What is NOT going to change in SEO?

A lot has changed in the world of SEO in just the last six months. The future is exciting, a little scary and has many unknowns. 

The only constant we can be sure of is change. You have to be continually experimenting, innovating and improving, because what got you here won’t get you there… 

I really like this comment from Jeff Bezos:

“I do get asked, quite frequently: ‘what’s gonna change in the next 10 years? I rarely get asked…what’s not going to change? The answer to that question can allow you to organize your activities. You can work on those things with the confidence to know that all the energy you put into them today is still going to pay dividends in the years to come.”

This doesn’t mean Amazon forgot about innovation, quite the opposite. But in this case, the two things they decided to double down on were 1) convenience, and 2) price. Focusing on their Amazon Prime distribution network and having the buying power at scale to be able to provide great prices to the customer. 

What’s not going to change in SEO?

I think it’s hugely valuable to look at what’s worked, what your customers value, and what you think are the key things you can double down on.

To summarise, I think you can pin it back to these two key themes: 

  • Making money via organic search: When I started out in 2003, I did SEO to help clients generate increased revenue via organic search. Fast forward 20 years, and today we help our clients increase revenue via organic search. How you do it changes on what can feel like a daily basis, but why you do it is exactly the same as it was back then. 
  • Align yourself to Google’s roadmap: If you look at Google’s motivations, pretty much since they launched, they have consistently been to:

a) Provide the best user experience

b) Make money

To dig a bit deeper into each of these, where should you be focusing?

1) Making money via organic search

This is why we do SEO, right? It’s how the investment is funded, and it’s typically the main objective to maintain and grow business value. 

Funnily enough, the clients we’ve retained for anywhere between 1-5+ years are the ones where we’ve consistently delivered strong organic revenue increases year-on-year, at an impressive ROI. 

To achieve this, you need a strategy-first approach. 

In SEO, you’re either number one, or you’re trying to catch someone. If you’re the market leader, then the strategy will likely be more about how you can stand out, further strengthen brand awareness and build upon your position. 

But if you’re trying to catch up, you’ll need to map out: 

  1. Who’s winning?
  2. Why are they winning?
  3. How are you going to catch them?

Prioritising by value has always been essential. Showing where you can gain customers and revenue from, not just traffic. 

The rise of AI will open a lot of conversations on efficiencies, but the real question should be about value. I’m sure that AI has a key role to play in this, but it’s likely to be alongside a team not instead of them!

The biggest challenge is rarely knowing what to do – it’s getting it done. This is why key stakeholder buy-in is so important, whether that’s with your client or internally. 

You need to be able to communicate the importance + value of SEO to ensure that you get the level of investment required to make an impact.

2) Align yourself to Google’s roadmap

Remember Google needs to:

  1. Maintain / grow market share, which they’ll achieve by having a strong product and user experience
  2. They need to keep shareholders happy by monetising well

From an SEO perspective, this means making sure you’re the best result (in whatever form Google is displaying this – organic, featured snippets, images, news, video, etc). But equally, be mindful of the role paid advertising has, and how it works alongside organic search. 

No one can predict the future (we’d all be multi-millionaires in the stock market if we could!), but there are some corners you can look around ahead of time in order to see what’s coming next. 

Some of these Google will openly share, others you’ll have to test and learn to experiment with, and some are timeless classics. 

Ultimately Google wants the same as your customers:

  • Clear information: well structured content, headings, and metadata
  • Easy navigation: descriptive and logical linking between pages and topics
  • Reliable website: technically sound, loads fast and doesn’t rely too heavily on media assets
  • Trust and authority: extensive expertly written content, backed by evidence and professional oversight
  • Satisfaction: provides a solution to the customer’s problem, so that they don’t have to click back

To summarise; the key is to focus on your customers: understanding both a) the products/services they want to buy, and b) how they will find you. 

Keep testing and learning, but don’t forget the timeless fundamentals. I’ve always liked the idea of taking a small percentage of your effort/budget and putting that towards trying new things. That way you can focus on the essential priorities, but you’re also not missing the bigger picture of what’s coming next.

But it has to be that way around – you need to deliver results first and foremost, whilst being prepared for the future.