Search Engine Optimisation — what will happen next?

Over one billion websites exist online today but it was only when Google invented their search engine algorithm in the early 2000s that really changed the game for marketers. But Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) was first introduced by Google as a method of ranking websites according to the relevance of specific keywords, where it’s platform dominates 80% of search engine traffic. Now it serves as a valuable marketing tool.

The way in which it works is largely based around the principles of Google’s search engine as many other search engines use similar algorithms. While the exact details of the algorithm are held secret by Google, the principles consist of adequate coordinating of keywords, image tags, meta description and backlinks. Google receives 63,000 searches per second, so if this is done well, it can organically (non-paid) grow visibility online which is especially useful for businesses who want to increase their website rankings, drive traffic and expand awareness.

But just how important is it? The statistics show that the top ranking pages get the most amount of activity with the top three alone taking around two thirds of clicks. Of course, as online sales continue to grow across the vast majority of industries, it is becoming increasingly important to rank higher.

There’s more to it than just direct sales however. Consistently ranking highly for certain search terms helps to grow and sustain brand awareness, as well as fight against the often fierce competition. This in turn could also help boost rankings.

What is the future of SEO?

The advantages of SEO for businesses are indisputable but what’s next? There are three key areas to look forward to in the next few years:

  • UX is key

User Experience (or UX for short) is going to become more and more important. SEO’s core foundations are built around relevance and reliability for users, and this is only going to become more prominent in the future. It is essential for companies to attract repeat visitors, and as such, content, presentation and speed are more important than ever. Understanding your customers is fundamental, and therefore evaluating website analytics is greatly encouraged. Where did they come from? What did they do on the site? What is their past behaviour?

  • Accelerated Mobile Pages could become an important ranking factor

It is a well-known fact that mobile has become the dominant device for internet use. As such, it is imperative that websites are mobile-friendly. Google are moving to a mobile-first index, meaning that mobile versions of each webpage are to become the primary page to index ahead of the desktop version. The other key element to this is website speed, and a recent Google study showed that 53% of users leave a website if it hasn’t loaded within 3 seconds. As such, Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is being pushed, which essentially aims to make the web faster and friendlier for mobiles. AMP is not currently a ranking factor, but could become one in the future – so be ready!

  • It is here to stay

There is an estimated $80bn to be spent on SEO by 2021. It is highly sustainable, since organic traffic will continue to come regardless of spend. While visibility in organic search can take a while to filter through, this also means that businesses are unlikely to be knocked off the top or priced out by competitors because they too will have to earn their place in the rankings. It is also extremely effective as shown by the above chart on click-through rates.

Given its growing importance, SEO budget should be prominent and receive as much attention as any other media channel for every brand with even a moderate online presence. Our analysis typically finds that SEO is one of the highest performing channels with a very strong ROI, even for established brands already doing relatively well in the rankings. Our statistical modelling draws out the impact of SEO from routine “base” sales and it’s important that every brand keeps on top of their ranking, else their natural search traffic will likely decline over time.

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