As Google gets smarter day by day with path-breaking algorithim updates/changes that have been happening in the recent times including the latest one ‘RankBrain’ and as new technologies such as Physicalweb, IoT ( Internet of Things ), BLE ( Bluetooth Low Energy) are likely to disrupt the search landscape, uncertainty looms over the SEO industry. So, to find out what lies ahead for SEO professionals, the process and the industry as a whole, we decided to seek expert opinions on the following important topics. Though no one has all the answers, experts always manage to say something, if not everything, about what lies ahead based on their experience, insights gained and intuition. Thus, expert opinions are important – they help us to understand how things are probably going to work and accordingly we can fine-tune our strategies for the future.

Here are some valuable insights/opinions from some of the best SEO minds in the world. Hope you enjoy reading the post.

Eric Enge, CEO at Stone Temple Consulting CorporationEric Enge – Author, Speaker, Digital Marketing Consultant and CEO at Stone Temple Consulting Corporation. Follow him on Twitter.

Question:

Do you think Google will ever become a complete AI( Artificial Intelligence ) based search engine?. If that happens, will that ‘finally’ mark the end of SEO?

Eric Enge:

That’’s a great question! Someone will indeed get to true artificial intelligence, and it might well be Google, but it could also be someone else. Honestly, I think that’s further away than people think. What we see Google doing in the search results today is not at all AI, but simply point solutions to specific problems.
 
For reference, I saw some of the early work in speech recognition. People where hugely bullish, believing that we would have high quality speech recognition in 1 to 2 years.  That was back in 1990 and 1991, and we still don’t have it today.
 
No doubt in my mind that we will get there in time, but there will be many new challenges to be tackled, ones that we don’t even know are there yet.  This will take time.
 
As for this killing SEO, that’s all in the definition of what SEO is. Personally, I think of it as helping companies leverage new technologies to develop traffic. That’s obviously broader than simple “Search” engine optimization. But, using that broader definition, SEO never goes away.
 
There will always be change, and there will always be those that will work on making it work for businesses that want new customers.
 
Even in the pure “Search” aspect of things, ranking for commercially related queries will still be a big thing. So, by any definition I think of, SEO will be with us for a long time to come.

Barry Schwartz, Founder of Search Engine RoundtableBarry Schwartz – Author, Speaker, SEO Consultant and CEO of RustyBrick, a New York Web Service Firm. Founder of Search Engine Roundtable and News Editor at Search Engine Land. Follow him on Twitter.

Question:

Will Google ever become a full-blown conversational search engine? If that happens, how will the advanced voice search change the way we do SEO?

Barry Schwartz:

Yes, 100% Google will be a full blown conversational search engine.  You can see Google’s progression towards that over the years and they have made huge strides from (1) better understanding voices, (2) their query intent (i.e. long form questions), (3) the knowledge graph, (4) structured data and (5) the conversation aspect of the query.  Sadly, it seems voice search responses will be based mostly on public data sources, which won’t result in direct traffic to the web sites but with shopping search and Google’s one-click buy efforts, there can be ways for paid search to do well with voice search in the future.  I don’t see voice search doing well in the SEO space, at least not in the short term.  You do need to think about schema, structure data and markup for your web site, but how that may lead to traffic to your web site based on voice search is unclear and more so, concerning for me.

Bill Slawski, Founder of SEOBytheSeaBill Slawski – Speaker, Columnist, SEO Consultant, Director at GoFishDigital, a Digital Marketing Agency. Founder of SEOBytheSea. Follow him on Twitter.

Question:

What qualities should tomorrow’s SEO professionals have? What are the major challenges they are going to face?

Bill Slawski:

Tomorrow’s SEO Professionals should be life-long learners. They should be able to teach themselves new skills, and find helpful resources. Where do you go to learn when you want to find out what is new in the industry? Where do you go to ask questions and learn from others? How do you measure success in your own personal and professional growth. These are things you will need to know how to accomplish to grow and thrive within the industry.

Tomorrow’s SEO Professionals should be brave. Brave enough to engage in conversations with people whom they don’t know on social media sites. Brave enough to walk up to strangers at an industry conference, and introduce themselves and ask questions. Brave enough to represent the companies they work for, and their clients at industry events. There are times when you will need to advance a conversation within a particular industry, and while you should be prepared for that conversation, you will need to do so in a poised and professional, and brave manner.

Tomorrow’s SEO Professionals should be curious. The question “why?” should be a strong motivator in their lives. It’s a question that others will ask them, so asking themselves that first will prepare them to answer others. Why does that site rank so highly for that term or phrase? Why should we make the recommendations that you are suggesting? Why should we be involved in social media?

Tomorrow’s SEO Professionals need to be responsive. Responsive enough to learn how to ask and answer questions in a way that makes it easy for others to respond positively. This can mean using analytics programs to justify changes in how you might pursue some campaigns, and using that information when talking to your clients. It may mean finding other resources to support such changes.

Tomorrow’s SEO Professionals need to be creative. Creative enough to brainstorm and meet challenges in unexpected manners, and in ways that others may not have thought of yet. This may help in developing ideas that excite and surprise potential clients and customers.

Aaron Wall, Founder of SEOBookAaron Wall – SEO Consultant and the Founder of SEOBook. Follow him on Twitter.

Question:

Do you think the Bluetooth Low Energy ( BLE ) Beacon Hardware Technology, once adopted widely by businesses, will reduce the volume of local search? In that scenario, do you think the demand for local seo services or experts will go down? Do you think it’ll, in anyway, affect the way we do SEO?

Aaron Wall:

I think the thing which will lower the demand for local SEO (at least in the US) is a growing shift of the entire category toward pay to play model. 

This will ultimately favor larger chains and big box stores at the expense of smaller niche businesses which operate with lower scale, less automation & smaller margins.

Some savvy small businesses will target ads in ways that give them a leg up, but they will be the exception to the rule.

Tom Anthony, Head of R & D at DistilledTom Anthony – Head of R&D at Distilled, working part-time on his PhD in Artificial Intelligience. Follow him on Twitter.

Question:

How do you think the Internet of Things (IoT) will impact the SEO landscape?

Tom Anthony:

This is a really fascinating question – for 2 decades the dominant model has been ‘web search’ so when we think of SEO we normally think in relation to web search. However, we are seeing this convergence of interfaces where users search in one place for data in the ‘public index’ (e.g. a web page) vs their ‘private index’ (e.g. their calendar for the day).

Combine that with this moving trend towards apps such as Google Now, Siri, and Cortana etc. trying to help you ‘do’ things (such as send messages, make purchases, get recommendations etc.) and we can see a shift. Namely, we are at a point where SEO breaks free of just being about the web – it is about apps, and data and APIs.

The IoT is probably the last piece of that puzzle – we are going to see users interact with their environments. This begins at home, where they use their phone to adjust their temperature via their smart thermostat, or turn off lights, or unlock their front door etc.

However, once users become accustomed to interacting with the world around them via this same interface that they use for everything else, then things get very interesting! Your phone will be picking up beacons and devices all around it, and is going to need a way to understand what are the helpful devices in this context, and which should be ignored. How does it prioritise one such beacon over another?
You could imagine a scenario where you are walking down the street and your phone is picking up beacons which let it know about this or that shop, or a kiosk, or a parked rental car etc. You then do a search and your phone uses the recent information it has learned about your environment to tailor hyper-specific results to your location and the availability of services/stock around you. Search is going to become much bigger, and the question is really going to be about how we define SEO.

Mike King, Founder of iPullRankMike King – Digital Marketing Consultant, Speaker and Founder of iPullRank, a boutique Digital Marketing Agency. Follow him on Twitter.

Question:

What will the SEO landscape look like in 2020?

Mike King:

SEO will be a lot more about implicit search queries and marrying the real world with the online world. For instance, I suspect that Google will be looking to use location to solve cart abandonment for people when they are near brick and mortar stores. I also believe that by then Google Now will be a far more sophisticated predictive personal concierge. However, I think that the Filter Bubble problem will also be a much bigger deal. Suffice to say, I think it’s going to be a lot less about links and a lot more about machine learning coupled with highly focused audiences and the content that aligns with their behaviors.

Larry Kim, CTO at WordStreamLarry Kim – Speaker, Columnist, Founder and CTO at WordStream , a Software Firm ( Internet Marketing Software). Follow him on Twitter.

Question:

As major developments like physical web, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence in search, mobile/voice search etc. are taking shape, do you think the SEO industry will be hugely disrupted? How will the SEO industry respond to the upcoming significant developments?

Larry Kim:

Unfortunately, yes. This may sound crazy but I think the SEO industry is going to be hugely disrupted by mobile. Don’t get me wrong here – SEO is still important, but I think the golden age of SEO is rapidly fading in the rear-view mirror. A few things to consider here:

A huge value of search is derived from the notion of domain diversity in SERP results – 10 blue links from different companies who all get a chance to drive traffic to their site. New mobile technologies (voice search, etc.) reduces domain diversity by providing users with a single answer to their questions.

Sessions that used to start as google search queries are increasingly starting directly in apps. A user who might have done a google search for “Japanese restaurant” today instead just opens the Yelp or Tripadvisor app and searches directly there, and gets a much better user experience. As a result, query volumes in many markets are flat and even down in some cases.

In order to compete, Google is rapidly trying to provide richer, app-like *PAID* searching experiences in their mobile search results (eg: Hotel Ads, Automotive Ads, Insurance Ads, Credit Card Ads, Shopping Ads, Buy Now Button, etc.), for the 3% of queries with high commercial intent – including local business searches. Organic results are being increasingly crowded out of queries where the intent of the searcher is to buy something. Mobile organic results are more for higher-funnel informational queries, which are still important but arguably less valuable.

Essentially, I think conventional SEO (and I realize people define SEO differently – content, for example, is important as ever) is becoming less relevant. As for what to do, I think marketers should be jumping on the App bandwagon and creating innovative new experiences for their users. I’d also be jumping on the Facebook advertising bandwagon.

Andrew Shotland, Founder of LocalSEOGuideAndrew Shotland – Local SEO Consultant, Columnist and Founder of LocalSEOGuide. Follow him on Twitter.

Question:

Do you think Google’s physical web project, once rolled out and widely adopted, will change the face of local SEO?

Andrew Shotland:

It’s a great subject. I am not sure it will change the face of local SEO so much as open up a new way for local businesses to interact with potential customers. Let’s take the mundane example of looking for a place to eat tonight. In a world with broad Physical Web adoption, unless you are physically near a restaurant, you are still going to need a way to find a restaurant to go to. So you’ll probably do a search or open an app. In those use cases, it’s not clear that Physical Web alters your Local SEO strategy, although I suppose Google, if Google is still in business by then, might prioritize PW-enabled restaurants in its rankings or perhaps enable a PW-enabled filter, so local businesses might be incentivized to use PW enabling as part of its SEO strategy, but this doesn’t seem like a “change the face of” kind of thing. It’s more like yet another incremental ranking factor.

The case of the person being physically near a set of potential restaurants is where it could get interesting. If it’s widespread, my guess is this is something that gets built into the mobile device OS so it’s not clear that you would do a “search” for it but rather you might open your PW-enabled mobile browser or an app (which could be powered by Google) and get a set of restaurants within a specific radius that offer PW features (e.g. make a reservation). I suppose there could be some optimizations to be done at that point to show up ahead of your nearby competitors, but this seems more like it will be dependent on the user’s location and historical preferences v. a pure search experience. So it’s my bet that Local SEO doesn’t change much. Most businesses will still need to just get the basics right to make sure that they are visible. 

On the other hand, it could change everything which would be nothing but a boon for those of us providing Local SEO services to businesses who are perpetually confused/annoyed by the emergence of new technologies like this.

AJ Ghergich, Founder of Ghergich & Co.A J Ghergich – SEO Consultant, Columnist and founder of Ghergich & Co, an Internet Marketing Agency. Follow him on Twitter.

Question:

Do you think the increasing number of Apps pose a challenge to Google? Do you think apps will erode Google’s share of search volume?

AJ Ghergich:

I do think mobile app usage will hurt Google a bit. For example, Facebook just released a much improved search feature. The more we see that happening and users adopting in-app search habits I think you will see that hurt desktop search volumes. However, I think this change will happen slowly over time.
The key for Google will be do they control the search/apps that dominate the landscape in the future. This is why the G+ failure was so bad for them. Maybe if they acquire twitter they can make up for lost ground ;)

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