SEO – the art of making sure your brand is optimized for search engines – is one of the most powerful tools in the digital marketing book.
But, for many, it’s still a mystifying phrase, one whose meaning can be nebulous or confusing. And even for experts in the industry, it’s a field that is always growing, changing, and updating, year after year. The tools, tricks, and best practices for SEO in 2016 could not be more distant from the art of SEO as recently as 2010.
In the field of digital marketing, one or two years can be an eternity. So what do the next five years hold for the art and science of SEO? Short answer: A new era of changes and possibilities, mostly separate from browser-based search engines.
You didn’t read that wrong: The future is here, and it’s time to think outside the search bar.
With our thanks to this great blog post at HubSpot, here are three major search trends that are set to totally revolutionize how we think of SEO in the years ahead:
1.) The Rise of Mobile App Culture
We’ve written about the rise of mobile and its impact on marketing before, and our cultural shift away from desktops and toward smartphones and tablets has touched everything from email marketing to social media engagement to SEO. Google, for instance, has made mobile optimization and experience a larger part of its search algorithm over recent years.
But there’s another major way that mobile devices are changing our perception of SEO: They’re taking us away from browsers entirely.
According to a 2015 study from Forrester Research, consumers spend 85% of their time on mobile using apps. We’ve already seen desktop search “flat-line,” as HubSpot puts it, and the rise of app culture mean that users will be increasingly turning to standalone apps, rather than browsers, as their primary methods of content consumption.
And in terms of SEO, this means the future will be in searching through apps, in finding new protocols that lead to results culled from the contents of your phone, your apps, and web results, all at once.
2.) A New Approach to Social Media
The Geek team has long maintained that your brand needs to focus on both SEO and social media. These two channels, while practically intertwined in a number of ways, are largely separate, and both vital for driving organic and referral traffic to your site.
So, in our view, social media is already indispensable – and its influence is only set to grow in the coming years, particularly in terms of search, in two major ways.
Social media platforms, first, are becoming major search engines in their own right. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are becoming the first places that many users turn to find information on products or brands, and the numbers reflect this: Indeed, Facebook’s search engine already handles 1.5 billion queries every day, a favorable comparison to Google’s 3.5 billion.
Second, social media platforms are fundamentally changing the way that brands, individuals, and media companies create content online. Traditionally, social channels have been used as just that, “channels,” designed for users to “pass through” on their way to the content on your site. Increasingly, however, prominent channels – including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn – are releasing platform changes that encourage publishers to post native content directly on social, preventing pass-through.
HubSpot puts it well: Live video, publishing tools, and other new social features mean that content is increasingly becoming detached and decentralized from our discrete sites, and as “content becomes more decentralized away from the website, optimization of that content will likely change, too.”
3.) The Expansion of Voice Search and Personal Assistants
We love the Amazon Echo, Siri, Google Assistant (formerly Google Now), and other hands-free search assistants for how much more efficient they make our digital lives. And these new access points to the internet are changing the ways in which users search in some pretty enormous ways.
The rise of voice assist has led to a rise in colloquial, conversational search (“Hey Alexa, what’s new?”, “Siri, is it going to rain?”, or "Okay Google, have you seen my pants?"); it’s led to a larger total volume of search, freeing users from the constraints of desktops; it’s led to searches that are even more tied to your location, recent history, and the context behind your activity.
In short, these opportunities are fundamentally altering the way we, as humans, perform searches – and we don’t yet know exactly what this is going to mean for SEO down the line.
Looking for a partner to guide your business through all of the exciting changes coming to digital marketing? That’s where Geek comes in. Drop us a line today to get started with any and all of your email marketing, social media, SEO, or web development needs.