Web browsers are no longer the kings of internet search as they have been in years past. Since December of 2014, social media has taken over the role as the prime source for website referral traffic. In fact, even more telling than this is the fact that social media has been slowly chipping away at browser-borne traffic since 2011. Mobile and messaging apps have increasingly stepped in as the primary source of web traffic bringing products and services before the eyes of consumers. Many may look at this trend and wonder about the future of SEO. Is it dead or are there yet applications in which SEO can still be useful? What is the use of optimizing for search engines if optimization will all be for naught in fewer than five years? The truth is that the death of SEO is greatly exaggerated since app-borne traffic lacks the sustainability of web search. However, the web search will become markedly more competitive. Here are a few trends to pay attention.

Web Browsers Aren’t the Only Way to Discover Content– The number of people using browsers to discover content is decreasing with the rise of mobile apps. However, also worth noticing is that, on average, smartphone owners download almost zero apps per month. That’s right! Most smartphone owners after initially stacking their phones with apps don’t continue to add apps on a regular basis. In addition to this, there is a phenomenon called “app fatigue” in which people grow weary of native apps and tend to use them much more infrequently. To overcome this, more developers are turning to a “bot ecosystem” in which one larger app incorporates a series of smaller apps. In this way, moving from app to app is smoother, and users are not required to exit the primary app to peruse goods and services. Facebook and Kik already have their own bot stores in the works.

Consider These 6 Trends to Understand the Direction of Google

The Role of Links is Changing– Links are still important when it comes to content discovery; however the role of links is quickly evolving. Backlinks are still the most important facet in improving your search engine rankings. However, as it turns out, links are not the best way for Google to discover relevant content. Over the years, unscrupulous link building has forced tons of irrelevant and useless content on those performing web searches. However, Google’s new algorithms in Panda 4.1 and Penguin – The Real Time Update have allowed the company to return a much cleaner and sophisticated set of results. Undoubtedly, this is the beginning of the end for the type of link building that lacks substance and value to Google users. However, even now the effects of better algorithms are apparent in quality search results. But what would be the fate of quality link-building that is of actual value to readers? The outcome of these too may have a not-so-certain future as Google’s focus changes from the implied authority of links to understanding language. However, there is a good reason to believe that some links will continue to be important. With links originating from quality, sources are becoming even more meaningful.

Quality Backlinks– While the future of SEO is at this moment still uncertain, for now, Google will continue to rely upon quality backlinks to gauge site quality. Quality backlinks are critical to website owners. So what are three types of backlinks will continue to be important?

  • Article Marketing– Article Marketing has always been a way to get quality referrals. However, site owners should only post articles to reputable sites.
  • Guest Blogging– This is another good way to get some exposure and some quality backlinks while you’re at it. Guest blogging on a reputable site could cement you as an authority and could lead to links from other reputable sites.
  • Press Releases–Writing press releases means getting coverage of some news through media personnel. Writing a quality press release and getting an increased chance of being picked up by major media outlets and translating into good exposure press release rules are essential and obligatory to be followed.

Quality User Experience Trumps Everything Else– Repeat customers are the meat and potatoes of a successful business. Even a small increase in repeat customers can have an impressive effect on your overall profits. However, repeat customers are only possible when the content on the site falls in line with customer expectation. Customers will not return if their experience on your site has been poor or has left them unfulfilled. In addition to this, if your site does not adequately accommodate mobile users, if it loads slowly or is difficult to navigate, your rankings will suffer in the long run. You can rely on three metrics for determining user satisfaction. These are: On-Page Time – how long the visitor remains on the page; Bounce Rate – whether or not the visitor returns to the search results having been disappointed in your content; and Click-Through Rate – Is it sufficient to rank the site based on the use of relevant industry keywords? All of these metrics are available in your Google Search Console account.

The Distinction Between Social Media and Search is Becoming Less Defined– There is no definitive answer about whether or not social media aids SEO, neither is there any guarantee that in five years we will have a better idea of the role social media plays in SEO. However search engines have already begun to index social media, and this type of partnership will largely become what we know as the web. Google has also been filling in various roles, giving answers to simple questions and answering queries with rich content. Search engines will also use information from your social media presences to deliver personalized results. Social media may also choose to display website content on their platforms as a means of retaining visitors. Website owners might have to opt to optimize their content for social media to attain maximum exposure.

Voice and Digital Assistance are Going to Have a Larger Impact– Voice-activated personal assistants are becoming more ubiquitous and indispensable. Users are now relying on services like Siri, Alexa and now Cortana in a big way. Digital assistants now recall your past searches and serve you with the most relevant results. Finding the most appropriate keyword or messing around with semantics will be a thing of the past as digital assistants will now interact with you in an unprecedented way. In a few short years, users won’t have to structure searches as digital assistants could initiate the interaction and will be able to have a natural conversation with users.

SEO will continue to evolve as social media makes a bigger impact on how readers discover and interact with content. There is no definitive answer on what the final form will be or how long it will take to get there. Social media is assuming a bigger role in the lives of its users, and now businesses must discover how to harness social media more efficiently for the benefit of their enterprises. SEO is definitely not dead, but understanding the trends in search will help business owners prepare for the inevitable changes.