Google’s John Mueller offered his thoughts on the future of SEO. He focused on opportunities for small businesses and offered predictions on what will be big for SEO in the near future.
Search Ranking is Getting Harder – Use Your Advantages
John Mueller expressed his opinion that SEO will keep becoming competitive. He said this because big companies are becoming better at SEO.
He advised that smaller and older online businesses that are increasingly having trouble competing with bigger companies may want to look into less competitive niches, although he also said that smaller companies have an advantage in being nimble.
Mueller recommended focusing on unique advantages.
While he didn’t mention any specifics, a strong advantage of smaller companies is the ability to pivot faster to take advantage of opportunities without going through the layers of meetings and management that a larger organization might have to go through before making a decision.
I recall working at a medium sized B2B company and spotting a brand new PPC opportunity at a site with thousands of qualified site visitors.
Getting buy-in was as simple as walking over to the CEO to tell him about the opportunity to get approval and a budget.
We made a lot of sales over the course of the following weeks before our competitors discovered the opportunity. That was a lot of fun and very rewarding, both personally and financially.
Being nimble is a huge advantage, don’t underestimate it. Many of the small and medium sized B2B companies I’ve worked with in the past have gone on to become billion dollar companies from rapid growth and acquisitions.
“If you’re a smaller team, a smaller company, there are a lot of things that you can do that big companies just can’t do.
You can do things very quickly, you can implement some new technologies fairly quickly, you can be awesome in ways that is really hard for them to match.”
John Mueller recommended testing UX (User Experience) and SEO to improve a site. He cautioned against testing with “fake test sites” and recommended using real web pages.
He said that testing with “fake test sites” is a mistake that he sees people do. He didn’t elaborate on what he meant by “fake sites” but presumably he’s referencing SEO tests where a fake testing site is created in order to test an SEO theory.
He recommended real sites with real keywords for testing.
When doing SEO tests, he also recommended following up with more than one test to make sure that the results are repeatable.
He also cautioned against falling for false patterns and correlations.
Mueller observed that it’s “human nature to find patterns in places where they don’t exist.”
Good SEOs Don’t Need to Know Code
Mueller next said that it’s not necessary to know how to code to be a good SEO.
Listening to the context, it’s apparent that Mueller was making reference to computer and algorithm coding rather than HTML coding.
Here’s what Mueller said:
“You don’t have to do coding to be a good SEO. A lot of good, really fantastic SEOs don’t do coding.
But it is something that does gives you a little bit more background information on how… software works. For example, when you’re looking at machine learning and you’re wondering what Google do next?
If you understand a little bit what machine learning can do and what people have been working on then you can kind of figure out what kinds of things are possible and what kinds of things are more science fiction.”
Those are all good points. Some have suggested that people who talk about algorithms are closed minded gate keepers of SEO and that people should be free to speculate about what Google is doing.
But those who read patents and research papers are more closely aligned with what Mueller said. Understanding what is possible and what is being researched helps an SEO to be able to differentiate between fanciful speculation (science fiction) and something that is entirely possible and within the realms of possibility.
In the end, John Mueller encouraged SEOs to investigate coding.
Mueller acknowledged that big brands are becoming more savvy at SEO and that presents new challenges to smaller publishers. But he also said that smaller to medium sites have inherent advantages that can be unlocked and turned into winning strategies.
And of course, eCommerce will continue to be an important factor driving sales to small businesses.
Additionally he pointed to structured data, discover, video, and web stories as bright spots for smaller publishers who want to obtain more traffic.