What’s in store for SEO in 2023? No one can say for sure, but Digital Marketing Strategist Marcie Lord has a few predictions. Read here to see what she expects will be big in SEO in 2023.
As 2022 wraps, I’ve been looking back on the changes in search engine marketing and SEO that happened this past year. According to Search Engine Journal, so far in 2022 there have been seven updates to Google’s algorithm, including:
Several core algorithm updates
The Page Experience update
The Helpful Content update
2022 was largely a good year for our clients. Their search rankings did quite well; as one example, from November 2021 – November 2022 our client MEDPLI saw a 74% gain in nationally ranked keywords and went from having 262 terms on the first SERP to 320. MEDPLI’s newly ranked keywords include the term “medical malpractice payouts by state,” a term that gets 1000 searches a month and for which MEDPLI ranks #3 nationally. This achievement is unsurprising since Digital Dynamo built a nifty tool for that page that allows users to filter data pulled from the National Practitioner Data Bank. It ranks so well because it provides a high value to users.
A screenshot of the medical malpractice payouts by state tool
After analyzing our clients’ search data, taking an account of what happened in search in 2022, and reviewing past trends in SEO, I have a few predictions for SEO for 2023 that everyone – SEOs, small business owners, enterprise CMOs, and anyone who cares about digital marketing – will benefit from knowing.
Prediction #1: Helpful content will rank best and be the gold standard, but you better know what “helpful content” means
In August 2022, Google rolled out its “helpful content” update. Google says this update “aims to better reward content where visitors feel they've had a satisfying experience, while content that doesn't meet a visitor's expectations won't perform as well.” Google also provided a rundown of abstract guidelines for what “helpful content” entails.
Over the past year, I did indeed notice that our clients’ best performing content could easily be deemed as “helpful” by my standards. In my competitive research, I also noticed that the content that ranked possessed some of the same traits – all traits that I deem as helpful.
These traits are:
Bullet points and/or numbered lists
Charts depicting data
Interactive tools that provide value to the user
Directly asking then answering questions
Breaking content into sections
Using heading and subheading tags (H1, H2, H3) properly
External linking to relevant, useful resources
Videos that help understand concepts
While many of the best-ranking results I saw contained some of these elements, it’s not like they were shoehorned into those pages; anytime they were used, they were used in a way that was meaningful and valuable to the user.
The essential trait the best-ranking content possessed is that it provided value to the user. Don’t go into 2023 thinking that if you inject your posts and pages with tables, charts, bullet points, and everything else I mentioned that you’ll be on an easy path to ranking.
Even though we've been seeing Google favor this type of "helpful" content for a little while now, I predict that in 2023, helpful content will become Google's golden child and the content that ranks the best.
In 2023, content that helps people better comprehend the concept it's discussing will perform the best. This means that for any content you create, you need to employ the utmost empathy and try to understand the thought process in a user’s mind when they search the query you’re targeting. Not only do you need to answer their questions, but you need to format the content so that it is easy to grasp. No matter how thorough your content is, if you present it to users in a big wall of text slapped onto a web page, it will struggle to rank. If you instead present that information in digestible chunks, leveraging the bullet points, visuals, and other elements I mentioned earlier, you are much more likely to rank.
Even though we've been seeing Google favor this type of "helpful" content for a little while now, I predict that in 2023, helpful content will become Google's golden child.
Also - gone are the days of filler content. If you create content that is filled with different variations of your keyword but doesn’t have a point of view and doesn’t help the user grasp the topic, your content will struggle to rank. This means that if you’re trying to organically rank in search, stop hiring cheap writers that can only create filler content, and stop using AI writing tools, which really can only create filler content. Start empathizing with your users and think about the answers they are really seeking when they query a term, and then think about how you can format your article to better help them understand the topic. I’m not going to lie; this means you’ll now have to double the amount of time or increase the investment you dedicate to content creation. It’s also not just about copy anymore; you also have to consider the visuals and tools integrated with your content. But even though this means more work to rank, it also will make for better collateral for your brand.
Prediction #2: Helpful content must be mobile-friendly
Mobile-friendliness has been an important ranking factor for a long time now, and my prediction is that even if you create helpful content that follows my guidelines, Google will show no mercy if it’s not mobile-friendly. Great content will not make up for a poor user experience on mobile.
For example, I recommend leveraging tables to help users understand the topic. We created an article that uses tables for one of our clients, and it is now the top-ranking organic result for the target term “quantifying the value of financial planning advice:”
Screenshot from the SERP for "quantifying the value of financial planning advice"
The table on the page
However, tables can be very wonky when viewed on a mobile device. I actually think the example I provided isn’t that mobile-friendly, and we will be updating it in the future.
If you plan on using tables in your content, I recommend using a tool that allows easy scrolling on the table, like can be seen on the MEDPLI site, developed with WordPress:
(Just a side note, this page I took this screenshot from ranks on the first SERP for 14 lucrative target terms)
Tables, videos, images, and interactive elements can all pose usability issues for mobile users, so you’ll need to make sure you’re using themes and plugins that allow for responsiveness and mobile usability.
So the takeaway for SEO in 2023: no matter how thoughtful and helpful your content is, if it doesn’t look good and function well for users on mobile devices, then it will have a tougher time ranking.
Prediction #3: Google Business Profiles will continue to play an important role in SEO for small businesses. Making them as robust as possible is essential for good CTR
I can see the eye rolls from SEOs after reading my prediction that Google Business Profiles will continue to be pivotal for small businesses, because of course they will. Google Business Profiles (formerly Google My Business) have been a huge boon for any company or organization that caters to a local market, which is typical of small businesses. For years now, they have played a big role in how users find local products and services. With our small business clients, many of whom target local markets, Google Business Profiles are crucial to search rankings.
And because most local businesses these days recognize that GBPs are important for their SEO, local SEO has become increasingly competitive over the years.
However, SEO is more than just about ranking well. An important part of SEO is achieving a good clickthrough rate, or CTR. It does little good to rank well for a term if no one clicks on the result when they see it, so enticing people to clickthrough to your site is essential.
We have worked with multiple clients who rank well in the local map pack, but their CTR was abysmal. To combat this, we put a lot of effort into building out their GBPs. This includes:
Adding services and products with descriptions
Adding informative descriptions
Adding characteristics of the business, like if it is women-led, veteran-owned, LGBTQ+ friendly, or wheelchair accessible
Building up reviews
This last one is crucial. Reviews have become an even bigger player in getting users to clickthrough to your site because the reviews that are relevant to the query are sometimes pulled out and shown to users. We have seen a 300% increase in user engagement with GBPs, specifically clickthroughs to the website, when the business builds up its reviews on Google.
My final prediction for SEO in 2023 is that, because local SEO has gotten more competitive, Google Business Profiles must be fully built-out and brimming with thoughtful reviews if you want to achieve a good CTR.
My final prediction for SEO in 2023 is that Google Business Profiles must be fully built-out and brimming with thoughtful reviews if you want to achieve a good CTR.
I have more predictions for SEO and digital marketing in 2023 that I’ll keep close to my vest for now. If you need small business SEO services and are interested to learn more about what’s in store for SEO in 2023, contact Digital Dynamo to set up a consultation.
And if I don’t get a chance to chat with you before the end of the year, maybe I’ll meet you in 2023!
Marcie Lord is a Digital Marketing Strategist & Founder of Digital Dynamo, LLC. She helps small and mid-sized businesses leverage SEO, WordPress, Google Analytics and Content to drive business objectives.