We can hardly believe another year has almost wrapped, but time moves quickly in this industry. Digital marketers have had to adapt to multiple changes and challenges over the last few years – from multiple Google algorithm updates, to the stratospheric rise of new platforms like TikTok. 

The pace shows no sign of slowing down as we gear up for the new year, so what are the biggest trends and challenges facing SEO in 2023? 

Machine learning and AI

Love it or hate it, Artificial Intelligence is one of the biggest talking points as we enter 2023. Artificial intelligence in marketing is predicted to be worth more than $107.5 billion by 2028, and by 2025, the management consulting company Gartner estimates that 30% of all outbound marketing messages from large brands will be created by Generative AI. 

There are already multiple AI platforms that offer a wide range of services to marketers, from fixing and writing code, to generating meta descriptions or fully optimised, longform content. There’s no doubt that these tools will be very useful in allowing marketers to expand their services, but a full robot takeover is still some way off. 

For one, there’s no guarantee that AI generated content is completely original, and the quality may not be as engaging or targeted compared to human-written content. According to Google’s John Mueller, the content generated automatically using AI writing tools also violates Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, although these parameters may be forced to change in the near future. 

Google’s MUM update

Google might frown upon AI generated content, but they’re no stranger to artificial intelligence tools. Google launched their Multitask Unified Model (MUM) update in May 2021, a multimodal algorithm that combines several technologies to improve user search experiences. MUM is designed to break language barriers and ensure searches are even more semantic and context-based, allowing it to take complex queries and provide one relevant answer without the need for multiple searches. 

MUM is designed to understand information related to text, images, audio and videos, and it’s often considered the biggest breakthrough in Google’s journey towards a purely semantic search engine. This update means that user intent and long tail keywords will be central to SEO strategy as we go into 2023, which leads us nicely onto: 

Conversational queries 

This could also be referred to as ‘voice search optimisation’. Current statistics show that 41% of US adults use voice search at least once a day and this is only set to grow in 2023. Long tail keywords and natural language are key if you want to optimise your website for voice search; this helps voice search engines to easily find your content. 

For example, people phrase typed queries differently to how they would phrase a verbal query. Someone might type search ‘best budget smartphone’ but a verbal search will likely be in the form of a question, such as ‘what’s the best budget smartphone’. 

Google also launched its LaMDA conversational neural language model in May 2021. This AI powered chatbot system focuses on understanding vernacular and how users converse, to deliver more efficient search results.  

Video, video, video

Did you know that you’re 53 times more likely to land on the front page of Google if you include a video on your website? Not only that, but viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video, compared to 10% when reading it in the text. 

Video content has been gaining traction for several years now, but it will become inescapable as we enter 2023. As platforms like YouTube and TikTok continue to expand as search engine tools, websites simply can’t afford to miss out on the benefits of video content. 

Captions are a must if you want to optimise video content for SEO, as they help videos appear in the algorithm (and they increase accessibility, too). Don’t forget to optimise the meta data with user intent keywords and create a video sitemap to submit to Google Search Console. 

Mobile first

With 62% of website traffic now coming from mobile devices, in 2023 it’s time to put mobile front and centre. Mobile-first indexing means that Google predominantly crawls the mobile version of websites for indexing and ranking. It’s more important than ever to optimise for mobile and tablet viewing, so here are our top tips to improve the mobile version of your site: 

  • Ensure the mobile version of your site loads quickly – Ideally, the largest contentful paint should load in under 2 seconds. 
  • Check the cumulative layout shift – This needs to be as close to zero as possible. 
  • Make sure the content is the same across all formats (web, mobile and tablet).
  • Check the placement of any ads and redesign pop-ups to make them mobile-friendly. 
  • Remove excess plug-ins that may take up valuable space on a smaller screen. 
  • Ensure images and videos are high quality and formatted correctly. They should also have the same structured data, titles, captions, and text as the desktop version.

SEO for social platforms

This can apply to many different platforms, but more specifically, TikTok. With approximately 750 million monthly users worldwide, TikTok surpassed Instagram in 2019 as the number one app for sharing photos and videos. What’s interesting however, is that younger users are increasingly turning to TikTok, not Google, for search purposes. 

A Google commissioned study of U.S. users aged 18 to 24 found that nearly 40% use TikTok or Instagram to search online. TikTok searches are also starting to appear in the SERPs ahead of both Instagram and YouTube, and in September 2022, TikTok expanded post descriptions from 300 characters to 2,200. 

So, how can marketers optimise TikTok for SEO? 

  • Views and likes aren’t a ranking factor for TikTok search, which is good news for newer channels or less established brands! Instead, focus on keywords and hashtags (this applies to optimising Instagram for SEO too). 
  • Add keywords to the video text – Analysis of TikTok content has found that videos with relevant keywords in the actual video text (not the caption), rank ahead of many videos with thousands more likes or views. 
  • Don’t forget the captions – Captions are still important and the expanded character count means that marketers can add longer, keyword-rich descriptions to their videos. 
  • Hashtags are crucial – Many TikTok users subscribe to certain hashtags based on their intent, so use a mix of high and low volume keywords for your hashtags, as well as a mix of descriptions that are broad and more niche. 

Third party cookie depreciation

The deprecation of third-party cookies has been one of the biggest challenges for marketers in 2022. With Google’s plan to phase out third-party cookies in Chrome by 2024 (an extension of the previous 2023 timeline), marketers will need to continue to adjust their approach as we enter 2023. 

The deprecation of third-party cookies can mean it’s more difficult to show recent growth (as there’s less data to go on), but this just means we need to shake up previous tried and tested methods. The final switch to GA4 in July 2023 will also have a big impact on strategy and reporting next year.

Many marketers are feeling apprehensive about this change, but it’s also an excellent opportunity to broaden your horizons and think more creatively. Here are some of our top tips to get started:

  • Focus on first party data – This includes data from email sign up forms, newsletters and surveys. This data also tends to be more accurate compared to third party data. 
  • Market research – This is crucial if you want to gather more first party data. It’s also a great way to tailor campaigns to customer’s requirements, without heavily relying on third party data. 
  • Personalise your communications – Research conducted by global marketing company Epsilon found that 80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer a personalised experience. This could be as simple as a personalised email with their name, or a fully personalised strategy addressing specific customer pain points. 
  • Rethink your KPIS – This is the time to redefine what success looks like, for both you and your clients. Instead of focusing on KPIs like the number of visitors, switch to engagement metrics like bounce rates or cost per acquisition. 

In conclusion

Ultimately, the ways in which we search for and consume information has fundamentally changed, whether that’s using video platforms like TikTok, voice search, or relying on AI to interpret what we need. With the retirement of Universal Analytics on 1st July 2023 (and some expected algorithm updates), 2023 is shaping up to be an exciting – and challenging – time for marketers. 

If you’re looking to improve your digital performance and stay one step ahead, get in touch with the experts at Noble Performs. We’re proud to provide insightful, innovative digital performance marketing that’s tailored to your goals. From technical SEO to content, organic and paid social, and much more, we’ve got everything you need for unstoppable results.