Summary of 30 seconds:

  • The dynamic nature of SEO and Google’s mysterious algorithm keep the industry on its toes
  • Is it possible to expose the ineffectiveness of SEO in the early years and anticipate trends?
  • With more than 20 years of leadership roles, SEO pioneer Kris Jones draws from his experience helping SEOs derive more strategic value

Almost every time we talk about something’s future, we do something extrapolated. By definition, extrapolation involves the expansion of existing data or trends to assume that the same procedure will continue in the future. It’s also pretty much a form of the scientific method we’re probably using every day in our own lives: the summers will be hot, the traffic in the city center will be bad at 9am and the sun will rise tomorrow morning.

But how can we look to the future of something as complex and ever-changing as SEO? As with all cases afterwards, we are clear on how SEO started and how it changed over time.

We see the inefficiency of SEO in its infancy and how progress with search engines has changed the playing field.

The idea is: how can we think about the future of SEO without having access to all the mysterious algorithm specifications that Google owns?

The answer is simple: we need to extrapolate.

I have seen SEO from more than 20 years from the boardroom perspective. I saw the old days of keywords fill up to the semi-modernization of the late 2000s to the absolute beast that Google now became, in the 2020s.

Given this, where do I think SEO is going in the not-too-distant future? Here are some thoughts on that.

User intent will remain crucial

One aspect of SEO that is essential right now and will only become more important as time goes on user intent in searches.

It’s an outdated view to think that Google still cares a lot about keywords that match exactly. Maybe 15 to 20 years ago it was very important to get keywords exactly in your content. Google matches queries to matching word strings in content and then serves the best of the content to a user.

This is a useless attempt today to optimize for keywords that match exactly, as Google now understands the intent behind each keyword, and it will only get better as it progresses over time.

If you remember Google’s BERT update from late 2019, you’ll remember that this was the change that enabled Google to understand the context of each search, or the meaning behind the words themselves. And the latest Multitask Unified Model (MUM) Update add further depth and dimensions to understanding search setup.

Google no longer just looks at the words ‘family attractions’. It knows that the query refers to children’s activities, fun activities and events that are generally light-hearted and innocent.

And it all comes from two words. How did Google do it? Its consistent algorithm updates have made it possible to think like a human.

This is all to say that forward-thinking user intent should be part of your keyword and content strategy when doing SEO.

Produce more evergreen content

Sometimes, over the years, I have heard people mention that an effective design content marketing strategy is difficult, because once a topic’s relevance is over, the content will never be posted again. Use your data to analyze content performance and find the right balance between content and formats.

If you do not know more about this topic, you may be tempted to believe it. Maybe at some point you got a table of contents titled “Top Furniture Brands of 2019” to rank for the snippet. It makes sense. The post was probably a long list that described the best brands and was linked to the manufacturers’ websites or retail stores that carry the brands.

But perhaps, as the spring of 2019 shifted to fall and winter, the post fell far below the rankings and can no longer be found anywhere else.

The reason is obvious: you did not make the content evergreen. The best furniture brands of 2019 may not be the best brands of 2020 or 2021 or 2022. So what are you doing? You have put in the work to make the blog post evergreen by updating it. Go through and change the best brands, change the content, change the title of the post and then republish the post.

You can also simply focus on topics that will almost never need an update:

  • “Top 20 Christmas Cookies to Bake This Year”
  • “How to train a dog”
  • “10 steps to hang heavy objects on the wall”

Whether it’s 2021 or 2050 or 2100, there are going to be people who have never hung a thing on a wall and need help online.

Regardless of what your market is, do a little research on the topic Answer the public, Semrush, of BuzzSumo to find relevant subjects for you. You can also exploit the SERPs to see what type of content is already being posted for the topics you want. Just remember to mix lots of evergreen content with your more timely content posts. Google will reward you for it.

Mobile stays first

This last point is about the first indexing of mobile devices, but you probably already know about it. It’s no secret that Google will rank the mobile version of your website as it crawls your pages. Roughly 60 percent of all searches is now running on mobile devices, which is why Google now prioritizes the mobile web pages of a website over the desktop versions.

Like I said, you knew it all.

What some people still do not know is that Google is new Core Web Vitals should be a big part of your mobile page optimization.

The Core Web Vitals is primarily a web-dev task. In general, the three essential things work together to give users positive, seamless experiences when they visit a web page.

The most important are cumulative layout shift (CLS), largest content paint (LCP) and first import delay (FID).

CLS refers to the amount of traffic that the content of a web page does before it is fully loaded.

If you have a high CLS, it’s bad. This means that some elements appear before the page is fully loaded, which increases the chance that a user clicks on something that then moves elsewhere. This in turn means that the user is likely to click on something unintentionally.

LCP, meanwhile, is the time it takes for the content of a page to appear. It specifically refers to the length of time that appears between the click of a URL and the majority of the content of the URL.

Finally, FID measures how long it takes users to communicate with a website in any way. These actions can be typing in a field or clicking on menu items.

Even if you do not work in web development, you can see how useful these three measures actually are. They all consider user experience, which is why they happen to be part of the larger Google Page experience update for 2021.

The Core Web Vitals are essential in themselves, but I think my ‘boardroom’ perspective on them is one that we can all safely assume: that these are just examples of more amazing things coming from Google.

The search engine giant is always thinking of new ways to give users better, more useful and more positive experiences on its platform. As SEOs, we need to be ready to respond so that we do not stay in the dust.

To look to the future, look to the past

We know that extrapolation can only be taken so far, but that is why the past is so essential to understand. It can give us hints about what lies ahead.

What will Google think next? This will respond to the need for improved online search experiences.

Think of 2020, when the pandemic was in its infancy. People need information, and Google has responded. Within months, you could know if restaurants need masks indoors, how many virus cases are in your country, and where you can get more information or help.

What is the future of SEO then? This is going to be what the masses need to become.

Kris Jones is the founder and former CEO of digital marketing and affiliate network Pepperjam, which he sold to eBay Enterprises in 2009. Kris recently founded SEO and software industry. and has previously invested in numerous successful technology companies. Kris is an experienced public speaker and is the author of one of the best-selling SEO books of all time, called ‘Search Engine Optimization-Your Visual Blueprint to Effective Internet Marketing’, which has sold nearly 100,000 copies.

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