As the search landscape continues to evolve, identifying SEO trends and staying ahead of them in 2023 is crucial to search performance. The challenge for search engine optimizers and blog owners is understanding anticipated search algorithm changes and adapting to them.
Even though search engines don't explicitly provide SEO trending insights for the year, we can pick clues from their guidelines and past behavior.
We predict that the top SEO trends for 2023 will include the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence and an increased focus on quality content and user experience. We'll also see more SEO trends in video SEO and search features.
Here are the most impactful SEO trends we expect to see in 2023, in no particular order.
Artificial intelligence will go mainstream
Although artificial intelligence in SEO has been slowly gaining acceptance for a few years, a significant portion of its users has remained curious onlookers and casual users. However, we've seen attitudes in the industry evolve gradually, from labeling artificial intelligence as a fad to accepting that SEO AI is here to stay.
We believe this is the year the broader content and SEO community will tip over and experiment with AI to understand how it can help them with content optimization and search rankings.
We've already seen the public explosion of interest around writing AI-generated limericks and creating digital avatars from selfies. From being viewed as a complex algorithm reserved for the technical crowd, AI is now gaining widespread acceptance and has entered mainstream consciousness.
The adoption of AI in the SEO community makes sense; search engine optimization is time-consuming and requires deep analysis whether it comes to keyword research, content creation or technical SEO.
AI can help automate routine tasks and generate insights in seconds that a human researcher would take hours for. For example, the Content Editor tool I'm writing this article in drastically reduces the hours spent on keyword research to mere seconds by suggesting the most relevant keywords for my topic and rating my inclusion of them.
While AI-generated content has gathered the most headlines, we'll see the advent of artificial intelligence tools and SEO software in other areas of content analysis, keyword research and perhaps even link building.
At Surfer, we're excited to see how the content and blogging industry evolves in response to AI in SEO trends. Automated SEO can level the playing field and elevate the same opportunities in search visibility to business owners everywhere.
But AI won't do everything for your blog to rank and succeed in the search engine results pages as we'll see next.
Content writers will turn into editors
Some of the most enthusiastic groups of early users of AI content apps were blog owners and content writers. Ask any writer, and they'll tell you that the most challenging part of writing is er, writing. Sitting down and putting everything away to put your thoughts on paper.
The promise of generating content for your web pages at the click of a button is almost writer's utopia. Even SEO influencers got into the action and started experimenting with AI content.
However, it wasn't long before the SEO industry realized that Google's AI algorithm could identify automated content and penalized such pages by not indexing them.
It's evident that with artificial intelligence here to stay, search engines will only get smarter at detecting AI content. Using AI tools to create content for your web pages won't help you rank web pages but all is not lost.
Automated content tools are not meant to replace your writers; rather help them accelerate the writing process and stimulate content development. You can still use AI tools to create content outlines and blog post drafts that you edit before publishing.
As more folks discover how to properly use AI-generated content without being flagged, content workflows will shift to creating content with these tools but manually editing them for quality and relevance before publishing them.
And so we expect that a significant portion of content writers will spend their time increasingly editing blog posts that have already been written using these tools. To be clear, I don't mean light editing by adding a few relevant keywords, but several hours of high quality content to make the article seem like a human wrote it.
The role of the content writer and editor will begin to merge into a single function this year, and we expect to see this reflected in several job descriptions of companies using AI tools.
E-A-T will strengthen its grip
Google's E-A-T guidelines will continue to grow in weightage for higher Google search rankings. Introduced as a document for human search quality raters to assess the quality of web pages, E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
But there's an additional E to consider now, Experience.
Google wants to see web pages demonstrate a degree of experience with a product or service they're covering instead of generic information. For example, if your website reviews analytics software, you'll need to indicate that you've been a user, just as financial advice is best authored by an experienced professional.
However, E-E-A-T is not an explicit ranking factor but complying with it can help you achieve higher search rankings.
E-E-A-T guidelines help human search quality evaluators determine if websites meet Google's quality standards. This information is then communicated to Google, which adjusts its search algorithm for the most relevant search results.
E-E-A-T guidelines primarily affect the affiliate industry and websites in niches like healthcare and finance, also called YMYL topics; your money or your life. As a result of E-E-A-T's influence, we expect to see more websites with credible authors with experience and recognized degrees in these niches.
Blog posts like this will become increasingly common and employ more subject matter specialists to verify and review claims in topics that deal with health, finance, and law.
These guidelines are part of a much larger effort by Google to crack down on websites with unverified information and thin content. It's not hard to see that the search engine giant is cracking down on the surge of affiliate content with superficial reviews and recommendations for products and services they receive commissions for.
Several updates to Google's algorithm in 2022 focused on improving users' search experience.
- Helpful content update that emphasized quality and user experience for web pages.
- Product reviews update that rewards high quality product reviews with original insights written by authors with expertise and experience in the topic.
- Google spam update to weed out maleficent websites in the organic search results.
These SEO trends will continue in 2023, and we'll see more updates to the Google algorithm that make rankings difficult for websites with low quality content.
Google will reduce its reliance on backlinks
We don't expect the importance of backlinks as a ranking factor to suddenly disappear but Google has indicated that it may consider reducing reliance on them to rank web pages. As John Mueller, Google's public-facing advocate has shared,
"...the weight on the links at some point will drop off a little bit as we can figure out a little bit better how the content kind of fits in within the context of the whole web...over time it won't be such a big factor as sometimes it is today. I think already that's something that's been changing quite a bit"
Search engine reliance on backlinks is one of the industry's most hotly debated SEO trends, but don't suddenly expect to see the effect of backlinks drop away. Instead, what John is saying is that Google will consider other areas of your web page to recognize content quality and search intent.
Don't make the mistake of completely ignoring links; you should still promote your content with a link building strategy
Although Google's policies have clear warnings against unnaturally acquired backlinks, you can be sure the search giant is aware of rampant grey hat practices and paid link exchanges. We've seen Google release the link spam update in December 2022 to bolster its efforts in fighting links that violate its policies.
Links will still continue to be important as a ranking factor and in helping search engines find new pages. But establishing website authority and topical expertise will help level the playing field against legacy sites ranking due to millions of backlinks acquired over decades.
Search engines will reward subject authority
As Google and other search engine algorithms increase their focus on delivering quality content and a positive user experience, subject authority will continue to be rewarded. We've already seen the benefits of including topical clusters in your SEO strategy and expect this trend to continue.
We'll see a more holistic approach to search engine optimization this year with content being created not just to rank but also cover relevant subtopics and related pages. So while ranking and more traffic will always act as motivators, expect to see websites adopt a Wikipedia style that covers all sorts of relevant content that can help their audience.
It's important to understand that search engines are looking for high quality content, not just long form content that was popularized with the skyscraper method a few years ago. Therefore, satisfying search intent is more important than keyword stuffing your pages.
Expect to see content briefs include semantically related keywords for writers to cover so search engines can associate related entities.
The rise of E-E-A-T and quality guidelines will ensure no quick wins, and the best SEO strategy lies in helping your audience with relevant blog posts. And so, we expect to notice more subject matter experts and verified claims in the search results.
We'll also see these web pages rewarded on platforms like Google discover, where they can attract additional traffic.
Core Web Vitals will govern page experience
The importance of a good user experience has long been encouraged by Google's focus on page signals like mobile first indexing and Core Web Vitals (CWV). In early 2022, Google's release of the CWV update threw the SEO community into a chaotic frenzy.
Google announced that it would measure page experience ranking on three metrics.
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) > The time it takes for the largest element on your page to load above the fold. Your LCP should be equal to or less than 2.5s.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) > How much your on-page elements shift during loading. Your CLS should be equal to or less than 0.1.
- First Input Delay (FID) The delay between a user's interaction and your page's response. Your FID should be equal to or less than 100 ms.
Without much clarity on how the update could affect rankings, blog owners began to obsess over every little on-page element and plugin on their website. With most content writers and bloggers being non-technical users of CMS platforms like WordPress, a lot of confusion prevailed among them, unaware of how to optimize for high CWV scores on both desktops and mobile devices.
It seemed like you had to strip your site down to the barebones to reach optimum Core Web Vitals ratings, almost like a text document without ads and features. Unfortunately, CWV scores are one of those SEO trends folks aren't looking forward to.
The initial disarray has given way to a better understanding of optimal web page optimization. We believe that Core Web Vitals will grow as a signal of good user experience. Its inclusion in Google Search Console in the Experience tab underlies its importance to Google rankings, and we expect to see it play a more prominent role in 2023.
Video SEO will see strong growth
Video search engine optimization isn't new considering Youtube is now considered the web's second largest search engine. And it is pretty easy to see why videos have succeeded.
Video based content can be a powerful driver of engagement with your audience and has several advantages over blog SEO.
- Videos allow people to absorb information quickly. Studies have shown that visual communication is more effective at information retention than reading long form content. And this makes videos an ideal format to convey complex topics in an easily digestible format.
- Videos add an element of engagement that encourages viewers to stay longer and increases the chances of interacting with your brand. As such, videos can make an impactful impression on your audience.
- Videos are shared more than blog posts allowing you to reach a larger audience and increasing the likelihood of your message being seen by people who may not find you via search engines.
As more companies recognize these advantages and the benefits video brings, video SEO will continue to be one of the top SEO trends in 2023. Additionally, with the proliferation of viral videos on social media, the number of readily available editing tools and software is bound to increase.
We expect more individuals and businesses to adopt SEO strategies for video in 2023. Doing so will give you an edge over competitors only using traditional forms of communication like blogging. Users can also use voice search to find videos on platforms like Youtube.
Google will give users more information in SERPs
Google will continue providing users with additional information in the SERPs to aid search queries. The search engine has been steadily increasing how much data it displays in the search results every year, and we expect to see a continuation of this trend in 2023.
Google has many search features, and you're probably familiar with the knowledge graph, related searches, and people also asked but expect to see more options this year.
For example, we noticed these search filters in November 2022 that weren't quite public yet. And in December, Google announced these SERP filters to help users find and explore topics related to their search.
By the way, install the Keyword Surfer Chrome extension if you want to see additional information in the SERPs like the monthly search volume, CPC, and domain level traffic for your competitors.
Google will also strive to push visual search into the mainstream by making it easier and much more fun than a reverse image look up. The search engine introduced Multisearch in 2022, an entirely new approach to using images, text and even voice search as search queries, and we expect it will continue to innovate on this product.
Zero-click searches will continue to rise
As a result of Google's expansion of readily available information in the search results itself, a significant percentage of search queries end up in zero clicks. Zero-click searches are search queries where Google provides information on the search results page, thereby not requiring users to click on a website.
Here's a featured snippet for the search term "oreo calories without cream" for example.
And if that wasn't enough, the People also ask section has more information on a related search term.
There has been significant debate on rising zero-click searches, with some folks in the SEO community accusing Google of stealing website visits. My take is that zero-click searches have informational search intent; users are looking for definite bits of information at this stage and are miles away from entering the buyer's journey.
You won't benefit from them in any way except for inflating your traffic figures and should focus on nurturing visitors with real business potential.
The SEO discipline is continually evolving as we learn more about online human behavior and user intent. The trends in search engine optimization reflect these changes and try and adjust for them. At any point, tens, if not hundreds of potential SEO trends are in the making. For example,
- Google has confirmed that they're testing a new open-source indexation protocol with IndexNow that may impact how it crawls website pages.
- The search engine has also developed a new technology called Confident Adaptive Language Modeling (CALM) that can process large language models without compromising performance.
- We also expect Google to expand passage-based indexing, which allows it to identify individual passages on a page and serve them in the search results.
It can be overwhelming to track every update and announcement as an SEO trend. Rather than obsessing over the latest buzzword, focus on the fundamentals of delivering value to your audience with high quality content that is written by experienced authors and experts, where required.
Let me know if there's an actual SEO trend you think I missed.