New year, new SEO trends. The complex landscape of SEO is often made more complicated by algorithm updates, new tools, and creative approaches that make one strategy moot and replace it with another.
If I’m getting ahead of myself, or if you don’t know quite what I’m talking about, you’re not alone: with so many ranking factors to consider, and some vagueness around what exactly causes one property to outrank another on Google (or if they rolled out an update last weekend or not), it can be difficult to keep track of what’s worth paying attention to in SEO – or what’s worth keeping in your strategy.
In this article, I’ll take a look at why keeping up with SEO trends matters, what’s new to SEO in 2023, and how trends can impact foundational SEO strategies.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your website (and other owned online properties) to increase its visibility in search results – or, where it ranks.
What may be a more important question is: why does SEO matter? SEO matters because, without an effective strategy, your website is unlikely to rank in search results, regardless of how much you may have to offer. With nearly 70% of online experiences starting with a search engine, showing up in results can give you a much greater reach and expand your audience and customer base. What’s more, simply ranking for a keyword is not enough. The #1 organic result is 10 times more likely to receive a click compared to the #10 result. In SEO, it isn’t if you’re first, you’re last, but more: if you’re not first (or close to it), it’s as though you’re not even there.
The better your SEO strategy, the more likely you are to influence and improve where you rank in search results, increasing visibility and reach and improving your online brand. But part of an effective strategy is keeping up with the SEO trends because SEO is constantly evolving.
Want more on SEO? If you’re looking for more of a deep dive into SEO and all that goes into an effective strategy, check out our best practices guide.
Why do SEO trends change?
There are a few key reasons why SEO is so dynamic:
- Algorithm updates: updates to search engine algorithms don’t just impact results, but also SEO best practices. Google, the dramatic frontrunner when it comes to search, is constantly tweaking and updating its algorithms to better understand what people are searching for and to give them the answers they need, as well as limiting “spammy” results and ways to game the system. As the search engine changes the factors that determine where websites rank, SEO best practices will change to keep up. In 2022 alone, Google reported 10 algorithm updates, and that number may be higher.
- New SEO tools: new SEO tools are constantly being introduced. While some are more helpful than others, many of these tools can improve or speed up parts of your SEO strategy, changing SEO expectations and efficiency and leaving more time for higher level considerations and brainstorming creative approaches.
- User needs and experience: one of the pitfalls of SEO is optimizing for the search engine instead of for users. Not only do search engines evolve to better serve users, but how users use search engines over time can cause search engines to change as well. For example, the rise in voice search has changed the average length of search queries, as well as how queries are worded (“what is the hottest pepper in the world” vs. “world’s hottest pepper”). Google and SEOs alike have taken this into account, changing how longer queries are interpreted by the search engine and how they are targeted by content.
SEO Trends to Watch in 2023
2023 is already proving to be a particularly dynamic year for SEO. Here are some trends to keep an eye on:
1. Continuous Scroll
As I said earlier, Google rolled out a lot of algorithm updates in 2022. Many of these updates focused on helpful content, product reviews, and spam.
Perhaps one of the most obvious changes to Google this year is the introduction of continuous scroll – also referred to as infinite or endless scroll – to US desktop results. Continuous scroll means that, instead of clicking to the next page after 10 results, users can now scroll without page differentiation or having to click at all.
What is the impact of continuous scroll on SEO? Before, the differentiation between #10 and #11 in search results was a page, and users would have to click to see the next set of results. Now, users can see up to 6 pages (or, 60 results) before having to click to see more.
This can be exciting or concerning, depending on where you rank in results. On one hand, organic click-through rate (CTR) is essentially the same (and low) for results #8 to #10, meaning that, once you’re below the fold (in the bottom half of results), where your website ranks may not have a huge impact; however, prior to continuous scroll, less than 1% of users clicked through to page 2 of search. Now, with no requirement to click, those later results could get more views and clicks.
AI is another hot topic when it comes to 2023 SEO trends, perhaps in part due to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, a chatbot released in November 2022.
This isn’t the first example of AI impacting SEO. Years ago, Google released RankBrain, an AI update that aimed to bring users better search results for their queries.
While ChatGPT isn’t the first AI tool impacting SEO, it may be one to watch. Many of Google’s updates aim to cut down on AI-generated content in results, but AI is here to stay, and ChatGPT and others like it could indicate new trends when it comes to online search, content creation, and more.
As it stands, ChatGPT and other similar AI tools can be time-saving, helping you brainstorm or outline content far more quickly than before. ChatGPT also aims to answer user questions, much like a search engine, though whether it can replace search engines like Google is up for debate (and, at least at the moment, unlikely). While there is a lot of room for AI to grow – and there is a lot of growing to do – staying up-to-date on how AI can impact SEO will be vital in 2023.
E.A.T. is now E.E.A.T. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Google outlined three primary factors to determine what makes your content high-quality and, thus, more likely to rank. These factors are: Expertise, Authority, and Trust, or E.A.T.
Recently, a fourth factor was added to the acronym: Experience. Now, the experience of content creators will be a factor in Google determining the quality of online content.
This new factor may be a response to more AI-generated content cropping up, but what does this mean for your SEO strategy? Focus your content topics, stay in your lane, and write what you know. Highlighting personal experiences, your unique perspective, and using real-world examples should all help you indicate experience.
At the end of the day, quality content is quality content. We’ve written a guide on how to create high-quality content, but I’m sure there will be more on this in 2023.
The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same
While it’s important to stay on top of fresh strategies, tools, and updates, trends aren’t all about what’s new. Tried and true SEO fundamentals can also be impacted by new trends. While the foundation may remain the same, how you approach and include various SEO strategies into your overall plan can be just as important as staying aware of newer strategies.
Variation in Content
Content is king in SEO, but not only written content. While written content can be extremely valuable, video content is the #1 performing form of media online. Videos are 50 times more likely to organically rank in the top 10 Google results. Podcasts can also be a valuable online asset, particularly for public figures and thought leaders.
What’s more, variation in content can help you make sure you’re getting the most out of your content. Blog posts can inform videos, infographics, newsletters, and more, improving your overall online presence and brand.
That said, don’t forget to E.E.A.T. (I know, I know). While utilizing your content across platforms can be beneficial to your overall content strategy, quality will always matter more than quantity online. Be thoughtful in how you repurpose or rework content, and consider the benefit of presenting your content across platforms.
Answer the Question
Google rewards content that provides value to users, answering their questions fully and thoroughly in a way that no one else can. When writing your content, consider: what question am I answering, and how well am I answering it?
This doesn’t only apply to blog content. Product and services pages, company descriptions, website subpages, etc. – all of these are places where you can answer relevant consumer questions to provide more value to your audience and grow the strength of your website. Additionally, with so many product-related updates rolled out in 2022, how you present and talk about your products online only requires more thought in 2023.
To identify the questions that need answers, listen to your audience. Look at the questions that bring people to your site, to your competitor’s sites, to your customer service team. Pay attention to common areas of misunderstanding or confusion in your industry. Find the answers that you can provide to the questions that people are truly asking, and find a way to answer them that fulfills E.E.A.T. guidelines.
Maintain Your Image
Images have been important to Google search since Jennifer Lopez wore the Grammy’s dress in 2000. Choosing the right images for your website and your content, and formatting everything correctly, can have a significant impact on your SEO. In 2023, this is even more important, with younger users tending to be more image-focused.
Be sure to upload images that are high quality but not too large; images that harm or slow the loading time of your site may lead to higher bounce rates and even penalties from Google. Ensure that images are not only formatted for desktop users, but mobile as well. Whenever possible, use unique and relevant images for your content.
Text matters when it comes to images, too. Ensure that every image you upload to your site has a file name that is relevant to your target keyword. Utilize alt text to describe your images – this not only tells Google what it’s looking at, but can tell visually impaired users as well, making your content more accessible.
Remember Mobile Users
Since the Mobilegeddon and Mobile-First updates were released by Google, the importance of considering mobile users for SEO is impossible to ignore – and mobile is only going to become more important in 2023.
As of January, there were 5.4 billion unique mobile users online. This number is estimated to grow to nearly 7.5 billion by 2025. Nearly 60% of all web traffic comes from mobile devices. This is even more significant when considering local or “near me” searches, or younger demographics.
To ensure you’re using mobile SEO to your advantage, you must ensure that your website is optimized for mobile users. Google has a free tool to check the mobile-friendliness of your website. In addition to ensuring that your website runs smoothly for mobile users, pay attention to mobile bounce rates to identify problem pages, as well as the keywords and phrases that bring mobile users to your site.
In the ever-changing world of SEO, staying on top of every update and trend can be daunting. But as much as SEO is a quickly-changing industry, it also requires persistence, consistency, and patience. Approach new SEO trends as you would any aspect of SEO: with curiosity and healthy skepticism. While you never want to be left behind, SEO has never been about doing what everyone else is doing, so be sure you stay creative and focus on quality content and putting your best foot forward online.
If you need help with your SEO, or want to talk to a professional about your online presence and reputation, reach out to Status Labs for a free consultation.