Organic Results Disappear? What To Do in the Near Future of SEO

Binoculars to see future of SEO

Thinking about the future of SEO is a habit of mine. I like to anticipate where things are going, and no doubt this has helped me keep my SEO consulting business headed in the right direction over the past 22 years. Thought leadership is fun!

In an industry like organic search engine optimization, the pieces never stop moving for long.

Example #1: AI

We’ve just begun to see the impact of artificial intelligence on marketing and the world.

AI is ramping up with businesses in general, but surveys vary widely on how many organizations have implemented AI in their operations so far. Statista found 5 percent while Narrative Science reported a whopping 61 percent of survey respondents saying that they were using AI in 2017.

AI is impacting search much faster.

Search engines have been driving AI at full throttle for years. Google’s complex algorithms can now improve on their own, thanks to machine learning powered by artificial intelligence.

With AI, the search engines — and eventually businesses in general — can evolve at a superhuman pace.

Only by keeping our eyes on the horizon can SEOs keep up. The horizon gives you the long-range view, the big picture. To see that, I look through two lenses:

  • What’s good for the user.
  • What’s good for Google.

To See the Future of SEO, Follow the Money

When I try to anticipate where SEO is going, the most important question I ask is: How will Google make money?

Remember when we saw Google move ads out of the sidebar? Well, as a result, organic SEO was affected. That was in February 2016, and Bing followed suit in March 2018.

Organic listings felt the pinch as the space at the top of a SERP opened up to allow up to four paid ads.

Google search results with all ads above the fold

But the disappearance of organic results above the fold had just begun.

Example #2: Local Listings

A “local pack” complete with map entered the SERP picture. It gave local businesses a chance to show up organically on Page 1 when the searcher was physically nearby.

The local pack did push other top organic results (such as national brands) farther down the page for certain queries. On the upside, it also created a whole new field of competition that many SEOs welcomed.

But Google needed to make money … enter local search ads. These ads often appear above organic listings in the Local Pack and map results, especially for mobile users.

Ads in the local pack

More ads directed at local businesses arrived. Google Home Services, now expanded and rebranded as Local Services ads, feature many types of local businesses vetted by Google.

LSAs play to both priorities, helping users and profiting Google. And they appear right at the top of the SERP — filling the above-the-fold space with non-organic listings.

Google's Local Services ads at top of SERP

For many queries, the space given to local listings is now dominated by ads.

The Disappearing Organic Space

A slew of other changes have arisen in the same way … first as an organic feature, and then converted to a space for revenue-producing ads for Google.

Today, organic web listings may be crowded down the page by many features:

  • PPC ads (paid)
  • Shopping ads (paid)
  • Local Services ads (paid)
  • Local pack entries (may be paid)
  • Featured snippets (may be paid in the future — expect it)
  • News
  • Images
  • Videos

Folks, organic listings will soon disappear above the fold.

What’s an SEO to Do?

Sites need to take advantage of the organic SEO opportunities that do exist today, among them:

  • Use structured data elements and structured data markup. Doing so will help you grab featured snippets. In turn, your content becomes more likely to come up in text and voice search results.
  • Answer questions in your content. This can help you rank for long-tail queries and show up as the answer under “People also ask” questions.
  • Be optimized for local search, if applicable to your business.
  • Serve site visitors well, with great content and a positive experience. Give visitors what they want pain-free, and they may come back on their own.
  • Don’t forget any of the normal SEO to-dos, from optimizing on-page content to making sure your site is crawlable. (See our SEO Checklist for the essentials.)

Looking at the future of SEO, I have one more piece of advice to add to this list.

Videos Are Crucial for Winning Back the SERP

Videos appear prominently in Google search results, especially for queries with a “how to” intent.

Videos can even take the featured snippet (aka Position 0). Take a look at the examples below:

SERP with multiple YouTube video links

All these video links fill the space above the fold. They count as “organic” results. However, when you click a YouTube video result, what do you see first? You see an ad.

Since video results create ad revenue for Google/YouTube/Alphabet, organic has ads!

Videos are crucial for winning back the SERP and preparing for the near-future of SEO. Click To Tweet

“How To” Will Rule Organic Results

Videos often answer questions more efficiently than any other format.

From how to use a staple gun to how to grow your business, you’d probably rather watch someone tell you how, in living color, than read an article looking for the answer. And you’re not alone.

In one year, YouTube viewers spent over a billion hours watching just videos with “how-to” in the title. That’s according to YouTube executive Malik Ducard.

YouTube sees more than an ad opportunity here. It’s launching a new YouTube Learning channel with a $20 million investment. In addition to supporting independent content by “Edu Tubers,” the channel plans to showcase original educational programs made by YouTube, as well.

Why Video Is a Best Play for SEO

Video search results can make the Google family of companies more money than ever. Recently, YouTube started counting an ad “view” at only 10 seconds, not 30.

With Google making money indirectly through “organic” video results, I predict that videos will rank more and more prominently in search results. That’s especially true for how-to types of queries.

Any business or organization would be wise to invest in video. I recommend that you collect your niche’s most-asked questions and start filming answers. One of an SEO’s best plays today is to create videos that answer how-to questions. Click To Tweet

Case in point: We produce our Ask Us Anything series as a playlist on our YouTube channel. Each video answers a specific question about SEO, PPC, content, or social in a short video.

Our Ask Us Anything playlist is growing, now at 64 videos and counting.

Bruce Clay's Ask Us Anything playlist on YouTube has 64 videos
We’re making lots of videos that answer questions for users.

Last Thoughts

At what point does Google become all ads, and “free” organic results become a billable premium service?

With voice search, AI will make the spoken results better — and Google will need to charge for answers since nobody will see the SERP ads.

The way Google implements changes over time is seen as evolutionary, not revolutionary. The result? People will not know that all that appears above the fold is ads.

Ads will always be needed for search engine revenue. Organic results will be pushed down, or become something people pay for.

This means organic results will disappear above the fold.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay, Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn and other social networks from Bruce's author page.
Comments (33)
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33 Replies to “Organic Results Disappear? What To Do in the Near Future of SEO”

When you will announce free training of SEO and PPC?

Robert Stefanski

Hi Sandeep, we have many free how-to and other resources on our site. Check out our SEO Guide, which guides you through foundational SEO in 18 lessons. If you haven’t already, subscribe to our blog as we have a PPC series coming soon. Thank you!

At This time Google showing 8 Ads Results on the SIngle search result page and people don’t know about the Google ads and they are trusting on results and get the wrong predictions about services and companies. There is much fraud that occurs we see every time someone is doing fraud they don’t have any physical presence and they are doing Google Ads marketing and making money by fraud.

You scared me.. But I am sure we can find a way out of this

This is really a helpful article for sharing about SEO future. Thanks for sharing this,

That’s great!
Google is pushing individuals to opt for the paid alternative, which is why they are making continuous changes.

It is kind of an interesting but also a very challenging thing to deal with. Google is pushing up more ads, local packs, Videos, and rich snippets in their results. I think there is still enough space for content creators who produce high-quality content. Organic web results might go down one day. By that time I think webmasters who produce great posts would get adjusted to that or might found an alternative. At the end of the day, we must remember that users don’t go to google for cheering to Google. People go to google for finding brands that provide great value in any form like service, product, article, etc. So it is such brands that will stay on top of Google forever. These are my opinions.

I think we should keep exploring things on SERP, there are lots of Google features available.

Like Video results, people also ask and Google question answers.

The future of SEO is with screenless devices.


Really That’s true, nowadays google is suppressing organic results and showing support towards paid results.

SEO is Marketing but Marketing is not only SEO,“free” organic results become a billable premium service-true

Thanks for updating us on the future of SEO. I do feel like Youtube is the future.

Thanks for the updating us on the future of seo. I do feel like Youtube video is the future.

Recently i’ve noticed that Google changes the algorithm, prioritizing the keyword in URL not the main domain even already used specific meta title. It keeps changing this month, sometimes pointing to the main domain, then change to others URL in the same domain .. Looks AI was dizzy

We all know the importance of searching and google is making people to make more searches through paid ads. These constant changes surely make people to switch on Paid ads

This is really a helpful article for sharing about SEO future. Thanks for sharing.

thanks for sharing such a great article, i am also facing the problem of organic result. day by day improving my organic result

This article shares great insights of what future holds for SEO. I have been struggling to get my site up there on the first page, it’s stuck on the second.

This is really a helpful article for sharing about SEO future. Thanks for sharing.

Very informative post!

Google making people forced to opt for the paid option that’s why they are making constant changes.

Lol, something that happened with Search Engine Journal.

Paula Allen

Shehryar: Do you mean Search Engine Land, which Google mistakenly identified as hacked on 11/29/2018 and pulled (briefly) from the Google index? That was a surprise … though not exactly what Bruce was describing. :)

Its all Google Strategy I can Say! They want Money of People and by such changes on SERP they are forcing people to go with Paid ads to get traffic on their site.

Thats all.


Ai has changed the search strategies. To be in race of daily changing SEO we must follow all rules required to give productive results. I am obliged for this article, Bruce. It will help to be ready for new updates and be in high ranking of search engines.

Great article, and very truthful statements, however, I do know one thing, Google like money, and they actually make ALOT of money off organic search, FROM paidsearch.

I’d argue that, they WANT SEOs, because we on various levels, are the heart of the marketing ecosystem, by removing organic search, instead of a increase in adwords revenue, a whole new competitor would just take the stage.

Don’t forget the one thing the search engine shuffle taught us, free and easy wins, hands down.

I see Google keeping organic search results, but moving into the marketing services industry, and providing more PAID marketing tools, for every businesses who cannot afford the insanely ( an poorly priced ) 360 suite.

VR / AR is what Google is gearing up for, mobile 1st indexing was that sign, structured data is the other.

The data meshnetwork will be a underlying secondary internet, for A.I. to grab all this ever increasing amount of data!

Thanks for the heads up.
I am worried about my future in SEO:(

Thanks for the great article. I think video marketing is the future. Better: Great content marketing in shape of videos. Like a good SEO optimized text with a video that explains that text in less words.

Best greetings to you from Austria

SEO is Marketing but Marketing is not only SEO. The sooner we understand this, better will be for us. Diversify the marketing and focus more on Content SEO-Marketing.

Michael Erbe

I couldn’t agree more. What incentive does Google really have to provide free results when the number of paid advertisers keeps growing? With such a large pool to choose from, they can provide results that satisfy users and simultaneously make revenue. It’s a win-win (for everyone but SEOs).

I know it’s hard to put a date to these kinds of things, but how long would you guess it will be before organic text listings are completely below the fold?

This is a very scary but true post, Bruce. Thx again!

Things are moving forward at a fast rate. And yup… follow the money :-)

Great article. I’ve always envisioned Google splitting into a shop or search option but now as I see AI being implemented Google will make that choice for you. Too much money is at stake for Google to give away traffic when they can charge you for it. The once level playing field is going away.

Thanks for the heads up.

So create a learning video in YouTube, post it there, and put a link in the sub domain on the same subject?

I’m new to this and learning as I go.


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