We have had an eventful year, no doubt about it. Google rolled out a lot of updates, released new features and continued testing various SERP elements. Quickly, we are getting used to seeing multiple updates being released one after another, making it harder to analyse changes in rankings and traffic. The second Google Helpful Update is rolling out and Google just announced a December link spam update. With so much going on, it is normal to ask yourself: ‘What’s next for my online strategy?’.
It’s not only Google’s algorithms that are constantly evolving, the search landscape and consumer behaviour are changing too. With the rise of TikTok and now the release of chatGPT, Google is facing challengers when it comes to consumers’ attention.
People are spending their time on different platforms and knowing where your audience spends theirs will be key to your organic strategy success. Some of the questions I keep asking myself are related to whether Google will become one of the search engines that people use, rather than the only search engine holding the monopoly on search and if so, what should search everywhere strategy look like? After all, SEO stands for search engine optimisation, suggesting inclusivity of other search platforms people use to find your business - not just Google.
What hasn’t changed in the SEO landscape
Before diving in and looking at where our SEO focus should be in 2023, it’s important to note that the fundamentals of SEO are still the bedrock of a good strategy. We know technical SEO, mobile friendliness, user experience and content are key to organic success.There is no new trend that will tell you technical SEO should now be ignored, or that Core Web Vitals are no longer something you need to worry about.
On the contrary, Google are ramping up their efforts to fight spam content and links and have now confirmed that CWV are the only metrics that are considered when it comes to the page speed ranking system.
Instead of repeating what has been said before, I will look at what new aspects you will need to consider or new challenges you will face in 2023 and will aim to give you actionable insights into search engine optimisation and performance analysis for next year.
Artificial intelligence and SEO
We can’t not talk about the rise of AI technology and content written by AI tools. We have written about this topic before and there are numerous case studies online showing the value AI tools can have on short form content. However, Google is clear when it comes to their guidance on AI content - they consider it spam which may result in a manual action penalty.
That said, not all content needs to rank and not all content is created for Google. Digital marketers are responsible for ad copy, social media copy, email marketing copy. Will content duplication play such an important role there as it does for organic rankings? Probably not. Will AI tools like chatGPT save content marketers time and effort in researching and ideation? They most certainly will.
Whilst the interest around this tool is rightly justified, we also need to be aware of its limitations and how they can affect SEO. Here are a couple of things to bear in mind when you consider using AI to help your SEO strategy on Google:
- AI can help marketers with content ideation, finding answers to complex questions, and translating content into regex commands. Have to admit, this is one of my favourites! Automating tasks will save time and will make learning faster and more accessible. What’s not to love about that!
- AI tools do not currently have access to real time data which means that if you are creating time sensitive content, AI won’t be the best source of information.
- If everybody has the same idea and uses the same AI tool for one article, it will certainly result in content duplication and it will lack originality. If we know anything about what type of content Google wants to promote, it’s content that is original and adds value.
- Your brand will most likely have a tone of voice that AI tools won’t be able to replicate.
Organic is catching up with Google Shopping
Organic SERPs are catching up with Google Shopping. We have seen a rise in image SERPs which do have an impact on CTR and Google announced a plethora of new shopping features at their 2022 Search On event. Google also introduced a Shopping tab in Google Search Console which contains Merchant Listings and Shopping Tab Listings, suggesting that online shopping is evolving and product structured data is a requirement. Whilst not all features have been released, here are some immediate actions you can takeaway and consider:
- If you are running an ecommerce business, check your Shopping reports in Search Console to ensure there are no errors with product structured data information.
- If you are selling a complex and high-value product, consider creating purchasing guides on the topic to help customers in their online shopping journey.
- Think about your customer and after sales experience. Google will be introducing a personalized shopping experience, where customers will be able to select their favourite online shops and see personalised shopping results.
Google doesn’t owe you indexability
This year has shown me more than ever that serving content in the SERPs is not a given right but something to be earned. I talk a lot about Google’s processes and try to help people understand that crawling, rendering and indexing are different processes and may not happen all at once. We need to add content surfacing to this list.
The web is full of near duplicate content that does not add value to the reader and summarises what everyone else is saying about a subject. In 2023, I recommend really looking into the type of content you will be creating for your site - does it offer a unique perspective, does it offer value to your audience, is it written by experts on the topic?
If you have indexability issues and notice that some pages have been crawled but not indexed (check your Google Search Console report), review your content, see if any updates to the copy will make a difference. You can also learn from your top performing content - is there content that performs really well on the site and gets indexed almost immediately? If so, how does this type of content differ from the pages that have been removed from the index?
Third party cookie depreciation
Whilst this won’t impact your SEO efforts, it will impact your reporting. As an SEO specialist or a digital marketing lead, you will have to find new ways of reporting on organic activity and performance once you lose access to third party data. This will mean that decisions will be harder to make because you will have less data to analyse and draw conclusions from. However, all is not lost, here are my tips on how to make the most of it:
- Turn to your Google Search Console data, compare organic clicks and impressions and remember that Google does not show you all the keywords you receive clicks for. Additionally, Search Console does not hold data for more than 16 months so if you want a year on year comparison, you will need to export data from your GSC account.
- If you are working on an ecommerce website, you will have access to revenue data. Compare your business intelligence data with the revenue you see in Google Analytics to get an idea of how much data you are missing. If we are working with a lead generation website, record the sales leads that have come from the website and try and marry up the data to understand how much data you are losing track of.
- Speak to your marketing and sales team to get a sense of what’s happening in the business and whether there are any insights they can provide you with from their conversations with clients.
Actionable takeaways for your SEO strategy in 2023
- Review your site’s rankings following the updates this year. If you have seen a decline in rankings after major updates, it is likely you have been impacted and will need to review the site’s technical and content health.
- Focus on content quality. Create content pieces with purpose and real insight and strive to provide value to your target audience.
- Repurpose content. If you have a long form article that is performing well in Search, repurposing it for social media can be a great way to drive more interest on social media platforms such as LinkedIn.
- Monitor your desktop CTR to see whether you have seen an improvement in click-through rates for keywords ranking on page two and three.
- Ensure google bot can access the images on your PLPs to give Google the best chance to display product images in the SERPs and increase CTR.
- Short term video content is on the rise. Google followed TikTok by launching Youtube Shorts and it is now indexing this type of content. If you are a B2C brand and create video content as part of your marketing strategy, see whether short form video has a place in your marketing mix.
- Think about where your target audience spends their time. Not all social media platforms for example will be ideal for a B2B or B2C business. Consider your own behaviour when buying products online. How long is the customer journey?
- Prepare to be tested. Google will continue to roll out updates and release new features so following best practice and keeping up to date with Google’s guidelines is important.
- Utilise structured data for your products and commercial pages. Remember that Google prefers JSON to Microdata so review any existing schema and update it to the correct format.
- Finally, dive into your Google Search Console report. Google is spending a lot of time and effort releasing new features which provide great insights into a site’s performance.