SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is one of the most fast-paced industries out there; constantly kept on our toes, it is one of the reasons we love it so much. But thinking about what the future holds for the industry can be both exciting and a little daunting. Will artificial intelligence (AI) ultimately make search better or worse – we all know Skynet! Is the future SERPless? And what are the knock-on effects for SEO marketeers?
So What Is The Future Of Search?
Artificial Intelligence For SEO
At the moment, AI seems to be all people can talk about, and it seems to be not going anywhere. In fact, it’s anticipated that AI will have a significant impact on all things digital marketing.
What Is RankBrain?
We have already been experiencing the effects of AI in search for a while now, since Google released its RankBrain algorithm. In short, the aim of RankBrain is to help search engines acknowledge the context of the query, better understand what the user actually wants and not just processing each individual word of the query. This is particularly important given the rise of voice or semantic search, which uses more natural language.
What Is Data Dreaming?
AI is inherently linked with big data; it’s the data that enables AI to function and for machine learning to transform the way we search now and the near future. We are only capable of processing a limited amount of data, which is where AI comes in – to do things that humans cannot or are inherently bad at doing. This is where AI in search is heading, gradually replacing and improving on tasks that humans cannot complete. We are looking to use the significant processing power of binary to our advantage.
We have already seen the bots attempting to write digital content, and it was good enough to make it past the first round of screening for a national literary prize in Japan. While it is not as good as something an experienced copywriter or journalist could manage to create, it is just the beginning. Soon, bot-written content will probably be a very viable option for businesses looking to create content as part of an ongoing SEO campaign.
Humans V AI For SEO
AI will make the SEO process smoother, quicker and more automated, leaving us humans to add the creative. We can try to give the bots as much sentiment and emotional intelligence as possible but at the end of the day, they are simply not human.
We have already seen some of the issues with these new algorithms. For example, the proliferation of fake news across the web and social media in recent months – as smart as these algorithms are, the bots still cannot distinguish between what is real and what is not. That takes careful human judgement and consideration. So if this is still the case, humans will remain an essential part of any marketing or SEO campaign.
What AI Means For SEO
Whether we like accept or not, AI will change the face of SEO over the next few years if not sooner. There will always be concerns around digital campaigns led by AI and not humans – from concerns around spun content to an over-reliance on automated campaigns. But in a way, automation will only serve to make the campaigns more human.
AI is more than capable of crunching huge amounts of data and is constantly getting better at learning and understanding user intent. Combine this in depth understanding of search users with the big data and you have got a written in stone way of creating a digital marketing campaign that is hyper-targeted to the right audience, knowing exactly what they want and what they are looking for.
The Future Of AI For SEO Agencies
The now increasing use and sophistication of AI means we are going to see priorities change over the next few years, in terms of which tasks we dedicate the most time to. With the data-led tasks more likely to be automated, it will allow us to concentrate on the more creative aspects, as well as mediating the bot versus human conundrum.
Digital marketing agencies need to be prepared for the content creation process to change and for the prospect that not all blog content will be human-produced in future. This may be a cause for concern for some, but people will always want to read digital content written by humans, so we do not see this being an all-encompassing step. At the very least we will likely see content researchers replaced by our software counterparts. This is a good thing!
What Is Voice Search?
According to comScore, 50% of all online searches will be voice searches by 2020. Voice search or semantic is gaining in popularity at a rapid rate and its effect on search will be noticeable. According to Gartner, approximately 30% of all searches will be done without a screen at all by 2020 – in just 18 months’ time. Just imagine how this could change in 5–10 years. We could be looking at a SERPless future.
The Future For Search Engine Optimisation Marketeers
SEO marketeers and managers should account for voice search in their keyword strategy – think longer-tail and more conversational search queries – and implement schema markup to ensure you occupy some of those rich snippets and answer boxes, as these are the most popular options for voice search.
Verbal Search Enquiries
Consider the implications of not being able to drive as much traffic to your website through the SERPs; we may need to start thinking about how our sites appear ‘verbally’, not just visually.
What Are Digital Personal Assistants?
As an extension of the above point about voice and semantic search, it is important to also think about voice assistants. Digital personal assistants, such as Google Home, Siri or Alexa, are not just there to answer direct queries. The aim is for them to provide answers without us even having the need to ask. Google co-founder, Sergei Brin, himself said in 2013: “My vision when we started Google 15 years ago was that eventually you would not have to have a search query at all”.
These digital devices are constantly collating real-time data from conversations listened to, geographic locations, search histories, daily routines and even biometrics. With this information and a sprinkling of AI, these devices will be able to perform searches without you even having to ask. It is both a bit creepy and clever. More importantly though, this could have an immense impact on SEO as we know it.
What Does This Mean For Search Marketers And Agencies?
SEOs and marketers should create content that explicitly answers potential questions or queries; for example, as a comprehensive FAQs page or within blog content. As with general voice search, think conversational – avoid broad short-tail phrases as these would not be spoken naturally.
Focus on the people behind the searches and less on the searches themselves. It is about approaching user intent in a new way, getting less concerned on the individual words being typed into the search engines and more about the person and their needs.
The Internet Of Things
The future of search is integration across all devices and the Internet of Things. Search engines are already well on the way to being omnipresent. This is only set to continue growing, increasing in personalization and leveraging every ounce of data the search engines can obtain.
SEO Agency Devon
Ultimately, we will now have to work as hard at reaching people on multiple platforms, as it will mostly be done for us. But we will have to work harder to ensure that websites and content are optimized for all types of search, not just Google. Think Amazon Alexa, smart watches, Facebook search and Apple Siri.