The future of SEO involves artificial intelligence, machine learning and digital assistants. And also: voice search, irresistible content and personalized, really specific user experiences. In other words, we’re seeing the rise of SEO that is intensely becoming both machine- and human-focused, in amazing, astounding ways.
Then again, here’s the thing: search is always in evolution mode. It’s shaped and reshaped by the constantly shifting needs and wants of humans. So its exact future is not precisely predictable. What we can (and must) do is to understand some key trends and patterns that indicate where the direction/s of SEO is heading.
It’s important to ask, what are the movements that are reshaping SEO in 2017 and the years to come? The answers will clue you in on how your business will be transformed by these changes– and how you can lead transformation as well.
Based on industry developments, SEO experiments and our own experiences in the field, the following are the areas of potential impact that I believe SEOs, digital marketers and business owners need to master in 2017:
1. Moving forward to a mobile-first world
Google has long been emphasizing how important it is to make web content friendly for a mobile-first, cross-device, fast-moving audience. It’s building a mobile-first index. It shows preference for mobile-friendly sites and strengthened mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) are enjoying heightened visibility in search results.
And with statistics showing that more than half of global web traffic now comes from mobile users, it looks like there is no turning back. Your digital strategy needs to consider the multiple devices, channels and formats your customers are using.
2. Machine learning x SEO
Google queries are filtered by its sophisticated artificial intelligence system called RankBrain. Right now, RankBrain is also one of the most important ranking signals used to rank search results. With AI, Google is able to understand and learn about the content on each site faster and better than ever before
But here’s where it becomes more interesting: AI doesn’t just study the web when doing its work. A major core of its learning is to study the human users as well. To make decisions, RankBrain is tracking, analyzing and interpreting the behavior of people using Google– what they type, what they click on, and even whether they like the content that they have chosen.
RankBrain is changing how search works because it’s looking at the data, so it’s looking at you and me as well. But isn’t that how good SEO works?
3. Personal and predictive is the new normal
Voice search is no longer a novelty in many markets, while in others it still has a long way to go. But even without Google Home, there is no denying that search has become increasingly personalized and queries have become conversational.
Case in point: people are no longer typing “restaurants + location” when researching for their next dining adventure. Instead, “restaurants near me” is now the top query about that topic.
Thus, it pays to approach search as if you are a sophisticated digital personal assistant: efficient, more personal, intelligent and predictive. If you’d like your SEO to be future-ready, understand that user intent, context and history are everything.
4. The urgent need for content amplification
The more SEO becomes tech-dependent, the more it relies on content. Remember: you’re dealing with a primarily on-the-go, information-hungry, but attention-deficit audience. At the same time, you’re being reviewed by learning machines. So you’ll need to engineer the structure, information and style of your content in a way that suits this hard-to-please duo.
So, provide solutions even before users reach your website- appear in Google’s answer boxes, guest in other authority sites, be social. Explore other modes of engagement such as videos and images. Highlight your brand and your voice. Simply put, your content (and how you promote it) needs to be not only good, but incredibly awesome, irresistible, searchable and shareable.
5. Total user experience as the new currency
Mobile-first, machine learning, personalized, predictive search, content engineering- all these lead to one thing: building a more positive, authentic, meaningful and memorable experience for your users.
The main takeaway is old-fashioned, but refreshingly relevant: understand the people who matter most in your business. In this time of intelligent machines and smart algorithms, the only way to survive is to bank on SEO that’s faster, better, more cutting-edge- and definitely more human.