artificial intelligence
Feb 16, 2017 — TrackFive

The Future of SEO: Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence, or AI, is going to completely change search engine optimization in the near future. What SEOs need to understand about AI is that it is not a formula; it’s a system that is constantly learning and evolving. AI will totally change the future of SEO. It analyzes data like content, links, user behavior, citation, trust, and patterns to list the result a user most likely needs.

Today let’s take a look at the history and current state of SEO, then look at how artificial intelligence will shape the future of SEO.

History of SEO

In the past, it was incredibly easy to rank high on a search engine. Search engines based results on keywords, so all you had to do was put the phrase you wanted to rank for in the title and body of your content and VOILA! You were almost guaranteed a top spot.

The idea was that the more time the keyword was on your page, the higher you ranked. This led to some incredibly unethical SEO practices. You saw companies hiding text in the background of their sites or placing keywords off-screen. All sorts of sketchy methods and tactics were developed, which led to Google making algorithm changes.

After battling black hat SEOs for years, in April 2012, Google finally introduced Penguin 1.0. Penguin was developed to battle webspam tactics like keyword stuffing, link schemes, cloaking, and sneaky redirects, and duplicate content. Penguin decreased the rankings of sites that they felt were violating Google’s quality guidelines.

Current Landscape of SEO

Google’s various algorithms have helped to kill off spam-filled websites for the most part. The changes also made it essential for marketers to produce high-quality content. Where older search engine optimization techniques were centered around a keyword, current SEO practices focus on technical SEO, content development, and link building.

Technical SEO has grown from making sure you put a particular keyword on a page to focusing on creating the greatest experience for the user. Technical SEO now includes user behavior and web page performance metrics like time on site, page speed, and mobile responsiveness.

Keyword strategy no longer plays a major role in organic rankings. Google is looking for quality content that will provide value to the user. Engaging high-quality content will always outrank lower quality content with a solid keyword strategy.

The Future of SEO

Rather than rely on a formula to produce an organic search result listing for a user, the future of SEO will rely on artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence will rely on big data, user experience, and machine learning. Search engines will be able to learn from user behaviors and be able to list the content users are most likely looking for.

Let’s take a look at some of the trends that will shape the future of SEO:

RIP to Keyword Phrases

Google introduced RankBrain to its search algorithm in 2015. RankBrain is a machine-learning AI system that will likely make keyword phrases irrelevant. Google has said that it is the third most important ranking factor in its algorithm.

Marketers should continue to write naturally for readers using related terms and concepts.

Search Intent

Understanding user intent will become a much more critical part of ranking as artificial intelligence becomes a larger part of the search. When marketers are creating content for their sites, they need to think about more than the keyword. Marketers need to think about what visitors are hoping to find on your site when they click on the search engine result page.

Marketers will need to look for clues in user intent from their queries. There are four types of queries in regards to user search intent:

  • Navigational: a user trying to find specific content on a specific site
  • Informational: a user is trying to obtain information to read
  • Commercial: a user has an intent to purchase, or seeking information for a later purchase
  • Transactional: a user subscribing to a newsletter, paying a bill, or creating a new account

Schema Markups

At the end of 2016, I made some predictions about the top SEO trends for 2017. One of the trends I talked about was schema markups, which help search engines better understand the content on your web page. It seems Google is already making changes and we could be seeing new schema support for job listings, carousels, data feeds, and more.

The Goal of Artificial Intelligence

The future of SEO is bright with the emergence of artificial intelligence. There are some definite concerns that AI systems will learn too much, turn on humans, and kill us, but that’s a blog post for another day.

The goal of artificial intelligence as it relates to the future of SEO is to deliver a piece of content to a user that most likely fits their needs. Instead of sending users to a particular page just because it is on an authoritative site, AI will seek to send users to a page that will not only answer their initial query but will also answer potential follow-up queries.

In the long run, artificial intelligence is going to revolutionize the search engine optimization to deliver a positive user experience. Will we see a future where Google no longer controls its own search engine? We aren’t sure, but in the meantime, keep making high-quality content for your readers.

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