With the news that the University of Bristol has made a major breakthrough in a key area of quantum computing, comes significant baggage for the SEO industry.

Google has already expressed its interest in the world of quantum computers, by dabbling with D-Wave’s Chimera chip back in December 2009.

That chip was not part of a true quantum computer, but achieved impressive results.

So, what is quantum computing, and how could it affect SEO?

Quantum computing refers to computers which rely on quantum mechanical stuff directly. It’s relatively easy to create a computer which relies on an understanding of quantum mechanics – ‘classic’ computers already do, using semiconductors.

The real trick is to make use of two quantum phenomena:

Superposition” is the ability of an object to be in a variety of states at once.

Entanglement” is where changes in one sub-atomic particle are directly reflected in another, linked, sub-atomic particle.

The most likely result of large-scale quantum computing, as far as SEO is concerned, would be an increase in Google’s access to computing power, and a reduction in their use of resources.

If they could focus on maintaining a smaller cluster of quantum computers, for instance, they might be able to use more extensive ‘Mechanical Turk’ methods of verifying sites.

Less likely, if Microsoft got the jump on Google, Bing could stand to make some real gains – better service for websites, and the ability to utterly revamp their search algorithms.

For SEO agencies, it’ll present a range of new challenges.

Larger computing tasks would be run through servers directly owned by Google and Microsoft, which could lead to massive conflicts of interest.

Search engines will be able to run more sophisticated algorithms, and will probably become capable of reliably detecting SEO link-building and keyword patterns. They may penalise traditional SEO.

Content and on-site optimisation might end up being the most important parts of online marketing, and the visible difference between many digital campaigns and traditional advertising will start to disappear.

Don’t worry too much. A major breakthrough is a way off, a good decade by conservative estimates.

But do worry a bit.

The advent of quantum computing will be a game-changer.

Disclaimer: This article was written by the holder of an Arts degree. Nausea, hair loss, or superpowers due to the misapplication of ScienceTM are entirely the reader’s fault.