Updated: Feb 12, 2022
In two words? Relevancy and Intent.
When search engine optimization started in the 90s, all you had to do was edit a webpage with the keywords you wanted to rank for and you could see the changes in rankings almost immediately. Search engines, their algorithms, and users have dramatically evolved since then. Search engine optimization practices have as well and it’s highly useful and interesting to take a look at what the future of SEO might be.
To win at search engine optimization in the future, you will not only have to think like a machine (a search engine to be exact), but also understand users, and deliver the best brand and web experience possible.
The game is already evolving into a cross-collaboration effort that demands more creativity and new thinking to design sustainable SEO strategies.
The goals will include tactics that can enhance marketing and sales operations and deliver more high-quality traffic to websites that understand your users and get them to explore your website more deeply and longer.
SEO Is Changing
The transformation of search engine optimization has been taking place constantly since it all started back in the 90s. The new SEO is a more complex fusion of storytelling, creativity, strategy, and collaboration to optimize websites, increase long-term user engagement and brand awareness.
Meeting the user’s mindset and intent is the result of the interconnectivity of SEO with technology, human behavior, and media as part of the overall game of SEO and online marketing.
Artificial Intelligence, Algorithms, and SEO
There are numerous search engines out there. All of them are evolving all the time and pushing the boundaries of technology. However, Google owns 92.18% of the worldwide market, so we will focus on Google as the reference for the purposes of this blog.
AI and Other Factors in the Ranking Algorithm
The main goal and all of Google’s focus go into the betterment of the user experience. The introduction of RankBrain, penalty systems, machine learning, and semantics-savvy AI are all aimed at improving the relevance of content for the searcher.
Ranking Algorithms and the Future of SEO
The three most important factors in the ranking algorithm are links, content, and RankBrain. This means only the highest-quality content will get the top ranking in Google's SERPs.
One of the goals of RankBRain was to augment Google's Hummingbird algorithm update. The update would allow Google to interpret the overall context of search queries in order to show users the best pages possible regardless if they include the words they typed or not. These result pages might instead contain related to the idea, domain, or even location.
The BERT algorithm update takes the idea of machine learning as a ranking component a step further towards understanding the intent of the searcher and focusing on concepts, rather than keywords.
The results provided after the BERT update became more specific and relevant to the query and the intent of the user instead of a more general answer like before.
These AI technologies and others more advanced to come are the continuation of a trend to focus on relevance, quality, and value of content. Machines will continue to evolve and learn (with our help) how to optimize content and search results that users really want to read.
To optimize for the ever-changing SEO landscape, search engine marketers need to pay attention to the search engine results pages (SERPs). By analyzing data from the SERPs like common keywords or phrases in titles, the sources of links on top-listed pages, and the age of the best-performing pages you can make a good assessment of what set of ranking factors are favored by AI for a given subject, so you can optimize for it.
Future of SEO: Focus on User Experience
Search engines put user experience at the top of their priorities and will continue to do so. They are becoming more intuitive and learning to take quality, optimized content, user engagement, and linking patterns into consideration when assessing a site.
Google will continue to focus on four main user experience signals:
Organic Click-through Rate
How many users click on a search result link.
The amount of time users spend on your site.
The percentage of visitors to your website who leave after viewing only one page.
This term refers to the number of users who get to a website and click the back button to try another search result.
As you can see content is and will continue to be highly important. Quality content that is relevant will get users to click through your site especially if it is also easy to navigate and accessible on all browsers and devices.
These are going to continue to be all the right signals for search engines, as well as high-quality backlinks from high-authority sites, guest-posting, building relationships with influencers, and getting quoted or mentioned in news stories on social media and other platforms.
Big Data and The Future of Search Engine Optimization
Big data will get even bigger. The future will see more examples, or an evolution, of things like Google’s Knowledge Graph.
This feature not only makes data from Wikipedia, Wikidata, and the CIA World Factbook (and other resources) available on a single platform but also makes connections that can impact brands.
As a marketer, you are and will continue to be able to influence what information The Knowledge Graph and other search engine tech pull out of your website by suggesting changes to Google and going through a validation process and a scan of the data about your company on the web, including social media.
Mobile and The Future of SEO
Mobile traffic is 52.6% of all traffic worldwide and growing. As smartphones and other portable technologies evolve, users will continue to shift towards that trend.
In 2016, in an effort to enhance mobile loading speed of SERPs, Google introduced accelerated mobile pages (AMP). AMP is a digital publishing format that enhances mobile page speeds. This technology has continued to evolve over the past few years with the addition of AMP Stories, Email, and advertising support.
AMP and other page performance features will continue to evolve and emerge to help with page speed and overall user experience, thus helping you build pages that will be more likely to load faster and have better usability, which will help to boost rankings.
AMP content is listed in search results with a lightning bolt.
Voice Search and The Future of SEO
If you’re not optimizing for voice search already, your should. The stats don’t lie:
More than 66 million Americans own a smart speaker
31% of smartphone users worldwide use voice technology at least once a week.
Voice search is clearly changing the SEO landscape. The main difference to take into account between voice search and text search is the way the questions are framed. Voice search is more conversational and natural, just like when you’re talking.
This means you need to optimize your content for long-tail keywords and ensure that your content is ranked in the top three spots for those searches because voice search results are only one result. Plus, those same long-tail queries are the ones that get you into Google’s Featured Snippet as well, and those snippets frequently end up as voice search results.
Video and the Future of SEO
Artificial Intelligence is playing a big part in making search engines better at delivering video in search results pages.
The following statistics regarding video are a testament to the power of this medium:
78% of people watch videos online weekly, 55% of those watch every day.
68% of people prefer to learn about a new product/service by watching a short video.
54% of people want more video content.
Video content will continue to require to be optimized for search engines to be able to better index it, including live video. In fact, the importance of live video shouldn’t be overlooked since people already spend 3x longer watching live videos than pre-recorded video.
As new video search engine optimization techniques continue to emerge and evolve, you’re good if the videos in your content focus on relevance, indexability (by adding transcripts, for example).
Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality and The Future of SEO
These technologies give SEO marketers a fantastic opportunity to optimize truly memorable content. Brands like National Geographic, TOMS, and IKEA are leveraging the immersive advantages given by VR and AR to offer consumers exceptional experiences.
The Future of SEO is Bright
As you can see, search engine optimization will continue to be a highly important factor in the future of content marketing and digital marketing. Search engines are evolving constantly to offer a better user experience through tools like artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Businesses and marketers need to continue to focus on providing the best user experience possible, just like search engines do, and the rest will take care of itself.
2022 SEO Update
Search Engine Results will be Exponentially more Accurately Relevant
Like Google, the leading search engine, and other search engines in the market, continue to push forward technologies like voice command & recognition, Artificial Intelligence, Language Learning, Machine Learning, etc., search engine results pages (SERPS) will continue to be more personalized to the individual.
For SEO, this means your focus should be on creating content that is optimized for people, for your very own specific target persona, your buyers. Let’s take a look at 4 key aspects to work with if you want to continue to rank well in 2022 and probably beyond.
1. Content Association to the Query
Google’s algorithm learns and gets better all the time. By 2022, rankings will become even more competitive thanks to the ability of search engines to recognize content with the most relevant and reliable information.
This means that misleading titles with irrelevant content, unnecessary link sourcing, and other tactics focused on fishing for traffic will be caught by Google and will affect rankings on SERPs.
Personalized Results Based on Recent Searches
In their constant search for a better user experience, Google’s algorithm will improve the searching experience for each particular user by matching the information on the SERPs with their user history as related to visited pages and frequent search queries.
Currently, SERPs show cumulative information and activities from all internet users., but in the future, more personalization will mean better results for each individual, think of it as how Youtube shows recommended and suggested videos to users.
One change you can expect in search results in 2022 is the disappearance of the Snippet. Although sometimes helpful for quick info, snippets are misleading and incomplete most of the time.
2. New Ways In Searching
By 2022, internet users and voice technology will reach a harmonious relationship where casual-conversation-type of questions will be used more and more, leading marketers into a search for those long-tail keywords used in normal conversation.
Google is getting smarter all the time. By 2022, images and videos will be even more relevant in optimization, with a strong focus on high-quality, high-relevance, and content considered to be related or synonymous with the keyword in the ranking.
Video, graphics, pictures, and interactive content will not only be good to have but a must. Remember that the focus will continue to be on a better user experience.
4. Local SEO Will Thrive in Search Results
The global COVID pandemic didn’t change anything, it just accelerated a trend that was already gathering strength long before it.
Studies show that staying local and searching for solutions near home is not just a trend, but a change in society that marketers need to take into consideration and invest the resources needed to optimize your local SEO.