Successful SEOs are not just working on improving their craft daily; they’re also staying up to date with the latest SEO trends. They understand that SEO trends can uncover insights that will help them improve their skills and notice opportunities they couldn’t see before.
The SEO scene is constantly changing but you can count on some things to stay even for the near future. Fortunately, Google’s thoughts on SEO aren’t shrouded in secrecy, and that wasn't the case in years past. Here’s a list of the biggest SEO trends and new best practices you’ll see in the year ahead.
1. Optimize Your Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals are important metrics in SEO because they show you how Google interprets the user experience on your website. These metrics help identify key aspects, such as page loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability, that determine the quality of a website's user experience.
As Google continues to prioritize user experience as a critical ranking factor, websites that prioritize Core Web Vitals can receive a significant boost in search engine rankings. Therefore, it is crucial for SEO professionals to monitor Core Web Vitals closely and consistently to improve the user experience and avoid any drop in the website's performance.
A big part of this is mobile experience. As mobile usage grows, Google wants to elevate sites that deliver good interactions away from the desktop.
Mobile users often have different search behaviors and preferences than desktop users, such as voice search or shorter search queries. Additionally, mobile devices have smaller screens and slower connections, which require faster loading pages and simplified designs.
To optimize for mobile SEO, websites should follow best practices released by Google. Google recommends enabling mobile-first indexing, which means that the mobile version of a website will be the primary source for determining search engine rankings. This can be done by designing a responsive website that adjusts to different screen sizes and devices.
Other best practices for mobile SEO include optimizing page speed and mobile performance. This can be achieved by reducing page load times (a direct metric in Core Web Vitals) and improving the overall user experience through streamlined designs and easy navigation.
By focusing on Core Web Vitals as part of an SEO strategy, website owners can ensure their site is optimized for both user experience and search engine performance in 2023 and beyond.
2. Blend AI-Generated Content with Your Unique Style
AI-driven content has been gaining in popularity, but the recent explosive growth of AI tools onto the market makes this one trend that is likely permanent.
As AI-generated content tools gain more popularity and grow in their capabilities, we will see more of that being published. Some of the articles created are difficult to detect as being generated by machines, but that shouldn't cut humans out of the process.
As you use these tools in your content creation, pay attention to the output. You'll need to make sure that auto-generated content doesn't sound repetitive, overly formal, or filled with fluff. Use the AI content as a guide for what to cover, and see if you can rephrase some elements into your own style.
In addition to making content creation happen on a larger scale, machine learning is driving analytics platforms by analyzing large volumes of data to identify patterns that can help businesses optimize their website for performance and SERP rankings. In short, you get stronger data-driven decisions to improve your website's performance.
For example, Google's RankBrain algorithm uses machine learning to determine the most relevant search results by analyzing the language patterns used in a search query and noting the kind of answers that the user gravitated toward. This allows the algorithm to understand the intent behind the search, rather than just matching keywords.
That's nothing new to you, of course. But as a content creator you can connect the dots to understand that this gives you more flexibility. You can write your content more naturally, with less pressure to pack in certain keyword phrasing that just comes off awkward.
3. Better-Matches for Search Queries
Google loves its acronyms. We have BERT for natural language learning, E-E-A-T quality guidelines, and then there's MUM. Google's Multitask Unified Model helps the search engine understand the context of searchers’ queries. Humans don't ask questions the same way each time. We throw in descriptors to try to find exactly what we're having trouble locating, and MUM is helping Google to keep up.
The goal is to help searchers find the answers to complex questions without performing multiple queries. If people keep searching for things to do for their first trip to Europe, MUM will decipher that as first-time visitors to Europe, they need additional information. This information can include the best cities to visit in Europe, the best countries to visit in Europe, the best European cuisines, and so on.
Google’s algorithm will proactively pull up content that discusses all these questions and more so that searchers can find all the information they need without multiple searches.
What you can do is focus on creating content that feels natural. It should give readers in-depth information on a topic in an effort to cover a lot of detail. You want the reader (and frankly, the search engine) to feel confident that you're answering what's been asked. In-depth content also increases your site’s authority and expertise in Google’s eyes — these are important for your site’s long-term rankings.
Great, extensive content goes beyond just aiming for a particular word count. Your content will naturally be longer if you’re trying to cover as much information as necessary in them. Add subheads with questions on the “People Also Ask” and the “Related Searches” section of SERPs. Here’s the “People Also Ask” section for “how to cook pizza.”
You can tweak those questions into subheads in a “how to cook pizza” post or add it as a key moment in a video if you choose video creation.
Focus more on creating content that feels natural, with or without the desired keywords in multiple places. Google’s machine-learning algorithms will figure it out.
4. Passage Ranking and Featured Snippets
Google might answer a search by highlighting a relevant clip from a page and placing it right on the SERP. This is similar to featured snippets in that it delivers an answer without the user having to click through to see. Featured snippets tend to be short, objective answers like "James Madison" when the search is 4th US President. It doesn't take a long explanation to answer it. Passage ranking, on the other hand, offers relevant but longer explanations right from the text.
Unlike traditional SEO algorithms that focus on entire web pages, Passage Ranking scrutinizes individual passages on a page and ranks them according to their relevancy to a specific search query.
The SERP might even display a short passage from a longer page that otherwise might not rank for that specific search.
The main advantage for users is that they can quickly find the most relevant sections of a long-form content. For content creators, this algorithm rewards pages that target long-tail keywords and answer question queries. It allows for long-form (more than 1500 words) content without the fear that it is less-focused than it should be.
In fact, quality long-form content is crucial for SEO practices because it allows for greater opportunities to target relevant and long-tail keywords. Lengthier content typically results in increased time spent on a page, improving the user experience and potentially boosting rankings.
By breaking down a long-form content into concise and clear passages, each of these sections become like mini-pages of their own, which helps in improving your website's SEO.
To appear in the featured snippets box, your content should precisely answer the question and use a clear, concise and direct style.
Since they provide fast and easy information for users, landing your content in the snippet should lead to substantial traffic and an improved click-through-rate.
To increase your chances of claiming a featured snippet, brainstorm common questions in your niche that can be answered directly. You can do this as part of your keyword research, since keyword tools like SpyFu include questions that people ask related to topical keywords. Then, develop content that precisely addresses them.
With some kinds of snippets, you could use schema markup to help Google recognize what kind of content you are putting out.
5. Better Product Reviews
Often, customers will read reviews of a product or service online before making a purchase decision. Approximately 92 percent of customers are more likely to buy a product or service if they’ve read an honest review about it.
Google told the world that it wants reviews that “share in-depth research, rather than thin content that simply summarizes a bunch of products” in its 2021 product review update. Thin reviews will lose their rankings for the foreseeable future.
Here’s an example of what the search results for product review terms look like. The site with the least number of words on its ranking page still clocks in at 1,903 words. On the other end of the spectrum, the longest post has over 9,000 words. That brings the average number of words on each ranking page to over 4,000 words.
That’s stiff competition, and there’s little to no space on the first page for reviewers with thin content written just for the affiliate link. When creating product reviews, focus on giving users in-depth information. Users can certainly expect more in-depth reviews when searching for product-review-related queries.
6. Avoiding Spamminess in Every Sense
Aside from the standout canned ham on the grocery store shelf, spam signals "unwelcome emails" to most people. However it's also a catch-all term for deceptive practices or malicious behavior on web pages.
This perspective changed how I viewed advice to "avoid spammy tactics."
Spam intends to trick the search engine into ranking a page higher than it should rank or deceiving users about the contents of a page. Many SEOs strictly follow Google’s guidelines, but remember that others hold differing approaches in the name of business competition. Some use less sophisticated content duplicators to create thousands of thin articles to rank new sites and get ad revenue.
Use only white hat techniques and avoid spamminess in all practices. Even if it seems like a no-brainer, some damage is outside of your control. Hackers can manipulate your site's visitors into downloading malware. Even less severe actions like spam attacks on your site can cause you harm. It's your job to secure your site and to take steps against passive spam like comment-bombs and link spam.
Links are already an essential part of SEO and Google’s ranking factors. Even if you follow all other Google best practices for SEO, you must still build links to your site to improve your rankings. Google’s Link Spam update meant that Google is taking “manual and algorithmic actions” against sites not following Google’s linking and quality guidelines.
Sites with affiliate links need to clearly label them. Ignoring that will likely get a Google penalty. It can range from de-indexing to losing rankings.
Google wants sites to use the rel=“sponsored” link attribute for all affiliate links, whether they’re created manually or are auto-generated. If you write a great product review but misappropriate your link attributes, it may affect your site’s rankings.
Guest posting, a link-building tactic, has long been attributed with spamming since Matt Cutts, a Google employee, labeled it dead in 2012. But with more sites springing up and needing links to boost their rankings, it’s a valid tactic. We see more SEOs focusing on quality guest posts to boost their site’s rankings instead of writing poor guest posts solely for backlinks.
You can learn more about link-building strategies from these articles:
- How to Get Backlinks: 14 Easy Ways to Create a Backlink Profile
- 20 Advanced Link Building Tips To Boost Your Rankings
- Grow High-Quality Backlinks with Tips from 360 Learning’s Success Story
- Does Scholarship Link Building Still Work?
Constantly seek signs of any damage from spam with these tips:
Get ahead: Check in on Google Search Console to watch for ongoing changes in dropped clicks, impressions and average rank.
Diagnose: Use SpyFu Ranking history to trace your past ranking patterns. You can find the spot where your ranks started to take a turn. That helps you narrow the timeframe to detect the cause.
7. Improved Site Accessibility
Despite advances in technology, an increasing number of websites are becoming more and more inaccessible to people with disabilities. Around 42 percent of respondents felt that web content accessibility in 2021 had not changed over the previous years. John Mueller, the Search Advocate at Google, says: “when sites are hard to use, people steer away from them anyway, so over time things like recommendations & other signals tend to drop away, resulting in the site being less visible in search too.”
Start by working with your web developer to determine what your current content management system (CMS) can handle in terms of accessibility and what it can’t. If your current CMS works great, check your theme’s documentation for any accessibility notes it may or may not have. Your developer will help you decide if choosing a new theme is a good option.
Choose plugins and widgets that will enhance your site’s overall accessibility. If you embed video content in your blog, use a video player with closed captioning (CC). Use higher contrast text or larger font (can be both) for content on your site. This will make content on your site readable to people with poor vision.
There are systems like screen readers that are built to offer assistance, but we have to meet them part way. That means using proper header tags (H1, H2, and H3) to organize content tiers on your site. That makes for easy readability and scannability.
Use alt text for images that add context to your supporting visuals on the page. Make them unique for each image used. A good rule of thumb is that you should describe the image instead of label it. Think "chart that shows significant sales growth from 2020 to 2023" instead of "sales graph."
If the images are purely decorative, like a random GIF or meme, alt text isn’t necessary; it will only distract the person using the screen reader.
Video is another option to help with accessibility, in addition to its other positive SEO benefits.
Sharing quality video content on your page can help keep visitors on the page, driving engagement with your brand. You might link to other content and give them richer ways to interact with your products and services. Those layers of engagement help to establish your credibility and authority.
You can even add rich snippet schema to your video content, giving it an extra shot at holding a strong SERP position.
In addition to its effectiveness in SEO, video can also help drive conversions. Whether it's the expanded tutorials about your services that make users feel more confident, or it's the personality that shoppers connect with the brand, videos are another way to connect with your audience.
9. Higher trust signals
Google uses trust signals to determine if specific sites are worthy of good ranking positions on its search engine. Trust signals are signs or elements on your site that positively or negatively influence customer purchase decisions on your site. Google is big on creating an excellent user experience, and that's clearly their guiding principle for major and minor developments.
Creating great content is one way to earn Google’s trust, but creating a trustworthy site goes beyond content. Great content alone will not always inspire a purchase decision from customers. That’s because your site can have over 75 different trust signals depending on what you’re reading or who you’re listening to.
Think about it. What elements on a site can persuade you to input your card details on the site even if you’re a first-time visitor? Or trust a site’s content even if you’re a first-time visitor?
Your potential customers likely use the same signals in rating a site’s trustworthiness. However, for Google, your site’s trustworthiness may be determined by the following:
- Presence of an about page
- Presence of a contact page with an address
- Grammatically error-free content on all pages
- Minimal ads
- Qualifications of authors on your site
Google’s thoughts on these are summed by the acronym E-E-A-T: Experience Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. The E-E-A-T approach is part of Google's Quality Raters' Guidelines--standards that a team at Google uses to evaluate the quality of content on a website. The guidelines help ensure that Google's algorithms deliver relevant, useful, and trustworthy search results.
Following those guidelines can help websites establish credibility and authority in their industry, leading to higher rankings in search results.
We go into depth here about how you can use E-E-A-T standards to gut check your own content. Here's a preview:
Experience: Consider whether you really need the pop-ups on your page. Remove any jumping images that take too long to load. Consult your Core Web Vitals scores for more insights on what might be holding you back.
Expertise: Review if the site uses subject matter experts who create the content, if the content is accurate and up-to-date, and if the website demonstrates a deep understanding of the topics it covers.
Authoritativeness: Ask yourself if the website has similar content that expands on this topic. Does it earn backlinks from other high-authority websites, is frequently cited by other reputable sources, or has a strong social media presence?
Trustworthiness: Confirm that your site uses HTTPS encryption. It should be free from malware and other malicious content.
10. More Local-Friendly Results
Not only are more people in the U.S. working from home, but many operate on more flexible hours that have them supporting businesses that are close to home.
Local SEO helps you target your nearby potential customers. Making small tweaks can have you reaching audiences when they are likely to visit a brick-and-mortar location. Local SEO tactics help businesses rank better in search engines, leading to increased traffic, higher conversion rates, and improved brand recognition.
Every local SEO move starts with a Google Business Profile. You should claim your account and update it with accurate information about the business address, hours of operation, and contact details. This is even the path for gaining business reviews that show up in searches--another element you can optimize through highly valuable 3rd-party trust. Once you have established a strong rating, you can even roll that into your paid Google Ads if you run them.
But back to SEO!
The basic expectation was that when I am in Phoenix and search for plants to buy, I wouldn't get results that were located in Dallas. Now, Google's sophistication has trained us (as searchers) so well that I expect to see highly-rated nurseries within a few miles of where I am.
By having a strong local SEO presence, you benefit from increased visibility alongside customer-driven ratings. That trust signal might earn you more clicks than a traditional SERP result would. More clicks lead to higher conversions.
11. Extend Your Reach Through Podcasts
The podcast market might seem saturated, but there's still room for growth.
Apple Podcasts, the biggest podcast directory in the world, with a 37.8 percent market share, offers over 2.5 million podcasts. In contrast, the largest Content Management System (CMS) globally, WordPress, powers 43.1 percent of all websites — over 824 million sites in total.
The podcast space is relatively far less crowded.
If your area of expertise doesn't have many podcasts, you can still carve out a valuable niche. There are billions of websites, but you really compete with the ones in your industry.
By developing podcasts, you are creating content to share and link to. With extra reach and visibility on social platforms and search engines, it also helps to build your authority in a particular topic. You can repurpose your transcripts or details into an infographic, blog post, social media post, or newsletter.
An audio podcast is the easiest one to start because the equipment will cost less money, and it’s easy for people who are uncomfortable on camera. You’ll stand out with video podcasts if you can get over the initial costs and camera shyness since they’re newer compared to audio podcasts.
Alternatively, if starting a podcast isn't right for you, don't rule them out altogether. Try to appear on podcasts as a guest. Being a guest allows you to share your expertise and spread your message to a new audience, helping you draw in new clients. Some podcast hosts will also add links to the content on your site, your course, and books on the podcast show notes.
Stay on top of everything new
SEO trends such as voice searches and mobile-friendliness are catching steam and may soon surpass traditional searches. Additionally, it is more important than ever to create relevant high-quality content which offers value to the readers.
You must also embrace new technologies like machine learning. These can help you up your SEO game. Make sure that you don’t just rely on Google but go beyond it to rank higher in as many places as possible.