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9 Ways SEO will Evolve in 2023 – and What You Can Do About It

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Owen Whitcombe

Senior SEO Specialist

As the world of SEO evolves, it’s essentials for businesses to stay ahead of the curve to ensure their websites are visible to their target audiences.

In this post, we’ll look at some of the key trends that are expected to shape SEO in coming months, including the increasing importance of artificial intelligence, the rise of web stories, and the need for high quality technical SEO. By understanding these trends, you can adapt your SEO strategy and stay competitive in the ever-changing digital landscape.

1. Useful Content

The Helpful Content Update was introduced with more fanfare than most other announced updates in history. Ultimately though, most SEOs later deemed the real effects to be quite minor.

Nevertheless, the phrase “useful content” deserves to be at the top of the list of SEO Trends 2023 because it sends a clear message: Google is increasingly attempting to determine if texts are solely written for the search engine or are based on reliable expert knowledge designed to help and educate a website user.

Google gave website owners clear guidance with an official release document once the algorithm update was announced in August 2022. The two big points this document highlights are Focus on people-first content:

Avoid creating content for search engines first:

The user’s search intent is more important than traditional on-page optimisation if you want to rank for a set keyword. Ensure you do your SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) analysis to ensure the content your producing matches Google perceived intent behind a set search term. Our SERP trends of 2020 still hold true and can help you determine search intent behind your targeted keywords.

As website owners get to grip with this new update, undoubtably one trend that will ramp up in 2023 is the trimming or upcycling or older, poorer content.

Google has said that poor quality content on a webpage can negatively affect a website as a whole.

That’s why an SEO trend for 2023 is reviewing your content sitewide. Do a content audit and check your URLs:

  • Where can you find thin content?
  • What content is of no use to users?
  • Which content has no traffic?

By strategically clearing out URLs, you save on crawl budget and minimize the risk of inferior content affecting the entire domain. 

2. Google Web Stories

Stories are becoming an ever more increase way for publishers and users to show themselves, brands, or products.

Google Web Stories are tappable pages with audio, video, and text that allow authors to interact with audiences and share information with them. Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, all have story functions, and this is Google getting in on the act.

Web Stories are already being included in some US organic search results, but there’s no reason this won’t be rolled out further in 2023. For example, searches for “things to do in New York” shows Web Stories from multiple publishers. And when people search for a specific publisher (for instance, TikTok), the grid view shows only Web Stories from that publisher’s site.

Web stories are also prime content for Google Discover, as they can appear on the latest Google app in the form of a carousel near the top of the feed.

Google have a handy guide which helps publishers improve their web story performance as well as giving detailed web stories best practices suggesting that Goggle is keen for Web Stories to keep on growing well into 2023.

3. Core Web Vitals

It started with the first updates in the summer of 2021, but Core Web Vitals is becoming increasingly important for a good Google ranking – whether on mobile or desktop devices.

Core Web Vitals may be on the technical side of SEO, but it failing it means you’re providing a bad user experience for people on your site. The most important aspects to monitor are:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): This measures the loading time for the main content in the user’s field of vision in milliseconds.
  • First Input Delay (FID): This measures the time until the first possible user interaction on the page. This could be something like clicking a link or entering data in a form.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): This indicates whether and how much the layout has changed after loading the page.

In May 2022 Google suggested they may update the FID metric and replace it with INP – Interaction with Next Paint. This is yet to happen but could very well be something we see rolled out in 2023.

A Bright Edge study in June 2022 showed how industries were making moves to improve their Core Web Vitals, so it’s certainly not an area you should neglect in 2023. You can be sure that competitors won’t be.

4. User Signals

On-page user signals are quite possibly the Holy Grail of ranking factors, but disputes rage on how Google actually understands and ranks pages based on user engagement. 

Simply put, Google wants users to have a good experience on websites it ranks, and wants them to find what they’re looking for.

Even as recently as 2019 Google had a patent granted which uses click through rate and time duration as signals to access rankings for similar terms:

Which metrics are most important are up for debate (Dwell time? Time on site? Bounce rate? Pages viewed? Click through rate? SERP bouncing?) and some are more flawed than others. Bounce rates, for instance, can be high on informational pages which give users exactly what they’re looking for.

Expect Google to keep learning what a good user experience feels like well into 2023 and expect these metrics to continue to cause SEO arguments even longer.

There’s no doubt that rich content across your site which funnels users well and fulfils their needs is the clearest way to stay ahead of the game – whether Google announce that they’re judging on engagement or not.

5. Rich Snippets and New Features Continue to Light Up the SERPs

Despite being introduced over thirteen years ago Rich Snippets have continued to grow in complexity over the years. 2023 doesn’t feel like the year they will be scaled back.

Rich snippets are designed to provide searchers with additional website information prior to clicking through to it. For instance, in this example of an Xbox Series 5, shows its star review, price and stocking information.

This allows searchers to form an opinion on the quality of a site before they even click through to the webpage.

Rich snippets are more visually appealing to users. A person may choose to visit your website if your rich snippet has relevant information that answers a question they may have or provides important information.

Google claims that applying structured data does not elevate your website’s position in search results and that it is not used as ranking factor. But there’s no getting around the reality that including rich snippets on your website can assist you in bringing in new visitors who may turn into paying clients.

August 2022 saw a new Pros and Cons rich snippet feature become live.  You can now tell Google about your pros and cons through structured data on editorial review pages. 

Even in 2023, you should expect to encounter more and more complex snippets in the SERPs. 

6. Optimising for Zero Click Searches and Featured Snippets

A 2022 SEMRush study showed that 25.6% of desktop and 17.3% of mobile searches are zero-click searches – which means they didn’t click on a website to find the information they searched for.

There are two key reasons why zero click searches happen:

  • Users don’t find what they’re looking for
  • Google answers the search directly on a results page with a featured snippet

Image credit: Semrush

Optimising for featured snippets is difficult but there are a few things you can do to help your chances of appearing in this treasured position.

Look for longtail keywords, or search terms that are more specific and are presented as questions. Finding longer search words that potential users use to obtain the information they need is known as long-tail keyword research.

Any quality internet content starts with keyword research. This can be improved by conducting longtail keyword research to determine the precise information that your potential users are seeking.

According to a SEMRush analysis, just 4.3% of queries composed of one keyword result in Google presenting a featured snippet. 17% of the time, search keywords with 5 words or fewer are ranked for a featured snippet.

According to an Ahrefs study, when a featured snippet is present, click through rate for the top organic results drops below 20%

Of the 112 million search queries Ahrefs monitored 12.29 percent of search queries have featured snippets in the search results. This is only set to rise in 2023.

For instance, a new US-only SERPs feature helps users explore topics that are related to the initial search query. This again could add to the number of zero click searches you may find for a top funnel search term.

7. MUM

The MUM update, which Google first introduced in 2021, alters how consumers discover and interact with content. It is Google’s next AI step which follows on from BERT, a previous AI system.

The Multitask Unified Model (MUM) is a multimodal algorithm created to remove language restrictions and enhance search results.

Because MUM is multimodal, which means it can understand information and languages from formats like webpages, imagery, audio and video simultaneously, Google believes that it has significant potential to improve search results.

Eventually, you might be able to take a photo of your hiking boots and ask, “can I use these to hike Mt. Fuji?”. MUM would understand the image and connect it with your question to let you know your boots would work just fine. It could then point you to a blog with a list of recommended gear.  

Mum largely calls for further refinement of content marketing to stay relevant in search engine results. This includes coordinating content across different platforms that appear in search results.

For this reason, SEO plans will continue to rely on high-quality, focused content, including relevant content provided through articles and blog posts.

8. Structured Data Continues to Grow

Structed data is always improving the way Google can understand webpages and serve the most relevant bits of information to the users using its search engine. Each year new features are being launched and 2023 should not be any different.

As late as November 2022 we have seen some pretty substantial new schema features being put into practice.

November saw a new “key moments” feature for videos. “Key moments” is an enhancement feature for video rich results, which allows users to navigate video segments like chapters in a book. If your video is hosted on your web page, you can enable key moments by using SeekToAction structured data.

In October 2022 Schema version 15 was launched and included many updates that allow you to add even more information to your webpage to help Google understand it even further.

Sitebulb allow you to sign up for any structured data changes that they discover so you are in the know of these changes as soon as they’re released to keep you ahead of the game in 2023.

9. Artificial Intelligence

AI is expected to have a significant impact on SEO in 2023 and beyond. Some of the ways in which it is expected to affect SEO include:

  1. Content creation: with good briefs and strong editing, AI algorithms could be able to create some high-quality and unique content at a much faster rate than human writers, which will help businesses to keep their websites updated with fresh content.
  2. Keyword research: AI-based tools will be able to conduct more advanced keyword research, identify long-tail keywords, and help businesses to understand the intent behind search queries.
  3. Link building: AI-based tools could be able to automate the process of link building and identify authoritative and relevant websites for businesses to link to.
  4. Voice search optimisation: With the increasing popularity of voice assistants like Alexa and Google Home, businesses will need to optimise their websites for voice search. AI-based tools will be able to help businesses to understand how people are searching for their products and services and will be able to optimise the websites accordingly.
  5. Personalisation: AI-based tools will be able to analyse data to personalise the content and experience for individual users. Businesses that use AI-powered personalisation on their websites will see a significant improvement in the user experience which will help them with their SEO.
  6. Technical SEO: AI-based tools will be able to automatically identify and fix technical SEO issues, such as broken links, crawl errors and improve overall website structure and navigation.

It’s important to note that AI will not completely replace human efforts and knowledge in the SEO field. Instead, it will augment and enhance the capabilities of SEO professionals to make the process more efficient and effective, but the professionals still will be responsible for the strategy, and interpretation of the results.

AI generated content may be against Google’s guidelines. Leading Googler John Mueller explains further:

For us these would, essentially, still fall into the category of automatically generated content which is something we’ve had in the Webmaster Guidelines since almost the beginning.

And people have been automatically generating content in lots of different ways. And for us, if you’re using machine learning tools to generate your content, it’s essentially the same as if you’re just shuffling words around, or looking up synonyms, or doing the translation tricks that people used to do. Those kind of things.

My suspicion is maybe the quality of content is a little bit better than the really old school tools, but for us it’s still automatically generated content, and that means for us it’s still against the Webmaster Guidelines. So we would consider that to be spam.

He did admit that it is difficult for Google to automatically detect AI generated content. It’s possible that they will develop a way to detect and penalize it in the future.

Why is it a trend? Well recent unveils from Open AI for example shows just how advanced these pieces of software are becoming, not just creating pieces of content but also for generating content ideas:

These ideas can the be refined to fit your target market even closer:

Conclusion

Google is promoting user experience across all devices – it needs to provide users with the most relevant results for their search queries.

It has long since shifted from being about one answer to being about the best and most appropriate one, and AI is being used to understand the material and complexity of longer string searches.

This means that content for SEO purposes needs to be even more user-focused and offer searchers genuinely useful information and answers. This involves not just high-quality material but also correctly semantically prepared content and the utilisation of structured data to help Google understand and display your content more prominently.

The page experience on websites should also be as good technically as it can be. Ensuring a good experience for users should be your number one consideration. Google may shift the goal posts slightly when it comes to what they believe is most important but ensuring the three core areas of their core web vitals metrics is the best place to start to ensure a good customer experience.

SEO can take time to take effect, by avoiding thse common SEO mistakes you’re in the best postion to ensure your SEO marketing budget is spent wisely to maximise ROI.

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By

Owen Whitcombe

Senior SEO Specialist

Owen has worked in primarily Ecommerce since leaving University. Many years spent in the online sports retail arena before gaining experience in the online catering business then becoming digital marketing manager for national toy company before finding his feet in SEO. As a results driven individual Owen loves nothing more than when we can give…

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