SEO in Focus

The Future of SEO w/ Barry Schwartz

  • November 3, 2020
  • Steven van Vessum

People will not just be talking to their phones or computers, but talking to their TVs, their refrigerators, their vanity mirrors, their plants on their desks.

SEOs will have to adapt for that.

Hi Barry! Can you introduce yourself?

I am Barry Schwartz, I own a company with my twin brother Ronnie named RustyBrick (opens in a new tab).

We actually started it in 1994 while in high school. 26 years later, it is still operating, we have over a dozen employees and we build out software, both web and mobile software for businesses.

In 2001 or so, I took a personal interest in how search engines work and started the Search Engine Roundtable (opens in a new tab) in 2003 as a place to keep notes on what is changing in search and how the search community is reacting to that change. I love writing about search and then joined with Danny Sullivan when he was with Search Engine Watch and we left there to start Search Engine Land (opens in a new tab) and the SMX events (opens in a new tab).

I still run and operate RustyBrick, I still write a ton at both Search Engine Roundtable and Search Engine Land. I even produce a couple of videos a week on search on my YouTube channel (opens in a new tab) - go subscribe now. I am a search geek that loves technology, I guess is how you’d sum it up.

What does a typical day for you look like?

I have a very consistent morning routine. Besides for the normal wake up and normal hygiene stuff, I go through emails first thing in the morning, run through the RSS feeds and check the SEO community in the forums and on social media.

My morning routine normally starts around 5:45 AM and I try my best to finish up my SEO side of the day by around 9 AM. So I try to block out a couple of hours for just search writing each morning and the rest, I try to focus on RustyBrick with some sprinklings of search stuff here and there throughout the day.

But I am a strong believer in having a consistent routine in both work life and personal life.

What’s your secret to keeping up to date on what goes on in the SEO industry?

Consistency is really it. I mean, I follow trends daily and if something is off, that means something may have changed. Not just with Google algorithm updates but anything that might be different or off in the SEO industry. Be it a user interface change, sitelinks disappearing, a new ranking change or even maybe someone in the space having a hard day.

Consistency and routine helps one notice these things, I believe.

What can the SEO industry expect from you in 2021?

More of the same. :)

“I have nothing to announce” as Google would say.

What’s the biggest challenge SEOs will face in 2021?

Probably the economy, similar to 2020 with the pandemic, but I think in 2021 it might get really bad, especially Q1 and Q2. I hope I am wrong and I hope things go back to normal soon but I think the biggest challenge facing SEOs will be this pandemic and running their businesses.

Specific to the SEO and ranking side, I guess we know of two things coming:

  • First, mobile-first indexing will be 100% live by March 2021 and if your site has not moved over yet (by the way, it probably has moved over) then when it is forced over to mobile-indexing, it might result in ranking disruption. So please be on top of that.
  • Second, we know of the Page Experience Update is coming sometime likely in 2021, we don’t know when yet. But I think you will see a lot of SEOs do a lot of work around those metrics including but not limited to the core web vitals. I think it really won’t be a big deal in terms of ranking changes when it goes live but SEOs will make a big deal of it.
  • Finally, these core updates and ongoing algorithm and ranking updates are always fun for SEOs and always cause a lot of challenges.

I am not going to say that voice search AR, AI, machine learning is going to be the biggest challenge because when it comes down to it, search engines really want to rank good stuff higher than bad stuff.

Those challenges have always been there and will continue to be there.

What will SEO look like in 5 years from now?

Five years is a long time away.

I think voice and yes, that impacts zero-click, will be bigger. I mean, how is Google or any search engine, going to list 10 blue links? It can’t. It has to give you the answer and so far, featured snippets is how that is done. And I would argue, most SEOs would prefer to have the featured snippet than not. But more and more people will type less and use voice more.

They’ll not just be talking to their phones or computers, but talking to their TVs, their refrigerators, their vanity mirrors, their plants on their desks.

SEOs will have to adapt for that.

AI is a big part of how featured snippets work and a lot of these advancements in search, but I wouldn’t be concerned about how the AI works. And no, technical SEO will likely never be solved. We just got most CMS platforms to be search engine friendly out of the box and now we have a reassurance of JavaScript frameworks that are completely not search engine friendly. We will always have something new and exciting and flashy on the web that technical SEOs will need to figure out how to make search engine friendly.

There are some reports that Apple might join the search engine business. If they do, that might be interesting. Microsoft did it years and years ago and did not really take search market share away from Google yet. But Apple owns a huge percentage of the mobile search space and now Google pays them to power that. If Apple enters the market and if the DOJ lawsuit really changes things up within Google, it should be interesting to see how Google’s market share shifts in five years from now.

If you could give our readers one practical, high-impact SEO tip, what would it be?

Think about building a web site that a Google engineer would be embarrassed to see not ranking number one in the Google search results for the queries that site is relevant for. This means, be one step ahead of Google in terms of what Google wants to rank high in its search results.

It is easier said than done.

If you could ask a Googler one question they’d have to answer in detail, who would you ask and what would the question be?

“How does Google figure out E-A-T?”

I mean, what signals does the ranking algorithm use to determine if a site is showing levels of Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness? Google does not have an E-A-T score but they do have some way of figuring it out on some level.

Keep on learning

Steven is ContentKing's VP of Community. This means he's involved in everything community and content marketing related. Right where he wants to be. He gets a huge kick out of letting websites rank and loves to talk SEO, content marketing and growth.