SEO Industry’s Insane Growth and Why It’s Only the Beginning
SEO has come a long way. It’s not too far in the past when everybody thought it was just a fancy trend that would fade away in a few years.
It didn’t. With time, as SEO started to show its potential and earn respect, the number of its critics started to decline, and now most online marketers just love it.
In fact, some of them still hate it, but they still have to show it, love, because that’s how good it is.
- 1. SEO Industry
- 2. A Little Bit of History
- 3. Why SEO’s Not Going Anywhere
- 4. SEO is Going Places
- 4.1 Internet of Things
- 4.2 Virtual Reality
- 4.3 Conversational Search
- 5. SEO is Here to Stay
- 6. Factors for Perpetual SEO Growth
- 6.1 More user searches
- 6.2 More users
- 6.3 More outlets for search visibility
- 6.4 The decreasing power of traditional ads
- 6.5 Increasing SEO sophistication
The SEO industry started out as a risky business. It has now grown into a mammoth, and every smart marketer wants a piece of it.
The industry is growing fast. If you look at SEO’s history, however, nobody could’ve guessed it would come this far.
A Little Bit of History
While the first website was created by Tim Berners-Lee in 1991, the first search engine ever to develop was Archie in 1990.
It was a simple enough FTP website that allowed searches for directory listings that could be downloaded. You could download the listings, but not an individual site on them (because servers couldn’t handle large amounts of data).
Next came a few more search engines that were designed for specific kinds of content searches, including Gopher in 1991, Berners-Lee’s VLib in 1992, and a few more before Yahoo was launched by Jerry Yang and David Filo in April 1994. Back then, it was only a directory of web pages it liked.
It did come with an individual URL and some description of each listed page.
As 1996 began, Larry Page and Sergey Brin started working on BackRub, which was a directory of websites that ranked them based on how many citations they had from other websites.
BackRub later became the mighty Google.
You’ll note even in its primary phase, Google focused on citations (read backlinks). It was always the clever kid in the block.
As a new century began, search started to grow into an industry. More search tools were developed, and the old ones became stronger.
With these upgrades came upgraded offerings, and users started to see businesses and resources closer to them (which is the start of what we now call local SEO).
This is also the time when finding inbound links started to become a marketing strategy since businesses started to realize the potential of the search economy.
Search engines, especially Google, focused primarily on making sure websites earned their ranks through ethical means.
- Google launched Google Suggest in 2008 for more relevant search results by giving users suggestions for their keywords.
- In 2010, Google announced it would start penalizing websites for not using quality content, which followed with regular updates in Google’s ranking algorithm.
- In 2012, the formidable Knowledge Graph was announced.
- Currently, websites without mobile-friendly design lose visibility in Google’s SERPs.
With the advent of e-commerce and its continued growth, SEO has become an increasingly important resource for businesses of all kinds.
Why SEO’s Not Going Anywhere
Internet’s a growing marketplace. It’s like a huge, beautiful shopping mall people enter to buy things they like, but these users want more and more contextually relevant merchandise in the mall.
They want guiding panels that can show them what kind of goods are in which section and how to get to them.
While search engines play the role of these guiding panels, SEO is the life force behind them. In the future, where personalized user experience is the key, SEO will evolve accordingly and provide more and more personalized value propositions for the user.
Marketers will need to steadily grow their brands by making sure they’re visible across the digital realm and continue to show social influence.
For that, they’ll need SEO.
SEO is Going Places
Among other arenas where SEO will either continue to retain its share or begin to grow as an important marketing pathway, the following three should be enough to convince you of the upcoming SEO revolution.
Machines will start to interact with each other based on data soon. In fact, that has already begun.
The Internet of Things is a phenomenon where everyday objects are enabled to connect with each other and the Internet to better assist their human masters.
From keeping track of your health with smartwatches to making your grocery lists with a smart fridge, IoT devices will soon become commonplace.
Cisco recently conducted a detailed industry analysis to make projections for the IoT market and came up with these huge numbers.
With this potential of the IoT market in mind, you’ll realize SEO professionals will have so many more products and brands to optimize for SERPs.
Their efforts will make the following things happen:
- Local SEO will become supremely important.
- Local SEO will divide into mobile and residential segments.
- Highly personalized consumer demands will shape product design, and psychographic data will be at the center of all optimization efforts.
- Great quality content will become even more important than it is now.
- Ecommerce SEO won’t lose its place and will continue to represent desktop and mobile search.
Another vast arena in emerging technologies is the rise of virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR). This medium brings along a completely new way for users to connect to the Internet.
While, for now, all those amazing devices out to experience VR, including Google’s Glass, Microsoft’s HoloLens, Oculus Rift, and whatnot are experimenting with gaming and new environments with immersive UX, they will soon become a medium for users to connect with the Internet.
Here’s how VR has already caused SEO to become relevant in the new medium. When Pokémon Go was launched in 2016, it became an instant hit.
While gamers were moving in real-life environments, local businesses used content marketing to engage these gamers through tournaments and competitions.
If current challenges in optimizing one’s content weren’t enough, conversational search is going to make it a lot more difficult (and important) to rank higher in SERPs.
Smart assistants on our smartphones and such devices now allow us to use speech to instruct our device to perform commands. Google’s search app for all current Android devices already provides voice search functionality.
With conversational search comes the advent of these smart search assistants’ dilemma to get you what you want, because when you run a voice search, you tend to use a conversational tone, long phrases not arranged how you would write them.
So, instead of finding you a list of results, these assistants focus on getting you only one result that matches your search exactly.
If you look at the image above, you’ll see incredible data about the search industry that shows top ranking results on Google SERPs get the most advantage and traffic.
Combine this data with conversational search, and you’ll see how important SEO is going to be for the future.
SEO is Here to Stay
SEO isn’t dead like people keep asking. It’s alive and kicking, and it will continue to grow because of one simple reason: Users will continue to search the web, regardless of the medium they’re using to connect with the Internet.
SEO is simply a collection of techniques used by marketers to improve their visibility in search engines, and, as long as people are searching for things, marketers will continue to use SEO.
Factors for Perpetual SEO Growth
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons SEO might continue to grow indefinitely:
It’s likely that the number of searches per user will grow well into the future. Older generations, averse to technology, will make way for younger generations, who rely on technology for everything.
Plus, technologies will become faster and more convenient, enabling even more search traffic for each user in circulation.
The sheer number of search users will also feasibly increase, compounding the effects of the per-user search growth.
This is largely due to the Internet becoming more affordable and more available to different demographics.
One day soon, thanks to efforts by Google, Facebook, and other tech companies, we may enjoy the universal availability of the Internet.
And technologies such as self-driving cars will give users more time to perform searches at times when they previously couldn’t. These changes will make it possible for almost anyone to search for anything at any time.
There will also be more outlets for search visibility, beyond the conventional search engines we’ve come to know (e.g., Google and Bing).
Alternative search engines will certainly rise, but there are two main areas where I expect radical growth: first, the use of digital assistants, which bridge the gap between online and offline search; and second, search engines specific to individual platforms, like app store-based engines, Amazon.com or YouTube search.
Traditional advertising methods have been dying for a long time, and they’ll continue dwindling in power until they eventually fade away.
When they finally do bite the dust, a number of businesses dependent on traditional ads as a means of customer acquisition will have no choice but to look to inbound marketing campaigns in the online world to supplement their acquisition strategies.
We’re getting better at creating and managing more intense SEO campaigns. As a simple example, what used to be a matter of keyword stuffing and cheap link building has now become an intricate strategy of content development and publication.
Furthermore, we have access to more data than we’ve ever had before, and our capacity will only grow from here.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on August 16, 2017, and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.