It happens every year: Like the Zombie apocalypse, proof-of-life for Elvis or Lindsay Lohan’s untimely demise, SEO remains a favorite target for outlandish predictions in the trade press and digital marketing forums. It’s no surprise, then, that the New Year brought with it fresh declarations predicting the death of SEO. Once again, let me reassure you that the truth reflects that SEO isn’t going anywhere.. However, it will look and feel different as it continues to evolve. Let’s take a look at three SEO concepts that showcase this evolution will take place in 2015 and beyond.
Concepts, not Keywords
SEO will increasingly rely on data focused at the topic or ‘entity’ level, rather than at the specific keyword or phrase combination level. Google kicked off this party in 2013 when they started to hide organic keyword data from Google Analytics users. While webmasters can reclaim 500 or so of these keywords in Webmaster Tools, don’t expect keyword-level data to remain available forever. Search engines want to determine relevance based on content, not technical acumen. Your on-page SEO efforts should, in turn, focus on organizing that content as clearly as possible.
Search engines in general want to limit organic data to help prevent webmasters and SEO experts from gaming the system and taking advantage of technical loopholes. In the interest of enhancing the user experience for all, search engines are hopeful that webmasters will instead focus on the ‘big picture’ – namely that a website should be clear, concise, and organized around relevant ideas. With increasingly intelligent search algorithms continuing to advance the entity revolution, the importance of specific keyword and keyword combinations fades as search engines more intelligently match myriad queries to the concepts they assume users seek.
Information Pulls Forward
This will not happen all at once nor will it necessarily affect all industries, but expect search engines to continue experimenting with ways to fulfill on search queries right on the Search Engine Results Page, rather than linking searchers to your site. Especially in mobile, as search engines become increasingly adept at answering questions upfront, the requirement of connecting a knowledge seeker to a third party site becomes unnecessary.
This will have huge implications for content sites that rely on monetizing traffic with advertising or subscriptions.. The key is to understand the trend and extend value beyond simply fulfilling on basic information requests.
The focus returns to good marketing
The process of actually executing and integrating SEO will evolve to one that includes many different players. The days of having a single SEO expert review everything just prior to publishing are long over. With the advantages available through technical execution alone diminishing, the need for a more collaborative approach to SEO featuring additional stakeholder buy-in is essential.
The cycle from concept to published message will continue to shorten as competition increases for capitalizing on real time conversations and demand for content. Moving forward, expect all the members of your digital marketing team should have a working knowledge of SEO that is baked in throughout the content creation, publishing and distribution process.
Content marketers, for example, will need to better understand entity search and structured data to make the most of these concepts when writing original copy. Having an understanding of what core competencies of the business are and the principal communication messages will matter far more than understanding keyword nuances.
Social marketers will be just as integral to the process as well. Social experts will need to understand how their efforts at link building and crafting social messaging play into the SEO strategy and will need to know how to get the most out of open graphing and employing Twitter cards in real time on the back end. Waiting for a dedicated SEO expert to comb back through the data and attempt to restructure the content will only add delays and risk missing the opportunity to impact the conversation.
While the face of SEO may be changing the underlying principles remain the same. SEO is about tailoring your site to provide the most authentic user experience available. The key to success centers on ensuring that best practices are integrated throughout the production cycle and not implemented as a technical afterthought.
Oliver Nelson currently leads digital media strategy across several healthcare, pharmaceutical and OTC categories with a focus on digital display, social media, search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO.) While Mr. Nelson’s passion lies with SEO, he has over ten years’ experience in retail and corporate marketing, sales and advertising and has managed both online and offline media campaigns for several private and public organizations. Mr. Nelson graduated from the Boston College Carroll School of Management with a Bachelors of Science in marketing. In addition, Mr. Nelson is a top graduate of the United States Army Intelligence School and a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom.