What is the future of SEO?

SEO is a constantly evolving industry. From technological advances to cultural changes, the very ground that SEO is built on is always moving. Any future is inherently complex. But, we can use recent SEO trends to predict what will be important within the future of SEO. 

In this piece, we’ll therefore focus on some of the most recent and lesser-known SEO trends. We’ll highlight the current trends and some actions you can take now to stay ahead of the game. 

At the end, we’ll also highlight some of the better-known and top SEO trends. 

Trend 1. Users are becoming more intentional with searches

As Google has become a part of daily life, users are becoming savvier with how to best use it.

Searchers are using Google to find increasingly specific and up-to-date information, throughout their purchase journey. People previously went into stores to ask for certain products, or to check on availability. But, this behaviour has been pushed online post-Covid. 

One key example of this is with searches for “in-stock” and “who has”. These searches rose by a massive 39% YoY from 2019 to 2020. This is perhaps unsurprising, given the stock issues around the world during the pandemic. However, these searches continued to grow from 2020 to 2021.

combined searches for in stock and who has

People increasingly expect to find answers on Google, and you can provide them.

Update your product pages with the most relevant and recent information you have. 

This is particularly important for ecommerce, where more users are navigating directly to the product page. 

The trend is further enhanced by Google getting better at guiding a user to specific products based on their search queries.

Below you can see the impact of this. Here, the number of people entering an ecommerce site through product pages (this year in blue) has risen by 37% year-on year. 

year-on-year number of sessions of an ecommerce website through product pages

There have been a number of other major trends in search behaviour since Covid-19 that you also need to stay on top of.

Trend 2. User Experience

Positive user experience has always been Google’s ace-of-spades in capturing search-engine market share. 

Several recent algorithm updates have further targeted user experience. Google has launched and improved a raft of new metrics over the last several years to quantify user experience on a site. These are all contained within their core web vitals reports.

A total of six named algorithm updates in the last six years have directly focused on user experience:

  • Mobile-first update
  • Mobile interstitial update
  • Site Diversity Update
  • Featured Snippet De-Duping
  • Product Reviews Update
  • Page Experience Update
six algorithm updates in the last six years focusing on user experience

This trend will continue. Google’s changes will incentivise all sites to improve their user experience, so Google will need to look for more ways to favour the absolute best.

Accessibility for all users will likely be a core part of this. Put yourself in the shoes of users with disabilities and try to identify ways in which to improve your site accessibility for impaired users.

Page speed is a crucial factor in user experience. We would not be surprised to see elements such as “Time to Interactive” being added to Google’s core web vitals. 

It is increasingly important for SEO that you monitor all elements of user experience at scale. Our PageSpeed Console can help you to track the same user experience metrics that Google uses, across every single webpage.

Ultimately, highly usable sites will be increasingly rewarded both by Google and their customers.

Trend 3. Improvements to the search page

The search page (SERP) will continue to evolve. For example, Google announced continuous scrolling on mobile devices in late 2021. This reduces the gap between listings on pages one and two.

The blurring of lines between pages will likely impact user behaviour. If a question isn’t answered precisely within the first page, it will be much easier to find the listing that does. Overall impressions and clicks on lower rankings will likely increase, as they are loaded automatically. The impact on CTR might therefore not change too much, but the value will likely increase on these pages.

We see this trend continuing, and it has important implications for SEO.

continuous scroll screenshot on mobile

Google will also continue to improve the semantic relevance of searches and suggested filters. 

This was initially a response to Covid. These filters help the user to jump quickly between related topics around Covid, as shown below:

SERP showing semantic relevance for Covid searches

Google’s next move was an evolution of this. By trying to understand topics as a whole, they suggest filters to help users narrow their search. This has been taking place increasingly within commercial searches, a trend that is likely to continue.

You can see an example of this same principle being applied to a product page below:

SERP showing semantic relevant results for product search

Increasing the amount and relevance of information on the SERP has been a long-running SEO trend. One major impact is the rise in zero-click searches, to nearly 65% of all searches in 2020.

There are three areas you’ll need to concentrate on to cater to this trend: 

  • Page Schema- Make it easier for Google to use your page to supply relevant information. You can test this with Google’s structured data and schema markup tool.
  • Hierarchy - Build a strong page hierarchy by using a logical structure and facets with SEO value.
  • Supporting content - Support your core pages with long-form content, semantically relevant to your core umbrella terms. 

Trend 4. Video and other formats will rise in importance

SEO isn’t limited to text. Search results will be answered by an increasing number of formats.

Exhibit A for the importance of video is that YouTube is the 2nd biggest search engine on the planet.

Certain queries, by their very nature, are more suited for video results than for text. 

For example, “how-to” and instructional searches are often ideally answered with a video. The SERP for “DIY hacks” is dominated by this:

SERP for DIY hacks showing video results

In fact, 62% of Google universal searches include video on the first page of the results. Video search results have even been found to have a 41% higher click-through rate than plain text searches.

Videos are typically more linkable assets. If they are executed well, they can be shared widely to drive referral traffic and links to your website. 

Images are also capturing a greater proportion of the SERP.  The image below shows images appearing within Google’s suggested searches, as well as taking the first position in the results. 

Images appearing within Google's suggested searches

Images also feature heavily within Google Discover, Google News and, of course, Google Images.

You need to make sure your image content is SEO optimized. Ensure you add useful ALT text to your images, and that video is also optimized for search. We can help you here.

Trend 5. Ownership of first-party SEO data

This trend applies to SEO just as much as it does to all channels. 

The rapid move away from third-party cookies increases the need for companies to build their own server-side Data Management Platform (DMPs). 

The impact of iOS14 was the first major example of the tech giants cutting off third-party cookies, and others are following suit.

First-party data has always been important, and it is now critical.

SEO is no exception. Google Search Console being limited to 16 months worth of data is just one example of this. Companies need to plug into marketing data sources and build pipelines to their own DMP.

This is where tools such as the Ayima Reporting Tool (A.R.T) provide such a massive edge for companies. We collect search rankings and market share on a daily basis. We also warehouse our client’s Search Console Data so that they retain that long-term information.

Other SEO Trends

There are other SEO trends that are well known and have been long anticipated. These are better-publicised than the more recent insights we’ve shared here. So, we won’t cover them at length. 

However, these are equally true and note-worthy for SEOs. 

Emergence of a new Search Engine

The emergence of a real competitor to Google has long been rumoured, but never quite fulfilled. The effects would be seismic though if this were to happen. 

DuckDuckGo, the ‘privacy-first’ search engine, has been particularly vocal in recent years. DuckDuckGo now has a daily average of 101 million searches per day. It also did particularly well during Covid, with a 196% growth compared to pre-Covid. This growth was even fairly consistent across all regions. Google’s growing privacy measures around cookies may well stymie this growth.

If they were to take Google’s crown, DuckDuckGo would significantly increase the importance of SEO. This is because the PPC alternative would have less audience data available to it. The emphasis would be back on the keyword.

Rumours of an Apple search engine have also been around for a few years now. Apple’s Spotlight search, for example, provides Google-like results including website listings, image search and quick answers. 

But, these all remain a long way from being true threats to Google’s market share so far.

Mobile-only

Mobile is increasingly important for SEO. This trend has long been at work and will almost certainly continue. You can learn more about what the move to mobile-first indexing means.

Going further than their mobile-first indexing, Google now says that ‘mobile-only’ is closer to the truth of how they index. Ultimately, you need to focus on your mobile site and mobile UX above all else.

The rise of Voice Search

Voice-activated applications are increasing in number and popularity. You need to make sure that you’re optimizing your content to voice-search well in order to plug into this growing market.

This has also long been a trend that shows no sign of slowing. The increasing adoption of voice assistants within devices such as cars also increases the importance of considering voice within your SEO.

AI and SEO

AI and machine-learning feature in the future of nearly everything, and SEO is no exception. 

Improvements in these will also continue to have a large impact on Google’s algorithms. 

Particularly good potential use-cases for machine learning and AI include monitoring, automated recommendations in the vein of Google Ads, and even content creation. 

We’ve already used mass automation to produce ad copy and product descriptions at scale. For example, we matched and tailored 100,000s of URLs to drive a 300% rise in ROAS for one of North America’s largest retailers.

The technology isn’t available for AI to completely take over copywriting quite yet. Language that sounds robotic will likely do more harm than good to your topline. But, as-yet-unknown technological advances make this a core area to keep a close eye on. 

Interested in learning how to take your SEO into the future? Our experts are on hand if you’d like a more in-depth personal analysis or a bespoke strategy. Get in touch with the team here, we'd love to hear from you. 

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