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Search Engine Optimization used to be out links and keywords. Then searchers and search engines got smarter. The future of SEO is beyond the keyword, and more than links.

Brands and marketers must adapt to this rapidly changing search landscape with SEO strategies focused on context, brand association and experience.

We may not be fortune tellers, but here is a rundown of the future of SEO.

Algorithms and machine learning is allowing search engines to understand and predict human behavior. If someone is searching for “gluten-free flour,” today’s technology is starting to discover whether that person is looking for recipes, or where to buy gluten-free flour, or to discover what’s in gluten-free flour. Which means marketers and brands must have pages and content that speak to each of those search intents. Old SEO would be to have a page that targets “gluten-free flour,” new SEO targets the search intent.

The upside is that it’s becoming less likely that consumers are going to be faced with pile of irrelevant results, and more likely that they are going to find what they are looking for. It’s not just that consumers are getting better at searching, it’s also that machine learning is allowing engines to understand the search better, yielding better quality search results.

Marketers now need to focus on the quality of their content, not just quantity. Google’s machine learning algorithm update, RankBrain, is focused on long tail or one-of-a-kind queries. Its purpose is to understand the intent of the query and serve quality results. That is why just the keyword and just the links are old SEO. Gone are the days when loading up a web page with keywords that might get a bunch of hits would suffice. If your content sucks, awesome keywords are not going to help you. Artificial intelligence  technology is improving, and that means your content marketing has to sing.

What To Know About RankBrain

RankBrain is Google’s artificial intelligence update to the Hummingbird algorithm  that focuses on understanding intent and the quality of the content. It’s constantly evaluating terms and phrases it hasn’t seen before to better guess the intent of queries. Quality of content can be gauged by bounce rates and click-through rates, so RankBrain is going to care about engagement when judging the quality of content.

The key here is “terms and phrases.” RankBrain is constantly improving long-tail search queries. So from our perspective, we are working with brands to solve:

  • What is the question your consumers will be asking?
  • What is the solution to their problems?

Those are not keyword questions. They are questions about problems and solutions. They are questions that only quality content can answer.

SEO performance is more than the links and more than the keywords. The future of SEO is about the quality of the content and the context of the search. Measuring SEO success now must go beyond the keywords ranking, and look holistically how the page is performing. Low-quality links and irrelevant search results are becoming more the exceptions than the norm for marketers who are on top of the trends.