I’ve never been much for SEO prediction posts. It’s kind of like listening to people predict what’s going to happen in the political world. You rarely ever hear about the predictions that were wrong, but if one of them happens to come anywhere close to correct, you’ll hear about it!
But that’s not really the reason why I don’t like predictions. It’s because it’s just too big of a pool to choose from. When I’m asked to make a prediction, I have a hard time sifting through to produce something thoughtful. It’s like being asked to name my favorite movie of all time. I just can’t do it. I might be able to tell you my top ten, or even my favorite sci-fi movie (Ghostbusters. Or Serenity. No, wait, Guardians of the Galaxy. Or the new Star Trek. But….Ghostbusters. Oh forget it!) But, as you can see, even that is too hard for me!
So instead of making predictions, what I want to do instead is throw out some things that I would like to see, or some things that make sense for the future of web marketing. Am I predicting these things will happen? Nope. Would I be surprised if they did? Not at all. To me, these are just common sense things. Think of it as a glimpse inside Stoney’s head of how things ought to be in the world of web marketing.
Abandonment of the Simple Approach in Web Design
Generally people have two options. They can do something themselves cheaply or pay more to do it better. We all love cheap and easy solutions, and when it comes to web site development, we have seen a lot of platforms and themes make big headway into this space. So much so that we are seeing web design companies shuttering their doors because the layman can now install a CMS, plug in a theme, do a bit of customization and, bam, they have a website.
The problem is, most of these sites are not search or user friendly. Which is great for companies like ours that get paid to fix technological site issues, but in the long run, it’s not great for the business owner.
Websites are not IT, and they should not be the product of the computer team. A website is a marketing vehicle, and it must be treated as such. There needs to be background research, development of messaging and visitor/customer considerations all before a single pixel is designed. Simple is great, but it skips these important aspects.
Years ago, AdWords made PPC management easy. And, technically, it still is. But anyone who has spent any time in an AdWords account knows that there are hundreds upon hundreds of options, variables and tequniques that can either help or hurt your ROI. And more options get released each year. So while AdWords bills itself as an easy-to-use platform, getting ROI isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Which is why people hire PPC management firms. And it’s why more people will abandon the cheap, simple approach to web design. In theory, simple website design is great, but sooner or later people will begin to realize that the low-cost website they built actually cost them a lot more by not accounting for the marketing aspects required to ensure a site performs both in search and with visitors.
A Revolt Against Artificial Intelligence
I get the fact that AI is designed to make things easier and better. But the problem with AI, and predictive technology in general, is it eliminates true diversity. Instead of having access to various thoughts, opinions and options, artificial intelligence learns what you want and feeds that to you.
I love red meat. Give me a steak or a hamburger just abut any day and I’m happy. But sometimes I crave a chicken sandwich. Or a pizza. Or bacon. Not all the time, but I like to throw those things in from time to time. Heck, I’ve even been known to eat a salad when it comes with my dinner.
But AI, knowing all it does about me, knows I like red meat. So when it comes to using search, or Siri, or Google Now, when I want food it only offers up red meat. While that might help me find some new red meat meals, eventually I’m going to get tired of it and really crave a pizza.
That’s a pretty pathetic example, but if we expand that out into other areas, it can get real problematic. Let’s take a hot button topic like politics. If all you read is how bad Senator X is, you will likely never have access to the good things he or she has done. Maybe the bad outweighs the good. Or maybe not, but because you’ve been consuming content that portrays them negatively, that’s all you’re going to see. Your current notions will simply be confirmed over and over again regardless of the truth. Or someone else’s version of the truth.
The point is, you won’t have the ability to make the decision for yourself because AI made it for you.
Oh, and one more thing regarding AI. Are we all just going to pretend to never have seen The Terminator, Poltergeist (it wasn’t the TV’s fault!), The Matrix, RoboCop, Short Circuit, or Battlestar Galactica? C’mon!
Algorithms To Use More User Behavior Signals
This could be on everyone’s prediction list every year. Google may issue repeated denials about signals they don’t use, but we know that if they can, they will. Why else does Google invest money in developing a free browser and analytics platform? Because they want to understand user behavior.
Because that behavior tells them things about how websites should rank.
The problem with using some user-behavior signals is that either Google has not figured out how to understand the intent or meaning of a particular behavior, or the same behavior may mean different things on different sites.
For example, a bounce could mean the visitor found what they needed on that first page or they threw up in their mouth and ran away. Clicking through a lot of pages can mean a visitor is interested or just determined to keep digging until they find what they need.
But I do think that search engines, likely using AI, will get smarter and smarter about this kind of stuff, and as soon as they can, these signals will be added to, or given increase relevance, in the algorithms.
Ultimately, that’s the perfect algorithm. One that understands why you do what you do so it can provide a better selection for you the next time around. Keep in mind, this doesn’t have to be predictive, it can just be about finding the best set of diversified results.
This is probably more of a wish list than a list of actual predictions. I could turn out to be way off on these, especially if we are only looking to 2016 as the benchmark. So let’s just open up the gates here and say these things will happen by 2020. That way, if they don’t you’ll have forgotten about them by then 😉