It’s incredible what can happen in just one year. Our post on the Google algorithm update 2022 was a big hit, and it turns out everything we reported on turned into major leverage as clients and marketers dialed in their sites over Q3 and Q4. But a new year means new ideas, and Google isn’t holding back.
From the mouths and brains of our experts, here are a handful of Google algorithm predictions for 2023 plus tips on how you can make these changes work to your benefit.
1. A Continuing Emphasis on Visual Search
The unprecedented success of TikTok dances and cross-platform reaction videos proves how powerful visual content is. In fact, nearly 40% of Gen Zers already head to TikTok and Instagram to search for coffee spots and retail shops instead of Googling. No surprise, then, that Google is responding by incorporating more visual components in search results. Much of this evolution hinges on Google’s Vision AI tech, which uses machine learning to analyze the content of pictures and create a spiderweb of sorts that connects content across the web.
Marketers can capitalize on the visual trend by:
- Pair all photos with descriptive alt text that includes corresponding search terms
- Add photos to assets that play heavily into Google’s algorithm, including Google Business Profiles, e-commerce pages, landing pages, and product listings added to Google’s Merchant Center
- Explore new ways to incorporate visual content alongside text, including videos and infographics
2. Entity Association Will Soar in Importance
In Google speak, entities are any concept or asset that can be used to distinguish one piece of content or web page from another. Links and keywords are just two examples of entities that Google believes are uber important, not only because of their inherent value but also because of how they reflect and interact with user intent.
Once upon a time, keywords were the most important entities, period. They were so important that marketers would hide huge strings of keywords at the bottom of web pages in hopes of winding up at the top of the search engine results page (SERP). But Google quickly realized that kind of game play wasn’t in the best interests of consumers.
Think of entities as unique identifiers that act as components of a big-picture topic. If your topic was Elvis Presley, Google is no longer just looking for the keyword “Elvis Presley,” it’s also looking for entities including people, places, movies, albums, awards, and tangible items that make up the entire knowledge cloud of what makes Elvis, well, Elvis. There are subcategories too like Elvis’s physical attributes and the latitude and longitude of Graceland.
In 2023, Google’s ML-led algorithms will be trawling the internet looking for these entities, determining which are most meaningful, and then linking them to similarly integral entities. It’s basically recognizing and even building relationships, which will heavily influence search this year and beyond.
3. Featured Snippets and Zero-Click Results
Featured snippets are those no-need-to-click blurbs that appear at the very top of SERPs. Say you’re searching for something like “Who built the coliseum?”. In the olden days, you’d have to click through the top few results to see which page had the information you needed presented in a way that was easiest for you to grasp.
With featured snippets, there’s a full paragraph answer to your question right on the search page. Hence the term “zero-click results.” You can click through for more detailed info, but you don’t have to because the gist of what you need is already being presented right up front, on the digital equivalent of a silver platter.
This feature is already awesome, but experts predict Google will continue to fine tune snippets in 2023, focusing primarily on making snippets even more prevalent. Scoring a snippet can help businesses reach customers at the very top of the funnel, increasing brand awareness and traction without paying a single penny for the privilege (yup, featured snippets are totally free!).
Businesses can increase their likelihood of being featured by:
- Creating content that’s both high quality and very informative — dig deep instead of giving basic, non-detailed responses to key questions.
- Using FAQ sections on pillar pages and landing pages — the answers in FAQs make for great snippets!
- Formatting definitive answers to big questions in snippet-appropriate ways, such as sticking to answers that are between 40 and 60 words or about 250 characters.
4. Rising Value of Technical SEO
Content marketers often focus on the aspects of search engine optimization (SEO) that are mostly closely tied to the content itself. That includes:
- Writing high-quality, grammatically correct content that has that all-important “human element.”
- Conducting keyword research to determine which keywords are bets, how many should be used, etc.
- Strategizing site structure to ensure Google knows where to find the most important content and how different pages are related.
But this year, expect more eyes on technical SEO, which involves working on the tech aspects of websites that most influence user experience and ranking. Tech SEO includes:
- Reviewing sites for speed issues and loading errors
- Optimizing for mobile
- Excising duplicate content
- Ensuring links are working
- Using robots.txt files, crawl-delay directives and access restrictions to help control where and what Google crawls
5. Changes in How Google Detects AI
Google has long prioritized person-first content, meaning content that is engaging, relevant and meaningful to the people reading it. But with AI-generated content one of the hottest topics of 2023 so far, it’s going to be very interesting to see how Google decides to check for and rank content that appears to be written by robots instead of human writers.
Already, Google’s position on AI has evolved from an almost outright ban to a more nuanced approach that seeks to limit AI-generated SEO spam content and low-quality text while boosting sites that offer the opposite. But as the methodology involved in how Google detects ChatGPT content and other AI-fueled copy grows and matures, Google’s response to its findings might as well. After all, if a large percentage of marketers start relying on AI to churn out basic content, like meta descriptions and FAQ sections, Google will have to find a way to recognize progress.
6. BOOM Goes the Volatility
There’s only one constant when it comes to Google’s algorithm and that’s that there is no constant. The company is notorious for changing up their features and the inner workings of their algorithm whenever and however they feel like it. But there’s a definite vibe that 2023 could bring even more change than normal.
It’s therefore absolutely essential that marketers stay up to day on changes that could roll out in quick succession. Don’t assume anything is up to date unless you’ve checked with Google’s announcements and you know for sure.
Of course, staying on top of algorithm changes can quickly become a full-time job. Set up news alerts with keywords like “Google algorithm updates” and “Google search news” and you’ll get pinged when something topical pops up. It’s also worth investing in an SEO expert who can not only let you know of important changes but also help you develop and execute on strategies to make those changes work for you or your clients.