SEO predictions for 2023

Jan 3rd, 2023

2023 will undoubtedly be a year of change in SEO – they all are. For almost a quarter of a century, Google has kept search professionals on their toes as it sought to first attain and then maintain its seemingly unassailable grip on the world of search.

Nevertheless, as we do each year, we’ve put together some predictions from our experts on how they see this change happening, for what purpose and how that could impact brands operating online.

GA4 haters will gradually fade away as most of the industry moves (albeit kicking and screaming) to GA4. Early adopters will have a short-term advantage in harnessing the improved effectiveness of machine powered data analysis, which could power some surprises in the SERP while latecomers adjust to the platform.

However, what could be really interesting is the growth of new and competing search engines. Whether privacy first, subscription models, or maybe even revenue share versions, 2023 could be a breakout year. Although many of these search engines already exist, there’s likely to be increased exposure as larger platforms face more intense scrutiny from European and US regulatory bodies. I don’t think any will truly compete for major market share at this point, but we’ll definitely begin to see a lot of ink spilled on how to do SEO for “”.

Finally, as recession hits and budgets come under scrutiny, we’ll likely see some ‘old school’ (read: generally frowned upon early 2000s) tactics have the potential to reap quick, short-term benefits. You can see this to a lesser extent with AI copy – an advanced form of content scraping, but as belts tighten, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a huge increase in link exchanges and other short-term strategies. Unfortunately, this could end up costing brands more than it saves.

In 2023, Google is going to ramp up its focus on “helpful content”. Search results are often dominated by SEOs, many of whom try to game the system rather than answer a query and instil trust in the reader. Many websites now rely on AI or cheap, freelance copywriters to recycle content that already exists online rather than to provide expert insights. The rise of AI content is accelerating the pace of low-quality websites as it is easy to quickly churn out large numbers of pages with a sole-focus on rankings and little concern for the benefit to the user.

This is important to Google right now, as an increasing prevalence of poor content ranking well is potentially a long-term existential threat to them. Once people stop trusting Google to provide the best results, they will find another way to get their information – and many are already recommending turning to Reddit for expert opinion.

Once that happens, those SEOs churning out poor quality content will be out of a job, and will take the rest of us with them. Therefore, Google is taking pre-emptive action to get rid of this content before the worst-case scenario – and that means a whole lot more ‘helpful content’ or adjacent updates in the year to come.

I predict we’ll see more regular core updates – although updates to ‘ranking systems’ have been growing in frequency, core updates have remained relatively rare. 2023 will see an increase in core updates, possibly driven by advances in various machine learning methods.

One of the standout influences on 2023 will, of course, be money – with less to go around, we’ll see brands having to work much harder. This means needing to focus their efforts on web-copy that highlights value and benefits to the customer, but also – with fewer customers willing to travel – those that can will need to think about remote and virtual service alternatives.

The experts have pretty much covered the bases here – nought is mutable but mutability as the other Shelley once said, and that’s especially true in search. However, Google’s recommendations often run ahead of its actual ability, so I’ll have to throw my lot in with David this year. I think we’re still a couple of years off Google being able to properly differentiate between what is and what is not ‘helpful content’ but that doesn’t mean we won’t see them take baby steps in that direction.

You think chatGPT is good? GPT-3, the language model on which it’s based, was trained on 175 Bn parameters – GPT-4 is set to be trained on around 100 trillion parameters, orders of magnitude more than its predecessor, and it will likely arrive at some point in 2023 (though whether we’ll see that introduced to the chat model is more uncertain). However, it’s still going to be a plagiarism machine. Soft plagiarism, yes, but plagiarism nevertheless.

While members of the online marketing and SEO community will lose their minds over how quickly they can spam the content of a billion page affiliate website, longer term gains will be made by brands that focus on building expert entities. Media outlets have routinely indicated that Sundar Pichai, and Google more broadly, are worried by chatGPT, but in reality they are far more subdued. Jeff Dean, Google’s AI lead (and a good follow on Twitter), for example, stated the following in response to a question at an all-hands meeting at the end of last year:

We are absolutely looking to get these things out into real products and into things that are more prominently featuring the language model rather than under the covers, which is where we’ve been using them to date […] but, it’s super important we get this right.
“You can imagine for search-like applications, the factuality issues are really important and for other applications, bias and toxicity and safety issues are also paramount.”

LaMDA, for example, was good enough to ‘convince’ one Googler that it was sentient. I can’t imaging chatGPT has managed that particular feat yet. While I can’t see any need for Google to rush, the chances are we’ll see some kind of early access allowed for LaMDA in 2023 – but most of the search giant’s efforts will be in ways to establish credentials for EEAT.

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