind include: actions to ensure single keywords, a page focused outlook and remaining focused on the site’s ranking are providing results. Not so true anymore, since audiences and companies are changing. Their needs are also adapting.

Though the Internet has not had the same form as we experience today, it’s probably best to historically consider SEO with the birth of search engines. The leader of the pack – Google – continuously saw the opportunities to connect users to valuable content, massively working on its search algorithm (around 500-600 times each year!).

“After only a quarter century, SEO has evolved from the simplicity of a single-celled organism into a living, breathing, and adaptive structure used to create valuable and relevant relationships. Today, SEO connects a generation of knowledge-hungry individuals to targeted information through a network of personalized, accessible, and engaging content media.” Thomas Stern

Today, we find ourselves at major crossroads – issues involving personalisation, privacy, security, content, engagement – and we are also dealing with a curveball: Google’s Mobile-First Index [click here for our article addressing the Mobile-First Index].

With machine-learning artificial intelligence (RankBrain) being launched by Google in its algorithm early in 2015, it became evident that queries in the Google process were becoming more sophisticated. Penguin 4.0 followed in 2 phases in 2016, whereby websites with spammy links attempting to manipulate rankings were being penalised. This meant that digital marketers had to ensure they focused on building brands, not links. Content marketing was therefore highly integrated with SEO strategies. Content creation was becoming more focused on providing real value to its audience and focused on the actual audience it will attract. Audience engagement is now becoming unparalleled

This leads to another major correlation: the loss of visibility in Google for websites that lack mobile optimisation or responsiveness. More searches are now being conducted on mobile and tablet devices than over desktop computers and this shift toward mobile will not slow down. And Google is rolling out the Mobile-First Index which aims to stop bad user experience on mobile devices.

Though there is nothing certain about the future of SEO, it is extremely likely that we can expect focused experience built around User Intent (also known as: query intent) [navigational / informational / transactional] and Superior, Unique Content [content that is not repeated anywhere else].

The obsession with the user is essential and understandable. The payback will be for all parties involved. Adapting to and adopting UX proficiency will have a considerable effects on organic search performance. After all, UX is all about providing the best possible experience to your audience. This is an example of collaborative efforts required between SEO and UX teams. Of course, one must not ignore the importance of social networks that are playing a significant role in all the digital marketing areas and cannot be left out of the strategy.

The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project, launched early in 2016, is an attempt by to combat Facebook’s dominant content by improving the mobile web browsing experience. Increased page loading speeds affects SEO and correlates to conversion rates. Though still at a young stage, the AMP project is open source, AMP articles are favoured by Google and the content appears in “organic results and have their own top stories carousel at the top of organic searches.” It is estimated that the importance of AMPs will increase and could be a ranking signal, therefore not to be ignored in the SEO strategies.

The future of SEO appears to be progressing in ways that ethical optimisation is key; brands will need to ensure that they are building relationships with their digital users and providing content that is unique and has added value. With the development and evolution of machine automation it will not be surprising to find that more parameters will enter the equation. And, of course, the use of devices connected to the Internet is now spanning mobile, wearables, IOT and implanted chips soon.


By Paul K, 4 Dec 2017

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