Are We Overdue For An SEO Revolution?
For the last couple of decades, SEO has been a primary focus of digital marketers all over the world. With more than 3.5 billion searches performed every day, the potential for visibility is practically limitless, and even a few years of experience in the industry is enough to master the basics.
Here’s the thing, though — the basics have remained more or less the same for several years now, with almost no fundamental changes to the way we approach search engine optimization, except perhaps for the increasing focus on optimizing for mobile devices.
There have been major algorithm updates and paradigm shifts, of course, but most of the basic tenets are the same as they were in 2012. The world of search (and technology in general) is one with origins in massive, unpredicted leaps forward — so are we overdue for seeing a revolution in SEO?
SEO to Date: Bits and Pieces
Google isn’t the only search engine that matters for SEO, but it is the most popular and the one responsible for driving most trends and strategic shifts, so it’s the one I’m going to pay most attention to. Since its launch in 1997, Google has gone through a handful of major changes, including major leaps forward in how it calculates “PageRank,” how it evaluates link quality, and how it determines the trustworthiness of content on a page.
Other than those fundamental overhauls, most of the “major” updates that have attracted attention in the SEO community — such as Panda’s overhaul to content quality evaluation and the “mobilegeddon” update designed to favor mobile-friendly sites — haven’t torn down our main strategic pillars.
Tactics like producing high-quality content, optimizing your page titles, descriptions, and content for specific keywords, and building high-quality links still form the core practices of earning exceptional results. For the most part, Google has kept its formula intact, with moderate modifications to occasionally improve elements of that formula.
SEO Updates Today
Today, SEO is more stable and streamlined than ever. It’s been years since we’ve seen an update big enough to send search marketers into a frenzy, and most of the major “branch” updates (like Panda and Penguin) have been incorporated into Google’s “core” algorithm. Essentially, that means they run in real time, constantly updating information based on new developments and tweaking search rankings accordingly.
Newer updates, like RankBrain, are even capable of updating themselves, which means they can gradually improve over time. This framework would suggest Google has a plan for the distant future, and one that only requires tweaks and balances to a system that’s already in place. But is there a possibility for a bigger, deeper overhaul?
Potential for Upheaval
These are just some of the areas I see potential for major changes in the future of SEO — possibly including a teardown and rebuilding of how search engines function for users:
· Death of traditional websites. First up, we could witness the death of traditional websites in the way we’re used to experiencing them. Users are starting to gravitate toward the use of apps over web browsers in their mobile devices, and if that transition ever becomes final, it could demand a total overhaul of our search algorithms.
· Wearable tech and smart homes. We’re becoming more and more connected as the years roll on. Smart homes stitch together all our devices and appliances into one network, and wearable devices enable us to access all the world’s information with more mobile liberties than ever. Either way, search would need to evolve to keep up.
· AR and VR. Augmented reality devices would change how we perceive and interact with the world, and possibly how we use the web. Search, in line, would also need to transform.
· Personal digital assistants. Voice controls and personal digital assistants like Siri are already affecting how search marketers target and optimize for keywords. If they keep advancing in capability and sophistication, eventually they could come to replace all our traditional search algorithms.
What an SEO Revolution Could Look Like
If there’s an SEO revolution, how would it play out? What would it look like?
It’s hard to say, especially since an SEO revolution could come from so many different directions. However, it wouldn’t likely happen overnight. Billions of users are so accustomed to search in the way it operates today that any sudden “jerk” could disrupt our entire global communications. Instead, it would likely roll out over the course of a couple of years.
It would also likely come from new sources — while Google is the dominant search force in the world and will hold that title for some time, it’s unlikely to change its formula too much for fear of alienating users. Instead, this would come from an entirely new company, with a new device, software program, or algorithm.
Even then, older methods of search would likely stick around — in the same way that there are still computers running on Windows ’98 out there.
Is It Possible?
So are we on the verge of an SEO revolution? My guess is that chances are still low for any significant overhaul — at least within the next five years. We’ll continue using search as we have, as both consumers and marketers, and the improvements to our systems will be so gradual they’ll be almost imperceptible.
However, it’s still too early to rule out the possibility, so pay close attention to developing technologies, and always be ready for what’s around the corner.