So much for “SEO is dead“: the advances of machine learning and artificial intelligence have brought back in vogue the old pessimistic expression on the fate of the activity of manual optimization of the pages of a site, but Google reassures and comforts industry professionals. According to John Mueller, in fact, the search engines will not become so advanced as to make SEO obsolete, and therefore there will still be room for the professional job of site optimization.

The future of the SEO according to Google

The topic was at the center of the latest appointment with English Google SEO office-hours hangout, the Q&A session asked by users to John Mueller, Search Advocate of the Google Search Relations team.

One of the participants explicitly asked the well-known public face of the company what his vision on the future of the SEO was, in the light of concerns about the possible decline of the business due to the continuous progress of the search engines, that make the optimization work almost superfluous.

Mueller disagrees completely with this pessimistic view and clearly states that, according to him, the SEO will never become obsolete and useless.

Mueller: SEO will never be outdated despite AI and machine learning

The Googler has explained his position better, starting from what usually worries people and, in particular, who operates in the sector: the fear that, given the continuous and constant advances in technology and machine learning (as in the recent case of MUM or other AI applications presented at Google I/O 2021), “Google’s algorithms will reach the point of automatically understanding each website, making SEO obsolete because no one will need to do it”.

From its point of view, therefore, even if machine learning will continue to evolve it will not reach a point where it will be advanced that Google can understand the websites and everything they are composed of without any additional optimization.

Exploting the tools and adapt to innovations

Indeed, the evolution of tools offers great opportunities to those who work on sites, because “with all these new technologies there are new tools ways to look at your site, and this can simplify the creation of really good content and clear structures for your site”, adds Mueller.

From this point of view, SEO specialists can look with optimism at what happened (or not) with the web design industry, where the most modern and advanced CMS today however have not rendered obsolete the professional and human development of websites, since the web design industry has been able to adapt and evolve in the face of new problems.

The Search Advocate invites you to look at the way “things have evolved in the last 10-20 years: in the beginning, you wrote your PHP code and created your HTML, and it was a lot of work; over time, all these CMS evolved, and essentially anyone can launch and create a website without having to really understand the HTML code or server side basics”.

The evolution of SEO work on websites

According to John Mueller, the SEO is heading in the same direction and in the near future some of the things we do manually, such as writing H1 and H2 tags, may eventually be managed by the CMS of the website.

This is the future of the SEO described by Mueller, which is a largely automated activity by different tools, but where the human contribution remains fundamental and central.

To better clarify this aspect, the Search Advocate provides the example of the loading of the main content of a Web page and the fact that the CMS automatically optimizes heading tags: the SEO can delegate this compilation, but it will have to verify that everything is appropriate in relation to the strategy it intends to follow.

“I think the evolution will continue and that there will be more and more tools available, which will allow you to do more and more things in a way that works well enough for the search engines: so, it is not that the SEO work will go away, but it will rather evolve”, says the Googler. “For example, perhaps instead of manually editing the H2 and H1 tags you will delegate this task to a CMS that makes sure that the most important content is already included as a page header”.

An activity to be learned on the field

And so, it is true that machine learning continues to improve the understanding ability of search engines and that AI tools can (and will increasingly) automate various processes, but for John Mueller these are not negative aspects for the future of SEO, which will not become obsolete anyway even if, for example, the CMS will optimize “more things for search engines by themselves”.

The luck of the SEO and SEOs, probably, is that this activity is learned on the field and is by nature extremely adaptive: just look at the results of the survey launched on Twitter by Carolyn Lyden (and reported by Seroundtable), who asked the community “How did you learn SEO?”.

The overwhelming majority of professionals – 77.4% – revealed that they have learned the SEO “practically and on the field“, while a 10.7% followed DIY courses, 9.8% said they had a mentor who led learning and only 2.2% said they had specific courses.

The picture is likely to change with the arrival of new generations of specialists, but in any case this activity remains extremely practical, and therefore more easily ready to exploit the tools that are available to us rather than being crushed by innovations that can crack the theoretical bases.