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The future of keyword researcher and SEO

The following article is my submission for the SEOChicks “Next Generation Writing Contest.” I got third place in this contest. Yay me!

“She made the room dark and slept;
she awoke and made the room light;
she ate and exchanged ideas with her friends,
and listened to music and attended lectures;
she made the room dark and slept.
Above her,
beneath her,
and around her,
the Machine hummed eternally;
she did not notice the noise, for she had been born with it in her ears.”

The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster (Publication Date: 1909)

The year 2022 will feature some interesting innovations in the world of SEO. However, even the next 12 to 48 months may prove to be quite profound themselves.

Particularly prevalent, will be Google’s constant struggle to prevent their Search Results from being gamed. Traditional SEO has focused on devoting an enormous amount of effort into the creation of offsite backlinks–in an effort to increase the PageRank of one’s website.

While Larry Page’s “big idea” was initially a curious and effective way of ranking websites, it has the unfortunate drawback of also being one of the easiest trust indicators to game. And hence, its contribution to the future Google algorithm will be subject to continual curtailment.

But if Google doesn’t use backlinks and incoming anchor text, then how will Google go about verifying that ethereal “trust”–that we so often hear about?

Judging by the way in which Google seems quite devoted to keeping a record of every single thing that happens in your life, one can only imagine that they plan on leveraging this data to their advantage in the future–probably in a fashion that is as yet undiscovered.

But I’ll try to outline a few pressing changes that may come about rather soon.

User Tracking

Advanced User-Tracking will encompass the next wave of measuring “trust.” Particularly, via the below-mentioned means:

  • User tracking via mobile phone browsing behavior. There are (almost?) more mobile phone browsers than desktop browsers (article). And mimicking mobile home behavior would be exceptionally challenging given the nature of the network.
  • User tracking via the Google Chrome Browser
  • User tracking via the Google Gmail Interface (article)
  • User tracking via the Google Chrome Laptop
  • User tracking via 3rd party social sites (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
  • User tracking and basing website rank on a more exclusive set of un-gameable authority websites (e.g. minimizing the set of sites which they will deem as authoritative, and hence, worthy of passing Link Juice) (similar to Blekko’s goal)
  • User tracking via emerging Google Social properties–like Google+. But particularly, the new “Google Search, Plus Your World.” (article) (video)

Cradle-to-Grave Web Presence

I sent my first internet communiqué when I was 19. Some of today’s kids start using the net around age seven. Each one of us is a mass of text, images, photographs, and video. Which entails that, these days, we are all writers, artists, photographers, and film studios.

Even if our sublime pictures of kittens only manage to impress our spouse, the inevitable presence of this media online affords the “powers-that-be” ample opportunity to engage in massive “data harvesting” campaigns–in which they will attempt to ascertain which websites are “hot,” and which ones are not.

If Google could somehow ensure that any given piece of media was actually created by a real identifiable human (and not a spambot or content sweatshop), then this assurance itself would be a viable trust indicator. And Google could rest assured that, whatever website the individual was referencing, was worthy of a nod.

Hence, the future will bring about increased efforts to firm up an association between an actual person, and the content that this person produced. We can see this already with the introduction of the new “rel=author” specifications.

Such technologies will beckon forth a new definition of “popularity” and “celebrity.”  Eventually, allowing for any individual to gain “internet credibility” (and hence “Person Rank”), from the comfort of their bedroom.

The Beau Brummells

While the real Beau Brummell (1778–1840) mysteriously gained notoriety via hobnobbing at the Watier’s Club of London, the climb up the social ladder by the Beau Brummells of the future, will be much easier to quantify. For, they will begin deploying internet content soon after their birth. And for any given individual, it should be possible to follow their digital breadcrumbs and plot their rise to infamy. (Or their demise…)

Given the social transparency afforded by such a paradigm, it will be theoretically possible to know the “rank” of every person on the planet. However, we note that one’s rank is necessarily field-specific. For if Perez Hilton creates a link to any particular article on celebrity gossip, than this link is surely more important than one that I would create on the subject. Hence it would be in Google’s interest to become more adept at developing associations between the maven himself, and the maven’s primary skillset.  Perez Hilton’s commentary on next generation wind turbine technology, ought not have the same weight as his commentary on Victoria Beckham.

And hence, one can imagine a day in which each and every discipline, genre, or social circle, has an associated ranking system. Such methods are already commonly employed in a casual sense, and, in several circumstances, are actually quite quantifiable.  Take for example:

So how would such a number be used? In traditional SEO, new articles are ranked based on the perceived importance of the domain on which they are published.

In the future, however, articles may be ranked by the following factors:

  • The credibility of the person who actually wrote the article.
  • The degree to which this person is actually qualified to comment on the subject. (i.e. this person’s individual rank in the topic that the article is about)
  • The credibility of the people who cite (“link to”) the article.
  • The degree to which these people are actually qualified to comment on the subject.

Moreover, the author’s social history, place of employ, and current social circle itself, may also be a factor.

For example, if someone had a flawless credit history, worked for IBM, and was a friend of Bill Clinton, then one can probably trust this person with a home loan.

Similar trust metrics may be used to gauge the probable quality of a new piece of content.

For example, an actual maven on the subject will have other maven’s listed as “friends” in their Google Plus social circle. Their web history would reveal one in which, this author visited many similar websites on the topic (over the last decade of their life). And if a particular corporation (which produces a product congruous to the article topic) has the author listed as an employee, this would be further proof of their knowledge of the subject.

Pragmatically speaking, such a “Person Rank” schema is quite similar to the actual goal of the initial “Page Rank” algorithm.  In a perfect world, where everybody always wrote about what they loved, and nobody ever engaged in the rote production of “artificial backlink content,” then, there indeed would be no need for such innovation. But of course, this is not a perfect world and hence, developing clever ways to vet content and gauge author credibility will be of upmost importance to the search engines of the future.

“Men made it, do not forget that.
Great men, but men.
The Machine is much, but it is not everything.
I see something like you in this plate, but I do not see you.
I hear something like you through this telephone, but I do not hear you.
That is why I want you to come.
Pay me a visit, so that we can meet face to face,
and talk about the hopes that are in my mind.”

The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster (Publication Date: 1909)