Search engine optimization (SEO) is reaching an interesting point in its development. On the one hand, optimizing websites for search visibility through content, inbound links, and technical upgrades is more important than ever. On the other hand, it’s obvious to web design industry insiders who can see beyond the immediate horizon that traditional SEO is slowly but surely going away.
To help understand why, and what will take its place, there are three things you have to know…
1. Artificial Intelligence is Killing the Emphasis on Keyword Matching
As Google’s supercomputers get better and better at “understanding” content—whether it’s written, visual, or auditory—the need to associate search queries with exact-match phrases becomes less and less important.
In other words, search engines don’t necessarily have to look for matching keywords on a page to derive what kind of information searchers are actually looking for access to. Instead, intelligent algorithms can consider the totality of a website and find the best match, even if it doesn’t seem to line up to a search query in a strict direct-wording sense.
All of this means content is becoming even more important, but traditional phrase duplication will have less impact on search visibility than it used too.
2. User Engagement is the Real SEO Signal of the Future
The popularity of search engine optimization itself presents a problem to Google and Bing. Namely, it has meant that more and more marketers are putting up pages with lots of content, leading to a lack of clarity about which results have the highest quality and relevance.
For search engine programmers, an easy solution lies in emulating Facebook’s approach to managing news feed overload, which is to pay attention to engagement more than keywords. The more people like and share something, or take the time to comment on it, the easier it is to determine that it’s a worthwhile search result.
In the near future, this could likely lead to a bigger herding effect, where the most popular websites and content items get the most attention from Google.
3. Search Patterns are Becoming Contextual and Non-Predictive
It isn’t just Google’s engineers that are tinkering with search. Users themselves are increasingly entering longer strings and natural language phrases to find the answers they need.
Search algorithms are adjusting in tandem. They are accounting for things like location, search history, and known demographic info to give different results to one user than they would feed to another. Already, there signs that search engines are relying more on context, semantic matching, and contextual models to determine the intent behind a given search string.
These two trends intersect in a way that leads search users to be less predictable, and search results to be more individualized. Going forward, this will require marketers to have a good idea of who is in their target audience and what those potential customers or clients really want in a search result.
Ready for the Next Phase in SEO?
Search visibility and marketing are likely to be the cornerstones of any successful internet strategy for years and years to come, and yet the strategies and tactics savvy businesses use are going to change.