What will be the future of SEO for website owners over the next five years? I do have an idea, and I think that it involves understanding more, and working more with, ‘signals’. I think that with each Google algorithm update, they fine tune themselves to evermore signals that help it to decide what is a worthy web page (or not). And because of this, the nature of a standalone SEO, working on his/her own, in a siloed department will be something that is less and less of a ‘thing’.

See, I think that the future of an SEO (as in the physical being) is to be ‘at one’ with social media, paid media, and even offline teams. Many would argue that they do this already – and I am sure that there are just a few – but the mainstream SEO certainly is not.

In the short time that SEO has been a thing, the greasy-haired, bedroom-dwelling supergeek that was able to manipulate web pages to increase rankings has had to turn themselves into an office-friendly (what happened to offices, eh?) clean-shaven, client-facing being. The industry has matured so much in a short time, yet the industry is still in it’s infancy in so many ways. What we think of as cutting edge now will be laughed at by future generations of SEO.

old versus new

So, based on the above, I say that understanding what signals are used to create solid search rankings, and then making web pages in accordance with these signals – such as making each page as contextual as it could possibly be – is the future of SEO.

“But that is the exact same thing as now” you may be saying. And you would be correct. It’s just that the buttons and levers that we push and pull right now will change into various other methods. Much like the humongous buttons that I used on my VCR back in the early 1980’s turned into beautifully-crafted metal touch-sensitive buttons and sliders on my latest Samsung TV remote, what we will need to do will change.

Content will still need to be well-written, useful, ontological, contextual. Inbound links will still need to be useful, helpful, and from useful and/or relevant sources. Load speed will be still a huge advantage. Menu’s will still need to be useful (and more contextual). Code will still need to be as clean as possible (to ensure that there are no opportunities for mistakes in Google robots reading it). 

But seeing SEO as an isolationist duty, and even an isolated department, will surely have to become a thing of the past. From the very beginning of a site build, to the very first meeting between the social media team looking to build a new campaign, the SEO working on this client should be involved. Same goes for meetings between any team(s) within the business.

And I suppose here lies what SEO will become, in my humble opinion. Instead of leading the way for online marketing campaigns, as it has now done for 20+ years, it will turn into the people (not departments) that underpins every other strategy that is created by departments within a business. So:

“SEO will move away from taking the online marketing lead, to underpinning all other online strategies.”

There, I said it. 

Here’s what others are saying about the future of SEO. I’m not so sure I agree with each one.

  • The Future of SEO: It’s Not What You’re Expecting (neilpatel.com) – What do you think the future of SEO is? And no, I am not talking about what Google will look like 10 years from now… I’m talking about how you’ll be able to rank your site in the future. You know, that one thing that’ll just skyrocket your rankings. So, what do you think it […]
  • The Future of SEO: What SEO & Marketing Pros Need to Understand (searchenginejournal.com) – To succeed in the future, you’ll need to think like a machine, understand users, and deliver the best brand and web experience. Are you ready?
  • The Future of SEO: 5 Stats That Show Where Google is Heading (neilpatel.com) – As per a December 2014 Shareaholic report, social media dethroned search as the number one source of website referral traffic. And, if you zoom out the picture, you’ll find that the traffic from social media marketing has been picking up ever since 2011. Mobile apps and messaging apps have also been…
  • The Future of SEO: 14 Experts Share Their Predictions for 2019 and Beyond (monitorbacklinks.com) – No one can predict the future, but when it comes to SEO, our experts can make a pretty educated guess. In this post, 14 of the industry’s top experts tell us what they think is in store for the future of SEO, and share insights to help you come out on top in the years to come!
  • 3 predictions about the future of SEO (searchengineland.com) – What do current trends say about the direction of search, and how can you prepare? Columnist Ryan Shelley shares his predictions for the industry.
  • 4 Experts Predict Artificial Intelligence’s Role in the Future of SEO (convinceandconvert.com) – How does artificial intelligence impact SEO? Four leading SEO experts, including Larry Kim and Rand Fishkin, reveal how AI is changing SEO.
  • How Will AI Change the Future of SEO? – ReadWrite (readwrite.com) – Artificial intelligence (AI) is penetrating every department of every industry, from automating factory work to improving areas previously thought untouchable by machines (like human resources). But as a veteran in the online marketing world, I can’t help but let my imagination wander on how AI and …
  • Why We’re Doubling Down on the Future of SEO – Moz + STAT (moz.com) – Search is changing, but search marketing is alive and well. We have to meet the challenge of new complexities, and that’s why Moz and STAT are teaming up to double-down on search analytics.
  • The future of SEO: 5 reasons why AI will produce better content marketing for 2020 (impactbnd.com) – I’m going to show you how artificial intelligence will shape the future of SEO and make content marketing even more effective as well as some ways it should already be shaping your strategy in 2020.
  • Why we need to think of entities and the future of SEO (searchenginewatch.com) – Greg Gifford, VP of Search at Wikimotive, speaks at the Brighton SEO conference about entities and the future of SEO. Tips for a future-proof SEO strategy.
  • What’s the Future of SEO? Insights from the top SEO masters on the web. (futureofeverything.io) – Search engine optimization or SEO, a term that once amounted to little more than stuffing a page full of keywords has become an advanced science in recent years. Nobody that actually knows (Google) will really tell you how to get your content ranked fast. However if you actually follow their webmast…
  • On-SERP SEO: The Future of SEO | CXL (cxl.com) – It’s no longer enough to rank first among the blue links. Learn how to optimize a search results page for more organic visibility.
  • The Future of SEO – How Google Search Has Changed in 2019 (cognitiveseo.com) – The user is changing and search is changing alongside. The future of SEO might be more granular and personalized, accessible with fewer clicks and less user interaction.
  • The Future of SEO Has Never Been Clearer (nor more ignored) | SparkToro (sparktoro.com) – I can’t recall a time over the past fifteen years where the next five years in the world of search engines and SEO seemed as clear and obvious as they do
  • How AI Is Determining The Future of SEO (digitalistmag.com) – Artificial intelligence and machine learning are already disrupting search engine optimization, and we’ve barely scratched the surface of the possibilities.
  • Get Prepared for the Future of SEO (entrepreneur.com) – The current process of building backlinks to improve your SEO is outdated and it’s about to change.
  • The Future of SEO: How AI and Machine Learning Impact Content (singlegrain.com) – AI and machine learning are influencing SEO more and more. Here’s how search marketers can include this technology in their content strategy.
  • 9 SEO Experts Discuss Social, Content Marketing and The Future of SEO (salesforce.com) – Wouldn’t it be great if you could sit down with some of SEO’s biggest names and ask them three questions? Well, save your efforts – salesforce.com has done just that; pulling together Rand Fishkin, Wil Reynolds, Debra Mastaler, Duane Forrester, Chris Bennett, Will Critchlow, Jim