A survey of SEO specialists published at Best SEO Companies has revealed some interesting analysis on the state of the SEO industry and gives insights about the future of search in 2020 and beyond.

Nearly 500 digital marketing experts offered their responses to the survey, highlighting the tactics which they feel will be important within five years, as well as what factors they expect Google to look upon favorably as the search giant continues to update its algorithm.

Let’s take a look at some of their predictions.

1. Majority of SEOs think the practice is increasing in importance

A significant 75% of respondents believe SEO will be more important in the future.

Future of search in 2020 practice

This isn’t surprising in and of itself, but some more granular detail is quite revealing about how changeable the industry is.

37% plan to stay in SEO for just one-to-three years and a sizeable 23% describe their jobs as precarious in light of Google’s algorithm changes.

Additionally, a massive 80% are concerned that algorithm changes will negatively impact their career. While respondents are broadly optimistic about the need for SEO, they are not universally confident that their own jobs in the sector are entirely permanent.

2. SEOs need to stay current

When it comes to reflecting on their outlook for the future, there is a wide range of strategies SEOs are planning to implement in order to keep abreast of industry changes.

Stat showing SEOs being current for search in 2020

Free online courses and training were cited by 45% of respondents as the best method for SEOs to stay current while operating in this fast-paced and ever-changing industry.

42% plan to diversify their skills and 40.7% point to news/blogs as good ways to keep up-to-date.

38% say attending conferences and seminars will help them stay current and when asked if they will be attending any SEO conferences this year, 54% said they would be.

3. AI optimization is the key tactic for the future

Responses about the significance of specific SEO tactics within the next five years were a little more long-tail.

That said, 31% of respondents cite AI optimization as effective and worthwhile and 29% see this tactic as being important within the next five years.

AI optimization for search in 2020

Mobile remains a big potential growth area for SEOs. 20% see mobile optimization as gaining in importance over the next five years.

Voice search optimization and targeting featured snippets are also predicted to be increasingly important among SEOs in the future.

4. Most think quality content will be the biggest priority for Google

When SEOs are tasked with predicting areas that Google will increasingly take into consideration when ranking sites, content comes out on top.

Stat showing content as a priority for Google

46% of respondents said that the quality of content will be a priority for Google in the future. But, again, other factors were not far behind.

Social share, accessibility, and mobile-friendliness were all cited by more than 40% of those surveyed as being priority areas for the search giant.

5. SEO sentiment and ethics

The survey also highlights some interesting trends about general sentiment SEOs have towards working in the industry and questions of ethics.

69% of respondents reported job satisfaction, with “creative”, “engaging”, and “intelligent” being the top three descriptors cited for how they perceive the work they do.

Stat on SEO sentiment and ethics

The search industry can be frustrating, however. 44% cited short deadlines as a common frustration. Other process-orientated issues such as changing project scopes and, simply, frustrating clients were also cited as some of the more negative aspects working in SEO.

14% of SEOs also admitted to being frustrated by unethical competitors and, when asked directly, a significant 39% of respondents said that they themselves have used unethical – or black hat – SEO tactics.

Takeaways

While the digital marketing industry is broadly optimistic about the importance of SEO in the future, this research certainly highlights that the search community is more than wary of the need to be agile in an industry where key players such as Google can have as much impact on an individual’s job as emerging technologies and client/customer demands do too.

Factors like quality of content, mobile, and AI all appear to be top – or near top – of the list for SEOs when it comes to anticipating key areas of focus over the next few years. But there is actually great diversity in the ideas across the community as to which tactics will be the most important, and where Google will most likely place more weight when generating their rankings in the SERPs.

One key takeaway is that the SEO sector is as changeable as it ever was. It is still evolving. And still subject to disruption from new tech. But with 69% of those surveyed reporting that they are satisfied in their job, it is clearly a challenging and rewarding vertical to work in.

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