Whenever Google announces another update to its search engine algorithm, like the recent Google Panda and Penguin updates, panic ensues. However, there is no need to worry. While the updates will affect the SEO landscape, the changes are not the death knell of search optimization. Rather, the updates should serve to drastically improve the relevance of search engine results, rewarding those who use valuable content that engages visitors and entices them to stay on the page longer over those who rely too much on manipulating the results through the overuse of underhanded yet previously effective SEO techniques. Here is how the future of search engine optimization should look for the foreseeable future.
Future changes will continue to target overly optimized sites - Google and other search engines are well aware that some site owners are using techniques that are designed to gain traffic, while offering nothing in terms of value to their visitors other than an opportunity to buy what the site owner is selling. Like the Panda and Penguin updates, future algorithm changes will continue to punish rather than to reward these pages. This should provide a better experience for the entire internet community by making it easier to find information of real value.
Of course, it is impossible to state which SEO techniques are going to be subject to attack, and which are going to improve a sites ranking instead of hurting it. The SEO strategies that will continue to work are those that establish a site or web page as authoritative on a subject. The search engine spiders can determine this by discovering which pages engage visitors the most and get them to linger longer on the pages. Sloppy techniques that add no value will be punished, sometimes severely. Among these techniques is a high reliance on low value back links.
What will matter the most is visitor engagement - Think QUALITY OVER QUANTITY. The search engine robots are learning from the Google Panda and Penguin updates how to determine the value of textual content to website visitors. The most effective way to do this is to measure engagement. When a visitor is engaged on a page, that visitor will spend more time reading and accessing information. That visitor will also follow the site navigation to discover more relevant and engaging content.
Sure, the number of visitors will matter. However, this number will have positive and negative effects in the future. How the number of visitors affects the ranking of a given page will be determined by how long they stay there, and their behavior on that page. For example, the spiders will measure the length and quality of the visits. If visitors use a page as a sort of base for following links to other pages, and then returns to the base page, this will be rewarded. On the other hand, if the visitor follows back links to the page, but then leaves quickly, the page will be punished.
The quality of content will become increasingly important - Many webmasters will have a hard time with this, as the habits of optimizing key words and copying and pasting popular content suggest. The future is in content of high value. Try any number of Google searches using keywords, and you will see that the highest ranked search results now all seem to be highly reputable sites with an abundance of relevant and beneficial information. This is what the Panda and Penguin updates were intended to accomplish. The days of diving three pages deep into search results for the information you really need are fleeting.
Just because the recent Google Panda and Penguin updates have not affected your rankings doesnt mean that you need to reassess your SEO strategies. What worked in the past will clearly not work in the future. To be an effective webmaster now, you need to understand the future and stay ahead of the changes. Valuable and engaging content will continue to reap rewards. That needs to be your future focus.