We’ve all heard the myth/debate/link bait that “SEO is dead.” But today’s article is not about SEO being a zombie (killed by some and then resurrected by others), or questioning if SEO is going to die. Those making such statements most likely don’t understand search engines and coding well enough to make such a bold declaration.
Rather, this article will look at where search engine optimization is heading in the next few years. After 11 years in the industry, I’m confident I’ve got enough knowledge and experience to voice my opinions about the course and future of SEO. And here’s what I think:
- The first major component of SEO – on-page optimization – will remain just as it is.
- The second major component – link building – is going to die. Sorry to write nonsense like this, but I want your attention.
Let me explain.
This will not change soon because the technology behind building websites will not change very soon. Take a look at where we were 20 years ago in terms of front-end development, HTML 4. Have we evolved very much since then? Not at all, considering that HTML 5 has not yet been embraced by most of the web programmers, and structured markup is a phrase that makes developers go “Huh?!”
As long as there are developers that lack strong marketing, search engine, web analytics and business acumen at the back end of a website, on-page SEO will be there, and we’ll have our bread and butter.
And even if there are developers with such great skills (please introduce them to me, I would like to know them), they are only humans. Errors will be made, and there’s always (or there should be) someone who should audit the website and make sure that all of the pieces go together and stay in place. And that person can also be a search engine optimizer.
On-page SEO is something managers, CEOs and business owners will like because this is something they can control, as opposed to not always being able to control external links and darn secret search engine algorithms, which create confusion and anxiety with executives. You control your own pages, and if you the work, you can actually influence the rankings based on your own assets.
Actually, I am serious when I say link building is going to die. But to be more accurate with my prediction, I need to clarify that the way (the strategies) we used to build links will be a thing of the past. The influence of links and anchor text will continue to diminish to a level where links won’t take be the majority signal for rankings (that won’t be for a few years though).
A. Link building – the way it’s done by most SEOs – will die (ok, ok, replace die with change).
B. Links will weigh less and less in the ranking algorithm.
Strategies will change
As you probably are aware, the Penguin update targets unnatural links (and let’s be honest, are “built” links natural at all?).
Google’s mission is to provide the best possible search experience (and results) to its users. To accomplish that, Google fights search engine spammers, whose only purpose is to rank at the top for “money terms,” using techniques that are meant to “play” Google. To get those rankings, spammers usually build large quantities of backlinks to the target website, using the targeted anchor text in those backlinks.
But the game is slowly changing in favor of Google and the white hat marketer. One by one, Google is targeting and devaluing those links that are prone to being manipulated. It started with the no follow attribute to fight the biggest spam of all time – blog commenting. Then it went for social bookmarking sites, press releases, and article directories.
All backlinking strategies that can be easily manipulated will have no weight in the rankings algorithm in the near future.
Your strategy will have to shift from quantity to quality, from links that are easy to get to ones that are hard to get. Make your backlinking strategy hard to replicate, and you will win.
Links will lose their weight
PageRank is the backbone of Google’s algorithm, and at the same time, it is its biggest flaw and target. Google knows that and tries to turn the volume down a bit (more) on it. Instead, Google tries to add other cards to the mix: semantic analysis, personal authority (AuthorRank), social engagement metrics (PostRank), user behavior (SERP bounce rate) and sentiment analysis for user-generated content.
Puzzled by the above terms? Well, I left them unlinked on purpose: I want you to manually copy and paste them into a search engine and educate yourself from various sources rather than just one.
Here’s an example of how the analysis of this page would go in the near future (if not already):
- Google will crawl this page and understand its meaning using semantic analysis (search engines, link building, SEO).
- By extracting structured data, Google will find out about the author of the page (Traian Neacsu).
- Using AuthorRank, Google will make the connection between the author and Pitstop Media (the company co-founded by the author).
- Without any direct link from this article to Pitstop Media, Google will still associate the extracted terms with the business (through the connection between the author and the business) and will give pitstopmedia.com a bit more weight for those terms.
- The website will start ranking for keywords, which have never had any backlink anchors (or even keyword mentions) on the site.
When people first started to pay attention to SEO, they may not have realized how important it is to business. The concept of its importance and its impact became clear very quickly and at this point, many people understand why optimizing your content is critical to the success of your business. It is much like the necessity of being involved with social media. When it comes to search engine optimization, it isn’t a question of whether you should be involved because that is a resounding “yes.” It is a question of which tools you use to make sure that your content is optimized in the most effective way possible.
These are my thoughts on SEO and the future of SEO. Let’s hear yours.
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Traian Neacsu is the Director of Search Marketing and co-founder of Pitstop Media Inc, a Canadian company that provides top rated SEO services to businesses across North America. He has more than 10 years experience in helping small and medium businesses generate and convert organic traffic from search engines. Most of his time is dedicated to growing the company and spending time with the family. Connect with Traian on Google+.