When it comes to predicting the future, the SEO industry is a speculative, sometimes tumultuous territory. Search engines, like most other technologies, evolve rapidly, and consumer preferences evolve in tandem. Just 10 years ago, mobile devices weren't a factor in the game, content quality mattered little, and you could get to the top of the search results with a solid target keyword phrase and a willingness to spam hoards of links on other websites. Today, things are much diffferent.
Apply this thinking forward; 10 years from now, the Internet (along with search engines) will likely be a very different place, with different constructs, different devices, and different rules. How can you be sure that the SEO strategies you're using today won't eventually become irrelevant or even cause harm to your brand? How can you make sure your SEO strategy is future-proof?
The Case for Future-Proof SEO
SEO is not a short-term strategy. If you treat it as such, you're going to pay the price; Google takes notice of those who try to deliberately manipulate their rankings, and has implemented ways to discourage such attempts. Plus, any tactics you use to boost your rankings unnaturally tend to detract from your overall user experience. Instead, it's best to invest in slow-building, long-term, high-quality strategies.
Future-proofing your strategy is also a way to maximize your potential returns. As a crude illustration, imagine you have a working machine that generates money, and it generates a little more money each day. Isn't it in your best interest to make sure that machine stays on for as long as possible?
With that being said, how can you be absolutely sure your SEO strategy is fool-proof? Aren't Google updates and technology changes somewhat unpredictable? The short answer is yes, but there are some easy ways to tell whether your strategy is on a solid course for the future.
1. You Don't Use Tactics That Have Only One Value
This is a general rule of thumb, because there are some tactics that truly are only useful for SEO (for example, there's no reason to update your robots.txt file unless it's to modify how search engines index your site). However, for the most part, any tactics you use should have multiple functions--not just an intention to manipulate your rankings. For example, using guest posts to build links for SEO simultaneously increases your brand visibility and credibility, and writing valuable content for SEO simultaneously gives your users better resources, improves conversion rates, and establishes your brand as an authority in your space. With multiple benefits, you'll never have to worry about one value going out of style.
2. You Do What's Best for Your Customers
Most SEO strategies require a bit of a balance between doing what's best for your customers and doing what's best for search engines. Search engines naturally want to give users the best possible results, so there is considerable overlap here, but ultimately, you can fall on one side or the other. As long as you're consistently providing material and executing strategies that are in your customers' best interests, you have almost no risk of ever incurring a future penalty. If it's not bad for users, why would search engines act against it?
3. You're Not Nervous About Your Rankings Falling
You may already know whether your SEO strategies are future-proof or not. You just haven't confronted the idea yet. Are you ever nervous about your rankings falling, or are you pretty confident that the strategies you're using are going to keep you poised for future growth? If your answer is the latter, it means you know you're doing everything right--and you're doing it safely. If you're taking risks and gambling with half-assed or questionable strategies, you'll be nervous about your rank stability, and there's a high likelihood eventually the penalties will catch up to you.
4. You're Adapting
SEO changes aren't as sudden or unexpected as they used to be, and the dawn of machine learning in the search industry is going to make changes even more frequent and gradual. That means you'll be required to slowly adapt your strategy over time, leaving you in one of two possible situations: you'll either gradually adapt with those changes, or you'll delay and wind up far behind the new industry standards. If you opt for the former, striving to adapt your strategy gradually and iteratively over time, you'll have no trouble keeping your SEO tactics as future-oriented as they can be.
5. Your Portfolio Is Diversified
In the realm of SEO, there are dozens of different, tightly interconnected strategies you can draw upon to improve your authority and rankings. Each of these has some points of vulnerability when it comes to future technology changes, but together, these vulnerabilities are mitigated. Just like with an investment portfolio, you have to diversify the number of strategies and approaches you use to minimize your risks. It's a way of hedging your bets against new updates and trend changes, and you'll probably stand to see more short-term gains for your brand in the meantime.
If you exhibit the preceding qualities in your SEO and content campaign, you can rest assured that your strategy is future-proof--or at least as future-proof as it can get. There's no telling exactly what changes lie ahead, but as long as you're following the above fundamentals, your company will be able to survive and continue reaping the benefits of its SEO campaign for many years to come.