What is Deep Learning?
Before I delve into how deep learning will impact search, we’ve got to get one question out of the way—what is deep learning, anyway? Deep learning is similar to machine learning, using artificial neural networks (ANNs) to not only analyze unfathomable amounts of data but understand and learn from it. Algorithms developed from deep learning are trainable and essentially “human-like,” growing smarter the more data they’re exposed to—all without the supervision of actual humans. (For more background on deep learning, read: Why Deep Learning (and AI) Will Change Everything.)
How Will Deep Learning Impact SEO?
The dynamic duo of deep learning and search is on the move. Google, in fact, is already pressing forward. In late 2015, the search giant announced it had added the deep-learning enabled RankBrain algorithm to give Hummingbird a new dimension. Google doesn’t sit still for long, so of course they’ve been experimenting since then. Google’s plan for deep learning is AI-based and leans on humanizing the algorithm, training it to recognize images and even speech patterns. In relative infancy now, what happens when that algorithm grows up and becomes even higher-functioning?
There already is no one universal page one Google result—no matter what a smarmy SEO pro might try to sell you. Search engine results are served up based on location, search history, and what the search engine already knows about what you’re interested in. I believe we are extremely close to a time in which traditional linking strategies hold no SEO weight, results will be personalized instead of based on popularity, and the act of optimizing pages and manipulating search results become things of the past. A big change in what we’re accustomed to? You bet. Perhaps most unnerving for modern B2B marketers used to having some semblance of control over SERPs, the formula for high-ranking content could become less of a science and more of a sequence of unknowns.
This change won’t happen overnight, so don’t fret. Still, though, it’s important to keep your eyes on the horizon to get out ahead of the shift.
What Steps Can You Take to Prepare for the SEO Shift?
Focusing on social media marketing and content marketing strategies can help buffer your web presence against any impending SEO changes, big-picture or otherwise. Investing in paid advertising tactics, too, can be helpful. Let’s dial these in more to offer you the following specific steps to long-term SEO success:
- Invest in Google AdWords. If you’ve been holding off, now is the time to take the plunge into AdWords. Use this tool to monitor your content and see what gets the most attention on search pages. Then, produce more like it. This isn’t rocket science—it’s paying attention to prospects and customers, seeing what resonates them, and giving them more of that.
- Get on the influencer marketing train. Why? In short, it works. Any time you can invest in and build legitimate relationships, it’s good for your business. And those relationships and connections can help grow your audience sans-SEO. People trust people they trust. Find your brand ambassadors, find your influencers, build strong relationships, and you’ll both reap the benefits.
- Reviews matter. Customer reviews, whether on Google, on product pages, or on Facebook, carry a lot of weight. And trust me, I know there are a lot of fake reviews out there. But as a customer who rarely buys anything without reading reviews first and factoring them overall into a buying decision, reviews are incredibly important. But here’s the thing about reviews—you don’t get them unless you ask for them. So what are you waiting for? Ask your very best customers to submit reviews—and they’ll be glad to do it.
- Fine-tune your content strategy. Make sure your content is engaging, relevant, written on conversational tones, and highly sharable. Review your calls-to-action (CTAs) to make sure they’re front and center, not buried.
- Get social. Social media platforms have many tools available to help marketers. Try advertising on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or other platforms to better understand what your audience wants and how they respond to particular messaging. While you’re there, ask for feedback, aim for engagement, and give great, share-worthy customer service.
- Know your competition. Watch what your competition is doing in terms of content and social media activity, and do better than that. If they’ve produced an article or guide that’s become wildly popular, approach the topic from a different angle or dig deeper into the subject to provide more value.
SEO isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Keeping pace with the tech advancements changing the marketing landscape, though, is table stakes when it comes to success. Granted, there are a lot of unknowns now surrounding deep learning’s impact on SEO, but one thing is clear: inaction is unacceptable. In fact, the steps I outlined above are things you should realistically already be doing as part of your well-rounded marketing strategy. If you’re not, this SEO switch-up should be the push you need.
How do you think deep learning will impact SEO? How has your business prepared? Tell me in the comments.
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