SEO is evolving and changing quickly thanks to Google's lead in developing their search algorithm for over two decades now.
There's no search engine out there with so many years of so much data: they are able to constantly test, experiment and play behind the scenes finding the best solutions that would serve their users best.
Within the next three years, marketers will be impacted by various factors that Google will be focusing on in the future. Here are the major trends:
1. No Text Queries
Google is starting to present users with information without them having to use a text query. Google powers this by understanding and using artificial intelligence, NLP (natural language processing) and entities.
In fact, Google is quickly moving towards a new era of satisfying the searcher: They want to know what the users want even before those users themselves know.
Google is the only search engine that has the ability to predict searching intent based on each user's previous search history and patterns they were able to identify from years of people around the world searching and interacting with their database.
Search engines are continuously changing the way they present search results based on the changes users make when searching.
At their 20th birthday celebration, Google announced their vision for the future. This suggested that they are planning to move away from being a web index and will evolve to become curators of the best content instead.
The move from queries to journeys and the goal of providing information without users having to use queries has already demoted organic search content down the search pages.
SEO used to focus on getting URLs to show for target keywords on the first page of a desktop search. In the future, search engine experts will likely be spending the biggest portion of their day trying to determine how to get featured, i.e. in visual and voice search.
2. Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
The future of SEO lies in machine learning and artificial intelligence.
RankBrain, Google's machine learning framework, will become better at determining what the user's intent is behind every search query in the next few years. The brands that will win are those that are focusing to optimise for the users' experience and add real value by directly addressing their search intent, questions and needs.
Additionally, content marketing will become more widespread. Semantic search will continue to rise, and the goal will become to cover entire topics, as opposed to focusing on specific keywords as was done in the past.
To create higher ranking pages, SEOs have to forget about keyword density, but need to rather focus on content strategy. To help those out, there are tools that help optimise for the topic and search intent rather than specific keywords.
Text Optimizer is one such tool that uses semantic analysis to extract related terms and score your content to identify whether it meets users' and Google's expectations:
Use the tool to identify topics to optimise your content for and give people what they are looking for. Intent optimisation brings both higher rankings and better on-page engagement as it teaches content marketers to better satisfy the searchers. You can see intent optimisation in action here.
3. Multi-Media Search
Another area where Google is focusing is to determine how to find the answer to a user's question even if it can be found inside a video or audio file, or in an image.
For video and audio files, it is critical to create scripts that cater for NLP and entities, together with transcripts that match the associated landing page flow of the copy. For video and audio files hosted on a website, ensure that Google is able to access these via structured data markup and XML sitemap files.
For image files, it is important to label pages and files, while structured markup, landing page quality and page placement will also play a role.
It is estimated that 50% of searches by 2020 will be done without a screen (both voice and image). These content types are new areas of SEO and Google is working hard on surfacing them.
The future of SEO will likely be a combination of visual and voice data. Speakable schema markup is starting to take shape slowly but surely, and although many believe voice will ultimately kill search, Google may make sure that won't happen due to their vested interest.
Although voice is the fastest way to ask a question, reading is the quickest way to consume content. To future-proof content, make sure to include a speakable schema and write conversationally.
4. On-the-Go Searching
The future of SEO is in speed. Although SEOs often think that this begins and ends with a site speed, there is actually a lot more involved in this.
Due to advancements in consumer technology, users are connected wherever they go. This has resulted in users adopting an "on-the-go", fast-paced mentality, whether they are moving around or not. This means that if an answer can't be found quickly in content or on a site, it will be overlooked.
Optimising for micro-moments goes beyond mere site speed.
Content needs to be created so that it is always coherent and informative, and it needs to be presented in fast, effective ways. Users need to be given exactly what they are looking for, in the shortest possible time. Users also need to be able to access the content as quickly as possible, whether it is through internal linking or organic search. If they can't do this, they'll simply lose interest.
A full 47% of users won't wait for more than two seconds for pages to load. They also have a similar mentality regarding finding what they're looking for when they land on a specific page.
Although it is critical to understand what users want to know, it is equally important to understand how they will access the relevant content, and why.
All of the above trends are already happening NOW. Unless you start preparing for them now, you'll soon start losing search visibility. Hire a good SEO provider that understands the future of optimising for Google and start working towards this future now until it's too late!