SEO is changing all the time. These changes are due to a range of factors including search engine algorithms becoming more sophisticated, changes to the way search results are displayed, social media and mobile search.
People have been saying for years that SEO is dead but as long as people use search engines, SEO will not die. It will instead evolve and adapt to the changes in the search landscape.
A Little History
SEO used to be about manipulation of the search engines pure and simple. At one point this was as straight forward as making sure your keywords appeared as often as possible on your site. As search engines became more sophisticated however so to did the methods of manipulating them. When Google’s PageRank algorithm was introduced, SEOs used directory submissions and link farms to build up their PageRank score. When these tactics became ineffective SEOs started to focus on article directories and blog networks. You get the picture.
Where we are Today
In the wake of another recent Panda update and another major Penguin update on the way at some stage, where does that leave the average SEO today? The techniques that were used in the past are no longer as effective and they can potentially have a negative impact. That’s a good thing for the average user in theory as it should improve the quality of the SERPs. This is because that webpages are ranked on merit and not because they’ve been designed to manipulate the search results.
A big difference is that these days the focus is on building links organically and cultivating social signals in order to earn the respect of search engines. For your average business this often means publishing good content through blogging or guest blogging and using social media to promote this content.
SEO = SEO + Social Media + Content Marketing
The phrase Inbound Marketing is often used today and it is perhaps a more accurate description of SEO over the last couple of years. SEO requires a much more holistic approach encompassing each of the areas mentioned above. Along with traditional SEO tasks of keyword research, website optimisation and link building, SEOs are required to source or write quality content, promote this content, and to build relationships through social media that facilitate the marketing of this content.
Google has access to user metrics such as CTR (click through rate) and dwell time amongst others.There is strong evidence to suggest that Google take some these metrics into account. This evidence shows whether users are getting the information they are looking for so why wouldn’t they use it? Metrics such as these will play an even greater role moving forward.
Changes in the SERPs
Google’s improved ability to understand the context of searches and display results accordingly will make using microdata and other structured data formats more important.
SEOs are also paying closer attention to local search and video in order to take advantage of the increased real estate that verticals such as these have in the SERPs.
Siri will have a huge impact on mobile search. Voice activated search commands differ greatly from typed commands. It may no longer be sufficient to have a mobile version of your site that displays using responsive design. More and more businesses will begin to have separate mobile content specifically targeting mobile search phrases.
What Does The Future Hold
SEO is not dying, merely changing at a rapid pace. Today SEOs still conduct much of the same tasks as before including keyword research, creating content, making navigational improvements, and building links. It is the way that they approach these tasks that is changing.
Looking forward I think that the role of the technical SEO will shift and the whole process of link building will continue to become more about content marketing and building relationships. SEOs will have to pay even closer attention to usability metrics such as CTR and dwell time etc. Social media signals will become more important. SEOs will also have to consider how people are searching using voice activated commands.
All in all this presents great opportunities for SEOs and businesses in general. Early adopters will be the ones who benefit while traditionalists may find things more difficult. What do you think?