With the advent of the subset of artificial intelligence called machine learning (ML), the next big sea change for digital marketing is already on the horizon. Depending on who you ask, ML will either bring about a revolutionary simplification of SEO or usher in the next generation of complex, multi-tiered strategies. Where does the truth lie?
As with many things, I believe the answer lies somewhere in the middle. It is true that ML will have indelible impacts on the way we perceive SEO efforts, which may well simplify our interactions with search engines and how we build sites or create content. At the same time, effectively using the ML tools that will become available to marketers will likely still demand careful planning. How can you best prepare for this future? Take the time now to understand the impending impacts.
It’s Time To Invest In Robust Content
Google’s incorporation of ML models into its search products is no secret, but it is likely to evolve to even greater levels of sophistication in the near term. In a web environment where content is the key, the cornerstone of every plan, ML is on the way to rapidly acquire the ability to make quality determinations. Now, algorithms will assess factors such as keyword density, sentence structure and even phraseology to determine what content is most relevant to which users.
In other words, content for content’s sake won’t rank. You need to cater more specifically to user intent, and not just one intent but as many as you can imagine. With a rich multimedia content library, including videos, infographics, standard copy and more, standing out will become easier when you can put your focus on producing the best answers for user queries. Dropping buzzwords and blogging on hot topics isn’t enough anymore; develop useful, evergreen content with real value for users instead.
Market To People, Not The Algorithm
In the past, SEO efforts relied heavily on an outsider’s understanding of what goes on under the hood of Google’s search systems, especially concerning link building. That task remains just as important as ever, but algorithms can now understand the quality and the usefulness of the links you include as well. This understanding is a blade that cuts both ways: ML rewards well-crafted pages with inherent value with higher visibility, but it likewise penalizes poorly structured pages with few or no links relevant to real users. Your goal, therefore, should be to begin with a different end in mind. Rather than developing strategies to rank, develop strategies to appeal to your users — they aren’t the same thing.
It’s not all about blasting content crammed with keywords and links out into digital space en masse anymore. Today, that only gets you dinged for spam. Instead, the ideal strategy is to develop marketing efforts that put the user back in the spotlight. Generate curiosity, answer questions and provide solutions naturally rather than within the strict artificial constructs of an SEO plan. Don’t ignore the fact that link building and other fundamentals are still important, but trust that focusing on your users will yield more fruitful results as algorithms learn what people want to see.
Harness The Power Of ML Yourself
ML has a place within SEO architectures, too. While it is easy to think that your response should primarily be in reaction to changes on Google’s part, why not take proactive steps to learn how to improve at the same time? ML models developed to analyze websites and the usage data they generate can reveal patterns that highlight new potential strategies.
For example, a model trained to assist with link building could identify pages that would benefit from more interlinking. Page optimization is an often-overlooked area, but there are real gains to realize by making improvements to existing pages and content first before investing in new or additional marketing. ML could tell you where your page snippets aren’t meeting important metrics for relevancy or identify patterns of use that indicate untapped user desires, offering you the opportunity to build relevance and rank higher with pages that fully satisfy user intent.
Leave Ad Hoc Strategies Behind
Flying by the proverbial seat of your pants when implementing an online marketing strategy hasn’t been the best approach for years, but it’s certainly even less of an option going into the future. The future of the web looks very different from the 2010s, with mobile ecosystems and voice search only continuing to grow in relevancy. With ML focused on understanding user intent, page quality and more, it is a necessity to develop a well-rounded approach that sets clearly defined goals and implements metrics to understand progress and success. Take action now to develop a clear sense of how the current ecosystem functions, including ML efforts such as Google’s RankBrain, and engage with professionals who can demystify these rapidly changing systems and help you to engage with them.
Invest The Time To Understand How To Respond To AI Developments
Now is the time to step back and re-evaluate SEO approaches in light of new and ongoing changes. ML is not a silver bullet to solve the woes of every digital marketing effort, but it is a fundamental development that will continue to transform the SEO landscape for years to come.
Now is the time to get in on the ground floor by embracing its potential and exploring how to apply it to your business, while remaining agile enough to respond to inevitable changes. Whether it is engaging with a highly skilled digital marketing team already well-versed in current and future ML trends, or perhaps even developing a model yourself, the future of SEO is one filled with exciting and innovative options.
Credit: Google News