It’s a challenge to stay on top of algorithms and best practices in SEO because the industry is constantly evolving. We’ve created this in-depth guide to SEO keyword strategy in 2023 for that reason.
We’ll discuss rethinking keywords, focusing more on user experience and intent, and the various technologies being deployed by Google that you can take advantage of as you create your content.
Does an SEO Keyword Strategy Still Matter?
Of course, the elephant in the room is the recent explosion of AI and ChatGPT with clickbait headlines screeching, “Is this the death of SEO?”
SEO is alive and well in 2023. AI has come catching up to do before it’s ready for prime time. Keyword strategy is still relevant and vital despite AI because…
- AI is based on information it has learned so it is only as good as its last update. Unfortunately, the core frameworks that the leading AI platforms are based all stop at 2021 so there is currently a two-year knowledge gap with the information that AI has compared to the rest of the world that has moved forward
- Recent launches by Bing and Google showcasing their AI capabilities pointed out some real flaws and simply inaccurate information.
- More troubling, AI tends to invent information if it does not know the real answer.
Until AI becomes as accurate and verifiable as search results from reputable sources, it will not be a threat to well-researched keyword strategy and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Meanwhile, AI can be useful and relied upon for other things like generating content ideas, brainstorming domain names, formatting a list of text into bullet points, and other activities.
What About BERT and RankBrain?
Plus, AI has been around for a while. Whether you’ve acknowledged it or not.
BERT and RankBrain are two important components of Google’s search engine algorithm. Here is some background on each of them.
BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers)
Google introduced BERT in 2018. BERT analyzes a search query’s context and intent rather than just its keywords. This helps Google interpret user queries and provide more relevant results.
BERT, an artificial neural network, processes text. The model is pre-trained on vast online sources and then tuned for specific tasks like answering questions or classifying text or text. BERT excels at conversational long-tail queries.
Prior to BERT, Google read individual words in an article. If you repeated a word 500 times in an article, Google concluded that the article was highly relevant for that keyword. (We would like to say this is an exaggeration, but in the early days, there were many celebrated cases of a page being nothing but paragraphs of a particular keyword, and Google giving it top placement in the SERPs!)
BERT uses NLP and NLU to analyze content intent and match it to searcher intent. Search intent is increasingly important because it determines how relevant your content will be to that person when they land on your page.
Google launched RankBrain in 2015. RankBrain helps Google understand user intent and deliver more relevant search results. RankBrain uses AI to analyze search queries and find patterns to understand user intent.
RankBrain analyzes search queries using “deep learning” neural networks. It handles long-tail and conversational queries well because it learns and adapts to new search queries.
Google’s search algorithm still relies on BERT and RankBrain. Google has called BERT its biggest search algorithm update in years. BERT and RankBrain will likely remain key components of Google’s search algorithm for the foreseeable future, despite new developments like Google’s Bard, Bing’s AI, and OpenAI’s ChatGPT.
What’s New to an SEO Keyword Strategy This Year
Now that you know you need keyword strategy the same your site has always needed, let’s go through how to develop that strategy.
Note these five components to an effective plan and implementation:
- Search intent
- Voice search
- Helpful content
More about Search Intent
Understanding search intent helps optimize content for users.
Search intent includes:
Informational searches require comprehensive content, while transactional searches require product pages and pricing information. Your content needs to match the original query of the user or customer or the customer will “bounce”, negatively affecting your ranking for that search term and traffic overall to your website.
Long-tail keywords and voice search optimize for more specific and conversational language, improving search results and your visibility.
Your target audience determines how much voice search optimization you should do.
Google Mobile found that 55% of teens use voice search daily.
Not that your audience is a teenager. Voice search is important even if your ideal customer is an adult because 41% of adults reported using it daily. This type of optimization requires natural language and conversational keywords.
Additionally, voice search optimization depends on customer understanding. How would they find your business online? What would they say to solve a problem or buy your product? Intent and linguistic nuances are involved.
SEO requires specificity and situational awareness. Most people can’t handle SEO’s contradictions and nuance. SEO will help your business succeed in 2023 and beyond if you can grasp your niche’s nuances and your customers’ complexities.
E.E.A.T (formerly E.A.T.)
Web designers, brand architects, SEOs, and content creators should consider Google’s E.A.T. algorithm (Expertise, Authority, Trust) when promoting a brand online. It’s especially important in medicine and law, but it’s a subtext to most niches online. Google added Experience in December 2022. (E.E.A.T.).
How do you tell a bot you have E.E.A.T.? A bot crawls your site looking for keywords, phrases, and E.E.A.T. Linking to LinkedIn and other sources using the “sameAs” schema shows Experience and possibly Expertise. A prominent media site linking to your business indicates Authority. Trust may be shown by a lot of comments and questions on your pages.
Since you’re sharing your experience, “in my experience, X” may suffice in some niches to satisfy Google’s E.E.A.T. criteria in that niche.
The niche determines Google’s E.E.A.T. depth.
In the medical field, where a doctor may offer scientific evidence to support his opinion, the E.E.A.T. criteria will be considerable, more moderate in trades like plumbing or electrical where a “how to” process is being described, and light in entertainment websites providing celebrity gossip.
This is why an SEO keyword strategy is tailored to each client. Google’s algorithm is niche, market, and factor-specific.
Is Your Customer a Robot?
To survive the “new” SEO, you’ll need to pivot if your SEO advice involves keyword stuffing or other tricks.
Where you should focus your content energy is on producing market-relevant SEO content that helps people. Market visibility and rankings will likely improve if you do this well and do it consistently. It’s a transactional relationship between Google and the brand.
Unfortunately, many business owners have never approached SEO that way. They were simply trying to get “more” traffic to generate revenue.
If you base your SEO keyword strategy on your customer and what’s relevant to them in your niche, you’ll be ahead of most of your competitors who focus on converting Googlebot or Bingbot.
This is similar to a copywriting strategy where you identify your “avatar” (ideal customer), think about their obstacles, problems, and fears, and write the page to them.
Write to your ideal customer and Google will consider you the most relevant brand in your market, growing your audience and revenue!
Google launched Helpful Content Update in 2022. This algorithm update rewarded high-quality content that answers questions concisely and helpfully.
It’s part of Google’s larger strategy to reward content creators and businesses that deserve topic-relevant search rankings.
The Helpful update is another E.E.A.T. spoke.
In practice, if you are told to include a “focus” keyword X number of times in your article instead of writing well and answering the question or problem, your content is probably off. What do you offer that reader?
If you’re going to create brand content, make it useful. If you get the click and they’re on your website, don’t waste their time and send them back to search for a better competitor.
The Rise of Structured Data
In 2001, the major search engines formed schema.org, a catalog of structured markup vocabulary that website owners can use to improve search results (SERPs).
Rich snippets didn’t appear in Google SERPs until 2009. (enhanced search results that include additional information about the content, such as ratings, reviews, and prices).
Google now supports structured data markup for articles, recipes, products, and events.
Website owners use structured data markup to improve their search engine rankings.
Structured data can qualify websites for rich snippets, Knowledge Graph panels, and Local Packs, as well as improve search results. These features can boost website traffic and visibility.
Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper can add structured data to your website. This tool adds structured data to your website. After adding structured data, test it to ensure it works. Use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.
Structured data complements SEO, not replaces it. Structured data and other SEO methods can boost your website’s search engine rankings.
Images and Schema Markup
Alt tags are a way to describe an image to text readers for visually impaired visitors to your site (or for those who have a poor internet connection and turned off image loading), but they are also a way to optimize the image for the search bots.
You can write your alt tag in the Alternative Text area of your image (in WordPress).
Optimizing Your Site for Ducks
As you know, major search engines use location tracking to deliver relevant results. When you search “pizza near me,” Google shows local results.
This raises privacy concerns as more people want to minimize their data and activities. They don’t want Big G tracking their moves on a virtual chessboard.
Privacy-focused search engines could enter.
DuckDuckGo, the largest privacy-first search engine, is second only to Google in mobile search! DuckDuckGo does not track your location or use previous searches to predict your next search.
How does DuckDuckGo show a “pizza near me” search result if it’s not doing that?
Site owners and SEO must write location-specific content for DuckDuckGo. Next to your address on your contact page, list nearby landmarks using conversational phrasing. This helps DuckDuckGo place you near your customers when they search for your product or service. Pro tip: it will also help you with VoiceSearch.
Should I Use Keyword Tools?
If you know how, yes!
Some of the best keyword tools, like SEMRush and Ahrefs, can provide a lot of help with a keyword strategy. These types of keyword tracking tools can also assist you in finding the right keywords, not just the ones you “think” you should be ranking for.
However, take these tools with a grain of salt. They cannot do the job of telling you who your audience is or how to best implement them naturally, as mentioned above. Consult with your SEO strategist before implementing any keyword recommendations.
A 2023 Keyword Strategy in 5 Steps
How do you implement these best practices into your website and your organic strategy? Here are 5 simple steps to consider as you audit the content of your website.
- Determine the target keyword phrase and/or term for each page of the website.
- Ask these questions as you assign keyword clusters and topics to your pages.
- Does the keyword match the intent of my user?
- Does the keyword fit better for another page on my website? Like a product page vs. a blog page?
- Do I have another page that is targeting the same keywords?
- Is the keyword difficulty too high and you need to consider something more achievable for your smaller website?
- Update your on page and copy to match your target keyword.
- This includes your meta title and description and alt text for your images.
- Additionally, you’ll need to check the rest of the copy of the web page like the headers and body text. Do you need to incorporate the target keyword at least once with some other variations?
- Ensure your text is easy to read and helpful.
- Read through the text out loud if necessary.
- Consider creating a keyword map of each of your pages to ensure you know which keywords are “assigned” for which pages so you can keep track of ranking and visibility on those terms.
- Finally, track your keyword strategy efforts. Whether you use SEO tools for this or just old fashioned Search Console, monitor the result of your efforts.
SEO Analysis: Ask an Expert
In conclusion, staying up-to-date with the latest SEO changes in 2023 is crucial for any business that wants to stay ahead of the curve.
With the introduction of BERT, Rankbrain, and other concepts like search intent and NLP, the SEO landscape is constantly evolving.
By implementing best practices such as writing for humans, using structured data and schema markup, and optimizing for alternative search engines like DuckDuckGo, businesses can improve their online visibility and attract more organic traffic to their website.
To learn more about these changes and how to implement them effectively, contact SNAP Agency for a free analysis of your business’s SEO needs. Don’t get left behind in the digital age; take action today and stay ahead of the competition!