What is the future of SEO (search engine marketing) in 2023? You’ve probably heard a million predictions about what’s in store for SEO now that the digital space is experiencing waves of change, most prompted by the rapid advancement of AI technologies. One traffic-related question that most people have is whether SEO is still a big deal in 2023 and whether tactics like link building and other SEO tactics still impact your organic search performance. So, do you even need SEO in today’s search environment? Well, the unequivocal answer is YES, as you can see in the image below showing the ROI of SEO in various industries where the break-even ranges from a low of a few months in e-commerce to nearly two years in real estate.
What does the future of SEO look like?
SEO is actually a complex interplay of various factors (both on-page and off-page factors) used by search engines to rank content so they can deliver the highest quality content that matches a user query at the top of the results list (SERPs). Google is supremely good at this, which accounts for the fact they still account for 90%+ of all search engine queries.
How does SEO work?
The way SEO works begins with fresh content posted online whether that’s content on your website, videos uploaded to YouTube, or posts on certain social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. A spider (a short snippet of code) searches the internet using keywords to categorize the content into topic areas as the first step toward determining which content appears in SERPs using the words making up the query seeking to match content to user intent. The search engine then applies an algorithm composed of multiple weighted factors to rank content so it can deliver the best results first.
Below are just some of the most influential factors in the algorithm (in no particular order):
- social media engagement
- quality signals such as the number and quality of backlinks, time on site, new versus returning visitors, etc
- mobile friendliness
- good user experience as reflected by metrics such as bounce rate, a negative factor, and site speed, a positive one
- fresh content
- security as evidenced by using an HTTPS protocol, which encrypts content
- few interstitials, things like popups that interfere with the experience and usability of the website
Why should you care about SEO?
SEO still matters and remains a pivotal process for driving unpaid traffic (organic traffic) to websites and online businesses in 2023. SEO techniques will continue to work for as long as web users use the internet to search for information, products, and solutions. And even though there have been a few major disruptions in the industry, these changes do not signal the death of SEO. It just means that businesses should tweak how they do search engine optimization as some older practices become obsolete and new approaches emerge. Some tactics, such as keyword stuffing, are now considered black hat SEO and earn a penalty from search engines.
Not only does organic traffic represent the lion’s share of visits to most websites (53% as compared to 15% from paid search), but, as you can see above, organic search has the second-highest conversion rate, after email marketing. That means keeping track of what’s new and what’s out in SEO and then adapting your business and content strategy to the future of SEO, not the past. That’s the only way to stay on top of your game and continue to reap all the fruit that SEO has to offer.
The future of SEO: 2023 trends
Which brings us to the most important part of this write-up: the future of SEO. Below, we break down all the SEO trends you need to embrace today.
Link building remains a key component of successful search engine optimization. Both external and internal links continue to pull traffic, and any business that hopes to rank well and attract new eyes to its URLs must embrace both.
There are plenty of moving parts in whitehat link building, with popular winning tactics like:
- getting authority sites to link to your website
- using internal links to point visitors to additional useful content on your website
In addition to the above, link-building experts are starting to put a lot of weight on off-page techniques to help with domain ratings. It’s a mish-mash of strategies that can easily overwhelm the average business owner. That’s why you should consider hiring an SEO agency for startups that specializes in link-building to help build your backlink profile if the process is inundating.
For new visitors to find value in the pages your links point to, though, you must come up with invaluable content. And that brings us to this next trend.
Content is still king when it comes to SEO. The more content you produce, your consistency in publishing fresh content, and the quality of that content attract backlinks, bring in visitors, and encourage visitors to stay on your site longer which not only supports SEO but contributes to the overall success of your operations.
Some people are never quite sure what search engines mean by quality content. But it’s fairly easy to figure out when you know where to look. Take a cue from Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines. In these guidelines, the search giant details its search quality rating process and what its raters look for in a web page. Raters assess the page quality and whether it meets the user’s needs. Studying the guidelines will help you define the purpose of your website and learn how to make your web pages useful to the viewer. This way, when the search results display a page from your website, it’s because the page satisfies the user intent.
So short- or long-form content? Well, it depends on the purpose of the page. Sometimes, short copy works best. In other cases, long-form copy best meets search intent. Describing a product or service? Short content will get the job done. Explaining how the product or service works? Longer content, serving as a guide, works best.
Do the same for every other search engine for which you wish to rank well–examine their page quality expectations and mold your web pages to match what they’re looking for.
An added benefit of creating quality content is that it can earn the website editorial links. Come up with a unique content idea or upload guest posts that authoritative sites are likely to link to. Different content types can lead to editorial links, including studies, guides, statistical compilations, and infographics.
A recent study of websites with content in the top 10 spots found they shared these characteristics:
- secured with HTTPs
- had a meta description containing keywords
- the average number of backlinks 918
- wordcount average was 1967
- DA (domain authority) of 70, on average
AI content creators
AI content creators have been around for a while, although they exploded recently with ChatGPT. You may even have used them in the past. The adoption of SEO AI tools is in full bloom and will become more widespread as time goes by.
In late 2022, OpenAI shook things up when they added the chat function in ChatGPT. And now, you can go back and forth with the bot and enjoy a one-on-one conversation. For copy creators, this means using the chatbot to brainstorm content ideas, create content outlines, and create or revise your first content drafts. All these steps can shorten your content creation process, helping you put out more content fast. AI video and image generator tools work the same way to help you create videos and graphics for your websites and marketing campaigns.
However, a word of caution as recent results show that overreliance on AI for content creation can hurt your SEO. The future of SEO is unclear as to how much you can rely on AI before hurting your rankings and DA, but my recommendation to my clients is to use AI for first drafts, content ideas, and suggestions for topics but DON’T copy and paste AI content indiscriminately.
Video content & images
The rise of diverse social networking sites has made it mandatory for every serious business to consider SEO for social media if they are to attract consumers for their content. Videos and images are the currency in demand on sites like YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest.
Work on improving image and video SEO, as more and more people on social media use image and video search to find content.
Plus, using diverse types of content on your website helps your content stand out and may improve the quality of your content. The notion that a picture paints 1000 words means you can convey deeper insights with images and video is also great for sharing complex information, as you can see below. Use a tool that lazy loads images and embed video on your website from a site like YouTube so you don’t negatively impact your load speed.
The biggest indicator that the future of SEO is likely different in the SERPs arena is the December 2022 launch of infinite scrolling by Google. Multiple page results are gone, now replaced with a single results page the user can scroll continuously.
The implications for this development are that getting a website to rank on the first page is no longer a do-or-die affair. The more crucial move is to get the website to catch the eye of Google’s web crawler. As long as your website makes it to the search results, you stand a fair chance of earning the user’s click. Especially if you use catchy but relevant meta descriptions and title tags. Both should tell the user what the web page displayed in the results offers so they know exactly what they’ll get when they go to the site.
2023 unveils some radical changes in how SEO works as AI tools, the elimination of page results on Google, growth of video and image searches, and increased content standards change how search engines interpret website quality and relevance. Incorporating these changes is the only way businesses can ensure that SEO efforts yield results.
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