The Future of SEO: Is there one?

Posted by in Marketing, Online Business

Search engine optimization is an interesting industry. It’s a relatively new industry (less than 20 years old) and is something that is constantly evolving. In fact, it’s evolving at a rate that far out paces the ability of most business owners to adapt.  If you think about it in that context, it really begs the question: is SEO a good thing?

I am fortunate to be able to speak with hundreds, if not thousands, of small and medium sized business owners every year.  My primary concern is building them a modern, competitive, and effective marketing solution that truly meets their needs and helps them accomplish their business goals.  This means that I get to sink my teeth into the thick of it: who are you, what are you about, and what do you want to accomplish?

What Do Your Business Goals Have to do With SEO?

If you just finished reading the last two paragraphs and thought “what exactly does any of that have to do with SEO?”, I don’t blame you.  But, before I address that question directly, I want to talk about why that question is more damaging than people realize.  The reason for this is intent. The entire premise of the search engine is to match results to a users intent, and the job of an effective and qualified SEO expert is to ensure that your SEO strategy meshes effectively with the intent of your desired users.

For example, if you sell car stereos and speakers, there is absolutely value in you appearing for keywords that reflect what your users are searching for in relation to your business, but there is little value for your business if you focus your SEO strategy on phrases that are related, but not immediately relevant.  An example of an ineffective SEO strategy would be focusing on a generic keyword, such as “car stereo installation”.  There’s no local focus, there’s no clear indication of buyer intent, though there is going to be a lot of search volume.  A better keyword choice might be “MTX subwoofer installation” or “Calgary car stereo installation”.

Not everyone will agree with that point, but my experience with SEO has shown me that providing the immediate solution the user is intending to find will yield better results, a higher return on investment, and an easier climb to the top of the search index.  All of those benefits trump search volumes.

So, what do your business goals have to do with SEO?  To put it bluntly, absolutely everything.

Your Business Goals and the Future of SEO.

Your objective as a business owner is to ensure that your desired users – the individuals that make up your target market – are able to find you quickly and easily when they are looking.  This means that you need to be present in a variety of advertising mediums, and that includes the search engines.

If you are a car dealership looking to expand your service-based business, you are going to want to target keywords focused at auto-repair/servicing.  Conversely, if you are looking to take a chunk out of the used car market, you’re going to want to target specific keywords that represent that.

Search engine optimization addresses that by enabling you to improve the relevancy of your website to encourage the search engines to rank your website higher for the desired keywords. The problem is that your users – the people that Google, Yahoo, and Bing are constantly trying to attract – are only looking for one thing: can you help me?

So, what exactly is the future of SEO?

Perhaps the better question is: how can you ensure that your website is ready for future developments in SEO?

The fact of the matter is that he way search engines catalogue, store, and display data is going to continue to evolve.  With those evolutions will come the natural changes in the way that people use the search engines to access the information they are looking for.  The future of SEO is a continuation of a trend that began over a decade ago, where the focus shifted from what the website wanted to display and what the users wanted to see.  In other words, the future of SEO is in creating refined, informative, and intuitive user experiences.

Tying your business objectives to your SEO strategy.

If you’re looking to create an experience that caters to your prospective customer you have to seriously consider what that person is looking for.  The tried and tested logic is, at least for the moment, heavily “buying signal” focused.  SEO’s of all types and levels of experience will seek the “buying focused” keywords (such as “download antivirus software” is opposed to “good antivirus software”) for the initial SEO strategy deployment, but as the web continues to evolve those keywords become more and more competitive.

The competition stems not only from the businesses attempting to reach those customers during that critical moment during the buying process, but also from the savvy marketers that seek to influence their potential customers purchasing decisions earlier on during the buying cycle.

Want to catch your customers the moment they’re buying? Focus on the purchase-oriented keywords.

Want to influence what products your customers buy and where they choose to buy them? Welcome to the world of marketing.

Always focus your SEO strategy so that it is in tune with your goals, never the opposite.

How Can You Ensure Your Website Stays Ranked?

This is the age-old question that webmasters the world over are racking their brains about.  In the end, nobody can precisely predict what a website needs (or doesn’t need) in order to be considered relevant by both its users and the search engines that drive those users.

That being said, there are always going to be some universal truths that exist when it comes to marketing your website:

  • Provide relevant and useful content - Giving your users content that addresses their need is always a surefire way to remain relevant.
  • Enhance the experience your website provides by having interactive content - Things such as online quotes, games, surveys, FAQ’s, and anything else that becomes interactive (while remaining relevant) are important for longevity.
  • Help your users become social - People are going to be talking about your business (and website) whether you want them to or not.  Facilitate those conversations by giving your users the ability to be social with your website.  Giving them the ability to rate/review your products/services, share on Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/MySpace/etc., send to a friend, comment on articles/pictures/movies/etc. empowers your users to talk about your brand.  Not only that, but it creates an emotional connection with your brand.
  • Make your website easy to find and even easier to use - How many websites are a hassle to navigate?  How many of those hassle-laden websites have you attempted to navigate for more than a few seconds?  Make your website’s content as easy to find as possible, and once found, ensure that content is even easier to utilize.
  • Embrace change - The web is going to continue to change and evolve, and resisting that change simply gives someone else the opportunity to take advantage of it.  Embrace change, because it’s going to happen whether you want it to or not.