2023 has been a crazy year for Google and SEO, and it's only April 😂 Get caught up on what's in, what's out, and what's next for SEO in 2023
You may have noticed that since December of last year, Google has been rolling out a number of major changes across its platforms, products, and services. Core updates, platform updates, AI-writing tools, and overhauls like the upcoming mandatory switch to Google Analytics GA4 has marketers and business owners scrambling to keep up.
Here's a breakdown of the recent changes to Google Search and other platforms in Q1-2023 to get you ready for what's next in SEO.
January 2023: Google rolls out E-E-A-T rating system
In January, Google updated their Content Quality Rating System, E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness), to add another “E” to the mix: Experience. Keep in mind, content quality scores are not the same thing as organic rankings, but quality scores do have an impact on organic rankings. Use E-E-A-T when proofreading your content to look for opportunities for improvement:
- Experience: does the content reflect the publisher’s hands-on experience with the subject matter, and does the content give readers the benefit of that experience?
- Expertise: does the content reflect that the publisher is an expert in the subject matter, and does the reader benefit from that expertise?
- Authoritativeness: does the content reflect that the publisher is an industry leader on the subject, and does the content contain information or opinions that cannot be found elsewhere?
- Trustworthiness: Is the publisher a reliable, trustworthy source of information? Is the publisher attempting to use this content to manipulate the audience or search engine rankings?
Read the documentation: Get to know E-E-A-T on Google Search Central
February 2023: AI-writing tools upset the SEO apple cart
February brought some surprising developments for SEOs and site managers. Most notably, Google published their position and suggestions regarding AI-generated content. Shockingly, Google does not prohibit or discourage software-assisted writing:
Appropriate use of AI or automation is not against our guidelines. This means that it is not used to generate content primarily to manipulate search rankings, which is against our spam policies. Google’s focus is on the quality of content, rather than how content is produced. Google’s automated ranking systems are designed to present helpful, reliable information that's primarily created to benefit people, not to gain search engine rankings.
If you're a site manager or SEO specialist and you want to learn more about Google's guidelines for quality content, we strongly suggest that you read Google’s guide to people-first content.
March 2023: Google's latest core update is a doozy
Google’s latest core update has SEOs reeling from massive changes to search results and ranking factors, consistent with the December & January updates to the E-E-A-T quality rankers, and the February announcement regarding AI-generated content.
Big changes to SERP layout
At the time of this writing, Google has not yet released an official announcement about the March update, but there have been some obvious changes to the SERP layout, including the broad inclusion of Google Shopping sidebars, embedded product images in the SERP, and mid-page Google Shopping results. Some users have also reported changes to the way schema-driven Rich Results appear in the SERP.
Declined positions in almost every vertical
If you're feeling the effects of the latest core update, you're not alone. The broad March 2023 core update touched down fast and hit hard, with the reported effects being felt in nearly every vertical and market worldwide. Even our own website, BlueSwitch.com, was hit hard by the update, with declined positions on over 70 keywords. But don't despair, at the time of this writing, we're already seeing those keywords come back up in the rankings.
If your rankings have declined since March 1st, try to be patient! Don't make any drastic changes to your website or Google Business Profile until the update is confirmed to be complete. At the time of this writing, we've noticed many rankings that declined in early March returning to their previous positions. Remember, SEO is all about making tiny adjustments, observing the results, and readjusting as needed. Right now, it's best to leave everything as-is until the SERP settles down a bit.
Feeling impatient? You can monitor core updates yourself on the Google Status Dashboard.
What's next for SEO in 2023? In a word: volatility.
The watchword for SEO in 2023 is volatility. With dramatic core updates to Google’s search algorithm, changes to Google’s content-quality guidelines, and improved access to AI-writing tools and AI-generated content, there’s a perfect SEO storm brewing.
AI writing tools level the SEO playing field
Thanks to AI-writing tools, now anyone can produce high quality content quickly, and cheaply. This improved access to AI means we can expect to see an increase in the amount of content and quality of content being published by SMBs and smaller brands.
Shopify adds AI Autowrite feature for product descriptions
AI writing tools will have a tremendous impact on eCommerce product descriptions. Shopify has already added an AI Autowrite feature to its product edit screen, so even if you’re not using AI-writing tools on your website, it’s a good bet that your competitors are. Keep a close eye on your competitors’ product descriptions and blog posts, and be ready to increase productivity to match the pace being set by competitors.
Get ready for new competitors, new audiences
As the content writing process becomes faster, easier, and cheaper, we will see a lot of new, previously unknown competitors entering search results, along with increased volatility among existing competitors both large and small. Google seems to be revising its rankings criteria, and creating new associations between semantically related keywords. As we see new competitors entering search results, we can also expect to see an uptick in discovery as new competitors are exposed to new audiences and new customers.
AI-writing has leveled the playing field, and now it’s anybody’s ballgame. Expect even more unpredictability as we experience the full cumulative effect of Google’s March core update, and how that update interacts with all this new AI-driven content.
Unpredictability is scary, but fortunately there’s still a lot we can do to ensure success for our SEO campaigns.
10 ways to win at SEO in 2023:
- Take advantage of Google’s E-E-A-T guidelines by creating content that highlights your Experience, Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness.
- Flex your Experience. If your brand has been around for a while, let your audience know by adding references to your longevity: “over 10 years in business” or “an industry leader since 2010”; add a Year Established Date to your Google Business profile, About Us page, Directory Listings, and other public-facing platforms.
- Show off your Expertise with niche blog topics that resonate with your audience; don’t be afraid to throw around industry terms and inside jargon that your audience will understand. Publish industry term glossaries, instruction manuals, data and insights, and other professional resources.
- Solidify your Authority with guest posts, content-swaps, and backlinks from other industry experts. Use backlinks-outreach campaign principles to contact relevant brands and suggest a collaboration or offer to trade guest posts.
- Showcase your Trustworthiness by launching a review-gathering campaign and invite your customers to review your products or your brand; work with an experienced Shopify developer to add aggregate ratings schema to your products using our favorite Shopify product reviews app Yotpo
- Provide useful informational content that readers can’t get anywhere else
- Provide instructional or educational content that readers can’t get anywhere else
- Look at your competitor’s content and compare and contrast it with your own. Ask yourself, what are they doing right? What are they doing wrong? And adjust your content accordingly.
- Re-edit, re-optimize and re-publish your site’s older content to keep it fresh and get more mileage out of your existing posts. If things have changed since the article’s publish date, point out what’s different now and add it to the original post, or publish an updated, amended version of the post.
- Read and answer Google’s content questionnaire when creating new content, and use the questions to to gauge your content's quality level. Examples below.
- Does the content provide original information, reporting, research, or analysis?
- Does the content provide a substantial, complete, or comprehensive description of the topic?
- Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond the obvious?
- If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources, and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
- Does the main heading or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?
- Does the main heading or page title avoid exaggerating or being shocking in nature?
- Is this the sort of page you'd want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
- Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia, or book?
- Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?