In order to be able to predict the future, you need to understand the past. This has never been more true than with online marketing.

Google has been making adjustments to their ranking algorithm that has transformed people’s ability to game their system.

This is causing massive problems for SEO agencies that have made their bones by pumping out low quality content specifically meant to trick the search engines.

In order to completely understand the basis for my predictions, go back to 1998. Yahoo, HotBot, and AltaVista were the most popular search engines of the day. Their ability to provide accurate search results was spotty at best.

Those search engines used onsite content as the main way to determine which websites deserved top placement. The few people that understood how search engines worked had a very easy time manipulating the SERPs.

The most common and effective tactic was to stuff as many of the keywords you wanted to target throughout the content of a page. This was a very crude form of online marketing. However, it produced very consistent results. The website with the highest ratio of keywords would get top placement. Having keyword usage as the root metric of the ranking algorithm made this system extremely easy to trick. That meant a very poor results page for the user.

Right around 1998 Google was founded. They had the idea that you could use other metrics besides onsite content to determine the relevancy of a website.

Using links as part of a ranking algorithm was what first set Google apart from the other search engines.

There is a very popular analogy many SEO experts have used to explain Google’s premise for adding links to their ranking algorithm. When you think about a person, do you trust more about what he says about himself or more about what others say about him? I think everyone would agree that what other people say about him would probably be a more accurate representation of the individual. The same works for websites. You can think of what someone says about himself or herself as the onsite content of a site. What other people say about an individual is like the links pointing to a domain.

Backlinks have truly been the root of Google’s ranking algorithm for the last 15 years. The important thing to note is that Google is quickly changinghow the evaluate and value links. This brings us to our first prediction.

#1 The Fall of Traditional SEO

Links were an SEO company’s best friend.

It is extremely easy to put set processes in place to create content and obtain links. More importantly, this has been extremely effective for many years.

Many SEO companies have built extremely lucrative businesses around this model. The problem is that now Google has changed how they value and evaluate links. SEO companies that refuse to change will be left in the dust.

We predict that SEO companies that stick with the traditional forms of junk link-building will get organic penalties placed on their clients’ websites. This can only go on for so long before businesses and more importantly strategic partners start seeing that the SEO companies product no longer works. This will be the demise of many companies with only a traditional SEO product.

#2 Content Will Finally Become King

An old SEO saying is that “content is king.” While people have said this for years, high quality content has never really been the focus of most SEO practitioners. The truth of the matter is that producing content that is just good enough to get a link has been where 95{e108bb21be762fc6fa6f79a68ef8277ec5dd508afc1fd385a5d42c82a88a4204} of SEO companies have invested their resources.

The shift from creating links to content marketing has been quietly taking place for the last 18 months.

One of the best examples we’d like to present is what happened to SEOMoz. Anyone who knows anything about SEO is familiar with SEOMoz. These guys were the absolute leaders of the online marketing world. About a year ago they changed their brand from SEOMoz to just Moz. If you visit their website, they don’t mention SEO one time. They were one of the front-runners in changing from a traditional SEO mindset to being content- focused. My point is that leaders in the industry saw the light over a year ago. If the people that had an absolute lock on the industry are making a change, it is a good sign that Google is making a shift.

Google is where they are today because they generated the most accurate results pages. The use of backlinks has become too easy for the manipulation of Google’s algorithm.

We predict that Google will start looking at other metrics like social engagement and website performance. The ability to effectively create and distribute content will be the best way to improve these areas of your website. With Google placing higher importance on content, we predict companies will start to be much more focused on an inbound marketing strategy than just creating spammy links.

#3 The Rise of Mobile

Users accessing the web via mobile devices have been on the rise for a number of years. Growth trends show by 2016 mobile queries are expected to exceed desktop by 27.8 billion. This presents a huge opportunity for businesses to take advantage of this new form of traffic.

Google has now come up with a different listing of results pages for mobile devices. This means that websites that are not specifically optimized for mobile devices will suffer in organic placement on smartphones and tablets. In that there is such a massive shift with users accessing the Internet with these kinds of devices, this could mean a huge loss in organic visibility.

The concept of a mobile responsive website is new to many business owners. We predict that as accessing websites with smart phones and tablets increases, more webmasters will be focused mobile optimization. The demand for these kinds of services will present a significant opportunity for design and online marketing companies.

#4 Increased Value of Social Media

There has been a constant debate over how social media affects the SERPs. There were recently a few interesting studies on Moz and SearchEngineLand that show a very high correlation with the number of Google Plus likes and organic rankings. Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Web Spam Team, wrote a response to these studies saying that Google+ has no effect on organic SERPs. He went on to say that this simply shows correlation not causation.

Whatever the fact is for the time being, we predict that social media will have an increased effect on a website’s organic placement.

Google has always strived to provide the user with the most accurate results pages. Content and websites being consumed and shared via social media are powerful ways to evaluate the quality of a website. We predict that Google and the other search engines will increase how they value social interaction in their organic ranking algorithm.

#5 New Focus on User Experience & Website Structure

Google has taken extreme measures to penalize websites that provide a low quality user experience. In 2011 Google introduced the Panda Update to its ranking algorithm. This was a big step in actually incorporating user experience and website performance as secondary metrics for evaluation a website’s organic placement.

There are a lot of different factors that go into creating a good user experience. The first, and most obvious, is the website’s load speed. This is a metric that is extremely easy for Google to measure. We have seen that load speed has been given more weight in the search engines’ ranking algorithm in the last few months. There are a few easy steps you can take for improving your site’s speed. Please visit this website to check the performance of your site. If it looks like there are issues, we recommend going through these steps.

The Panda Update actually incorporated machine learning to evaluate which websites were high quality. This means Google actually crawled websites to evaluate which ones provided a good user experience. We predict that Google’s algorithm will continue to evolve and get better at determining which websites deserve top placement. We also think that this will be given more weight as to where a website is placed.

We predict that as the Internet evolves and business owners become more experienced, there will be a new focus on website design. If you think about it, websites are really still in their infancy. Many influential business owners and marketing directors don’t have a firm grasp of the Internet. As that generation retires and a new generation steps into those positions, there will be a new standard of design quality. We predict that there will be a huge wave of website redesigns in the next few years. These will be strategically built to provide the best user experience possible.

I think everyone will agree that the Internet is here to stay. In my opinion, it is going to be the main marketing channel of the 21st century. Maybe the only thing that has stayed consistent with Google and the other search engines is that they are ever evolving. It is going to be the responsibility of business owners and web masters to stay on the cutting edge of the industry. If they are either unable or unwilling to change, their organic visibility will surly suffer.