The Future of SEO: Engagement Metrics
Search engine optimization has evolved greatly over the last fifteen years. From the early days of keyword stuffing and other questionable tactics to modern link building and guest posting strategies. Now that we’ve arrived at machine-learning algorithms and link-based rankings, many SEOs think that we have arrived at a relative level of equilibrium. They think they know the future of SEO.
But a quick look at the history of SEO shows the error of their ways. In the world of search engine optimization, there is always change on the horizon. That’s why we are always looking for ways to anticipate and prepare for the unexpected changes that are standard in our industry.
There’s no way to know the future, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make estimations and prepare based on our best ones. Toward that end, David Mihm of Tidings.com recently pointed out some interesting possibilities the loom on the SEO horizon. Mr. Mihm foresees a future where the traditional SEO life-blood of link building takes a back seat to online engagement.
I think he makes a compelling case that deserves our attention. And in an effort to always be prepared to SEO changes, we’ll discuss some of the important ramifications for our industry in this blog post. And, as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Problems with the Current Model
Modern search engine algorithms are seriously impressive creations, but that doesn’t mean they are perfect. There are a few areas where Google leaves us wanting a more accurate and organic result – and they are working hard to get there. We see three major issues with the current model that will need to be addressed over the next half-decade:
- Black-Hat techniques: Google has done a lot to identify and penalize black-hat SEO techniques, but they just won’t go away. Shady link-building is still alive and well on the internet!
- SEO Rewards: The current system rewards those who invest in SEO services. And while we are happy with that, SEO investment does not necessarily directly correspond to popularity or authority.
- The Rise of Voice: The method of determining popularity by clicks is difficult in a world of featured snippets and voice searches. There’s no click, but that doesn’t mean your website is not providing value.
Anyone who thinks the SEO world is settled needs to take a close look at these issues. Google isn’t going to be content with providing a flawed product. SEO will continue to evolve; will your SEO agency evolve with it?
Engagement as SEO Metric
David Mihm suggests that the future of SEO will involve online engagement as a primary metric for determining rankings. Given the problems listed above, I think he is on the something important. Using engagement as a metric would allow Google to solve the current issues with their algorithm and ranking system. Specifically:
- Harder to Fake – Buying links is relatively easy, but earning engagement through reviews, purchases, clicks-to-call, and featured snippet appearances isn’t. Using engagement as an SEO metric will decrease the ability of black-hat SEOs to manipulate the results.
- More Personalized – As search engines continue to get more personalized, engagement metrics can help that process become more exact. Engagement statistics will allow Google to better understand what you’re looking for and what you like.
- Closer to Reality – In a world of social media, voice searches, and position zero; engagement reflects the reality of popularity and relevance better than outdated methods like page rank and link counting.
I don’t think anyone is suggesting an overnight change to the way search engine rankings are determined, but there is an obvious appeal to using engagement as an SEO metric. The changes to SERP will require Google and friends to rethink the way they look at SEO data – and I think that Mihm is absolutely right to believe that engagement will be a big part of the answer.
Evolving SEO Service
We know that the future of SEO is an ever-evolving landscape. That’s why we’re never content to just sit back and enjoy our successes. We’re always pushing on the next big thing, tracking the next shift in our industry, and staying one step ahead of the competition.