In the age of mobile and virtual assistants, what does the future of SEO require?

In the age of mobile devices and virtual assistants, what does the future of SEO require?

Artificial intelligence (AI) development and its impact on different industries have been on all marketers minds in the past year, but in the age of mobile devices and virtual assistants, what does the future of SEO require?

The Drum spoke to three experts from Microsoft, Acronym and Distilled, who are all on the judging panel for The Drum Search Awards USA, on what the future of SEO holds.

Purna Virji, senior manager of global engagement, Microsoft

As consumers, we’re all just looking for the easiest, most efficient route to go from searching to doing. The device - in today’s world - is transient. As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says, devices come and go, don't think of the device as the centre, think of the person as the centre.

Advances in AI are yielding people-centric experiences that give us all plenty of different options when it comes to searching and getting help such as asking an assistant or pointing our mobile phone cameras at something to get an answer.

That means for SEOs, the job becomes more varied. It isn’t enough anymore just to focus on driving traffic to a website – in an age of chatbots and digital assistants, websites aren’t as indispensable as they used to be.

SEOs need to focus on what the customer is trying to achieve and the different routes they could take to get there. SEOs should then optimize for these different paths, whether it means optimizing for conversational interfaces, for visual search, or for voice search.

Mike Grehan, chief marketing officer, Acronym

SEO has been specifically about web technologies, creating web pages, getting indexed and hopefully getting a decent rank. But now it’s a much broader content focused role. Connecting your clients content to their next potential customer at every stage of the customer journey is crucial. We’re moving away from being totally “search engine” focused to more of a “content experience analyst” (CEA) role helping end users navigate from platform to platform and device to device.

Mike Teluka, vice president, Distilled

Predictions are hard. For twenty years, Google's been leading search with superior visual results, on desktop and mobile devices. We expect they'll keep a strong hold on the search market. While the future of search and therefore SEO is clearly "mobile first," a fact that our industry is keenly aware of but that has yet to sink-in for many marketers, virtual assistants are an unproven augmentation to the channel.

Checking the weather, finding food, setting tasks and confirming that the guy from 'Last Country For Old Men' was indeed in The Goonies are all current use cases - but the vast majority of searches still happen on devices with keyboard entry and there are no clear signs people are searching less this way and more with voice commands. Voice search appears to be incremental so far (and not a massive opportunity for businesses). We expect slow growth here.

Virji, Grehan and Teluka are judges for The Drum Search Awards USA. The entry deadline is Thursday 30 August, download your entry pack now and show the industry the outstanding work you have been producing.

Sponsors of the awards are Sempo

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