The future of SEO is trending towards a more user-centric, ethical, and technically advanced approach.
- The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in search engines enables them to comprehend user intent better and deliver more relevant results
- Google prioritizes Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T), advocating for ethical, high-quality content production
- AI (like ChatGPT) is shaping SEO to be more conversational
Understanding these trends can help you rank higher, generate more traffic, and connect with more potential customers.
1. Google Search Generative Experience (SGE)
What to Know
Search Generative Experience (SGE) is Google’s AI-powered search experience.
Google SGE provides an AI-generated result to many search queries, which appears at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs).
As it becomes more ubiquitous, it will likely change how users interact with the search engine. And it will also change how sites are optimized to generate impressions and traffic.
SGE enhances user interactions by delivering clear, concise answers to the user’s search query. It also provides relevant visuals and a conversational engagement model.
To be clear—it’s not a chatbot like ChatGPT.
Instead, when you perform a search on Google, an AI-powered result appears.
The snapshot includes relevant links to some of the underlying sources and additional prompts to further explore the topic.
Picture Google evolving into a more conversational assistant, understanding and responding to your queries in a more human-like manner.
Currently, Google’s AI snapshot is available to a limited number of people in the U.S and in English only. If you’re in the U.S., you can try enabling it while browsing.
This trend signifies a shift towards a more interactive, user-friendly search experience where the algorithm understands and anticipates user needs and intent.
It’s not just a fancy idea. Businesses invest heavily in this tech.
In fact, the artificial intelligence market, which powers experiences like SGE, is valued at nearly 100 billion U.S. dollars and is expected to skyrocket to almost two trillion U.S. dollars by 2030.
How to Prepare
It’s too soon for a surefire way to optimize content for Google’s SGE.
However, focusing on content that directly and comprehensively answers user queries can ensure you maintain relevance.
The AI-generated content provided by SGE still includes links to relevant content and resources.
In this search example from Google, you’ll notice the three links to the side of the generated snippet:
It’s still unclear what factors influence the links that appear alongside the snippet.
But the content displayed here tends to share some similar characteristics.
- Opinion or analysis: SGE seems to synthesize information and analysis from multiple sources to construct its response. This means that providing an expert analysis or opinion on the topic may improve your chances of appearing.
- Direct language: Generated snapshots appear to reference full sections and blocks of text, much like featured snippets. This means crafting organized sections, lists, and bullets could be easier for SGE to understand.
- Topical or niche authority: Sites referenced in the snapshot tend to be more niche or topically focused. This could indicate further importance of topical authority as part of SGE optimization. (See more in our section on Topical Authority.)
- New or novel information: Primary sources of data or analysis appear to be commonly cited in the SGE snapshot. That could mean it will become more important to publish or share new information on a topic rather than compiling existing information.
It may be a good idea to consider ways you can include these factors in your own content strategy.
Don’t abandon traditional SEO best practices because of SGE. Although the AI-generated results may shift user behavior, SERPs still include traditional search results. This makes them relevant in the future of SEO.
At this stage, it’s too soon to know how frequently users will rely on SGE to answer their query. Many users may still opt to click through to the traditional search results that are still displayed in the SERP.
2. Zero-Click Searches
What to Know
Zero-click searches are on the rise. This means more searches where a user doesn’t click on any of the displayed results.
According to the Semrush Zero-Clicks Study, 57% of mobile and roughly a quarter of desktop searches leave the SERP without clicking on an organic or paid result.
They may not click on a result for many different reasons.
For example, the user searched for:
- Local businesses or services: Google often provides the necessary information (such as location, contact details, or business hours) directly in the local pack or map pack
- Quick conversions or calculations: For searches like “USD to EUR” or “miles to kilometers,” Google provides a quick conversion tool directly in the SERPs
- Public or celebrity information: Searches for public figures or celebrities often yield a knowledge panel that provides basic information like their age, occupation, and notable works
These searches commonly result in zero clicks.
Google’s enhanced SERP features, like knowledge panels, local packs, and direct conversion tools immediately satisfy user intent by providing concise and precise answers.
Meaning users may get the information they want without the need to click on a result.
Search for celebrity information like “Johnny Depp.”
You instantly get information regarding his occupation, movies, and age without having to click any website link.
How to Prepare
To minimize the impact of zero-click searches, you can adjust your strategy to focus on securing featured snippets for those queries that don’t result in clicks.
Searches don’t lead to a click for many of the reasons presented above.
But, some of the most commonly affected queries are:
- SERPs with a prominent featured snippet (e.g., a definition)
- Informational keywords easily answered by said featured snippet
Will targeting these keywords help get more traffic?
But if you secure the featured snippet (known as “position zero”) for these keywords, you'll be in a prime position. This not only increases your chances of getting clicks from users who explore the results, but it also boosts brand recognition.
As a recognized thought leader in the space, users are more likely to click on your site in future searches or even visit your site directly for answers.
You can perform a SERP analysis to identify which queries display a definition-featured snippet. Then, target those keywords.
To do this, use Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool.
First, click “Keyword Magic Tool” from the Semrush toolbar.
Enter a topic your website covers, select your location, and hit “Search.”
To filter your results to only Featured snippets, click on “Advanced filters,” click on the navigation bar under “SERP Features,” and select the “Featured snippet” box. Then, click “Apply.”
Now, the results are filtered to only keywords that trigger a featured snippet.
You can click on a keyword to find who has the featured snippet for it. This will take you to the Keyword Overview tool for a more comprehensive analysis.
The “Keyword Difficulty” box helps you evaluate if you should target the keyword.
The score goes like this:
- 0-14: Very easy
- 15-29: Easy
- 30-49: Possible
- 50-69: Difficult
- 70-84: Hard
- 85-100: Very hard
It also recommends the requirements to compete for this keyword.
In this case, to successfully rank for “How to tie your shoes,” we estimate you’ll need 43 referring domains and optimized content to compete.
Scroll down to the “SERP Analysis” section to see who has the featured snippet for the keyword. You’ll notice it with the crown icon.
You can study these pages to edit or optimize and provide better value to take the featured snippet.
In this case, offering video content may help your site appear in the featured snippet space.
Other Semrush tools that can help you in SERP analysis are:
- Organic Research for specific research and SERP Features analysis for a deeper understanding of keywords related to a website
- Position Tracking for monitoring featured snippets, from seeing how many your website has to the opportunities to win featured snippets
Check out our guide on tracking featured snippets to learn more advanced strategies.
It’s also valuable to consider expanding your marketing strategy to include channels beyond organic search.
Alternative traffic sources enable you to reach your target audience, drive engagement to your website, and reduce the burden of getting traffic only from the SERPs.
Such platforms include the following:
- Social media: These platforms are great for sharing content that drives traffic to your website. Research and experiment with what platform works best for your audience, create content that drives engagement, and participate in conversations.
- Email marketing: Use email marketing to communicate with your audience directly. Share updates, offers, and valuable content directly to their inbox. This fosters a direct line of communication and drives traffic to your site.
- Online communities: Participate in forums, groups, and other online communities relevant to your industry. Provide value to drive interest and traffic back to your website.
The key takeaway is to build a community that creates a direct connection between your brand and your audience so people don’t have to go to Google before thinking of you.
Learn more about how to spot and avoid zero-click searches.
3. Answer Engine Optimization (AEO)
What to Know
AI and chatbots are reshaping how users search and find information. In response, we utilize Answer Engine Optimization (AEO) to adapt our content accordingly and prepare for the future of SEO.
AEO is the process of optimizing content for so-called answer engines. Answer engines are (generally) AI-powered technologies that synthesize information to answer conversational queries for users.
Think: ChatGPT, Google SGE, Microsoft’s Bing chatbot.
With the availability of chatbots, smart assistants, and voice search, users are increasingly seeking immediate answers without the need to click through to a web page.
How to Prepare
Your team should focus on developing an AEO strategy that sits alongside (or on top of) traditional search engine optimization strategies.
AEO prioritizes optimizing for answer-based queries.
This means creating concise, clear, and direct content that can easily be ingested by AI and machine learning algorithms and cited within AI-generated responses.
One strategy is to implement a robust Q&A-style format in most or all of your content.
Think including FAQs in your articles. Then, take it one step further to structure long-form content around key questions and scenarios that a user might use in a conversational search.
Use Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool to identify common questions and long-tail queries related to topics that matter to your business.
Launch the tool from the Semrush toolbar.
Then, type a topic into the search box, select your database,and click “Search.”
From there, click the “Questions” toggle.
Use this list of recommended questions to guide and supplement your content strategy. Incorporate the questions (and answers) into relevant content (both new and existing).
Make your content more visible to answer engines by:
- Identifying and incorporating conversational keywords and phrases that users might use in conversational searches
- Structure content in response to common questions or inquiries related to the topics you’re targeting
- Creating content in a format favored for snippets. Like bullet points, tables, or short paragraphs.
- Implementing schema markup to help search engines understand the context and content of your page
AEO also involves optimizing your content for SERP features that highlight direct answers.
Our study on maximizing People Also Ask (PPA) opportunities discusses how to increase the likelihood of your content appearing on the SERP feature.
SEO and AEO are not exactly the same. But, aligning both strategies is possible.
This approach ensures that your brand remains visible and relevant. Even while users are increasingly seeking direct answers and utilizing voice search and AI-driven platforms.
4. Focus on Topical Authority
What to Know
SEO is becoming increasingly focused on strategies for demonstrating clear expertise on a particular topic.
This is often referred to as topical authority.
Establishing topical authority involves becoming a go-to source for information on a particular topic or niche, ensuring that your content comprehensively covers all subject matter facets.
Search engines, especially Google, are progressively prioritizing content demonstrating authority. They define authority as a combination of experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (called “E-E-A-T”).
How to Prepare
Establishing topical authority requires a strategic approach to content creation and optimization.
Such an approach involves:
- Developing comprehensive, expert, and high-quality content across a specific topic
- Building a deep catalog of content on related topics and subtopics
- Implementing a site architecture that makes it easy for humans and bots to discover relevant related content across your website
Start with Semrush’s Topic Research tool to identify core topics and subtopics within your niche.
Navigate to the tool by clicking “Topic Research” from the left-hand navigation bar under “Content Marketing.”
Then, type a topic into the search box and select your database. Click “Get content ideas.”
The tool will provide you with a list of relevant content ideas based on the initial topic.
A comprehensive content strategy would incorporate many or all of the suggested topics.
Ensure your content thoroughly explores these topics, providing valuable information with insights from subject matter experts (SMEs) that address user queries and needs.
Then these topics or articles would be linked together to make it easy for readers and search engines to explore the main themes of the topic fully.
This strategy is known as a topic cluster.
A topic cluster is a group of thematically related pages or articles that are connected with internal links.
As you develop content, organize it into clusters where a core pillar page is supported by related sub-topic pages, ensuring they are interlinked to distribute authority and guide user navigation.
Navigate to the “Site Audit” tool under “SEO” > “ON PAGE & TECH SEO” on the left-hand sidebar.
Click the “+ Create project” button to enter your domain.
Input your domain name and click the “Create project” button.
Click the “Start Site Audit” button.
You can edit other settings like allowing or removing URLs and scheduling audits.
Wait for the auditing to finish, or visit the page later.
After your audit is ready, click on your project name to view your report.
Go to “Internal Linking” under “Thematic Reports” and click on the “View details” button.
Now, you can see more details about your website’s internal linking.
This report provides five insights that you can use to find internal linking opportunities:
- Pages Crawl Depth: Measures the number of clicks needed to reach the webpages you specified in your Site Audit project. Take note of the pages that take more clicks to identify opportunities to create more direct internal links to these deeper pages, making them more accessible.
- Internal Links: Shows the number of internal links on your website. Pinpoint which pages have fewer internal links to determine those that might benefit from additional links to boost their visibility and relevance.
- Internal Link Distribution: Displays the amount of internal links each page receives. Analyze which pages have insufficient link juice to find opportunities to improve the link distribution so that all pages have a balanced amount of internal link support.
- Internal Link Issues: Highlights problems with your internal links. Review and fix these issues to your website’s navigation or link juice flow.
- Pages Passing Most Internal LinkRank: Indicates your most influential pages. Place important internal links on these pages as they will pass on more link juice to linked pages.
Link juice is the authority or value transferred from one webpage to another through a hyperlink.
Semrush’s Backlink Analytics and Backlink Audit tools enable you to analyze your backlink profile, ensuring you gain quality backlinks that validate your topical authority. Simply enter your website and you'll receive an in-depth report about your backlinks.
This report covers everything from your link-building progress to the most authoritative linking domains of your competitors.
You can also analyze and compare the backlink profiles of up to five competitors and identify gaps and opportunities in your backlink profile with the Backlink Gap tool.
Developing and interlinking content within a specific topic area isn’t enough to establish and maintain topical authority.
Regularly update your content to ensure it remains current, relevant, and valuable to users to position your brand as a go-to source of information and expertise within your niche.
5. Video SEO
What to Know
Creating video content that ranks in Google search results (as well as on YouTube) presents a major opportunity for many marketing teams.
People are gobbling up video content like never before. The number of digital video viewers worldwide is expected to reach 3.78 billion in 2024.
And search engines have noticed.
Wyzowl’s Video Marketing Statistics 2024 report shows the importance of video content in the future of SEO with just a few key findings:
- 89% of users want to see more videos from the brands they follow
- An all-time high of 91% of businesses used video as an online marketing tool in 2024
- 82% of people say watching a video has convinced them to buy a product or service
So, how can you use video SEO to increase your customer base and drive business growth?
How to Prepare
Grab your camera and start recording. But only after you have a solid video SEO strategy.
It’s easy to decide that you should create videos because it looks promising.
But don’t do it without a plan.
Wyzowl’s report states that 70% of non-video marketers plan to start using video.
So we can expect more videos and competition for audience attention, and rushing in can yield suboptimal results.
A reliable strategy will help you to set your videos apart from the rest, ensuring your audience views your content, values it, and keeps coming back for more.
Use YouTube keyword research tools to find and implement target relevant keywords in the video title, description, and tags to enhance discoverability.
For example, you can see how the top keywords perform in periods like last month.
After getting your target keywords, work on your video production and distribution with the following tips:
- Use design tools like Canva to design compelling and relevant thumbnails to increase click-through rates (CTRs)
- Include transcripts to make your videos accessible and implement checkpoints for separate ideas for a remarkable user experience (UX)
- Add metadata and descriptions with your target keywords to allow search engines to understand your video content faster and rank your site higher
6. Evolving Search Engine Ranking Factors
What to Know
Search engine ranking factors are evolving to prioritize trustworthy and expert content that instantly provides the best answer to users’ queries.
But the full range of ranking factors and their relative importance is more in flux than ever.
According to a Statista survey of more than 3,500 SEO professionals, the three leading emergent SEO factors for search rankings globally are:
- Machine learning/AI (11.3%)
- Core Web Vitals (10.8%)
- E-E-A-T & trusted sources (10.2%)
This evolution is driven by the intent to deliver search results that precisely answer the user's query and provide additional valuable information from credible sources.
Understanding and aligning with these factors can help you achieve and sustain high SERP positions amidst the stiff competition.
How to Prepare
Root your SEO strategy in the fundamental and unchanging foundation at the center of Google’s search algorithm—the user experience.
Although the definition of a good user experience has changed over the years, Google has consistently prioritized providing the best results for users over other factors.
It’s safe to assume that the future of SEO will continue this trend.
How do you focus on user experience?
Ensuring your content consistently provides the most helpful, accurate answers in a user-friendly manner is pivotal to maintaining and improving your SERP rankings amidst evolving ranking factors.
Develop content that demonstrates deep knowledge and expertise in your field. You can reach out to SMEs to pitch quotes in your posts and improve the content’s credibility.
You can use Semrush’s Site Audit tool to get a report on your website’s Core Web Vitals performance.
The report shows you issues with your site's Core Web Vitals performance and provides recommendations for fixing each one.
Integrating these SEO tactics and optimizing for helping your target audience will ensure your content remains visible, relevant, and authoritative in the eyes of both search engines and users.
7. Refreshing Existing Content
What to Know
With rapidly increasing competition and content velocity, regularly refreshing and updating your content is pivotal to maintaining relevance and rankings in the SERPs.
Content velocity refers to the volume of content published within a specific time frame.
Consider the influx of video content on platforms like YouTube, where, as of mid-2022, creators uploaded an astounding equivalent of 30,000 hours of new content every single hour.
This increased content velocity means the content lifecycle is accelerating. What is deemed relevant or valuable can change in a blink.
Consequently, the shelf-life of content is diminishing.
Staying ahead or even just abreast requires a diligent, ongoing effort to refresh and update existing content.
Refreshing content isn’t merely about keeping facts or figures up-to-date.
It also requires ensuring that content continues to align with user intent, adheres to SEO best practices, and competes effectively with newer material on the same topic.
How to Prepare
Adopt a strategic, ongoing process of reviewing, updating, and optimizing existing content. Ensure your content remains relevant and competitive amidst the increased content velocity.
Begin by setting up Position Tracking in Semrush.
This tool will let you monitor your rankings for important keywords. Then you can set alerts for fluctuations or changes in your position.
If a page seems to be falling off the SERP, then you can perform a targeted analysis and refresh or optimize.
Further reading: The Step-by-Step Guide to Conducting a Content Audit in 2024
8. Shifting User Search Intent
What to Know
User search intent is shifting towards transactional and commercial queries as Google recalibrates SERPs to divert attention away from purely informational content.
Insights from our State of Search study show that Google has shifted the balance within the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
There’s an upward trend in the transactional and commercial keyword groups.
In contrast, navigational and informational keyword groups witnessed a contrary direction, indicating a shift in Google’s focus away from purely informational results.
Search intent has always been a pivotal component in SEO strategy, ensuring that content aligns with the needs and desires of the user.
However, with the advent and progression of AI and conversational search technologies, the nature of queries is evolving, marking a significant shift in the future of SEO.
Users increasingly engage with search engines more conversationally, often seeking instant answers and using voice search capabilities.
How to Prepare
To adapt to the shifting user search intent, to reassess and realign your content strategy to meet these evolving needs.
Here’s what to do:
- Understand the new intent: Use Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool to explore how keywords related to your business are being used in new ways, focusing on transactional and commercial intents. Analyze the questions being asked and the phrases being used to ensure your content answers these queries effectively.
- Optimize for transactional queries: Ensure that your product pages, pricing pages, and other transaction-oriented content are optimized for search engines and users. Use Semrush’s On-Page SEO Checker to ensure that these pages are optimized for their target keywords and user intents.
- Monitor performance: Keep a close eye on how these changes impact your traffic and conversions using Semrush’s Position Tracking tool. Adjust your strategy based on real-time data to align continuously with shifting user intent.
The shift in user search intent is ongoing. Use Semrush’s Topic Research tool to stay abreast of new trends about a topic, ensuring your content strategy evolves in tandem with user needs.
Navigating the evolving landscape of SEO requires a blend of adaptability and strategic foresight.
Ready to stay ahead of the trends?
Check out Semrush’s comprehensive suite of tools to optimize your content and strategies to navigate the dynamic shifts in search engine algorithms and user behaviors, securing your digital presence now and in the future of SEO.
Will SEO exist in five years?
In short, yes.
SEO will continue to exist and evolve, adapting to technological advancements and changing user behaviors. The core principle of optimizing content to be found quickly and be helpful to users will persist, albeit with new strategies and tactics to align with emerging search engine algorithms and user preferences.
Will AI kill SEO?
No, AI will not kill SEO.
Instead, it will transform it, Like we’re seeing with AEO.
AI technologies like GPT-4 enhance SEO by providing deeper insights, automating tasks, and enabling more personalized user experiences.
SEO professionals must adapt, leveraging AI to optimize content and strategies effectively, ensuring they align with search engine algorithms and user intent.
Is SEO still worth it in 2024?
Absolutely. SEO remains a critical component of digital marketing, ensuring visibility in search engine results and driving organic traffic.
The methodologies might evolve, but the necessity to optimize for search engines will persist, making SEO worthwhile. With consistent algorithm updates and shifting user behaviors, preparing for the future of SEO means implementing a strategic approach for online success.
Don’t wait to see what the future holds.
Read our full guide on building an SEO strategy to get started today. Then, get started on your own SEO strategy with a free Semrush trial.