Search engine optimisation (SEO) is intrinsically tied to the changing trends in search technology that aims to make browsing the internet faster, safer and more accurate. Emerging buzzwords like natural language processing and machine learning are being thrown around the industry as SEO practitioners adjust their methodologies to meet the new demands of search engines.

Many of the so called “trends” in digital search technology are interconnected and are all mutually supported through search engine algorithms. Google, the de facto king of search, has made the most well-known advancements in search technology that SEO practitioners are watching like a hawk.

But how are these emerging technologies really affecting the way we do SEO? Let’s find out.

Machine Learning

Machine learning has been some Google has talked about for a long time but was only incorporated into their search functionality in 2014. Since then Google has been very successful with machine learning, announcing RankBrain which they have said is one of the most important factors in determining website rankings.

In terms of SEO, machine learning helps to interpret search queries more accurately and seve more accurate results to them. Google’s RankBrain is impressive in its ability to comprehend the semantic meaning of queries that previous algorithms struggled with.

RankBrain is also able to continually improve itself by comparing and contrasting the most popular results for the most used keywords. It can then make determinations that the top results for those keywords are structured a certain way and work to reward sites that fit that structure.

For SEO practitioners this means that highly measurable factors like keyword density, backlink authority and content length begin to matter less. The best option is to simply try and predict the determinations RankBrain will make and try to emulate them.

Voice search and virtual assistants

The notion of talking to an AI assistant to perform search queries is now no longer as foreign and quirky as it appeared when it broke onto the scene. Until recently, virtual assistants and speech recognition technology wasn’t advanced enough to be convenient over traditional typed searches.

Nowadays this is entirely different, with virtual assistants being able to detect speech incredibly accurately. It is now faster to say “OK Google, show me the nearest restaurant” and get a result rather than type a traditional search.

In terms of impact on SEO, voice search is becoming a more important area for practitioners to target. This means that keyword research and the way content is written will need to reflect to conversational way in which voice searched are performed over regular searches.