Whether you are running an online business, or want your site to get better engagement, there is no denying that SEO is one of the most important tools anyone can use to stay ahead of the curve by increasing web traffic.
For anyone that is looking to improve their search engine rankings, the key is about staying up-to-date with the latest Google algorithm changes.
The multiple Google algorithm updates in 2022 can provide a signpost of how anyone can change their SEO approach, but it is often a guessing game.
The latest updates to the algorithm, such as the Product Review update that aimed to reward users publishing the most helpful reviews, regardless of whether they were positive or negative, was the start of a sea change in the algorithm as we know it.
The Core update that occurred in May 2022 made significant alterations to how the system assessed content, and this predated arguably the biggest change in recent years for SEO specialists; the Helpful Content update, which rewarded content that genuinely helped or informed people, which caused a lot of frustration, as many business owners or websites that used older SEO practices to rank, such as the right ratio of keywords, found their websites being downgraded.
SEO is not just about complying with the tricks to get your content picked up by “the bots,” but about striving to make your website more useful and helpful. Here are three areas that we believe will bring about major changes to SEO in 2023:
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning
Artificial intelligence is a topic nobody can get away from. Since the implementation of ChatGPT in November 2022, it has ruffled more than a few feathers. Search engine competitor Bing incorporated ChatGPT to allow users to use AI to summarise web pages, meaning searchers do not need to visit web pages if they get the answers they want.
While Bing only has an 8% share of search engine usage in comparison to Google’s 84%, Google are still looking to utilise AI with its own AI chatbot, Google Bard. Google Bard providing an answer without stimulating webpage traffic may cause a lot of concern, but it’s important to note that AI is still particularly primitive and can get a lot of answers wrong.
Artificial intelligence is not perfect right now, but we need to keep an eye on its potential. It’s also critical to remember that AI is not the amazing content creation tool we think it is. A lot of content creators are using AI to generate content but there has been a big crack down on using AI-generated content in relation to plagiarism, and it is very likely Google will also penalise sites for using AI-generated content.
There are a lot of stories about people using AI to generate content, however, I believe there will be a strong crackdown on this from Google in the future.
The Importance of E-E-A-T
In its guidelines, Google provided an acronym to help creators craft quality content: E-A-T, which stood for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. At the end of last year, Google added an extra E, which stood for Experience.
When determining what quality content is, Google highlighted Experience relating to whether the content creator has either life or first-hand experience of the topic. E-E-A-T is particularly critical when it comes to product reviews, a product review from someone who has actually used the product in comparison to someone who has not will have a major bearing on whether you would buy it because its experience is equated to trust.
Demonstrating experience when it comes to SEO-optimised content is critical because it will add another dimension to the search engine results. Expertise, authoritativeness, and experience all overlap to a certain extent, so when improving your search engine rankings, the experience should shine through the content as this will elicit a real-world reaction from the receiver of the content.
It’s a common trait when creating art, the more something resonates with people, the greater the number of those who will pick up on it and engage with it. The same thing applies as part of this extra strand to the EAT acronym.
In terms of SEO, the Helpful Content update, and changes to the Core algorithm both facilitated a change towards writing for humans, not bots. It can be unfair for a blogger creating content on a specific subject matter to not reach its desired audience because it does not tick all of the SEO boxes, which is why content needs to be first and foremost helpful and valuable, instead of ranking for specific keywords.
Google evaluates the relevance of an individual document, ensuring a piece of content relates to the search engine query and the searcher’s intent. Therefore, it’s critical that site users trust the expertise of the writer.
A common black hat SEO technique involves scattering irrelevant keywords on a piece of content to manipulate search engine rankings, but as this causes negative experiences for users, it is more important than ever to be useful in your content creation, which is why the “double E-A-T” acronym will be more important than ever going forward.
An Increase in the Use of Google Shopping
Google Shopping is a service that allows shoppers to search, compare, and purchase physical products across different retailers who have paid to advertise their products. It works by pulling up a list of items from different retailers that correspond to the keywords used so a potential buyer can arrange the results based on their criteria to compare items across different providers.
While Google only displayed products for advertisers who paid to list their items, when Free Product Listings launched in May 2020, this sparked major competition between big and small eCommerce businesses.
The volume of people shopping online has increased year after year, especially since the pandemic. With many more people shopping online now, it is more important than ever for Google to provide useful shopping results for specific searches.
49% of shoppers say they use Google to discover new products, and in the field of SEO, it is critical for you to optimise your data feed to present your products to the right people. As 80% of eCommerce products have very limited visibility on Google due to poor data quality, it is critical for smaller companies to use SEO techniques to maintain a high-quality data feed, which includes:
- Optimising Product Titles. The first 70 characters of its 150-character limit should contain all of the essential information, including the primary keyword and descriptor.
- Optimising Product Images. It’s essential to fulfil the minimum image requirements of Google to show the image in the right context by focusing on image quality, for example, using high-resolution, professionally edited images.
- Representing the Item Accurately. For example, every colour of an item should be on display, along with an appropriate image, and providing clean product shots against a white background, rather than focusing on “lifestyle” images.
- Optimise the Product Type. The product type, which is often attributed as [product_type], is what helps Google understands categorisation. You can use up to five attributes for products, which can help the algorithm showcase your products to the appropriate shoppers. When optimising your product type, you need to consider:
- Search intent, by using product types that reflect a customer’s needs.
- Product focus, which should be tied to the product itself instead of categories like bestsellers.
- Being specific with categorisation, and not adding too many category strings, as this can provide too much detail for customers.
SEO is something that is constantly moving, and as AI, E-E-AT, and an increase in Google Shopping use are some trends we envision as being part of the landscape, it is critical to gain an insight into how these tools can help you.
While these may become central to the SEO landscape, we don’t have a crystal ball. Google keeps the algorithm updates so close to their chests that we have to use what is currently popular to predict the future. What we can do is understand how these three components remind us of the importance of creating a great user experience.
With AI and machine learning becoming more widespread, we can see how incorporating E-E-A-T can benefit businesses and website users by rethinking their approach to creating better content. Although SEO appears to be slowly stepping away from the “box-ticking exercise” approach, optimising your Google Shopping presence lands somewhere in between the two.
Google has been working towards making content easier and more relevant for the searcher, and SEO is a practice that requires constant evaluation and revaluation. It is more important than ever to stay updated with SEO trends and practices, not just because it can change with minimal notice but because it can mean you may have to completely alter your strategy to land on Page 1 of Google.
Google’s algorithms are there to help people find what they are looking for, therefore, complying with these best practices can keep your business or website visible and more competitive in the land of SEO.
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