When you’re preparing your strategy for next year, it’s vital to plan for potential upsets and challenges ahead.
This year, SEO practitioners overcame challenges posed by a lack of resources, issues with strategy, and the ability to scale processes.
Looking ahead to 2023 and beyond, our State of SEO report finds practitioners anticipate machine learning and AI, Google updates, and the deprecation of third-party cookies to lead the way as the greatest shifts in SEO.
In this article, we’ll summarize key data points from our report, highlight three major challenges in particular, and look at relevant SEO trends that can aid in your strategy development.
Lastly, we’ll discuss the implications advancements in machine learning and AI has on search marketing. Will this new search technology pose a challenge for you and your business? Continue reading to learn what our experts say.
All of the insights here are driven by our first-party survey data in the annual State Of SEO Report.
Summary Of Report Findings
When asked what were the biggest SEO challenges over the last 12 months, respondents stated:
- Lack of resources (14.9%).
- Strategy issues (12.3%).
- Scaling processes (11.9%).
- Pandemic-related issues (11.2%).
- Alignment with other departments (10.7%).
Budget cuts fell from the number one challenge SEO professionals faced in 2021 to number six this year.
However, the fact that lack of resources and scaling processes were top challenges in 2022 suggests that 2021’s budget cuts had a lasting impact.
Looking ahead to potential threats in 2023, we asked respondents to select up to three “biggest shifts” and industry changes in SEO. Here are their top responses:
- Machine learning and AI (18.7%).
- Google updates (18.0%).
- Third-party cookie deprecation (13.9%).
- Google zero-click pages (12.9%).
- Competition for talent (11.5%).
Factors SEO professionals are watching as emergent factors are:
- Machine learning and AI (11.3%).
- Core Web Vitals (10.8%).
- EAT & trusted sources (10.2%).
- Mobile SEO (9.8%).
- SERP features (8.3%).
SEO Pros Often Work With Limited Resources
Lack of resources came in as the top challenge faced by SEOs in 2022.
There’s little doubt that the industry is feeling the effects of budget cuts incurred in 2021, though another reason for the limited resources is that many SEOs aren’t working with large teams.
Over 40% of respondents report working with a team of 10 or fewer members, while roughly 5% said they work by themselves.
Adding new team members may prove difficult in the next year or two.
The State Of SEO Report goes into deeper detail about the challenges facing SEO professionals and what they’re worried about next year.
Recent And Continuing Growth May Prove Challenging
Several of the SEO shifts predicted for 2023 and beyond are potential impediments to growth.
Recent and continuing growth may prove challenging without the ability to scale as a team, and competition for talent is expected to be a major cause for concern over the next two years.
Deprecation of third-party cookies makes it difficult for SEO pros and marketers to sustain recent growth, as they’ll be expected to deliver the same or better results with fewer data.
Strategy Is A Concern For Many SEO Pros
SEOs listed strategy issues as one of their greatest challenges over the last 12 months.
Strategy issues may indicate that SEO professionals are struggling to prove their ROI (return on investment).
While over half of SEO practitioners (58.0%) we surveyed reported an increase in the ROI for their work, many struggled to prove ROI, and 29% of SEO professionals reported feeling ambivalent about their ROI.
In our chapter on Winning Strategies And Measuring SEO Success, we discuss how ROI problems are often the result of a disconnect between a brand’s target goals and the data being tracked.
SEO Pros Expect Machine Learning And AI To Have A Big Impact
Topping the list of biggest shifts over the next two years, as anticipated by SEO pros, is machine learning and AI.
Additionally, machine learning and AI were the top responses when SEO pros were asked to rank what they think will be the most important emergent factors in 2023.
To understand better why machine learning and AI are at the top of everyone’s minds, we turned to our in-house experts to get more context.
Shelley Walsh, the SEO content strategist at SEJ, doesn’t see AI and machine learning being able to replace human decision-making any time soon. Further, she doesn’t advise relying too heavily on AI-powered tools for creating content:
“As a disruptor, I can’t yet see AI being able to replace critical decisions and choices where there are several routes to take, and you have to make a choice based on expertise. The tool is only as good as the person driving it. At the moment, there is a flood of tools powered by GPT-3.
These are great for low-end volume content, such as product descriptions, but they widen the divide and elevate well-researched thought leadership quality content. As niches online become saturated by AI-spun content, the quality will be the only way to stand out. Ultimately, overuse will only have a detrimental effect.”
To see all of the first-party survey data and read more insights, download the State Of SEO Report.
Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Best SMM Panel