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SEO 10 min read

Digital Marketing Trends in 2023: SEO

Sarah Edwards photo

Written by Sarah Edwards

Content Writer @ Galactic Fed

Jigmit Gwari photo

Expert reviewed by Jigmit Gwari

SEO Product Director @ Galactic Fed

Published 07 Dec 2022

As a long-time staple of digital marketing, SEO isn’t going anywhere, and it’s only going to continue to grow and evolve. That’s exciting, but it also means SEO is going to become more challenging as it becomes more complex. Here are some of our SEO predictions for 2023 and beyond.

The Great Battle of Artificial Intelligence

AI-generated content is making waves online, showcasing dazzling works of art created in seconds by sophisticated programs — even if they’re still figuring out how to draw hands correctly. Likewise, AI-generated copywriting is seeing a similar emergence and, if advertisements are to be believed, presents a serious threat to human-generated copy.

This has resulted in a battle between Google and machine-written content. Part of the search engine’s efforts to combat this trend is its Helpful Content Update, which is designed to penalize websites that have too much content that’s determined to be unhelpful. And because programs (as sophisticated as they may be) are still defining what “helpful” looks like, Google is managing to delay what some consider to be inevitable.

To further put a damper on the outlook of AI-generated content, marketing expert Neil Patel recently ran an experiment using 100 websites with varying combinations of human and AI-generated content. The sites with completely AI-generated content were hit hard by Google’s updates. However, sites with a reduced level of AI contribution — supplemented by human effort — fared much better.

Despite its roadblocks, AI-powered content tools haven’t slowed down. Developers are working hard to constantly improve their programs to circumvent Google’s algorithms. The more feature-heavy programs can already cite relevant sources, tricking many untrained eyes by presenting content that seems planned and well-researched. It’s possible that the robots have a chance of winning this battle.

Silicon Valley certainly seems to believe so. Now that so many funds have been divested from crypto, tech-savvy investors are funneling cash into AI. For example, Regie recently raised 10 million dollars in Series A funding

Should you be worried? Not really. The outlook for AI may seem promising, but it’s still a long way off from producing reliable results that can consistently fool the human eye and Google’s powerful algorithms. Even if AI content manages to rank in search, human readers can often tell that something is “off” with content, even if they can’t put their finger on it, leading to high bounce rates that will quickly penalize the offending site in the eyes of Google.

If you prioritize quality content that meets the needs of the reader, rather than spinning up hundreds of thousands of words with the click of a button (that may or may not make it past Google’s watchful eye), you will win in the long run.

Social SEO

Artificial intelligence is not Google’s only enemy. In an unexpected turn of events, two of the most serious threats to the search engine giant are TikTok and Instagram. In July, Google Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan shared something surprising: 40% of young people prefer to use TikTok and Instagram over Google Search and Maps.

The reasons for this are manifold. For one, younger millennials and Gen Z are focused more on authenticity than previous generations. They prefer to find what they’re looking for by hearing it directly from the mouths of their peers, crowdsourcing their buying  choices from the recommendations of trusted friends and other customers.

This younger audience is also a tech-savvy one. They know how Google works and what it takes to get noticed by the algorithmic system. And so, they prefer to watch a video that presents a seemingly unbiased perspective of a product or service, rather than dig through a search engine results page that shoves a curated selection of ads and optimized content in their faces before showing them what they’re really looking for.

And finally, young consumers may just prefer using TikTok and Instagram simply because they’re more fun! Looking at pictures and watching videos has historically been more interesting than scanning walls of text, and this is no less true when it comes to search results.

None of this strictly means that social media platforms are going to take away a significant amount of Google’s dominance in this space. Google isn’t going anywhere, and you shouldn’t abandon your traditional SEO practices and pivot entirely to an approach entirely focused on social media.

However, this will be a good year to remember that social SEO should be a key part of your overall strategy. If it isn’t already, 2023 will be a great year to start.

Link Building in 2023

Link building for SEO may see some challenges in the next year, thanks to Google’s 2021 Link Spam update and its more recent Search Spam update. Because of these changes, bloggers, affiliate websites, and other guest posting resources are going to be even more selective about the content they accept and the links they use. To work around these challenges, you’ll need to boost your outreach efforts, work on your link-building strategy, and engage in testing. 

To this end, try writing articles as if you were a part of the prospect’s team, rather than a random contributor. By crafting content with the partner’s audience and product/service in mind and prioritizing their promotion over your brand, you can present yourself as a value add to their organization, rather than someone looking for a handout.

Also, think beyond articles and blog posts. Offer visually compelling content like infographics and videos, or in-depth content like case studies. Use that as your selling point, then recommend a relevant article to get your backlink.

Voice Search Needs Its Own Strategy

Have you created a dedicated keyword strategy for voice search? If not, this is the time to consider it. At least 25% of mobile searches are now performed using voice search, and this number is only going to increase as voice assistants become more commonplace.

When people use voice search, their queries tend to be structured differently. For example, search terms tend to be longer and in complete sentences. They contain question words and the proper use of verb forms. In response to this, you’ll want to use a different strategy than you would with a standard Google search. 

Check out this helpful guide on voice search from Backlinko. Here, Brian Dean gives great insights into everything you might want to know about voice search.

Behind the Scenes SEO with Structured Data

Structured data is information about your web pages, tagged with machine-readable codes. This data helps search engines better understand what is contained in a given page and how it may relate to another page. Put simply, search engines have a better idea of what your website is all about when you add structured data to your site’s code. Without this information, Google and other search engines may not be able to properly index your site. If this happens, your business may not rank for the products and services you sell.

It’s important to note that you can gain a competitive advantage over businesses that haven’t yet implemented structured data. Fortunately, Google Developer Tools has plenty of information on using structured data.

Click-Through Rates Trump Rankings

Don’t be fooled — consistently ranking highly in search is still a good thing; it’s just perhaps not as valuable as it once was. Consider what you might see at the top of a search results page: a local 3-pack, ads, images from Google Shopping, snippets, popular social media posts, etc. That’s a lot of noise, so sites that rank highly still have a good chance of being lost in the crowd.

So continue to work on improving search rankings, but also focus on click-through rates. To this end, test different headlines and meta descriptions and see what performs best.

Content Marketers Need to Meet BERT

Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) is a 2019 Google algorithm update that transformed how well Google’s website crawlers can understand user search queries and find relevant results with pinpoint accuracy.

As such, if you want to consistently show up in your target audience’s searches, you need to make sure you give BERT what it wants. But more importantly, you want to avoid what it doesn’t want, and what BERT doesn’t want is keyword stuffing. What might have worked in the early days of SEO won’t work anymore, and if your content is heavily using a narrow set of keywords, that may keep you out of the top of page one.

BERT was also developed to improve the user experience by protecting searchers from stilted, confusing content. Contrary to what you might expect, going out of your way to use fancy or overly technical language in an effort to impress your audience may end up hurting you. It’s important to prioritize real, useful information that is presented in a conversational tone without being too informal.

Important SEO Takeaways for 2023

What this all means is that content that is written by humans and for humans is going to have a competitive edge in 2023. Expertise, authority, and trust (E-A-T) will remain the gold standard of content, and it will heavily influence your ranking and click-through rate, while minimizing bounce.

If you go out of your way to meet the direct needs of your customers, you will succeed, even as trends come and go. This means focusing on why your users are searching, rather than just what they’re searching for. 

The bottom line is this: The company that puts its users first will win in 2023.

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Sarah Edwards photo

Sarah Edwards

Content Writer @ Galactic Fed