The SEO industry is in a constant state of flux. Changes and updates in organic search are occurring on an almost weekly basis, whereas a decade ago it felt like there was one major update a year. And new technologies, devices and service providers are emerging to completely disrupt the traditional organic search experience.
These disruptions come in many forms: personal assistants and voice search; reduced listings; more paid ads; and machine learning; . These are making it harder to gain organic traffic, and making the value of the coveted position 1 rankings less valuable, as too often they appear below-the-fold.
Personal Assistants and Voice Search
Personal assistants (like Alexa, Siri, OK Google and Cortana) are becoming more sophisticated, as they are capable of understanding and retrieving information based on the intent of the question, so essentially bypass any “results” and just take straight from the most trusted source. So in the famous words of Ricky Bobbi “if you’re not first, you’re last”.
More Paid Listings
Google now allows four Adwords listings at the top of each results page, which is enough to push organic results out of view for highly commercial search terms. Which has essentially led to…
With the introduction of extended PPC ads, the local 3-pack, shopping carousels, knowledge graphs, answer boxes, app packs, rich snippets and other forms of structured data now present on Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs), has meant the other listings have had cut-backs ie. organic ones. According to Searchmetrics, the average number of results on a search page is now 8.5, not 10. Making it more competitive to get a page 1 ranking.
I have previously looked at how machine learning and artificial intelligence affect SEO in this Drum Network post, and how algorithms deliver personalised results based on the behaviour of the user, meaning it will favour certain results based on location, device, online activity and more. So even if you are doing everything right, you may still not be reaching your target demographic.
It’s hard to justify the importance of SEO with all these obstacles obstructing it’s performance, but it is still just as important as before, except the way in which supports your business may change. As it may not be so much about ranking for high volume keyword, and more about aiding the informational.
Despite all these disruptions, the core practices of SEO should always be maintained, as everything you do with your website should always have one core objective in mind: satisfying the end-user. SEO has always been about creating the relevant experience for your intended user – from building authority, presenting accurate information in a logically structured manner, and an easy user journey.
Backlinks always have been one of the strongest factors in ranking. There has been a noticeable shift from quantity to quality over the years, yet quantity and quality is best. Recognition from 3rd party sources (broadsheets, influencers and blogs) around your product or service tell Google that you are an expert in that topic, so will look to direct traffic your way.
The quality of your sites’ content should always be a priority, as any user that does not find the answer to their query will simply look elsewhere. By understanding your user, you can still ensure you get organic traffic from informational-intent searches.
A site that is easy to understand and navigate will always be preferred over the one which is keyword optimised. There is no point in having all the amazing content the user desires and not building a clear path to find it. Silo content into logical chunks which would address as many of the users concerns as possible, and don’t be too reliant on the user contacting you for the information they need.
With that, it is hard to predict exactly where and what SEO will be in the next 5 years, so for the time being, focus on making your site greater than ever, and let Google figure out the rest.