The Future of SEO: 5 Clear Facts You Should Know

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Sure, no one has a clear crystal ball that can predict what the search engines will and won’t do in the future. However, it is possible to extrapolate from their activities over the past few years and identify the trends that are pretty much guaranteed to continue going forward, and that’s what we’re bringing you today – five clear facts about the future of SEO that we believe will heavily influence which sites that succeed in the long run.

Fact #1 – Content is king

When the Google Panda algorithm updates first rolled out, plenty of people cried foul. After all, if the intent of the changes was to clean up the SERPs by ridding the search engines of the type of spammy articles found on content farm sites, then why did it seem like so many low quality sites jumped in to take their places?

While you could see this as indication that it simply isn’t important to provide high-quality content, smart marketers know that content is now – and always will be – king to the search engines. Here’s why…

The primary goal of the search engines is to make money, and they can’t do that if people avoid their services because their results are perceived as being low-quality. For this reason, the search engines will always be engaged in the process of refining their algorithms to provide the best possible results. And – newsflash – low-value, spam content is never going to win out over well-written, authoritative content in a battle over which text should be served up in the SERPs.

So while Google and the other search engines might not have definitively cracked the code on how to weed spam pages from the SERPs yet, rest assured that they’re working hard on it. And when that day comes, it will be the site owners who focused on providing good quality content that succeed in the long run.

Fact #2 – Natural backlinks will always win

Yes, I know you think you’re so clever with your “10,000 backlinks for $10” package that’s guaranteed to fool Google into ranking your site higher. But here’s the thing – Google is now, and will always be, smarter than you. Google and the other search engines employ some of the top PhDs and technical minds in the country, whose sole purpose is to weed out link schemes like these and devalue them.

So while you might temporarily succeed in earning a high ranking despite a link profile that’s stuffed full of profile links and paid links from spam sites, keep in mind that your progress is likely to be short lived. In the long run, it’s a far better strategy to focus on obtaining the good-quality, relevant backlinks that will stand the test of time.

But how do you get these prized links? Well, the solution actually goes hand-in-hand with Fact #1 listed above, as publishing great content is one of the best ways to build natural backlinks from authoritative sites. Guest blogging on other popular sites in your niche, encouraging your readers to share your content on social sites and deploying legitimate press releases are also good ways to keep your link profile squeaky clean and appealing to the search engines.

Fact #3 – Personalized search will be a reality

Plenty of traditional SEOs have been up in arms over the integration of personalized search features, which adjust the standard SERPs to reflect the viewer’s personal interests and connections.

For example, if you’ve subscribed to several popular SEO blogs through the Google Reader program, you might find that results from these sites appear in your SERPs with a note that the content was recommended for you because of your subscription to the originating site. These personalized results bump sites that would have appeared in the natural SERPs if you weren’t logged into your Google Profile – a fact that’s pretty frustrating for the marketers who have invested time and money into achieving high traditional rankings.

But despite these frustrations, what we’ve seen so far in terms of the integration of social profiles into search results is only the beginning. In fact, personalized search results are anticipated to expand in scope, as creating unique SERPs based on your preferences provides the most relevant results (at least, in theory) that will keep you coming back and using the search engine’s services (consequently, making the company more money).

The result is that these changes make building your professional network critically important. In fact, this shift may even represent a powerful opportunity to jump in to some highly competitive SERPs, but only if you take the time to build a large network on popular social networking sites (as this will increase the number of people that are exposed to your content).

Fact #4 – Optimization for multiple platforms is key

Although the traditional search engines have long been the default access point for people looking for information online, the number and scope of methods we use to navigate the web and parse results has increased dramatically in the past few years.

For example, while you’re certainly still likely to conduct standard Google searches from your desktop or laptop computer, you might also browse for information on your tablet computer or smartphone – or even make use of voice command technology programs like Apple’s “Siri” system. Given the rapid growth that we’ve seen in these alternative platforms recently, there’s no reason not to assume that this trend of expanding internet information access won’t continue in the future.

As a website owner, you need to be aware that people might be looking for information about your business on any of these platforms, making it crucial that you optimize your site for as many of them as possible. Key action steps at this point include launching a mobile-ready version of your website and maintaining profiles on sites like Google Places and Yelp, which are likely to be used as information sources by third-party programs like Siri.

Fact #5 – Social activity will increase in importance

Late 2010 brought the unprecedented announcement by Google that social signals were being used as a ranking factor, and as the web shows no signs of slowing down in terms of activity on popular social networking sites, it’s likely that the relative importance of social signals will continue to increase for web businesses.

Need more proof that there’s a good reason to invest time in building up your site’s social media presence? Consider that the 132-person panel of SEO experts that contributed to the 2011 SEOMoz Search Engine Ranking Factors study rated “Social signals at a page level” and “Social signals at a domain level” as two of the top three factors that are most likely to increase in importance as a ranking factor in the future (behind only “Analysis of a site’s/page’s perceived value to users”). If these industry experts anticipate social signals playing a bigger role in the search engine algorithms, you’d better believe that now’s the time to get on the bandwagon!

So how can you build up a social profile that the search engines will reward? Start by making an effort to spend time on the social networking sites you’re active with every day and reach out personally to your followers. By providing consistent, helpful information, you’ll build a following and begin to see an increase in the number of social shares of your work, making any investment here worthwhile in protecting your site against future changes in the world of SEO.

Sujan Patel
Sujan Patel has over 12 years of digital marketing experience and has helped hundreds of clients increase web traffic, boost user acquisition, and grow their... Read Full Bio
Sujan Patel
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  • Jenni

    A well-written article, but a very ‘safe’ one. These are all facts that have been clear and well-known for a few years now.

  • Charlie

    Good facts! Most of them “Old-School” well-know techniques, but really useful today.

    Don’t forget about the “Freshness updated” by Google. This is going to be another factor for the “real-time search” including Google+, blogging, etc.

  • Medals of America

    Some of the social integrations just don’t make sense in my opinion. Take the new social extension for Adwords. Why would I pay money to send people to my +1 site instead of my main site? I’m all for adding the integration to the ads but not at the high price tag of some of the bids on certain keywords. I’ll be interested to see how widely this is adopted by the masses…

  • Maximillian

    Great stuff and great examples!

  • Dana

    I agree with everyone – basic stuff that has been known for a while. However, I think it was a bit assuming to not only state that these are “facts,” but also to state that they will DEFINITELY be applicable in the future. No one knows that.

    Still a decent read and nice refresher.

  • Adam Cedar Fence Pro

    If it’s easy to manipulate, it probably won’t be much of a factor when it comes to SEO. So while I think social media will be important to an extent, it’s very easy for people to set up fake Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts, etc. and game the system that way. No different thank getting good links. Good article though.

  • Tyler Musson

    If you’re looking for brownie points from Google, you’ll never get them! You cannot deny the fact that Google is indeed employing many of the same tactics it advises it’s webmasters to avoid. It’s Google evangelists that feed the machine to eventually make it impossible to get a direct search to your website without going through the toll bridge first which is Google itself. Keep believing everything you hear and read without testing to backup everything Google says and eventually, the pusher will get what he wants, page 1 will be riddled with nothing but Google ads and properties ALL in the guise of “quality search results”. Google doesn’t like you, me, or anyone else out there interfering with them making more ad revenue or teaching their flock the way of organics and it’s many benefits over paid ads and Google services.

    Don’t ever forget people, Google is a FOR PROFIT Corporation! Their interests will always come before yours or the SMB, cloaked in the form of a white knight, somehow getting away with the slogan, “Do No Evil”. It’s amazing really at how many fall for this hook, line, and sinker.

    On another note, I do agree with most of your statements from an SEO perspective but they come in a tone that makes Google to be some honest, non profit organization, only existing to give “relevant” and “trustworthy” search results in the name of Good or something, as if they are not laughing all the way to the bank as SEO’s like yourself continue to educate their flock on the ways and new ways of Google, all FOR FREE, it’s brilliant really, of course it would not be brilliant at all if not so many people hung on every word.

    • Martin

      I agree with your thoughts about Google. Don’t drink the Koolaid

  • Gyi Tsakalakis

    I would add that just as what you write matters, your reputation as an expert author will also matter in search.

  • S Emerson

    What is old is new again. (smiles)

    All the tricks that come and go still boil down to the basics of being found, earning a good reputation and getting those natural backlinks (including mentions in social networking now).

  • Yashwant Naik

    Nice information. New Trend in SEO is not much simpler than the traditional but definitely the Google’s effort to keep spam away is great.

  • sudha

    Mobile optimized websites are more preferable to the ordinary. After all mobile browsing consists of 15% of the total browsing.

  • Gary of

    Hey Sujan, well thought out article.
    I just received a new iphone 4s which has Siri and I use Siri for searching but never thought of optimizing my sites for the same, so thanks for whacking me on the head that I might see the obvious.

  • Hospitalera

    Not really anything new in this article, just a summary of what is already known to everybody that is more than a few months around in the SEO world ;-( SY

  • Ros

    Even if we’ve heard most of this already, I don’t think it does any harm to be reminded that we’re on the right path!

  • Marcus

    Not sure you’re saying anything new here Sujan….

    Regarding Search Engines, “Content is King”, is a misnomer, because “context is king” has always been the
    ruling order. That is what backlinks are, and that is what Google is built on.

    The content / context dynamic is now too complex for lazy maxims.

    Maybe the kind of thing we will see in the future are more personalized search “controls”.

    You may be able to choose what your predilections are in an overt way, (rather than have them crunched by Google’s back-room), and Google will serve you a personalized search that way.

    Another kind of feature we might see is a spin button on search, like at a fruit machine….

    You do a search and if you aren’t happy you spin for a different version.

    Google will keep search fresh if they can…

  • Marcus

    Actually that would be quite cool…different ‘flavours’ of search result…spicy social, vanilla, chocolate academic…
    you just click the colour coded search button of your choice

  • Alex-Web design Ireland

    A good and well written list but seems to be the obvious. I totally agree with the #1. Thanks for sharing.

  • Michael

    “The primary goal of the search engines is to make money…” I would like to clarify this statement and say that “the primary goal of the search engines is to provide relevant search results for users. The better they accomplish this the more people will use Google and other SE’s and therefore click on relevant search ads which will result in Google making gatrillions dollars a year..”

  • Nika Gviniashvili

    Great stuff and great examples. I totally agree with the n5.
    Nice information.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Bryan

    Thank you. This was actually helpful for newbie (believe it or not). There is tons of misinformation about SEO optimization out there, much of which is questionable. It was nice to find a article that offered an SEO explanation without promoting schemes to get 1,000 back links a day.

  • Market Researcher

    Hi Thank you for share this post really nice and some of the content is good SEO is the best process to website in google ranking and i totally agree with you.

  • John Lucifer

    I agree with your point but it’s easy to say anything or wrote anything. You prefer content because this is the base for any work which you are doing but it’s all about the money, how you earn it that’s the question everybody is looking for an answer.

  • Manish

    Hey Sujan nice article. Content matters a lot for every website and every website owner must put emphasize on creating quality as well as informative content. I have seen many websites that having a scrappy content which is not at all useful for the search engines as well as for the visitors. So it is essential that content should be made informative because a detailed information will definitely liked by the visitors who are coming to the website. So in the end I want to tell only one thing that “QUALITY AND INFORMATIVE CONTENT IS KING”.

  • Dale

    For what it’s worth, I’ve seen an increase in rankings just by using bigger words and more advanced verbiage on my site. Not sure if I am reading too much into it, but it would make sense on some level.

  • henry

    Over the past year or so, Google’s been rolling out new updates like crazy, including Penguin, Panda, Google+, and so on… And recently, people in the SEO industry have been shaking in their boots,