Although there are SEOs who think that the last few years were rather uneventful (link building is still in the center of attention) there are a lot of indications that the profession as a whole will change.
Now, I am not necessarily saying that links will lose their value. However, introduction of RankBrain shows us that Google is more and more willing to rely on users’ feedback. This can lead to some serious turbulence and the way we perform optimization may forever change.
Based on all of that, we can safely assume that some of these changes will occur in the next year or two.
User engagement metrics will overshadow links
If I said this a year ago most SEO experts would’ve laughed at me. Although we still don’t have conclusive evidence when it comes to UX importance, there are indications that these factors will be crucial for future SEO.
Besides the study conducted by Brian Dean showing us correlation between high user engagement and high rankings, one of Google’s engineers recently confirmed on Twitter that user engagement is being used as a ranking factor.
All these indications (true or false) show us that the search engine will be using user signals one way or another.
RankBrain is another thing confirming this theory.
As you well know, this machine learning system is based on user signals and how people perceive a page. Although Google claims that it is used for a small percentage of queries, it is safe to presume that RankBrain will be used on larger population of queries. Of course, this will happen if the project is a success and everything we’ve heard so far, confirms it.
Pages might be positioned based on time spent on a site, dwell time, bounce rate, etc. Links may be used as well but only as a secondary factor after user signals.
Social media will become more important for improving your rankings
It is safe to say that user engagement metrics will become more important.
With that in mind, you will be more dependent on your loyal readers than ever. You will have to have a direct connection with readers and to try and provide them content that will keep them on page.
What better way to do this besides social media?
If you manage to get large following on social media, not only will you be able to focus on loyal fans and provide them content they need but you will also have better chance of building your brand.
When people see your page in Google, there is a chance they will leave after reading a sentence or two. This will drive your stats and thus rankings down. With loyal readership base, you will be able to promote particular pages and make sure they have at least mediocre success. In a way, it can serve as a safety net.
Content will change
As I always like to say, internet content is cyclical.
SEOs constantly invent new approaches that will increase traffic and links but after a while, every method becomes stale. Both visitors and influencers get fed up with this “actionable content” and wish to go back the way things were previously.
With that in mind, most of the content changes, dies and resurges.
In the following period, I predict that video content will become much more popular. Same goes with pages that have a lot of graphic solutions. This makes sense given that younger generations love flashy things.
Google also recognizes this trend as they give more top positions to YouTube videos.
Speaking of YouTube, I predict that explainer videos in particular will become more important.
These short form videos have existed for a while but still haven’t reached their peak potential. As a tool, they can be used for practically any type of industry. They enrich content and I wouldn’t be surprised if traditional articles stared including these types of animated videos in order to improve themselves.
On the flipside, even though I believe explainer videos will become more popular, I think that infographics will slowly decline.
This is based on several things such as:
- They are being overused
- Links may become less important which will render infographics less useful
- Same type of content can be presented within a video (explainer videos)
As you can see, there are good chances some of the content will morph while other will encounter a decline. Still, I don’t think that some content creators will lose their jobs. There will always be place for video creators, graphic designers and content writers.
In fact, I feel that future pages will require diversified solutions in order to remain relevant.
SEO audits and content analysis will increase in importance
I predict that the following period (next year or two) will be very dynamic. In fact, I think that Google is already making some major changes to its search engine without us being aware of this. RankBrain has been introduced recently, we see more and more featured snippets and we also see much more videos among top results.
Website audits will become even more important as we will have to consider much more elements. In fact, this is already happening. You need a secure (https) site that is responsive, can be opened on mobile devices, has relevant links, decent social following, etc.
I also believe that you will need to invest much more time in optimizing individual pages. You won’t be able to simply acquire links in order to boost a page. Instead, you will need to work much harder as users’ engagement metrics will be more relevant for rankings.
This all means that you will have to constantly perform analysis in order to recognize the issue.
Although the SEO industry will likely remain the same and same people will be regarded as experts, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see much more new tools as well. Our general approach will change as links will lose their previous value and we will have to approach this issue from a different perspective.
Nikolay Stoyanov is a well-known Bulgarian SEO expert with nearly 10 years of SEO experience. He's a proud graduate of Brian Dean's SEO That Works course. Nikolay is an ethical SEO evangelist and has a vast experience in keyword research, on-page optimization, SEO audits and white hat link building. He's also the owner of the biggest White Hat SEO group in Facebook (15 000+ members).