“The world is changing, and we need to change with it or get left behind.”
These are words I’ve heard many times in my career as a website owner and SEO. They usually come from my wife, but I think it’s time I talked about them for a little while.
First, a bit of background. I’m a semi-retired (former) SEO. I left the industry for various reasons, but I always remained an interested onlooker and occasional marketer. I have my own website, which I run and maintain (Including the SEO content) as a hobby.
I’ve been watching the industry change a bit over the years, and I continue to be fascinated by how it changes without me having much direct influence over it. In the future, I foresee a lot of that change being driven by machine learning and natural language processing.
Before we look into how this might affect SEO, let’s first look into some facts.
The SEO industry is a $36 billion dollar industry with about 31,000 employees. (Source: Statista). It’s growing, and it’s only going to get bigger.
95% of internet users don’t know what SEO is. (Source: Similar Web).
In the past 2 years, we’ve started seeing a shift towards sites that are primarily mobile friendly. (Source: Google Search Console).
78% of consumers start their search in a mobile browser before clicking on a link. (Source: Brightcove).
Due to the shift towards mobile, there is an even larger shift towards SEO software for analyzing websites. Sites like SEMRush and Ahrefs are all becoming more popular.
Major Search Engines have started to get more aggressive about ranking sites. (Yandex in particular, and in the past Bing, and now also Google).
“Links” are not as important as they once were. Google now actually prefers a lot of organic content.
The importance of a website’s domain has significantly decreased.
Now, let’s look into how these factors might affect SEO in the future.
Many of the jobs within SEO are going to be taken over by AI. This is going to affect how, and what types of websites get ranked.
SEO software is going to get better for writing content. This will be particularly helpful for information sites, such as tech blogs.
In reality, tools such as MarketMuse, Frase, and BrightEdge give suggestions on what content should be created for specific keyword clusters to own search traffic. To extract topics from search results, they use AI, so that you can see what other top-ranked sites are doing to appear first around any given question in the search ranking.
Content farms will start to disappear. If you have no idea for an article, try this tool which uses the GPT-3.
The amount of spam and low-quality sites will increase.
Like in the past, buying links is going to be fairly important for certain industries, such as chain e-commerce. Buying low quality links is also going to become an increasingly popular strategy among black hat SEOs. Sites that have a lot of links from other high quality, relevant sites are going to have a better chance of ranking.
Read more: How to Do an Effective SEO Audit?
For the most part, pages that have more social proof, such as testimonials, are going to rank higher.
For the most part, content is going to become much more important. If you’re producing good content that is targeted, you’ll have an easier time ranking.
Website speed is going to become much more important. In an attempt to provide quick, intuitive page experience, Google is launching a new ranking signal called the Page Experience Signal, which is expected in 2021.
Carousell reduced page load time by 65% and saw a 63% increase in organic traffic, a 3x increase in advertising click-thru rate and a 46% increase in first-time chatters.
Poor performing websites are going to be penalized in the search engine results.
As a website owner, you’re going to want to make sure you’re focusing on creating original, high-quality content.
You’re also going to want to make sure that your website loads quickly.
A lot of people are going to switch their search from manual searches to AI-enabled assistants.
These are just some things that I believe are going to affect SEO in the future.