04 Jan 8 Ways SEO Will Change in the Coming Year
Online marketers often treat SEO with more reverence than any other aspect of digital publishing—and with good reason. For years, search engine optimization has driven the decisions behind content marketing and changed how we do business online. So what does the future hold in store for this space?
1. Long-Form Content Will Reign Supreme
Marketers often rave about the simplicity and power of micro content—Tweets and other social media posts, for example—but Google focuses an entire search engine type on long-form content. It’s called the “in-depth article” and it refers to longer content that explores many facets of a subject.
While short-form content remains important, businesses can increase their visibility and their credibility with longer articles. Not only can you rank in the search engines for this specific type of content, but you boost your authority at the same time.
Search engine optimizers understand the value of long-form content and will focus more heavily on this space in the coming year. Expect to see an increase in the number of e-books, long articles, white papers, and other in-depth content.
2. SEO Professionals Will Shift to Long-Tail Keywords
Both for SEO and PPC (pay-per-click) advertising, long-tail keywords offer several benefits in online marketing:
- Less competition
- Higher conversions
- More precise results
- Greater impressions
In 2016 and beyond, SEOs will shift their focus to long-tail keywords so they appeal to a more relevant audience. For example, a consumer might search for “gluten free chocolate chip cookies” instead of just “chocolate chip cookies” or “cookies.” The crowded content market is forcing SEOs to make their keyword targets more specific.
3. Exact-Match Keywords Won’t Matter Anymore
At one time, Google gave preference to exact-match keywords, or keywords and key phrases based on specific searches. Now, however, search engines don’t base their results on exact-match keywords, so SEO can focus more on quality content than keyword specificity.
In other words, if you publish an article on fly fishing, the piece might appear in search results for keywords like “fly fisherman” and “fly fish lures” even if those precise keywords don’t appear in the copy.
Search engines get smarter every year and they can discern the direction and subject of an article (as well as related keywords) without human intervention. While this might change how SEO functions, it actually frees up marketers for creativity in content creation.
4. We’ll See an Increase in Automation
Software programs that automate parts of SEO already exist, but the future will bring faster and more efficient resources to the table. Additionally, since most SEO automation resides in multiple programs, it’s reasonable to expect one developer to release a piece of software that handles it all in one place.
Advances in programming languages and software efficiency could lead to improvements to areas of SEO automation that are currently lacking. For example, developers can improve the quality of backlinks generated by SEO automation.
5. The Focus Will Shift From Rankings to Conversions
Conversions already matter. If you’ve sat in a marketing meeting lately, you’ve heard the word at least a few times, often with a percentage point following it. Marketers use their conversion stats for bragging rights and to secure new clients.
However, conversions will bear the brunt of the focus in the coming months and years thanks to a decrease in interest in search engine rankings. Since ranking results depend on an infinite number of variables and exist in numerous forms, marketers will wisely turn their attention to the behaviors of individual site visitors.
Focusing on conversions at the expense of rankings serves several purposes:
- Ceasing to rely on deceptive metrics
- Creating content for human beings rather than robots
- Attracting high-quality traffic rather than high-volume
- Improving brand awareness
6. SEO Audits Will Expand
Anyone can conduct an audit of his or her website, but audits lack specificity. Developers will create better SEO audit software in the future to automate the task and process greater amounts of data. It can take weeks to manually check all the SEO factors on every page of a website.
SEO audits will also expand to include factors such as social media interaction and backlink quality. Users will be able to assess their websites holistically rather than just in the meta sense.
It’s possible that the future of SEO will include the ability to automate audits of competitors’ websites, as well, or to audit the SEO performance of other online presences, such as social media accounts.
7. Mobile Technology Will Become a Core Focus
Optimizing websites and social media platforms for mobile technology will continue to grow in importance. As of April 2015, Google penalizes websites without responsive code. In other words, if a website doesn’t adjust to fit smaller devices (such as smartphones), it won’t rank as high as a responsive site.
SEOs will also look for ways to improve how they serve content on mobile devices without creating duplicates. This shift might involve targeting search engine rankings based on whether their core users access their sites on mobile devices or on larger ones.
8. SEOs Will Retreat From Raw Data
Ones and zeroes only take you so far. Up to this point, SEOs have focused their energy on metrics: rankings, conversions, hits, views, return visitors, keyword search volume, and more. However, the future of SEO lies in creativity and usability.
Already, websites that continually publish great content rank better in search engines. Google and other engines have found ways to evaluate the strength of a site and punish or reward it accordingly. Businesses and individuals who create better content will enjoy greater exposure through the search engines.
As with all aspects of content marketing, some aspects of SEO remain mysterious. However, predicting the future of SEO helps you prepare for it and optimize your content based on the latest trends.