Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a regularly misunderstood part of digital marketing.
It offers the promise of consistent, free traffic, and therefore leads. But, the big issue is most business owners and marketers have no idea how to properly take advantage of it.
One thing is for certain.
SEO is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
Advancements in technology, such as the growing popularity of voice search, and the “wow” factor of generative AI (ChatGPT specifically) have left everyone questioning whether SEO really has a future.
Fortunately, for anyone involved in online business, the answer is definitely a resounding yes.
Why is it important to discuss the future of SEO?
All aspects of business and digital marketing specifically are constantly evolving and “vulnerable” to change.
SEO is no exception.
Understanding the future of SEO over the coming years is important. Why?
Because it helps you to be prepared for the expected… and the worst.
Knowing what is happening in the industry will allow you to plan more strategically. For instance, Google makes regular algorithm updates which can have drastic effects on a website. Not being prepared can lead to significant drops in traffic… which, as you may have guessed, is bad for business.
The Current State of SEO
Before we move into the future of SEO and some predictions for the next few years, it’s important that we first assess the current state of the SEO world.
Since 2019 Google has prioritized mobile internet traffic. This is for the simple reason that the majority of search traffic comes from mobile devices.
The problem is that many websites and website builder tools have been around for a lot longer than mobiles. As such, many websites are still not properly optimized for mobile users.
This is a big problem. Google’s algorithm will not reward websites that aren’t mobile-friendly.
If your website is not suitably optimized for mobile devices then there is a good chance you are suffering negatively with rankings, traffic, etc.
If this is you – fix it now.
Luckily, you can easily make your website mobile-friendly by switching over to a responsive theme.
You can use the Google Mobile-Friendly Test to quickly confirm whether your website is suitable for mobiles.
Over the last few years, the everyday use of voice search has been on the rise.
Voice assistants like Siri and Alexa are now used by people across the world to perform their searches. This has fundamentally changed SEO.
Keywords have always been the foundation of written content. However, using conversational, NLP-friendly, natural language has now become much more important due to the rise of voice search.
The best way to make your content voice search friendly is to try and address a few highly relevant topical questions in each article. This can be in the middle of the article, at the beginning, or in a FAQ format at the end.
Try to answer every query in a specific and concise way this will give you the best chance of appearing in voice search results.
AI and Machine Learning
So, now it’s time to address the elephant in the room – Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI and ML).
To say that this technology is prevalent in the world of SEO would be a huge understatement. Most people will immediately think of generative AI technology like ChatGPT when there is a conversation about the future of SEO.
This is for good reason, but we will get into that in a later section.
But first, it’s crucial to understand how AI is already impacting SEO.
Search engine algorithms are incredibly complex, but it’s a well-known fact that AI is heavily utilized to interpret search queries and content across the internet.
Semantic keywords are all the rage in the world of SEO and this is because when search engines index your content they do their best to understand what the content is truly about.
You can’t rank in search by just stuffing in your target keyword 100 times, it’s not 2010 anymore.
Instead, you should use a dedicated on-page SEO tool like Surfer SEO. This is a fantastic way for you to quickly optimize content in an algorithm-friendly way.
This is because Surfer SEO will give you loads of semantically related keywords that you can include in your content. So, for example, if I was writing an article about “how to play chess” there is a good chance that Surfer SEO would tell me to incorporate words like “bishop” “knight” and “gambit” into the content.
Doing this will clearly signal to Google that you are knowledgeable about the topic and deserve to rank. There are tons of affordable SEO software solutions you can use to help you improve your online presence.
The Future of SEO
SEO will exist in the future. It will exist in 5 years, 10 years, and it will probably be around for much longer.
However, things are always changing in SEO.
It’s an industry where very little is constant, besides high-quality content and awesome backlinks of course.
So, it’s vital you understand the new developments and latest trends facing the online marketing world.
The Impact of Generative AI on SEO
Generative AI has had an instant and powerful effect on the world, including the content marketing space.
Tools like Jasper.ai and Writesonice have been popular in SEO for a few years now, but the launch of ChatGPT by OpenAI has certainly been a “game changer”. People have made sudden, and significant, changes to their SEO strategies virtually overnight.
Generative AI is an interesting technology that uses deep learning and user prompting to streamline the automatic creation of content, these tools are used to instantaneously create text, images, and even videos.
The sudden mainstream use of this technology is and will inevitably continue to have a dramatic effect on how SEO works. Generative AI will only get better and SEOs who refuse to adopt AI in one way or another will get left behind.
Google has said that they are NOT against AI-generated content. Instead, they are against content that is not useful and doesn’t provide the end user with significant value. It is a misconception that you should not use these tools at all.
Generative AI tools can be used to help you plan out your content strategy, better understand search intent, write content outlines, generate high-quality images, and find websites to build backlinks from.
Although Google is not penalizing AI-generated content, it’s still wise to not rely on content that is exclusively created with AI. Instead, try and use AI like an assistant that does the boring work for you.
This can give you a massive advantage in terms of output over your competitors, whilst maintaining the “human quality” you are looking for with your content.
Another potential positive impact of generative AI in the SEO realm is that identifying and targeting specific keywords should become easier.
This is because AI right now creates content that is somewhat repetitive when it comes to content production; in part, this is due to the user’s prompts being too vague. Therefore, by having a good topical keyword strategy you will find it easier to produce the nuanced, authoritative content you need.
AI will root out people who are not truly experts in their fields and Google will not reward websites like this. Therefore, having a deep understanding of your niche is only going to become more important in a world swarmed by AI content.
The Growing Importance of Link Building and Authority
Search engines will only become more sophisticated.
The algorithms that power search engines are already extremely complex, but moving forward, it is likely that they will develop in a way that is beyond the current manner.
However, when determining the authority of a given website, nothing will beat the strength of a website’s backlink profile. Backlinks are the easiest signal for Google to interpret when it comes to evaluating the level of trustworthiness and expertise shown by a website.
It is reasonable to think that backlinks will only become more important now thanks to the influx of AI-generated content. Therefore, backlinks will remain a key way to measure the true value of a website.
As a digital marketer, blogger, or business owner, you will need to focus on building high-quality backlinks for your business (or your client. Backlinks, like it, or not, are the biggest differentiator between authoritative sources and new websites.
The importance of link building in SEO is significant, but building them isn’t easy.
One of the easiest ways to build white-hat backlinks is creating “link bait”. This type of content attracts backlinks because it offers unique value that would be difficult to replicate.
Linkbait content is not easy to create, but it’s worth the extra effort.
Statistics posts, case studies, and tools like calculators can help you attract backlinks at scale. This is very organic and if you get lucky you can expect a huge influx of new backlinks.
You need to ensure that the backlinks you are earning come from reputable and authoritative sources. These backlinks carry far more weight than spammy backlinks you can buy off Fiverr.
Building impressive search engine rankings and attracting a consistent flow of traffic to your website is the main incentive for building backlinks, but never underestimate the potential of a brand-mentioned backlink.
By responding to HARO requests it’s possible to get links from the likes of Forbes, CNN, and The New York Times. Earning backlinks like this will do wonders for your online reputation.
You need to build a system where you can consistently build backlinks from unique referring domains, this will make all the difference.
The Growing Importance of Diversification in SEO
Traditional SEO tactics are not going to cut it in the future.
That’s a strong statement. It does seem likely that being too reliant on writing content and optimizing it for SEO could have negative effects.
Media is being consumed in different ways now and that’s only going to become an increasing trend.
As such, it’s becoming increasingly important to find ways to diversify overall digital marketing strategies. One way to do this is by establishing a strong presence on social media platforms and YouTube. One prediction for the late 2020s is that short-form content is going to become king, that’s why learning about social media marketing and email marketing is so crucial.
People have very short attention spans, so capturing people’s interest on platforms like Instagram and TikTok will be really valuable.
Additionally, platforms like these give you, the business owner, an opportunity to connect with followers, prospects, and leads on a more personal level. Engaging content that is primarily educational in nature can be a great asset for businesses looking to build a loyal following of fans.
Not only that, but when the people consuming your content online are actively enjoying it, they are far more likely to share it around and give your brand additional publicity.
Visibility and engagement on social media is not a ranking factor. However, there has been evidence to suggest that “social signals” are interpreted and used by Google in some ways.
So, social media is good for SEO, but more importantly, it allows you to explore another marketing channel. In turn, allowing you to be less reliant on just one source.
YouTube has over two billion monthly active users and it’s awesome.
The Splinter Economics brand is yet to expand onto YouTube, but this is a goal for us in the next two years. Why?
YouTube offers businesses a way to reach lots of people. Also, creating interesting videos about your business, product, or industry can help you to attract a new type of consumer (that is still your target audience).
Not everyone, especially younger people, use Google for everything.
Some people in specific industries actually consume content primarily on YouTube, not through blog posts.
Diversification can never be a bad thing.
The future of SEO is never certain. Stop putting all of your eggs in one basket. Instead, be open to exploring all the various marketing channels the world currently has to offer.
Also, be on the lookout for new marketing channels. TikTok came out of nowhere and it’s huge now. Being one of the first people to a new platform will give you a significant advantage.
Diversification will always provide the option of additional income, thus helping you to reduce reliance on organic search traffic. This can’t be bad!
The Importance of Local SEO for Local Businesses
SEO as a whole is changing all the time, but one part of SEO is often forgotten.
We are of course talking about local SEO…
Local businesses and physical services are never going away. They offer entrepreneurs fantastic business opportunities and customers essential goods and services. Therefore, as a business owner understanding the importance of local SEO is a great way to future-proof your business.
Local SEO has been, and remains (as it will be for a long time), a top priority for local businesses. Therefore, it’s understandable that small business owners want to know how the changes in the SEO world are going to affect them.
For those who don’t know, local SEO is exclusive to companies that sell products/services in “real life”. Companies that rely on local SEO have a physical presence. For example, a cafe, a laundromat business, or a meal preparation company would all be somewhat reliant on local SEO.
Over the previous decade, local SEO has become known as the go-to way for physical businesses to build their online presence to attract customers in the local area organically. Local businesses can create local content, build local backlinks and citations, optimize their Google My Business listing, and earn reviews to improve their organic local rankings.
Having a good local SEO strategy in place will help you to connect with customers in the local area. This means more website visits, more inquiries, and more foot traffic to their physical location.
When potential customers search for a local business, they’re more likely to choose one that appears at the top of the Google search results… It’s human nature. Also, if you live in an area that is fortunate enough to receive a lot of seasonal or tourist traffic then local SEO is a must.
These visitors aren’t locals, they will not hear about your business from “word of mouth”. They will rely on Google and reviews to determine whether to buy anything from you. As such, businesses that prioritize local SEO will attract more footfall in peak tourist seasons.
SEO professionals know this, that’s why investing in local SEO services can be so expensive! With that said, usually, SEO services are worth it.
SEO has been a staple of online marketing for decades and that isn’t going to change. Aspects of SEO like keyword research, topical ideation, and link building will continue to be a necessary part of SEO.
While the ever-changing digital landscape means that businesses will need to adapt their online marketing strategies, they will not have to reinvent the wheel.
In the coming years, business owners should focus more on giving users a great online experience.
Focus on content quality, matching user intent, offering unique personalization, and incorporating and adapting to emerging technologies such as visual search, and generative AI.
While SEO may look different in five, ten, or fifteen years than what it does today, it will still be ever present in digital marketing. Google search isn’t going away because of AI. The two will co-exist together.