The Future of SEO: Where We’re Headed
SEO came from humble beginnings. Back in 1996 when I started doing SEO, we had very few SEO practices. Editing a webpage with keywords was all there was to do.
One of the best of the early search engines was Infoseek. You could make changes to a webpage and immediately see how it affected the rankings. Clearly, the many search engines have changed, and now only a few are left.
Over time, editing a webpage with keywords wasn’t enough. Links became a factor, the algorithms got smarter, Google introduced AI — and well, the rest is history.
While Google has claimed the top three ranking factors are content, links and RankBrain, it is not enough to know just that.
Each of these factors is only a piece of the larger algorithmic puzzle. For every query, Google applies a different set of signals with different weights to every possible keyword (as in trillions of keywords). So there are essentially as many algorithms as there are queries.
Implementing precise SEO techniques so that search engines pick your webpage as the most relevant for a query is not a common skill for many.
But buckle up, because the future of SEO will be even more involved.
What Recent Google Moves Indicate
Recent updates are giving us clues into what we’ll need to compete at the top of the search results in the near future. SEO will be even more involved, more technical and more focused on architecture from the site to page level.
Here’s a quick overview of the most immediately significant Google updates and how they impact near-future SEO strategy …
E-A-T and site architecture. Expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness are concepts from Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. We can learn a lot about how Google views quality from these guidelines and apply that to SEO strategies, one of which is site-wide content architecture known as SEO siloing. This technique helps your website show expertise at the site level. Not only that, but it creates a good user experience, which Google cares about.
BERT and page structure. Google announced BERT, a deep learning algorithm, in 2019. BERT helps the search engine better understand the meaning of conversational queries. As a result, BERT allows Google to better answer queries via featured snippets in the search results. So website publishers will need to understand how to better structure webpages so that they can rank for featured snippets aka “position zero.”
Page experience and page performance. The Page Experience ranking update creates a signal that combines ranking factors we’ve already been optimizing for with new ranking factors called “core web vitals.” Each factor has its own set of technical requirements to ensure a webpage performs well for its visitors. Understanding the metrics for each of these factors and meeting the thresholds will take work for most websites. We have a great free e-book on this: get it here.
Of course, there are many website builders and content creators that occasionally can do some of these things. But the future lies with search architects that have the skills and wisdom to put it all together.
We must look at these signals and forecast what search will be like in two years with a goal to get there first. This is the future of SEO.
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