We take a look at the potential future of search engine optimisation, how it will change and what gaming affiliates and webmasters need to do to adapt to the search environment of the future

At this point I sound like a broken record, but the future of search will largely be based on the past; content and content marketing will reign supreme in strategic process and thought. The more I extol on this fact the more changes Google makes to prove my theories.

Recently, Google announced about 40+ updates to the algorithm, with one being a tweak to a historically used link metric. Links to your site aren’t becoming less valuable; their value is simply shifting.

Following this announcement, Google began an assault on artificial blog networks. Again, the concept seems to be that Google is beefing up its arsenal against link gaming, which also means it is likely making prohibitive changes in its algorithm. If we look at what Caffeine and Panda have allowed for Google to do, we see that it can much more accurately understand the information on a page of text. This makes anchor text almost useless. If I can understand what a page is about and, furthermore, how high or low quality the content is on that page, then why do I need signals like anchor text to help me classify or value web documents?

And so, while technical SEO remains a huge piece of the pie, SEOs must start thinking more like classic marketers, even in the gaming space, where excuses concern why content marketing ‘can’t’ work. Bodog and others have disproved this for years, and have reaped the results. Strong technical SEO understanding, content, and content marketing is the past, present, and future of SEO.

SEO will move to be more of a total online marketing job (as the better ones know and are acting on already). We will need to know how to optimise for the search engines inside Facebook and other social networking sites, video search and all the new technology that is just starting to emerge now. Obviously, the percentages of searchers coming in through mobile devices will be a major factor in the near future and location-based optimisation will become an important way to gain traffic. Add to that the use of behavioural targeting and SEOs will need to build true persona types on which to concentrate their ‘spend’ for the best conversion numbers.

Meanwhile, as Yandex and Baidu grow their percentage of global traffic, the ability to market to Asian, Russian and other non-English speaking customers will become an integral part of any successful marketer’s skill set.

We are moving away from simple html and basic search results. Look beyond the crowded SERPs where Google now offers movies for sale at the top of some results or maps and/or news; you will need to learn how HTML5 can be optimised, how to work keyword and object density in videos in order to rank well. We could drop the engine part of it completely and be just search optimisers, even to the point of finding the right potential client from their previous behaviour and current GPS location.

For the short-term future, we need to be able to address Google’s move to fight ‘over-optimisation’ and the continuation of Panda updates like the de-indexing of blog networks. Contrary to ill-informed prophets, SEO is not dead. It is a game that will always be around, as long as there are sites aggregating information in whatever form.

Search engines will always be important, but the future of SEO is with social media. What is more important: a list of local mechanics from Google or a list of local mechanics that are recommended by your friends, family and neighbours? Now replace ‘mechanic’ with other things you might be searching for like doctors, dentists, online poker rooms, a new phone or restaurants. Now, these recommendations will be coming more from people. There is a good reason why Google is trying to compete with Facebook and integrate social media into its results pages.

“Contrary to ill-informed prophets, SEO is not dead. It is a game that will always be around, as long as there are sites aggregating information in whatever form. ”

Can’t decide to buy an iPhone or Android?

Ask your friends on Facebook and find out the features they like and which friends even has one of these phones. Looking for a good restaurant in a new city? Ask on Twitter and let restaurants fight for your business.

The best part of all of this for the future of SEO is that these companies need to be accountable. Negative reviews and customer complaints finally have a voice that used to be reserved for newspapers alone.

Hotels now can’t afford to give poor service because negative reviews have too much of an impact on sales. The same goes for restaurants; if you have bad food and service you just won’t get recommended. So the real question is: in the future, will Facebook or Twitter be worth more than Google?

Online marketers should expect social media’s impact on search engine results to continue to increase in 2012 and beyond. Here are some of the ways we see social media continuing its influence on the SEO landscape:

• Buyers will rely more on recommendations from ‘friends’
As search engines increase their consideration of social media, they will begin to send their users to websites that are also shared and visible on Twitter and Facebook. This means that, more than ever, buyers will rely on the recommendations of friends and contacts within these sites and engage with brands based on friends’ ‘likes’ and fan page followings.

• Businesses will begin to track their true social ‘visibility’
The ability to analyse the number of Facebook ‘likes’ Vs ‘shares’ Vs ‘comments’ for a website, combined with detailed analyses of Linkedln, Twitter, Google+, Delicious, and StumbleUpon to arrive at a picture of their companies’ social visibility has finally become a reality.

This analysis will play an ever-greater role in helping companies personalise their marketing campaigns and have high-touch interactions with their customers.
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