Looking Into the Future of Search
Figuring out the ranking factors of search algorithms today is all well and good, but we know how quickly things can change and how bad it can be for those who are unprepared. Though it is of utmost importance that the websites that we SEOs maintain take into consideration the ranking factors of today, it is as equally vital that you know where search is headed and already start shaping your SEO strategy to accommodate the changes.
Predicting the ranking factors that will come into play in the future is not an exact science, however, we can have a better chance of doing so by following Google’s announcements (both for search and their other services), emerging trends on the web, and what other SEOs are noticing and saying.
According to Matt Peters, “SEOs see a shift away from traditional ranking factors (anchor text, exact match domains, etc.) to deeper analysis of a site's perceived value to users, authorship, structured data, and social signals.” What this means is that in the future, the phrase “content is king” may indeed ring truer than it does today. With a site’s perceived value to users taking the cake as to what might be the most important factor in the future, it is critical that websites that have been depending too much on links and keywords, but have been providing little in terms of meaty content, start revamping what they serve up to be more useful to their users. Of course, with authorship metrics coming also seen as important, it makes sense to build up the reputation of site authors/contributors by taking some time to write up a good About Page(s) for the site author(s)/contributor(s) and by being more choosy when it comes to accepting guest posts. In fact, no matter how good a guest post might be, you should stick to an “authorship standard” allowing only those that already have established sites and following. Exceptions can only be made for truly outstanding posts offering important information for your users, but even then, you should make sure that the outgoing link be only to a quality site.
Social signals, which currently do not reflect high correlation in the 2013 algorithm, will undoubtedly be playing a bigger role in the future. This makes sense with social sites taking over the Internet big time and with Google continuing to push their Google+ agenda despite the overall lack of success, at least compared to social mega sites Facebook and Twitter. Still, with or without SEO advantages, it is plain to see that adding social sharing buttons on your pages is the way to go. This should be the bare minimum effort any SEO should implement in web pages. Ideally, there should be a separate or integrated search marketing effort on the most popular social media sites or on niche social sites, but if this is not possible, then at least having the share buttons will still encourage users to spread your content (and your link) to their social network. Just remember that this tack may suffice for now, but it might not be enough in the future with your SEO efforts significantly affected by your lack of presence in the social networking landscape.