Biggest challenges for SEO in 2023
As you prepare your strategy for the next year, it’s important to anticipate potential surprises and challenges in the future.
This year, SEO professionals have overcome challenges stemming from a lack of resources, problems with strategy, and the ability to scale processes.
Looking ahead to 2023 and beyond, our State of SEO report finds that practitioners anticipate machine learning and AI, Google updates, and third-party cookie rejection as the biggest changes in SEO.
In this article, we summarize the key data points from our report, specifically highlighting three major challenges and looking at relevant SEO trends that can support your strategy development.
Finally, we discuss the impact of advances in machine learning and AI on search engine marketing. Will this new search technology pose a challenge for you and your business? Read on to see what our experts say.
All insights here are based on our first-party survey data in the annual State Of SEO Report.
Summary of report results
When asked what the top SEO challenges were over the past 12 months, respondents indicated:
- Lack of resources (14.9%).
- Strategy questions (12.3%).
- Scaling processes (11.9%).
- Issues related to pandemics (11.2%).
- Coordination with other departments (10.7%).
The budget cuts fell from the biggest challenge for SEO professionals in 2021 to the sixth this year.
However, the fact that resource shortages and scaling processes were the biggest challenges in 2022 suggests that the budget cuts of 2021 had a lasting impact.
Looking ahead to potential threats in 2023, we asked respondents to select up to three “biggest shifts” and industry shifts in SEO. Here are their top answers:
- Machine learning and AI (18.7%).
- Google updates (18.0%).
- Opting out of third-party cookies (13.9%).
- Google zero-click pages (12.9%).
- Competition for talent (11.5%).
Factors that SEO experts observe as emerging 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 professionals often work with limited resources
Lack of resources has been the biggest challenge for SEOs in 2022.
There’s no doubt that the industry will feel the effects of budget cuts in 2021, although another reason for the limited resources is that many SEOs don’t work with large teams.
Over 40% of respondents say they work with a team of 10 or fewer, while around 5% say they work alone.
Adding new team members can prove difficult over the next year or two.
The State Of SEO Report goes into more detail on the challenges SEO professionals are facing and what they are worried about over the next year.
Recent and ongoing growth can prove challenging
Some of the SEO shifts projected for 2023 and beyond are potential impediments to growth.
Recent and continued growth may prove challenging without the ability to scale as a team, and competition for talent is expected to be a major concern over the next two years.
Rejecting third-party cookies is making it harder for SEO professionals and marketers to sustain recent growth, as they are expected to deliver the same or better results with less data.
Strategy is a concern for many SEO professionals
SEOs cited strategy issues as one of their biggest challenges over the past 12 months.
Strategy issues can indicate that SEO professionals are struggling to prove their ROI (return on investment).
While more than half of the SEO professionals we surveyed (58.0%) reported an increase in ROI for their work, many struggled to demonstrate ROI, and 29% of SEO professionals said they felt better about 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 mismatch between a brand’s objectives and the data it is collecting.
SEO professionals expect machine learning and AI to have a big impact
At the top of the list of biggest changes over the next two years, as expected by SEO pros, are machine learning and AI.
Additionally, when SEO professionals were asked to rank what they believe will be the most important new factors in 2023, machine learning and AI were the top answers.
To better understand why everyone is talking about machine learning and AI, we reached out to our in-house experts for more context.
Shelley Walsh, the SEO content strategist at SEJ, doesn’t see AI and machine learning replacing human decision-making anytime soon. She also advises against over-reliance on AI-powered tools for content creation:
“As a disruptor, I can’t yet imagine that AI can replace critical decisions and decisions when there are multiple paths to take and you need to make a decision based on expertise. The tool is only as good as the person who drives it. At the moment there is a glut of tools supported by GPT-3.
These are great for low-volume content, such as B. Product descriptions, but they widen the gap and highlight well-researched, thought-leadership content. As online niches become saturated with AI-spun content, quality will be the only way to stand out. Ultimately, overuse will only be detrimental.”
Download the State Of SEO report to see all first-party survey data and read more insights.
Featured image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal