The Future of SEO: Trends and Predictions
by Lindsey Winsemius
Posted 4 months ago
Since the beginning of time, people have been trying to rank on the first page of Search Engines.
Alright, maybe just since the beginning of the Internet, but isn’t it really the same thing for our generations?
I’ve been working in digital marketing (it used to be called Internet marketing, but that term is so five years ago) for over ten years now. I’ve seen a lot of changes in the Internet, and particularly in search engine optimization.
First there was key word stuffing, which worked really well even though it was questionable. Then Google came and blasted those “black hat SEOs”, penalizing sites using too many keywords. More ranking penalties followed, such as link farming and duplicated content penalties.
Social media influenced the next big change. Google rocked the search world with their introduction of personalized result pages, which made us again rethink our SEO strategies.
Then came mobile. Oh, boy, did that mix things up. We’re still trying to figure out exactly what it means for rankings.
What’s coming next for SEO?
I’ve put together some of the top SEO predictions from my personal experience, as well as the opinions of experts in the technology and marketing fields.
Search Engine Optimization Predictions for 2019 and beyond:
People search differently when using voice search compared to typing in search terms.
For example, I just tried to look up a strange bug my kids and I saw flying around my flowers. I first typed in “bug lobster Michigan”. Then my daughter used the voice search to ask “What kind of flying bug looks like a lobster that lives in Michigan?”
Voice searches give more meaning to search engines, allowing them to better optimize for semantics. This means keywords are less important, and writing content that answers questions matters more. The search engines will gather deeper understanding about intent from sentences in voice search, rather than a jumble of keywords that are typical of a typed search.
Voice search isn’t just a fleeting trend. Forty-one percent of adults say they use voice search at least once a day, and experts expect that by 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be voice-based. That means it’s vital to start focusing on voice search technology now.
Don’t completely quit your keyword research, but instead focus on writing great content surrounding the key terms you’re writing about.
Imagine you are answering the most likely questions people are asking about your topic.
Voice searches are longer and more specific, so you’ll need to target long tail keywords rather than simple key terms.
Oh, and the bug that looks like a lobster? It was a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth.
I predict that virtual assistants like Alexa are going to play a big role in the future SEO. Not only do they use voice search, giving them a leg up on understanding semantics of a search, their AI is better at SEO.
Virtual assistants learn the habits of their users quickly, and are able to predict desired content. As this tech becomes increasingly intelligent, it will perform more and more activities for users.
I don’t have any solid recommendations for this yet, other than to further solidify your voice search optimization. But definitely keep an eye on how this tech is shaping SEO (or I will be for you), and be ready to react accordingly.
Advancements in AI means search engines and things like virtual assistants are better than ever at determining meaning. They know what you’re looking for even better than you do (as evidenced by Google’s suggested search, which is downright creepy how well they know what I want to find when I only type a few letters).
Old fashioned or black hat techniques like key words stuffing and link building are becoming less effective as AIs get smarter and search engines learn people’s behaviors.
The best way to rank well is to write great content. If people like your content, your site is professional and loads properly across all devices, the search engines will like your content, too.
It will also help to use “long tail keywords”. That means, being specific in your writing. Instead of trying to rank well for “Baby bottles”, you might try ranking for “Glass Baby Bottles with leak proof nipples”. The more specific you can be, the more likely you’ll end up in relevant and specific searches. Also, this will reduce competition.
No techniques or tricks are a substitute for well-written, useful content. If you can’t write it, find someone who can and pay them well. It is worth it.
In 2017, mobile searches accounted for more than 50 percent of all web traffic worldwide, and that number continues to grow.
Mobile search results are often different than the results on other devices.
More detailed voice searches produce even better results.
This goes back to Semantics from above. The better search engines can understand what people are looking for, the more specific results they are able to provide.
AMPs and mobile-optimized pages are going to rank best.
AMPs or Accelerated Mobile Pages are an open source project supported by Google. These pages are built specifically for mobile devices and load quickly and display better. Currently, Google has a carousel at the top of mobile results featuring only AMPs.
Mobile devices are more likely to include accurate local results.
Search engines are aware of our locations as we go about our day to day activities. When we want food, it can suggest things nearby. Looking for a dry cleaner? Local results will show up first. Many people leave their location services on because they appreciate this convenience, meaning mobile devices can more easily show local, relevant results.
Technical issues like load speeds will matter to search engines (and users).
People are less patient on a mobile device, expecting pages to load quickly and displays to be optimal for their device.
Make sure your website is optimized for mobile. That means a fast loading time (recommended goal is 2 seconds or less), responsive content, and possibly Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs).
You should also focus on being hyper-specific with your content and location.
Apps and Amazon Search
I’ve heard it whispered that Amazon could be the new Google.
56% of consumers begin searches around products on Amazon (not Google), According to a Kenshoo study.
I would extrapolate beyond Amazon. People are increasingly going to apps to search instead of just opening Google. From getting their news from social sites to looking at reviews on Yelp, you’re going to need to be ranking on more than just Google.
If you’re trying to optimize products, you don’t want to ignore Amazon’s marketplace.
Find places people are searching that are specific for your product or industry type. Be sure you have a presence on those sites, whether it is Amazon, social sites, or another type of popular medium in your industry.
The proliferation of Apps means people go to specific places to search, so make sure your product or business is visible in those more targeted places.
Even Google is ranking social pages and directories higher than websites or blogs, so be active in the appropriate places.
This isn’t exactly a new trend, but it continues to dominate search results and rankings. Local results are extremely relevant for many searchers, and so Google (And other search engines) will continue to rank local results higher.
Features like “Places near me” on Google maps just highlights this.
Optimize your pages for local search by choosing local search terms, and also using snippets to label your content properly.
You should also claim appropriate business pages, such as your My Business listing on Google to make sure the search engine knows where you’re located, what type of business you run, and be able to display photos and information like business hours to local searchers.
I use Google all the time to find places, and I’m always surprised at how many businesses don’t claim and fill out their results page. Your business listing through Google is going to rank highest for you, and Google is more likely to show results with more content or better reviews. You can’t afford to neglect it.
Personalization isn’t a new trend, but one that is here to stay and gaining momentum as tech advances.
As devices become more connected than ever (all my devices are connected through my Google login), Google becomes better at knowing what people are looking for. We are often willing to sacrifice privacy for convenience.
This is allowing not only Google but sites to track your browsing habits, and tailor the experience specifically to each user.
Beyond Google’s personalized results, which disrupted everything most marketers knew about SEO several years back, we’re seeing more in-your-face ads than ever.
Browser notifications, app notifications, mobile ads that look like notifications, stalker ads we like to call remarketing… It is no longer enough to wait for users to come looking for you. You need to be where they are.
Get in front of people by using a service like PushCrew
to allow users to get browser notifications about your blog.
Use advertising techniques, like remarketing, that are going to find users around the web instead of waiting for them to come to you.
Like I recommended above, be active on relevant social sites and have a presence on apps your target audience is using.
Search optimization looks very different today than it did several years ago. Competition is higher than ever, but you can still be found by your audience if you use the tips mentioned here.
When it comes to trends like Virtual Assistants, Voice search, and Google’s semantics algorithms, focus on quality over quantity when it comes to content. Long content that is hyper specific will rank better and appeal more to your audience, as well as the search engines.
Apps and Amazon are taking over traditional search engines when it comes to usage.
As mobile becomes more and more prominent as the way to use the Internet, searching in relevant apps will also become more common. Focus on building a presence in apps or on the Amazon marketplace for your business to better connect with your audience.
Local searches is one of the best ways to reach your audience. Claim your Google listing, and build a presence in local directories.
Don’t wait for users to find you. Find your audience by building a subscriber list, using remarketing or paid advertising, and get active where your audience hangs out, like social sites.
The Internet evolves quickly, and so do search trends. Rather than trying to learn and jump on each new trend, building a small but loyal following and being real and transparent online is the best way to succeed.
Talk to me!
What do you think about search trends? Tell me your predictions, or share your experiences in the comments below.