Search engine optimization (SEO) has evolved to become a favorite strategy of entrepreneurs, bloggers, and content creators everywhere – in part because of its versatility and simplicity. With a handful of changes to your website and a commitment to creating quality content, you can begin your journey to ranking higher in search engines (and ultimately getting more traffic to your site).
But there’s a problem that most optimizers run into sooner or later. Eventually, Google releases an update that shakes things up or fundamentally changes the landscape of search engine algorithms. And one day, Google may no longer be the top competitor – or we may see a total reinvention of how search works.
Is there a way for you to future proof your SEO strategy, so you’re not subject to the whims of these technological changes?
The How and Why of Google Updates
First, let’s talk about the how and why of Google updates. What are these cryptic and ubiquitous shakeups to the most popular search engine algorithm on the planet?
Google’s main motivation is to make money. It can’t make money unless people are using it frequently. And people won’t use it frequently unless it serves their needs as fully and accurately as possible. In other words, for Google to remain profitable, it needs to give people results that they’re actually looking for.
As far as Google is concerned, that means giving people relevant and trustworthy results, with as few instances of spam and annoyances as possible.
Search optimizers have historically tried to “game the system,” finding loopholes, workarounds, and gimmicks that could help them rank. For example, in the early days of SEO, a common strategy was to “hide” keywords and phrases into the background of your site, allowing you to optimize for certain phrases without writing any actual content containing them.
Google put a quick stop to “black hat” manipulation tactics like these, releasing updates that fought against spam, better evaluated content quality, and better evaluated the value of links. Over the years, we’ve also seen the introduction of updates that make Google smarter or more capable in various ways. For example, the Hummingbird update of 2013 introduced semantic search functionality, allowing Google to interpret the intent of a user’s query, rather than relying purely on exact match keywords for its algorithmic evaluations.
When these algorithm updates arrived, each one shook up the world of SEO. Webmasters saw their websites either surge or plunge in rankings, and optimizers everywhere had to scramble to change up their tactics to please the new algorithm.
So what’s the next Google update going to be like?
That’s the million dollar question if you want to future proof your SEO strategy. If you could somehow predict Google’s updates for the next decade (or longer), you’d be in a prime position to cultivate and follow an SEO strategy with no chance of imploding in the near term.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to say where Google is going from here. Broadly speaking, we can conclude that Google will always act in the best interests of its users, it will likely attempt to adapt to new technologies quickly and decisively, and it will prioritize valuable content over spam and low-quality content no matter what. New updates will just reflect these motivations in a new light.
The End of the Search Era
There’s also the possibility of this era of search, as we know it, ending for good. That could mean the rise of a fundamentally new kind of search engine that renders Google’s familiar search platform obsolete. It could mean the rise of a technology that makes it nearly impossible to search in a traditional format. Or it could mean a radical evolution of Google and other search engines to a form that’s practically unrecognizable.
In any case, if we undergo a shift like this, it will likely require a ground-up reworking of SEO overall. If old algorithms are no longer relevant, we’ll need to devise new strategies to account for the new major players.
However, it’s unlikely that we’ll see such a radical shift – at least in the next decade or two. Technological progress isn’t as disruptive or as volatile as it was even a few decades ago. These days, information technology seems to creep forward in a series of many small changes. If Google is on course to evolve into an unrecognizable form, it will likely do so across a series of gradual steps, giving us plenty of time to adapt our strategies to its new form.
Key Ways to Future Proof Your SEO Strategy
With all these considerations in mind, there are a handful of important ways you can “future proof” your SEO strategy, or at least come close.
- Develop content for people, not algorithms. One of the core components of any SEO strategy is content. If you want to rise in SERP rankings, you need to develop strong content for your site, write new blog posts on a regular basis, and even develop good offsite content so you can build better inbound links. Too often, optimizers develop content specifically for algorithms; they try to find a perfect balance of keywords to include and choose topics that strike a perfect balance of being relevant yet non-competitive. Instead, you’ll do better to future proof your SEO strategy by writing for people – not algorithms. Developing content that people truly value and enjoy will keep you relevant no matter what changes search algorithms go through.
- Stay evergreen when you can. When possible, keep your content evergreen. It’s perfectly fine (and often outright advantageous) to cover current events and temporary developments, but the bulk of your content should remain relevant for as long as possible. It will help you resist volatile shifts in consumer priorities.
- Prioritize quality over quantity. It’s tempting to write as much as you can and build as many links as you can to boost your website’s performance, but it’s always better to prioritize quality over quantity. This approach will keep your website thriving even as algorithms begin to change; if you write content with the intentions of barely crossing the “minimum quality” threshold and that threshold changes, your site could take a massive hit.
- Hedge your bets with multiple domains. It’s also a good idea to hedge your bets with multiple domains. Consider managing multiple domains for your business or building multiple websites and using different types of strategies for each. That way, if one domain ever takes a big hit or faces an increased risk, you’ll have other domains to fall back on.
- Diversify your portfolio. Similarly, it’s wise to “diversify” your SEO portfolio. Write lots of different types of content. Get links from many different sources. If your strategy is diverse and distributed, you’ll be much less likely to face a steep penalty out of nowhere.
- Stay on your toes and watch the news. Remember that Google’s search algorithm is changing almost constantly. If you’re caught off guard by a new update, or if you’re late hearing the news about the latest update, it will make it nearly impossible to remain adaptable. Keep reading SEO blogs and be ready to change if and when necessary to adapt to the times.
- Invest in more than just SEO. As a proponent of SEO, I hate to say this, but link building for SEO may not be a totally viable strategy forever – or it might decline in value in the future. Invest in more digital marketing strategies to make your business better-rounded.
It’s impossible to guard your SEO strategy against any possible future development, in large part because it’s impossible to predict the future. In 20 years, our current search engines may seem pitifully obsolete – or they may merely advance to a slightly more robust form. No matter what, if you prioritize the fundamentals and keep your strategy in balance, you’ll stand to win in the long term.