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why brands are leaning in and how to prepare

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2023, the year of SEO why brands are leaning in and how to prepare

30-second summary:

  • As marketing budgets inevitably tighten, the demand for cost-effective and dependable channels such as SEO continues to increase
  • Some of the critical updates and algorithm changes in 2022 give marketers a heads-up on where to focus in 2023
  • SEO and content marketers need to create better processes and work in tandem to achieve business goals
  • The days of set-and-forget SEO are over, organizations must utilize SEO in multiple ways

With marketing budgets under more scrutiny than ever, savvy organizations are looking towards SEO for sustained growth. Incorporating organic search into the digital strategy offers rich rewards – both in terms of cost efficiency and improved brand equity – that can contribute to an entire organization. As such, marketers have embraced this approach to maximize returns on marketing and technology expenditure.

In this article, I explain why SEO is so hot, what has changed in 2022, and what to capitalize on in 2023.

According to research from Gartner, CEOs are doubling down on digital investment strategies as they maximize their marketing ROI. However, Google recently reported that ad spending is down.

At the same time, in a recent survey of over 1000 enterprise marketers, over 90% of marketers are planning to place a greater emphasis on SEO in 2023.

Why organizations will lean into SEO in 2023

As marketing budgets inevitably tighten, the demand for cost-effective and dependable channels continues to increase — drawing much-deserved SEO attention from company leaders. In particular, they are finding that SEO insights give them a comprehensive view of consumer trends in times of volatility. It’s this invaluable knowledge that organizational and departmental heads know can help them drive their decisions today and tomorrow.

After two decades of sustained growth, search remains an essential channel despite marketplace volatility. It is a testament to the importance and effectiveness of search for connecting businesses with their target audiences.

Concerning enterprise organizations, some key benefit factors leading to the lean into SEO include:

  1. SEO is a high-yield channel and is not impacted by market conditions
  2. Organizations can benefit from long-term SEO incremental value
  3. Only SEO can provide real-time insights into both market demand and customer intent
  4. SEO insights drive sales, product, digital, and media initiatives across organizations
  5. Organizations benefit from brand equity due to SEO presence on the SERPs
  6. In tandem, SEO and PPC (together) give more control over the customer experience

SEO is rapidly becoming the key to unlocking a connection between businesses and customers. Organizations can get ahead of their prospects’ needs by understanding what they are looking for, why it matters to them, and how optimized content can best meet those requirements when needed most.

The focus on the (human) consumer and their experiences is something that Google focused heavily on in 2022. Some of the critical updates and algorithmic changes give marketers a heads-up on where to focus in 2023.

Learn from 2022 to prepare for 2023

2022 has been an eventful year for organic search, with several significant updates impacting how SEO and marketing teams should focus and operate.

Below are a few key areas where Google has indicated where SEO, content, technical and online marketers need to change – adapt and become agile – and where to prioritize their focus in 2023.

The Page Experience Update and Core Web Vitals was rolled out (mobile and desktop) to ensure users receive results that load quickly and render within a certain time threshold.

Read more on SEW: Mobile-first and Core Web Vitals: Page Experiences

Future focus for 2023

  • In 2023 all organizations must ensure their website’s technical performance creates an optimal user experience
  • This involves examining the page loading speed, browser response time, and content stability during loading for a seamless customer journey
  • Leveraging a tailored blend of data-led insights, content, and technical expertise in 2023 will help you create powerful user experiences. Google puts great emphasis on optimizing results and prioritizing accurate, reliable information – from page speed through to navigation capabilities Ensure you combine data-science techniques with best (white-hat) SEO best practices.
  • By focusing both on website functionality and providing engaging, relevant content – marketing teams can plan for success in the current – and any – economic climate

Google’s Product Algorithm Update was released to help users make informed decisions. This was in the form of a refreshed set of instructions and updates based on the annual performance of product reviews. It was designed to empower users with access to accurate information that will enable them to make sound product purchasing choices.

Future focus for 2023

  • In 2023 make it your goal to create a world-class experience for consumers, helping them find what they need quickly and easily. Aim to make the process of looking for items simpler than ever before – empowering people who search with an effortless journey directly from search results into their shopping carts!
  • If your selling products, demonstrate your professional abilities by providing well-founded advice and showcasing why you are the go-to expert on a subject
  • Back up any product recommendations with reliable data to provide assurance of authenticity

Multisearch was announced in April to enable searches using images and text. Powered by Google Lens, it allows people to use mobile cameras or photos to search relevant images and text to find the most relevant results they need. Connecting words & visuals to create an exciting array of possibilities for consumers.

Future focus for 2023

  • In 2023 expect more advancements in Google’s AI development and MUM
  • Balance the content you create, and find an image-to-text ratio to provide the accurate answers users now want and expect
  • Focus on mobile optimization of images and expect this type of functionality to become a new norm in 2023

Google’s Helpful Content Update was announced and recently rolled out to ensure users receive the most useful search results.

Future focus for 2023

  • In 2023, content creators and website owners must develop unique materials tailored specifically toward human end-users instead of robots or spiders
  • For instance, when collecting customer reviews on products sold online – be sure requests inquire about specific details so reviewers can demonstrate intimate knowledge in their feedback
  • Similarly, blog posts covering events or news should include fresh perspectives not found elsewhere by readers searching through Google’s services
  • Today’s algorithms are much more sophisticated, and they identify content that does not satisfy the reader – in some cases, content that has been “spun up” by automated tools.

SEO and content marketers need to get better together.

Read more on Helpful Content here

Googles Search On event

At Google’s Search On event, they revealed some innovative developments that will revolutionize how we search online. For example, visual search results will provide an interactive and engaging experience with graphic cards of imagery directly integrated into every search result.

Additionally, users can also look forward to a new auto-complete feature for their searches as well as more tailored multi-search options designed for them to find meaningful answers quickly.

Googles Spam Update to help direct customers towards content with real purpose. As part of this effort, the search giant is improving the quality of results and expanding into new formats and mediums for delivering helpful information.

  • Consider how these updates may affect your SEO strategies moving forward
  • Ensure you are balancing keywords and not keyword stuffing
  • Avoid thin content and focus on quality over quantity
  • Use AI correctly for insights and optimization, not article content creation

Conclusion

SEO teams are becoming indispensable for organizations looking to uncover fresh opportunities and build a durable business. Cost-efficient tactics not only save funds but add value across departments too.

In 2023 focus on the following;

  1. Utilizing SEO insights as a source of organization-wide business intelligence
  2. Ensure technical SEO best practices are used to ensure websites provide experiences consumers expect and automate research and site fixes when and where possible
  3. Focus on visual search and expect its importance to rise in 2023
  4. Balance your optimization of content with key Google E-A-T and Helpful content guidelines, do not over-optimize
  5. Leverage AI and automation to manage repetitive and time-consuming tasks and scale
  6. Balance SEO and PPC and find synergies to adapt to changes in the market and with Google
  7. Become the consultant and business advisor organizations need in times of change

SEO is no longer viewed as a stand-alone task; it is an integral part of your overall marketing plan. It enhances and bolsters other strategies in place while providing maximum reach for your business goals in 2023.

Be prepared for change and be flexible and agile. Slacking regarding optimization in terms of user experience, technical issue resolution, and speed can see you left behind competitors who are continuing their efforts without pause.

The days of set-and-forget SEO are over. Be prepared as organization look to utilize SEO in multiple ways

Change will be the main constant in the economy, with organizations and SEO next year!


Jim Yu is the founder and CEO of BrightEdge, the leading enterprise SEO and content performance platform. Find him on Twitter @jimyu.

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

Google removed the Covid-era structured data associated with the Home Activities rich results that allowed online events to be surfaced in search since August 2020, publishing a mention of the removal in the search documentation changelog.

Home Activities Rich Results

The structured data for the Home Activities rich results allowed providers of online livestreams, pre-recorded events and online events to be findable in Google Search.

The original documentation has been completely removed from the Google Search Central webpages and now redirects to a changelog notation that explains that the Home Activity rich results is no longer available for display.

The original purpose was to allow people to discover things to do from home while in quarantine, particularly online classes and events. Google’s rich results surfaced details of how to watch, description of the activities and registration information.

Providers of online events were required to use Event or Video structured data. Publishers and businesses who have this kind of structured data should be aware that this kind of rich result is no longer surfaced but it’s not necessary to remove the structured data if it’s a burden, it’s not going to hurt anything to publish structured data that isn’t used for rich results.

The changelog for Google’s official documentation explains:

“Removing home activity documentation
What: Removed documentation on home activity structured data.

Why: The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

Read more about Google’s Home Activities rich results:

Google Announces Home Activities Rich Results

Read the Wayback Machine’s archive of Google’s original announcement from 2020:

Home activities

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Olga Strel

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Google’s Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

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Google's Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google, revealed that the search engine takes a binary approach when assessing a website’s lastmod signal from sitemaps.

The revelation came as Illyes encouraged website owners to upgrade to WordPress 6.5, which now natively supports the lastmod element in sitemaps.

When Mark Williams-Cook asked if Google has a “reputation system” to gauge how much to trust a site’s reported lastmod dates, Illyes stated, “It’s binary: we either trust it or we don’t.”

No Shades Of Gray For Lastmod

The lastmod tag indicates the date of the most recent significant update to a webpage, helping search engines prioritize crawling and indexing.

Illyes’ response suggests Google doesn’t factor in a website’s history or gradually build trust in the lastmod values being reported.

Google either accepts the lastmod dates provided in a site’s sitemap as accurate, or it disregards them.

This binary approach reinforces the need to implement the lastmod tag correctly and only specify dates when making meaningful changes.

Illyes commends the WordPress developer community for their work on version 6.5, which automatically populates the lastmod field without extra configuration.

Accurate Lastmod Essential For Crawl Prioritization

While convenient for WordPress users, the native lastmod support is only beneficial if Google trusts you’re using it correctly.

Inaccurate lastmod tags could lead to Google ignoring the signal when scheduling crawls.

With Illyes confirming Google’s stance, it shows there’s no room for error when using this tag.

Why SEJ Cares

Understanding how Google acts on lastmod can help ensure Google displays new publish dates in search results when you update your content.

It’s an all-or-nothing situation – if the dates are deemed untrustworthy, the signal could be disregarded sitewide.

With the information revealed by Illyes, you can ensure your implementation follows best practices to the letter.


Featured Image: Danishch/Shutterstock

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

There’s one thing standing between you and several days of SEO, socializing, and Singaporean sunshine: your boss (and their Q4 budget 😅).

But don’t worry—we’ve got your back. Here are 5 arguments (and an example message) you can use to persuade your boss to send you to Ahrefs Evolve.

About Ahrefs Evolve

  • 2 days in sunny Singapore (Oct 24–25)
  • 500 digital marketing enthusiasts
  • 18 top speakers from around the world

Learn more and buy tickets.

SEO is changing at a breakneck pace. Between AI Overviews, Google’s rolling update schedule, their huge API leak, and all the documents released during their antitrust trial, it’s hard to keep up. What works in SEO today?

You could watch a YouTube video or two, maybe even attend an hour-long webinar. Or, much more effective: you could spend two full days learning from a panel of 18 international SEO experts, discussing your takeaways live with other attendees.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve speakers from around the world.

Our world-class speakers are tackling the hardest problems and best opportunities in SEO today. The talk agenda covers topics like:

  • Responding to AI Overviews: Amanda King will teach you how to respond to AI Overviews, Google Gemini, and other AI search functions.
  • Surviving (and thriving) Google’s algo updates: Lily Ray will talk through Google’s recent updates, and share data-driven recommendations for what’s working in search today.
  • Planning for the future of SEO: Bernard Huang will talk through the failures of AI content and the path to better results.

(And attendees will get video recordings of each session, so you can share the knowledge with your teammates too.)

View the full talk agenda here.

There’s no substitute for meeting with influencers, peers, and partners in real life. 

Conferences create serendipity: chance encounters and conversations that can have a huge positive impact on you and your business. By way of example, these are some of the real benefits that have come my way from attending conferences:

  • Conversations that lead to new customers for our business,
  • Invitations to speak at events,
  • New business partnerships and co-marketing opportunities, and
  • Meeting people that we went on to hire.

There’s a “halo” effect that lingers long after the event is over: the people you meet will remember you for longer, think more highly of you, and be more likely to help you out, should you ask.

(And let’s not forget: there’s a lot of information, particularly in SEO, that only gets shared in person.)

The “international” part of Evolve matters too. Evolve is a different crowd to your local run-of-the-mill conference. It’s a chance to meet with people from markets you wouldn’t normally meet—from Australia to Indonesia and beyond.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve attendees by home country.

If you’re an Ahrefs customer (thank you!), you’ll learn tons of tips, tricks and workflow improvements from attending Evolve. You’ll have opportunities to:

  • Attend talks from the Ahrefs team, showcasing advanced features and strategies that you can use in your own business.
  • Pick our brains at the Ahrefs booth, where we’ll offer informal 1:1 coaching sessions and previews of up-coming releases (like our new content optimization tool 🤫).
  • Join dedicated Ahrefs training workshops, hosted by the Ahrefs team and Ahrefs power users (tickets for these workshops will sold separately).

As a manager myself, there are two questions I need answered when approving expenses:

  • Is this a reasonable cost?
  • Will we see a return on this investment?

To answer those questions: early bird tickets for Evolve start at $570. For context, “super early bird” tickets for MozCon (another popular SEO conference) this year were almost twice as much: $999.

There’s a lot included in the ticket price too:

  • World-class international speakers,
  • 5-star hotel venue,
  • 5-star hotel food (two tea breaks with snacks & lunch),
  • Networking afterparty, and
  • Full talk recordings to later share with your team.

SEO is a crucial growth channel for most businesses. If you can improve your company’s SEO performance after attending Evolve (and we think you will), you’ll very easily see a positive return on the investment.

Traveling to tropical Singapore (and eating tons of satay) is great for you, but it’s also great for your team. Attending Evolve is a chance to break with routine, reignite your passion for marketing, and come back to your job reinvigorated.

This would be true for any international conference, but it goes double for Singapore. It’s a truly unique place: an ultra-safe, high-tech city that brings together dozens of different cultures.

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Little India in Singapore

You’ll discover different beliefs, working practices, and ways of business—and if you’re anything like me, come back a richer, wiser person for the experience.

If you’re nervous about pitching your boss on attending Evolve, remember: the worst that can happen is a polite “not this time”, and you’ll find yourself in the same position you are now.

So here goes: take this message template, tweak it to your liking, and send it to your boss over email or Slack… and I’ll see you in Singapore 😉

Email template

Hi [your boss’ name],

Our SEO tool provider, Ahrefs, is holding an SEO and digital marketing conference in Singapore in October. I’d like to attend, and I think it’s in the company’s interest:

  • The talks will help us respond to all the changes happening in SEO today. I’m particularly interested in the talks about AI and recent Google updates. 
  • I can network with my peers. I can discover what’s working at other companies, and explore opportunities for partnerships and co-marketing.
  • I can learn how we can use Ahrefs better across the organization.
  • I’ll come back reinvigorated with new ideas and motivation, and I can share my top takeaways and talk recordings with my team after the event.

Early bird tickets are $570. Given how important SEO is to the growth of our business, I think we’ll easily see a return from the spend.

Can we set up time to chat in more detail? Thanks!

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