As the digital landscape continues to evolve, search engine optimization (SEO) is also undergoing significant changes. The recent announcement that Microsoft is exploring the integration of ChatGPT into its search engine, Bing, marked a major milestone in the ongoing evolution of SEO. And now we're seeing Microsoft-Bing-ChatGPT it in action.

However, like any form of evolution, the changes in SEO are happening gradually rather than all at once. Marketers should expect to see a number of shifts this year as they work to take advantage of the growing interest in how people search for information.

The Growing Fragmentation of Search

One trend that has emerged in recent years is the fragmentation of search as users turn to different portals to conduct their searches. For instance, many people now begin their product searches on Amazon, giving the ecommerce giant a consistent audience for its search function and opening up opportunities to refine the customer experience. Retailers such as Walmart and Kroger are now looking to replicate Amazon's success.

As a result of these changes, search is becoming a more multimedia-rich experience, moving away from the traditional links to website pages. Visual search, for example, is becoming increasingly popular as users take photos or screenshots on their smartphones and use tools like Google Lens or Bing Images to find related text and video.

All of these shifts mean that marketers will need to adapt to the evolving landscape of SEO and consider how they can keep pace with the changing habits of consumers. As the industry continues to evolve, businesses must also evaluate their strategies to ensure they are reaching the right customers.

Let's look at what changes marketers should expect this year.

Technical SEO Still Essential: Audit and Optimize for Success

As the interest in ChatGPT and its integration into the Bing search engine continues to soar, it's important to remember that the fundamentals of search engine optimization remain unchanged. Technical SEO tactics, such as arranging content against HTML and optimizing page elements, are still crucial for improving a website's search engine rankings.

These technical elements may not be as glamorous as the latest advancements in AI, and they are often overlooked because they require testing to optimize effectively. Thus auditing ways to refine page loading, UX elements and structured data will still be the gateway to ensure inclusion in search engine queries.

  • The Takeaway: Marketers shouldn’t neglect technical SEO tactics as they look to capitalize on the latest advancements in AI and search. Instead, they should audit and optimize these elements in preparation for upcoming marketing campaigns, in order to attract the right kind of traffic to their website. As the world embraces the influence of AI on search, technical SEO remains a vital gateway to success in the digital landscape.

Related Article: The Value of Site Search to Your Customer Experience Analytics

The Shift From Keyword Rankings to Search Intent and Context

The goal of SEO should not be solely focused on ranking for specific keywords. In the past, the objective of keyword ranking was to secure a top spot on a search engine results page (SERP). However, with Google's emphasis on helpful and relevant content, the competition for keyword rankings has become less important. Google has worked to eliminate manipulative tactics that artificially boost rankings, but provide little value to users.

  • The Takeaway: While keywords are still a fundamental aspect of basic SEO, a successful strategy in 2023 should take into account the context of the search. Marketers should consider the different types of search intent that drive traffic to their website, such as navigational, informational and transactional. This can inform their choice of keyword groupings, analytics settings, landing page design and semantic labeling for SEO. In summary, SEO strategies should target keyword groups based on search behaviors and intent, and take into account the context of the search. This approach will ensure that the website is optimized for the right audience and provide them with the information they are looking for.

Embrace Second-Tier Keywords for Better User Engagement

As the emphasis on keyword ranking as the sole objective of SEO shifts, second-tier keywords will become increasingly important for marketers in the coming year. By focusing on these less competitive keywords, marketers can identify opportunities to drive traffic and increase visibility. The key is to carefully match the volume of traffic with the context of the keywords being used. By aligning these two factors, marketers can make informed decisions about the type of content to create and how to engage customers through additional campaigns.

  • The Takeaway: In practice, this means that marketers will expand their keyword lists beyond a singular focus on ranking. By selecting words that are relevant to customer behavior, they can refine their keywords to better reflect user intent, rather than resorting to a broad range of variants to achieve the top spot on a SERP at any cost. This approach will enable them to create content that aligns with the needs and interests of their target audience and drive better results for their business.

Related Article: Google Helpful Content Update Improves Customer Experience and SEO Strategy

Learning Opportunities

Semantic SEO: Key to Success in ChatGPT's Era of Sophisticated Search

Expect semantic SEO elements to take center stage during 2023. These elements help search engines understand the structure and meaning of website content, allowing for more accurate and relevant search results. With the arrival of ChatGPT, the importance of these elements is likely to increase as the technology allows for more sophisticated and nuanced searches. One key factor will be the quality of searches people bring to a search engine after using the chatbot for initial questions.

  • The Takeaway: While ChatGPT has the potential to greatly enhance the search experience, it also poses a challenge for marketers. Unlike traditional search engines, ChatGPT focuses on the information itself rather than the website it appeared on. This means that marketers will need to focus on both technical SEO elements and semantic search to ensure that their website's content is easily discoverable and relevant to users' queries. This includes mapping keyword usage across media titles, descriptions and supporting media, such as transcripts for video, in addition to auditing semantic search elements.

Pillar Pages: The New SEO Strategy for Building Authority in 2023

As the world of search engine optimization continues to evolve, marketers are turning to new strategies to improve the online experience for customers and boost their search traffic. One tactic that is gaining popularity in 2023 is the use of "pillar pages." These landing pages, often connected to subsidiary pages, serve as a hub for specific queries and attract backlinks, strengthening the website's authority.

Pillar pages also play into the latest Google update — Google added “Experience” of an author or content creator to its EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) protocol last fall. EAT is a guideline factor for the quality and effectiveness of content against search results. This means author authority through pillar pages are valuable SEO tactics that will thrive for 2023. 
  • The Takeaway: By using pillar pages, marketers can build their authority by subject, creating organized and updated content that is tailored to specific customers' needs. As a result, look for marketers to focus on updating their website content with pillar strategies in the coming year — and to pay extra attention to author pages, service pages and product pages in order to provide the most relevant and accurate information to their customers.

The Social Media Company You Keep Will Drive Your Search Traffic

While search optimization is still about adjusting the links to your site or web app, the type of query influences has expanded. Over the years more and more social media platforms have become a factor in developing a profile that appears in a query result. You are likely to see a YouTube video channel alongside your website on a search query in Google, as well as a Twitter profile or Pinterest profile. Today there’s a stronger emphasis on building communities online. So, the types of communities can be linked to a search profile. These can strengthen the relevancy signal to a website, app or a pillar page within a website. 

  • The Takeaway: Look for tips that enhance a coordinated strategy of social media and search. The best tips will emphasize community. The understanding can influence content ideas, which generated referred traffic and attract general searches. They can also provide guidance on where real backlinks should be best generated. SEO analysts have worked hard to avoid fake backlink schemes — leveraging a community of real people can assure shared backlinks remain associated with genuine sources.

Related article: How to Use Keyword Density in a Modern SEO Strategy

Marketers Adapt to Niche Search Platforms to Reach Customers

As the digital landscape evolves, marketers are presented with new opportunities to reach customers through niche search platforms. As mentioned in the Amazon example above, marketers are seeing new customer experiences emerging from niche search platforms. Another example is Google’s integration of YouTube in podcast search, positioning YouTube as a the No. 2 player in the online search market behind only Google itself. Additionally, although TikTok has been competing for that position lately, YouTube has become an emerging podcast resource since many podcast shows are uploading recorded video of episodes to the channel.

  • The Takeaway: Marketers must pay attention to emerging platforms, particularly retailers and online commerce portals that are acting like “the next Amazon” — a go-to site where people are searching for specific needs. These searches shape marketing opportunities to share content, and thus become a potential milepost along a customer journey.

Advanced Analytics and Understanding Customer Behavior and Search Trends

As the digital landscape evolves, marketers are looking to gain a deeper understanding of customer behavior and search trends. One way to do this is through the use of advanced analytics tools, such as dwell time analysis.

Dwell time, or the amount of time that people spend on a page after clicking through from a search query, can provide valuable insights into how customers are engaging with a brand's website. By analyzing this data, marketers can identify patterns and trends that can inform decisions about SEO tactics, content creation and overall customer experience.

  • The Takeaway: With the rise of open-source languages for data analysis, such as R, Python and SQL, it has become easier for marketers to explore these metrics and gain a more holistic view of customer behavior. As a result, managers should expect to invest more in statistical analysis to gain a deeper understanding of how search terms are impacting conversions and overall business performance. Many models can highlight how sustainable trends are, how to reduce customer churn, or determine if further campaign investment is possible.

Machine Learning for Search: How Automated Techniques Are Changing UX

In a recent post about top UX trends, Richard Alvarez, an expert in user experience, discussed the emergence of new trends in the application of machine learning in the field of search. According to Alvarez, these trends involve the use of automated techniques, such as alerts for time series forecast analysis, to provide advanced statistical insights.

  • The Takeaway: As the market continues to evolve and embrace these new technologies, it is becoming increasingly important for marketers to familiarize themselves with the sophisticated options available in programming languages such as Python and R. These tools allow for the development of data models and dashboards that can harness real-time data, providing a more holistic understanding of consumer behavior and preferences. This trend is likely to continue in the coming year, with more analytic tools and stand-alone dashboards featuring capacity for machine learning techniques. We’ll delve deeper into this topic in an upcoming post that will examine the latest analytics trends.

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