What’s the Future of SEO?

Ask the Thought Leaders: What’s the Future of SEO?
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Search engine optimization or SEO, a term that once amounted to little more than stuffing a page full of keywords has become a literal science in recent years.

Search engine optimization is a blanket term for numerous strategies used to make a web page appear high up the list on a search engine like Google, Bing, or Yahoo. Basically, it involves choosing a keyword or string of words that people would search for, then tailoring your page or blog post to suit it.

There’s no denying that Google has won the search engine wars. Their domination of the search engine market has led most SEO to be geared towards pleasing Google’s algorithms.

As I just mentioned, SEO used to involve little more than finding the right keywords and stuffing pages with them, however, Google’s algorithms get more and more advanced (and lifelike) every single year. It looks like the future of SEO will have a lot less to do with keywords and a lot more to do with readability.

For more on that, we asked a group of industry experts…

What’s the future of SEO?

Here’s what they had to say…

Anthony De Guzman, SEO Specialist at Shopify

“The future of SEO will include a strong involvement from voice search, especially around content and keyword research. With the expansion of Google’s question/answer knowledge graphs — as well as the push for smart home technologies such as Google Home and Amazon Echo — I think there will be a shift in content marketing to solve the immediate needs that come from voice search queries.”

Rachel Stephens, SEO & Customer Behavior Analyst at Totally Promotional

“There are two trends that I think are shaping the future of SEO. Search engines are getting better at determining quality signals from real users rather than keywords, site structure or any other signals. In some verticals the organic results will be less coveted because paid will dominate the CTR.

However, paid will operate more like organic and will not go to the highest bid, but the highest bidder with a great user experience that matches the searcher’s intent. Overall, if you want search engine traffic in the next 10-15 years, you will need a great site and focus on user experience.”

Anthony Neal Macri, Founder of ANM Digital Consulting

“The future of SEO is all in the use of AI.

Google has been tinkering with their new RankBrain algorithm for a little over a year now.

At first glance, AI might seem like the end of the SEO industry. Search engine optimization professionals think that none of the “tricks” they used to get rankings will work. In my opinion, however, a more intelligent and human search engine can only benefit SEO professionals.

As digital marketers and SEO professionals we must change they way we think. Instead of thinking from the perspective of a search engine and how to create content to please an algorithm, we must think as a site or business owner and ultimately as the person entering the query on the search engine.

This is how the AI will determine ranking, and that is what a smart digital marketer will ask themselves when developing a campaign instead of thinking about what kind of links they should build or what type of keyword density they should be aiming for.”

Tyler Thursby , Senior SEO Analyst at Zion and Zion

“Artificial intelligence is the future of SEO. Massive investments are being made by some of technology’s most influential companies. Google’s RankBrain algorithm is improving search results through machine learning, helping translate user intent and semantic search queries. Increasingly common in-home assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo rely on semantic cues. Tremendous strides will be made in the realm of AI as these tools find more universal application, improving search by predicting results and adding more personalization.

In what truly sounds like science fiction, Elon Musk recently announced Neuralink – a company with the ambitious goal of merging human brains with artificial intelligence. Musk believes a biological link with AI is a crucial step toward mitigating the looming threat of human irrelevance. As evident through innovations like self-driving cars, machines are poised to disrupt the fabric of our society as we know it. AI will change far more than search.”

Greg Secrist, Co-Founder & CEO of BKA Content

“The future of SEO will rely more heavily on voice search, RankBrain and AI. The actual SEO of websites will become less important as Google’s algorithms improve. However, having rich content on your site will be as important as ever, and the way we optimize content will most likely change as virtual assistants gain popularity. Even though Google will become much smarter with AI and RankBrain, it will still need a database of quality information to pull from, meaning the content on your site will never cease to be important. Search results will continue to become much more direct and succinct. Rather than needing to fish through websites for the answer, you’ll be given it directly, much like the way the Google Quick Answer Box works now. This means that the way content is written may change to be more precise, but content will never go away.”

Antonio Johnson, Head of SEO at Power Digital Marketing

“The future of SEO will encapsulate a uniquely holistic approach to understanding online search behavior. With the ability today to capture data points as granular as anyone can imagine, success in SEO will require a broad understanding of data analysis, user behavior, and elements of what’s now known as technical SEO. As IoT comes to proliferate and voice search becomes more of a standard, we will see less of a dependency on keyword-focused strategies and have a paradigm shift towards a user-first approach in marketing. With careful consideration of the data and how that data impacts and influences user behavior (or vice-versa), being able to provide the most useful resources as a brand and being able to give proper signals to the search engine of those benefits will give the SEO-of-the-future their largest advantage. With the strategic understanding and real-world application of cross channel initiatives in social, paid advertising, and conversion rate optimization, the SEO-of-the-future will have the unique adeptness to bridge the gap between once siloed channels. Creating content and resources that solve real problems are the key to finding success in Organic Search today and in the future!”

Kent Lewis, President & Founder of Anvil

“SEO Will Go Deeper:

SEO will continue to evolve to keep up with Google’s focus on user experience and improving context. That means successful SEO efforts will focus on optimization of deep content, as well as multimedia via schema markup/rich snippets. We’ve already seen the migration to deeper content (higher word counts) in Q1 of this year and expect the trend to continue.

SEO Will Go Native

With ad blockers becoming increasingly prevalent, SEO professionals will focus more on development of original content than ever before. While native advertising will increase in 2017 and beyond, many brands are focusing more on authoring in-depth blog posts, articles and ebooks as their own publishers.

SEO Will Integrate With PR

PR has ALWAYS been a key component of successful SEO efforts, per my articles from years ago. The evolution of earned and owned media have only made the trend more prevalent. We’ve been working with PR teams and professionals to create compelling stories, articles, events and press releases to positively impact SEO and reputation management for 16 years.”

Scott Colenutt , Head of Digital at SiteVisibility

“For the past 30 years, we have been trying to find the most efficient ways to produce, distribute, index, curate and share information.

Between 1990 (first search engine) and 2007 (launch of the iPhone) we had fewer connected devices and sources of information. This meant that we all relied heavily on organic search (notably, Google).

SEO was a huge part of this information economy. From a marketing perspective, it made complete sense to try and arbitrage this new medium.

Since 2007 our behaviours and needs have rapidly developed. In less than a decade we’ve gone from smartphones to smart homes.

We’re now trying to establish the best way of using these mediums and devices for function.

I don’t think SEO will exist in 10 years. I think search engine indexes designed to serve billions of searchers will be outpaced by our desire for personalised function.

The Internet of Personalised Things.”

Bradley Shaw, Owner, Digital Marketing & Online Consulting Expert at SEO Expert Brad Inc.

“SEO & social media will further merge with traditional PR & marketing practices. Old school SEO tricks spammy link building will continue to decrease and become useless. PBN’s will be relics of the past.

SEO will center on the creation of great content that can come in a variety of forms: textual, images, videos, interactive applications, and more. This is what traditional advertising experts are excel at; they just have to adjust it for the user behavior on the web.

Link building will evolve into relationship building. Relationships and networking will be a core pillar of SEO success.

SEO professionals that do not develop and understand the fundamentals of traditional marketing will find it tough to succeed.”

Bryce Liggins , Senior Marketing Strategist at Brolik

“In 10-15 years, SEOs will be considered as “mission critical” to every business.

Everything will be found and discovered online, and “online” will occupy even more shapes and sizes than it does today. Without SEOs filling business content (from product inventory to blog articles) with metadata, and planning and adapting content for the connected, intelligent world, the businesses themselves will sink into oblivion.”

Pat Ahern, Director of Traffic Generation at Junto

“SEO will always come down to a balance of relevancy and authority: how relevant is your webpage to a user’s search query, and how reputable is that webpage in comparison to the other potential results. In 10-15 years, machine learning will make search engines significantly better at understanding both of these elements to the degree where most daily SEO tasks will become obsolete.

As this happens SEOs will transition to the lawyers of the online world. Today, the primary purpose of an SEO is to integrate search strategy into every other element of a business’ online presence (web development, content creation, social media, PR, etc) in a way that aligns with the rules of search engines to maximize search rankings, and SEOs will continue to move more and more in this direction.”

Ben Lloyd, COO at Property Moose

“In the week after Google has expanded ‘fact-checking tags’, it’s hard not to foresee that there will be a ‘democratisation’ of SEO in the future. Rather than relying solely on complex proprietary algorithms that are difficult for non-industry individuals to decipher, I believe that Google and other search engines will increasingly begin to incorporate the power of votes and other forms of peer review to validate the reliability of search results. ‘Search star ratings’ would go only so far, and an increase in visibility more generally in relation to the popularity and credibility of a website is a change that Google has the power, and perhaps responsibility, to make.”

Rhys Wynne, Director of Winwar Media

“My prediction for the SEO industry in the next few years is for as the internet of things grows, two things will become prominent. First off, long tail will increase as well as having the first result will become even more important. The reason for this is I feel that people are interacting with search engines less and less by typing queries into a keyboard but instead using voice search through interfaces such as Amazon Echo. This will mean that people will be using their natural voice for search, rather than typing keywords.”

Hannah Corbett, Inbound Marketing Manager for EdgeThreeSixty

“In a word: brand. Anyone and everyone who has ever even scratched the surface of SEO will be able to tell you about how important things like links, content and a technically sound site are to have any chance of ranking. It’s exactly because everyone and everyone understands the importance of these traditional ranking factors that they simply aren’t enough anymore. Best practice will get you so far, but to really compete and dominate on the first page – and the top positions – of Google and other search engines, you need to have a strong brand. Traditional marketing has always valued and utilised brand to earn customer loyalty and build a business’s reputation – and the same is becoming true of search marketing too. Brand is already starting to become an important ranking factor in search marketing – and it will only become more important as time goes on.”

Chetan Saxena , Head Of Digital Marketing at DigitalSuccess

“To establish your authority in the search engines, rankings will never cease to be the object of desire, however with Google’s changing patterns, it will be interesting to see how the placement and format of results evolve in SERP. With Google being extra wary of SEOs crooking and tricking the results, hide and seek between them and Google would never stop. I am taking the liberty to use Google’s name as reference for search engine because even in my furthest projections, that would continue to be the leading search engine.

Current fad is about Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), Voice Search and Mobile Search and in near future mobile is likely to steal the thunder in a big way so webmasters with poor UI on smaller screen would lose out in the race. Lighter pages with crisp CTA would continue to be the vital elements for SEO success. While all these are the expected SEO trends, post the roll out of RankBrain, Google has a lot of thrust on machine learning. Google has incorporated deep learning into its search engine and with its head of AI taking over search, the company seems to believe this is the way forward. Artificial Intelligence will give more importance to search queries than individual keywords. Search algorithms will be based more on aggregation of concepts and entity recognition rather than traditional tactics.”

Dan Mallette, Enterprise Account Manager & SEO Specialist at InVue Digital & Hearst DMS

“The future of SEO will be result of shifts that we’ve been seeing over the last few years finally culminating into a utopian organic arena that is a much more of a reflection of user intent and understanding that we see today. Less trickery of the search engines and more legitimate strategies will pay dividends for those willing to take the time to see them through. Those that learn to stop chasing the algorithm and finally start to position your site (and your brand) in a place that search engines can look to as an example of an ideal web are the ones that will get ahead. Constantly striving for this now, will help set yourself up for an SEO future 10-15 years down the road.”

Seth Gilgus, Digital Marketing Specialist at Online Optimism

“I believe the future of SEO is that it will become even more prolific, especially among small business owners. As a digital marketing agency, the company I work for has already started seeing more interest in SEO services among our current and prospective clients. Business owners are really beginning to understand the power of website rankings. While advertising and public relations are pillars of a company’s business model, SEO offers an incredible advantage since it uniquely and organically targets individuals who are interested in a company’s specific service or product. Business owners will start relying more heavily on quality SEO as opposed to using just traditional PR and advertising.”

Carlos Crespo, Managing Partner at Motoza

“Trends show that AI and information sharing in the next 10-15 years will continue to make surfing the internet a more personalized experience. It’s already possible for browsers to store and share your search history, so as systems get more intelligent, websites will begin to show content specifically designed to your demographic, location, interests, trends, etc etc. As such, SEO will increasingly become more like modern day public relations. It’ll become less about static content associated with websites, and more about the ‘buzz’ surrounding your brand and website. With technology advances, this buzz can spill from non-digital mediums (events, advanced store displays, interactive billboards) that record and translate data into web experiences.

As the world gets more connected, the concept will remain the same. It’s about who, and how many, people are talking about your brand. Just how that information spreads, will be different.”

Ricardo Nuñez, Search Marketing Specialist, President of Lusosystems, Inc.

“The role of AI will continue to increase and as time passes, it will continue to improve. The only way you can stand out is by investing in your brand, working on usability, content and providing an overall better user experience. That’s what we are already seeing today, but with the improvements on AI, updates will happen faster and in real-time; only known brands will benefit from all of this. We are seeing this more and more with big companies and local established companies, so for new businesses, they will need to work harder.”

Steve Pritchard, Managing Director of It Works Agency

“The future of SEO lies with artificial intelligence (AI). As in any industry, the ability of machines to perform tasks that we consider to be ‘smart’ is the way forward. Machine learning will allow people to focus on things other than having to manually code software routines; the machine will be ‘taught’ using large amounts of data and algorithms to perform the task itself. Big Data is fuelling AI in the world of SEO. Big Data is the term used to describe how we analyse the huge volume of data we use every day to turn the information into usable knowledge. Businesses are already using Big Data to better understand and predict customer behaviour and this will only become more common as time goes on.”

Aaron Watts, Digital Marketing & PR Executive at DuoCall

“Moving forwards the SEO industry is going to become more driven by user experience. We’ve already seen recent updates to Google’s ranking algorithm that has pushed the focus towards engagement by taking CTR (click through rate) into account, but it’s likely that this will be taken a step further in the not so distant future.

We’re likely to get to a situation where our search engines are looking deeper and deeper into our websites in order to determine if it’s worthy of being presented to people in the SERP’s. Authority through trusted links will become even more important and this will see more and more people creating shareable, engaging content.”

Hussein Ebied, Senior Director of Search at PACIFIC

“In the next 10-15 years search marketers will have to pay more attention to searcher intent when targeting any set of keyword themes or search queries. Through Google’s machine learning framework, dubbed RankBrain, the search giant is getting a lot better at discerning the user intent behind every search query. Google’s visibility into every searcher’s initial and subsequent queries enable them to understand exactly where you are in the customer journey. As a result, marketers who look beyond keyword rankings but rather address people’s intents, needs and questions in their content will have better chances of organic success. Secondly, keyword research will never be the same with Google’s tightening grasp over its own data, SEOs are going to find it more difficult to analyze keyword trends and search volumes so identifying and implementing research solutions that will fill these gaps will be of top importance.”

Chris Hornak, Owner of Blog Hands

“Search will no longer just be a website address you go to to find other websites. It will be built into our day-to-day life as an information gathering tool. I think Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home are prototypes of this idea. In 10-15 years we’ll have the answers before we even ask them. The algorithms will learn what information you need and when you need it.”

Justin Handley, Founder & President of Web Mission Control

“I think that the future of SEO lies in the same place as the history of SEO. While there are always ‘black hat’ and questionable techniques that can be used to dupe the search engines and get temporary high rankings, long term SEO success is born of great content. Content that people want to read, that addresses the search directly and in depth, that is so astonishingly good that people want to share it. Google wants to add value to the lives of the people that use it by answering their search queries in an accurate and useful way. So, for success now and in the future, instead of working on the next trick, start writing THE foundational article on your topic. The article that covers the topic so in depth that no one will ever need another one. Be the best. That is the future of SEO.”

Melysha Acharya , Founder of Really Affordable SEO

“Because people are already becoming blind to ads & remarketing tactics, I believe that SEOs and Marketers are really going to have to perfect demographic targeting with their content. Unique, useful content that targets the right audience is going to be more important in the future as search gets even more specific and people ignore ads.

Content writers will evolve into on-page SEO Experts. There isn’t a degree for SEO Specifically (and there may very well never be). But content and the optimization of that content will always be important for search. I see the two merging into one, with content writers becoming more valuable, the more they learn how to optimize their articles.”

Popular in the Community


What's Hot