In most industries, you will be faced with the three-letter term that almost everyone needs to have a basic grasp of these days: SEO. Search Engine Optimization has become a fundamental part of many businesses, and without it, websites will get buried under thousands of other similar businesses offering the same services. But being a relatively new industry, means it is constantly evolving, requiring experts to adapt and innovate with their methods to stay ahead.
Steve Wiideman, President of Wiideman Consulting Group is all too familiar with the ever-changing nature of his industry which reinvents itself year after year. "SEO methods change periodically as new features and results types are introduced," he explains. However, he adds that the principles behind how searches works are timeless and simple.
1. Create and constantly improve the desired page or content to be the most helpful to the target audience (relevancy)
2. Build upper-funnel (awareness) content into the website to attract links and to build brand awareness (visibility)
3. Continuously work to improve click-through rates within search engine results (search behavior)
"As long as the focus is around these three core areas," Wiideman explains, "and every month they are addressed, tested, and improved, the longevity of SEO should be manageable." The three-step process seems relatively simple on the surface, but the added necessity of staying on top of trends really determines a company's internet shelf life. "In 2020, we watched several high-ranking listings in search results move to page two or page three of the results, pushed down by listings that had improved since the previous update," Wiideman explains. "Staying current with algorithm updates and search features is paramount to sustaining high keyword rankings over time."
According to Wiideman, this year's SEO industry trends have included looking for and testing new search features, "obsessing" over Google's latest "Core Vitals" suggestions, and using E-A-T (expertise, authority, and trust) as the new default answer to why a page may not be ranking well.
However, he already has predictions about what 2021 will look like. "I wouldn't be surprised to see all local map listings become sponsored results, managed through the Local Service Ads pay-per-lead program or something similar." He also adds that he imagines Google may try to move rich results above the clickable link to websites, to provide more answers and take fewer risks with searches potentially bringing up malware-vulnerable websites.
Wiideman also expects we will hear the word "invocation" more - meaning more users will utilize Google Assistant, Alexa, and Siri. While these digital assistants have provided a lot of entertainment if not some skepticism in recent years, Wiideman says that artificial intelligence is already a part of most search engines today, as they attempt to solve the exact needs of the user regardless of how confusing the query might be. "There's no doubt AI will continue to play an important role in the evolution of search engine optimization methods," he says. "I wouldn't be surprised if a search for 'restaurant near me' eventually returns results tailored to food interests and immediately prompts the user to book reservations based on the searcher's Google calendar availability."
This is very much characteristic of the direction we can expect to see SEO going in the near future. As focus is always placed upon trying to improve keyword rankings, this will include optimizing for hands-free searches on voice assistants, according to Wiideman. There will also unsurprisingly be even more emphasis on user experience on smartphones. In the longer term, he expects to see an "unprecedented emphasis" on hands-free search and personalization optimization, with results becoming increasingly influenced by AI and previous search activity.
However, for a company like Wiideman Consulting Group, anticipating just what is coming next is part of the challenge. "Google loves to give hints about what's coming down the pipeline" he says. But providing marketers keep up with the key information hubs and keep a sharp watch over search results at least once or twice a day to look for changes, he emphasizes that any good professional will know just how their SEO methods need to evolve.
Find out more about Wiideman Consulting Group here.