Look back on an SEO article from 2011 or 2012, and you’ll immediately see how fast and how drastically the internet has changed. Reading some of the articles, you’d probably shake your head, wishing you were part of an SEO agency way back when – how easy it was to rank when all you had to do was optimize some meta tags and insert some keywords! But if we look back, we can see the beginning threads of trends that have revolutionized SEO, and use them to evaluate the beginnings of the trends that will shape the future of SEO.

The SEO Time Machine

Let me take you back: in 2011, SEOs were reeling from the Google Panda update. If you want to go back a little further, we could equate the Google Panda panic with nearly the same furor that enveloped Y2K. Google had teased the release before it happened, warning that it would impact a significant portion of low-quality sites. The Panda release ended up impacting 12% of all ranked sites. Later that year, Google would release another algorithm change rewarding freshness of content, which impacted 35% of all ranked sites.

Looking at those releases from a 2016 perspective, high-quality, relevant, and fresh content doesn’t seem like much of a revelation. We all know content is king. It’s interesting to remember that a mere five years ago, we were just learning to place our emphasis on content.

So what are the trends budding now that will completely change the face of SEO in the future?

The Ghost of SEO Future: Mobile

You’re probably tired of hearing about mobile friendliness, mobile responsive websites, mobile this and that. You made your site responsive, what more does your SEO agency want from you?

Well, more importantly: what more does your audience expect from you? Regardless of industry, mobile traffic is at record highs, and unlikely to decrease. What will decrease is your audience’s attention span and patience for slow-loading mobile experiences. On the other hand, the number of different mobile devices used to access your website, your content, your social channels, and your ads will only expand.

If you want to get ahead of this trend, you need to understand how the mobile era is changing the way we interact with the internet, content, and our devices. It’s not just that we’re using our phones more, it’s that we’re using our smartwatches to voice search what time the bank closes, or what the score of the game is. We’ve completely changed how we interact with our environment, as well as the verbiage we use to interact with our devices.

After all, the way we talk to our devices is starting to sound an awful lot like how we talk to other people. We’re speaking in full sentences, searching longer-tail phrases, looking for faster answers. It’s estimated that 70% of all searches are long-tail, and that number will only grow.

Faster Answers and User Experience

Google is working to better serve searchers by providing more instant results within the body of your search, without requiring a click through. Examples of that would be Google Answers and Featured Snippets. Interestingly, while you’d think that these snippets would decrease click-throughs, there’s evidence that suggests that ranking with a featured snippet can increase click-throughs by as much as 114%.

Google’s mission has always been to provide the most relevant information to searchers. Now, it’s not just about providing information, but also about providing the most streamlined, effective, and pleasant user experience. That means SEO isn’t just about optimizing for keywords anymore, or even just about providing high-quality content. It means optimizing for user experience. Moz said it best: “SEO is about making our websites become the sources Google cannot help but use for answering queries.”

Evaluating your site for usability is a great first step. Does your site load quickly? Is the user experience on mobile consistent with the experience on a desktop? Is the information optimized for quick answers?

It’s a Whole New World

These trends are just the tip of the iceberg. In order to stay ahead of the latest trends, make sure you’re working with an SEO agency that’s not just looking to optimize individual pages, but looking towards how our engagement with the internet as a whole is changing. A great example is Pokémon Go. Smart businesses – both large and small – were able to capitalize on the atmospheric rise in popularity of Pokémon Go.

People may be quick to dismiss something like Pokémon Go as just a kids’ game, a fad that will pass. These people are missing the point – it’s not that Pokémon Go has changed the face of marketing as we know it, it’s that augmented reality will change the face of marketing as we know it. Local businesses benefit by bringing in new visitors to brick-and-mortar stores, larger businesses benefit from an influx of geographical data, and users benefit by experiencing the environment (and the people) around them in new ways.

Find an Innovative, Forward-Looking SEO Agency

Learn more about how we can help your business prepare for these SEO trends and other changes in the SEO landscape. We’re happy to offer you a free audit of your SEO agency spend. Let us show you how we can decrease your SEO spend and help you succeed – now and in the future.