2022 Year in Review and the Year Ahead in SEO

It’s in the nature of the ranking algo changes Google made that made 2022 perhaps one of the more eventful years in search engine optimization.

We should be grateful to ourselves and our supporters for the success we’ve had, because such successes may be harder to come by for those without resources.

There weren’t any major, catastrophic changes for website owners. Everything just became a little more complicated and much more competitive. Of course, some sites lost traffic in 2022 and they’re struggling to comprehend this new “content quality” paradigm Google’s pushing.

Big sites did have a crisis as some of the gimmicks they relied on went of out style. Suddenly their content is not in vogue with Google’s ranking system. Here you see CNN lost half of its traffic earlier in the year. It’s also a company with a highly negative, hyped tone, dependent on one clickbait celebrity who is not in vogue any longer. It has reporters who are not experts in topics.

While some sites lost, others found themselves stuck on a plateau not being able to progress on any of their best keyword phrases. Clearly, Google is blocking the path, but what should SEOs do to continue the march upward?

The growth of Google’s complex guidelines helped SEOs understand the algorithm better.  Of course, the guidelines aren’t the ranking system. Yet they help explain what Google’s hoping for.  They claim they want better content, a better user experience, and more expertise and authenticity.

It might be that AI-content generating bots are creating significant issues in controlling search results and Google’s asking us to help them with this artificial intelligence threat.

Complexity is Another Challenge

How Google ranks web pages is much the same as in past yet most marketers don’t have the foggiest idea what’s going on. SEO’s however, do marvel at and enjoy the complexity that Google’s infuses into ranking web pages and filtering all content. A fine toothed comb.

Each year, SMB websites, hobbyist sites and blogs have less visibility in the Google search results (how do you avoid being tagged as a hobby site?).  The focal point of all information search invariably leads to a purchase, and Google wants to see a clear path to a goal in your site. It’s good to understand content pathways and funnel optimization because it can help searchers find what they want faster — something Google likes.

AI Doing More but Understanding Less

Google has moved further along a path which could get rid of individual search, to be replaced by Google’s AI-directed version.  No need to search or learn now, because they know where you’re headed.  In that efficiency scenario, fewer websites are needed in the results.  They’ll just serve up the ones they like.

And images and video seem to the new visual search preferred by younger audiences.  It’s both the visual layout, quality of imagery, and how it’s tagged that helps them. Voice search is another matter and it’s not really taking off as hoped.

Visibility isn’t guaranteed anymore, and small businesses are being forced like never before to advertise instead, which has rocketed Google Ads revenue and Facebook’s ad revenue.

Google and Facebook Ad Revenue. Where’s it all coming from?  You.

Good Ad Revenue last 21 years.
Good Ad Revenue last 21 years. $210 Billion in 2021.  Screenshot courtesy of Statista.
Facebook Ad Revenue last 21 years.
Facebook Ad Revenue last 21 years. $120 Billion in 2021. Screenshot courtesy of Statista.

Tired SMB owners have no choice but to step up their content strategy and SEO efforts to keep their traffic and keep marketing costs under control. Professional, clever SEO still has value and should guide the development of the top notch content experience Google is demanding now.

Those who master the “quality content priority” might even see their site’s become a focus for Google. A bonanza is possible when your site is the answer for everything!

Ranking Algorithm Keeps Getting Tougher

Google added a few layers of complexity to their old core algorithm making it a little tougher for some websites to rank. In fact, some non corporate small business, hobbyist websites may experience challenges to keeping exposure on Google. Which means their quest for new backlinks will be frustrated.

The search monopoly is avoiding the link universe it has been so dependent on by trying to interpret content better. It’s reading between the lines so to speak, and content creators have to be more conscious of what their content is saying, and whether Google believes it’s harmful somehow (hype, criticism, spam, lack of authority).

Latest E.E.A.T Algorithm Update

The addition of “author’s real life experience” to the EAT formula, is the talk of SEO right now. EEAT stands for Experience, Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness. SEOs who focus on this may see better results in 2023.

You might be wiser to hire an advanced SEO pro than keep buying links for thousands of dollars each. They always seem to find who is selling them.

With EEAT, Google is attempting to validate the actual experience of an author in the topic. More SEOs will need to develop this in-depth, first hand experience if the client has no capacity to create such content themselves. 2023 will be an exploration of what Google wants and how they evaluate “this real world experience” element.

I’m sure this will be a joy to travel bloggers and winery statups, but not so much for ghost writers and marketing agencies.

“For most pages, the quality of the Main Content can be determined by the amount of effort, originality, and talent or skill that went into the creation of the content.” — Google content quality rater guidelines.

What SEOs learned again in 2022, is that content design and quality, along with promotional efforts are becoming more important. Is SEO becoming the sole realm of those possessing a lot of funds to afford really good content and promotional power? A thought: The less funds you have, the more skill and dedication you’ll need to make SEO work in the coming years.

More Insight into how Ranking Criteria are Used is Needed

All of this might seem depressing for small businesses without big funds, yet there still are ways for underdogs to use advanced SEO techniques to maximize what you have to work with (and guide content strategy).

Google’s user experience and helpfulness updates came before the recent spam link update. Also the EAT guideline was updated to include an evaluation of experience. This refers to the credibility/experience of the content author themselves as being a ranking factor now. So hiring out content writing to writers or to AI writing robots to scrape the web or social media content then rewrite a version of that may be questionable.

How Google will fight off AI-generated content is still a mystery. EEAT may be the anti-spam tool needed.

Make sure your author is a real person online — with expertise in your sector. Create clear paths to that author’s bios, Linkedin pages and more because seems to paying attention.

SEO success revolves around having great content, something even SEOs are focused on now, even though many have no capacity ability to create it.

Top Changes to SEO for 2022

  • Google user intent, user experience and helpful algo updates push content developers to create more useful content
  • Google emphasizes original content
  • Google reminded content owners with its May Core Update that falling rankings may be due to not meeting their quality or relevance algorithm, and was not a penalty
  • Google’s helpful content updates reminds content owners to give your topics thorough coverage, show a primary purpose or focus, and to write for human visitors (stop using advanced SEO and accept your fate)
  • Google advises to cut down on irrelevant content and that it may hamper your rankings
  • They may be pushing your site into a specialized subject category, where you have experience and authority
  • Google reminds users that the page experience update introduced in 2021 is still important (more than just core metrics)
  • persistent link spam updates highlight clampdown on paid links and sophisticated technical spam activity
  • Google engineer questioned the business models of companies which rely on free visibility to build links and capture free leads
  • Google begins emphasizing visual layout and content as the younger “tiktok” crowd shuns reading
  • author expertise, authority, relevance and trustworthiness comes back as key ranking factor
  • more visual search listings added after top 20 results for mobile search
  • Google warns about switch to Google Analytics 4, forcing users to upgrade how they approach website analytics and a focus on user experience
  • Google discusses how raters should assess harmful content and giving low rating for having it
  • low quality content with plagiarized pieces is given a low rating
  • Google applies different expectations for different types of websites (ecommerce, financial transactions, small hobbyist site, etc. so those who collect money via their site will need to provide more assurances and trust factor)
  • questions arise whether hobbyist sites might be allowed to compete for serious, big money keyword phrases
  • core metrics ratings continue to play a role in deciding whether a page is worthy of being presented to users (mobile speeds)
  • Google talks more about the main content of a page whatever it might be and how it is representative of the meaning of the page
  • Google via QRG page, tells raters to investigate the author of the content, separate from company website as an entity and whether they are actually expertly relevant to the company’s chosen topics
  • social media pages are being mentioned by Google in its Quality rater guidelines

Redefining Roles for Search Engine Optimizers

If content generation is being taken away as a key task for SEOs, we may be adjusting and refining our roles in 2023. The new focus might be on content strategy, new media use, educating content creators, and PR promotion.

In this competitive environ, the SEO can’t do it all anymore.

While many complain the updates hurt their success and visibility, each update offers new insights into Google’s ranking hierarchy. We should thank them for updates. Where would be without them?

How Did 2022 Go for You?

My guess is your rankings and traffic declined in 2022, even though your strategy, techniques and tactics were pretty good. Why, because fewer sites are showing in the results and more companies are pushing funds into ppc ads.

But a world of ads and landing pages is horrible for generating meaningful, friendly and soulful connections with customers.

Ramping it up to Meet Google’s Rising Standards

Pretty good may not be good enough where we’re headed. You may have to reach for the top with respect to optimization strategy and in particular, building enough relevant backlinks for Google to take you seriously.

As good as Google ranking machine is, it sometimes can’t distinguish between small publishers and spam sites.
Google did put out some warnings that were hard to fathom including the “don’t deny the holocost or you’ll be out” and the “be inclusive mandate.” And so on and so on as Google’s political edict’s became more obvious to everyone.

We do know that political censorship is a fact but no one is going to do anything about it. Get used to more of that because all of the anti tech-monopoly talk has faded away.

Watch What You Say

If you’re a content strategist or advanced SEO specialist, you know what you say and how you say it will impact your rankings. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t put on your homepage.

And Google’s added a few more hurdles code-named helpful updates and bolstered the user intent element which has been around more than a decade. Be authoritative, accurate, credible, and trustworthy of course. And ensure you’re very helpful to searchers.

And they just did another round of link spam filters (hunting for paid links). They made it so tough for small publishers to get visibility that a torrent of money went into paid links. Will 2023 see that cash flow terminated, and instead flow into Google ads (or most likely Facebook ads).

The tougher Google’s algorithm gets, the more money goes into Facebook ads. This is why Facebook survives even though it is incompetent as a business.

High Quality Content May Not Rank Well

What content optimizers learned in 2022 is that even with the highest quality content and a great user experience, they might not rank well. It’s Google’s algorithmic interpretation of content that matters. They state again loudly, that they ignore user engagement because their business relies on the AI based interpretation of user satisfaction (not real usage or outcomes).

They are the META of search. You can rank number one on all other search engines yet last on Google. It’s not an issue of quality, it’s all interpretation, which means SEO still has value.

In fact Google’s obfuscated the ranking system so well, with updates upon updates, phased strategically to defy even the most intense reverse engineering project, that few SEOs feel they really know what they’re doing.

Will optimization still work well in 2023? It will. But you won’t be able to lean on anything too much, and Google will be watching and disapproving of your optimization attempts. Adding keywords and links will prove ineffective as they’re seen as obvious SEO manipulation. The core algorithm dissolves those tactics.

The excessive ads on Google and Youtube say a lot about how desperate Google is to keep up to Facebook and Amazon in revenue and control. With no controls on the tech oligopoly, each of them is racing to become the king of media.

More traffic will be diverted to paid media and organic will be squeezed out, so that revenues climb. That means the ranking system will be tightened.

Those without sufficient EEAT (inbound links) will see traffic slide further.

SEO Tips for 2023:

  • take more care with your page layout and graphic presentation — younger users are more sensitive to visuals and they are moving away from Google to other alternatives such as tiktok and instagram
  • create and integrate more video content since Youtube and help create traffic, leads and even give your search results visibility a boost
  • pay more attention to your core metrics and test and perfect till you get a pass
  • learn how to set up GA4 analytics or hire someone to set it up for you
  • keep your content deep, original and fresh to avoid the low quality content penalty
  • lose the hyped, disrespectful and negative tone in your copy
  • let Google believe they have control of the narrative by finding creative ways to dance around discourse and values they don’t like
  • avoid politics or criticism of the government as these matters are cited in the search quality guidelines
  • ensure you get your major points across in the first few paragraphs (top down structure) and don’t waste reader’s time
  • don’t inject javascripts or add fluff or promotional material within your main body copy (Google detects irrelevant, redundant content)
  • introduce more of your customer activity and how you’re immersed in their business to fulfill their new “experience” factor to demonstrate first hand knowledge and experience in your topics and business
  • put an emphasis on researching and developing original, highly informative content that no one else offers
  • develop partnerships with industry leading associations, institutions, and companies and get links from them

Of course, there are so many more Advanced SEO tactics and techniques to employ next year. SEO never dies, it simply adjusts to a new set of ranking rules and factors.

Please do respect SEO and give it the sustenance it needs, then you may get the impressive results you wish for.

AI Marketers provides digital marketing services (content, SEO, social media, PPC) for software companies, manufacturers, hotels, recruiters, moving companies, publishers, sports equipment retailers, building supplies companies, window and door companies, Realtors, investment companies, IT companies, clean energy, consumer products, branding consultants and many more. Learn more about Gord Collins.

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