What will the SEO of the future bring?  There’s really no way anyone can know for sure, so at this point, we are all just guessing based on current and past trends, observations, and personal experience.  I think the people who make the most money or have the most organic traffic are those who have figured out what works, at least for today.  I have to wonder, however, how effective it will all be.  In this article, I would like to just ponder what’s going to work tomorrow.  Just like you history teacher told you though, if you don’t know the mistakes of the past, you are bound to repeat them (or something like that).

What Has Changed Already - Remembering the Past

There are several notable changes which have taken place over the years.  It seems all the search engines are always one step behind the gamers, but I guess that’s to be expected.  Here are just a few things you could once do to rank high.

White on White:  While my experience is limited to only around 4 years, I have read posts from many others stating that at one time, you could actually use a white color font against a white background and trick the search engines into reading it.  You could stuff a zillion keywords in the white space to get traffic.  I’m not sure exactly how it worked back then, but today, it seems ridiculous that search engines, even the Big G (who wasn’t very big back then), couldn’t figure it out. 

Perfect Keyword Density:  Just a couple years ago, I could rank almost anything really high by strategically using long tail keyword strings the right number of times.  Today, it doesn’t work so well, but there is still a little something to it.  The strange part is, if you targeted abc widgets for sale, you could spend the whole article talking about something fairly unrelated, as long as you had the right density and used a few LSI words (debate away on LSI).  It was actually pretty easy.  Do you remember, just a few years back, how you could pull up a top ranking result and find a garbled mess of nonsense, but see the keywords you entered in bold mixed in with the trash?

Phony Links:  As with anything else, once too many people start to bend the rules of the system, the rules change a little.   The mighty G is de-indexing sites and laying the smack down on sites who buy fake links.  Interesting.  It’s a change several of us saw coming a couple of years back and talked about on the IB forum.

Why Changes to Algorithms are Made Behind the Scenes

The goal for any search engine is to deliver what the user wants when they query something (and to make money).  I’ve said for years that if you can figure out what people will get fed up with, you could figure out the direction of the search engines.  Clearly, people were fed up with garbage results.        

The main issue is figuring out what everyone wants.  We all talk about quality, but what exactly does that mean?  If someone queries cheap plasma television sets do they want information or do they want an option to buy?  Do they really want a how to article with something like this (I’ll write an article about in the near future)?  When they add the word review at the end, it pretty clearly dictates what they want, but not everyone does this.

The search engines do their best to gage quality with their algorithms, but it’s still hit and miss.  Backlinks, once the holy grail of perceived quality, may have lost a little luster because it’s easy to game the system.  Keyword density, used to determine what an article was really about, was too easy to manipulate and is now less important.

In general, we are a rather self-entitled, convenience driven society.  We want what we want and we want it now.  The search engines are catering to the ever changing desires of their users.

Possible Future Changes

I don’t have a crystal ball, so this is just guesswork.  Some of the things I thought would change a couple of years back have changed, but at the time, even suggesting it was considered ridiculous.  Rather than focus on search engine optimization tricks of today, why not consider what might happen down the road?  I’m going to keep a few to myself though, because they will seem absolutely ridiculous by today’s standards.

Further Manufactured Link Devaluation:   It’s probably coming. Why wouldn’t it?  Does a user creating 50 links to his own work make it better? It could, in theory, make the info more complete, since it could lead to something related with new info.  However, the links for the sake of links trade will likely die.  Quality links probably will be valued even greater.

Blogging Dies:  The writing is on the wall.  Blogging might not die completely, but blogging for money, like we do, probably will die.  People who just blog their thoughts and things like that will continue to tweet and put up posts on Facebook, or whatever the next wave is in social sites. 

Stupid How-To’s Die:  I have never bought into the hype of how to articles being the bomb for earnings.  It doesn’t make sense.  Going back to my earlier example, would anyone really search for how to get a cheap plasma television set? You’d open it up and see #1 – Search sales fliers.  #2 – Visit store websites and compare prices.  #3 – Buy floor model displays.  How do I know this?  I made a mint on something just like this on eHow.  Was the article a money maker because it was a how to, or was it a money maker because people didn’t read the title carefully, clicked on one of the top results, realized it was crap, so they clicked on some form of advertising to get to what they wanted?  I’ll bet my monthly earnings the last one was the most common.  Good how to articles with relevant info about real how to topics, will continue to do very well.

Keyword Density Means Nothing:  We’re almost there now.  You’ll probably still need to have the keywords in there somewhere for a little while longer, but not for long.  These days, I just use my keywords in the first and last sentence, don’t bother with any other repetition unless it’s naturally occurring, and write ‘almost’ naturally everywhere else.  This is a rather drastic change from what I did a couple of years back or so.

Synonyms Mean Nothing:  Again, we are almost there.  You used to have to target the word inexpensive to use the keywords, but now, the word cheap will show up in the search results. 

Related Words Mean More:  Unlike synonyms, I think LSI words will continue to become more relevant.  This will, in my opinion, help the search engines gage quality and relevance. 

Blogging Comes Back to Life:  Things die and come back.  Retro is always in, the time period just changes.  Blogging and crowdsourcing sites will probably fade and then come back, when people want all the info they can imagine in one place again.

This is nothing more than some educated guess.  What do you see on the horizon?