Rand Fishkin, one of the most known figures in SEO world, a founder and ex-CEO of Moz, sees the future of SEO this way:
- Plateauing growth of total searches (definitely true in most developed countries, and likely a big reason Google’s willing to compromise on their historic ethical positions to break into China)
- Decreasing clickthrough rates on organic results, especially in mobile (as Jumpshot’s clickstream data has proven)
- Cannibalization of many popular queries, e.g. weather, sports scores, traffic, definitions, and other simple lookups by voice answers (hard to know exactly how much)
- More results answered entirely in Google’s SERPs (hundreds of examples, but here’s another one from just a few days ago, also see the graph below)
- Greater competition vying for less traffic opportunities (as SEO is finally getting the investment it warrants from major brands and companies)
- Less opportunities for small sites and emerging companies as a few big players dominate an ever-increasing share of Google’s top results
That adds up to a simple conclusion — SEO in the future will be harder to invest in, harder to win at, with decreasing ROI.
Percentage of searches in 2018 with no clicks to any search results:
That does not mean that investment in SEO is going away anytime soon. In fact, it may be that SEO as a profession and industry has 10-20 years of heavy growth left. After all, there’s basically no one else on the web sending out any decent quantity of traffic — it’s Google or nothing.
The upside: If you can convince your team to think long term and invest in mitigation strategies, you’ll have a big leg up on the competition. Much like how today I’d take 10 email subscribers to my newsletter over 1,000 Facebook “likes,” I think in the future, we’d all much rather have 10 Google searches for our brand name than 1,000 Google searches for phrases on which we’re trying to both rank and compete for a click against Google themselves.
PS. So it’s Google and newsletters for the future. Are you focusing on at least one of them? Or both?