This is a question I often ask myself. As far as I can see, the answer seems to depend upon two factors – the emergence of real time search and how SEO progresses within the marketing mix.
At present it is impossible to see beyond Google when looking into the future. However, the emergence of a viable competitor does not seem as far off as it did a year ago. The merger of the Bing and Yahoo could make an impact – as long as they stop trying to play catch-up and start looking beyond existing search conventions.
One avenue that looks like it could impact upon Google’s quality-weighted algorithm is real-time search. At the moment, real-time search doesn’t offer much in terms of value for businesses. This is because of its current prominence in the social media sector. The failure of businesses to convert social media into revenue means that the connection between real-time search and revenue has not really been made.
Therefore, either social media is the missing link for real time search, or it has to be bypassed. If someone were to present a measurable way for businesses to make money through social media then real time search could become a much higher priority.
Google’s philosophy ensures that they will be in the battle to win the crown in this area, and their huge market share makes it likely that they will win. However, their preferred method would probably be to bypass social media rather than harness it as the missing link – and this could be their weakness.
The second factor to take into account for the future of SEO is its ongoing integration with marketing as a whole. At present SEO is gradually working its way towards full integration with marketing departments. The offsite methods needed to succeed in Google make this so. The only factor really holding it back is the necessary onsite technical skills.
The emergence of real-time search could take the necessity for these technical skills away; ensuring full integration between SEO and the marketing department much more quickly. However, if a measurable connection between real-time search and revenue is not made, then I can still see SEO existing as a separate entity in 10 years, if only for those that lack the capacity.
Therefore, I believe the future of SEO depends very much on real-time search and its effect on Google’s hold over the market – or vice versa. The outcome of this could affect SEO’s position within the marketing mix, though integration into most marketing departments is likely whatever happens. What do you reckon?