Guessing at the future of SEO, I look at the recent past, then map it to a likely future. Doing so, you can get a pretty good picture of where search is going and what’s likely to be important to companies dependent on or desirous of capturing organic search traffic in the future.

Here is how I see the future of search and SEO:

Looking Back

We need to take note of Google’s most recent search updates: Panda and Penguin.

Panda was launched to penalize low quality websites, as well as reward websites built upon greater quality content.  Websites with a lot of low quality, keyword stuffed articles and blog posts were reduced in search results, while websites built upon original quality content and information such as research, in-depth reports, and thoughtful analysis were raised in results.

Penguin was introduced to decrease search engine ranking of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines: spammy keyword stuffing and link building schemes, cloaking, duplicate content farms, etc.

In essence, Panda and Penguin combined to penalize lesser quality websites, while rewarding greater quality and authoritative content. Looking ahead, this hints at things to come.

Looking Ahead

The key to search is relevancy.  We will keep using search services that present us with the most relevant, credible, reputable, and authoritative results. Irrelevant information won’t earn or keep our loyalty.

Search services are dependent on giving us the results that best match the exact thing we’re looking for. The closer search services get to that, the better they serve us and the more loyal we become to their services. If you’re Google, the quality of search results is critical to your business — everything is search.

Eliminating low quality content from sources lacking credibility is high on the list of every search provider. Websites that rely on search ranking by gaming the system with content farms and questionable link building strategies are operating on numbered days. In particular, Google is getting good at recognizing low and high quality content.

Future search results are most likely to be driven by credibility, reputation, and author authority. A lesser amount of greater quality content will win over greater quantity, lesser quality, keyword stuffed content. The reason is simple: relevancy isn’t based on keyword stuffed blog posts, duplicate content, or bogus links from non-authoritative sources. People who search want highly relevant information from credible authors and reputable sources.

Google, Bing, and others are working hard to make search more human-like in the results they present, looking at the context of our search request, not just the keywords we use.

The future of SEO

If relevancy is the key to search, then several things become more important than others:

  • Who links to our content is more important than the number of links
  • Our expertise on a subject is more important than merely mentioning it
  • The relationship we build with our audience is more important than raw visitor counts
  • Keyword phrases are more important than keywords
  • Content that earns links is more effective than manual link building
  • Quality content and social media are more important than website optimization

To remain among the top results of future searches, companies need to boost their profile in thought leadership, engage in social media outlets, and embrace a strategy of online marketing rooted in credible, reputable, and authoritative content. That’s the future of SEO.

It’s hard to explore a subject such as this in the space of a blog post, but those are my overly summarized thoughts on the subject.

I’m interested to know what you think. Where are I wrong in my thoughts and what is glaringly simple that I left out? How do you see search evolving and what do you believe is the future or SEO?

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