Is Organic SEO Dead in 2023? Spoiler: No.
Organic search drives 53% of website traffic and Google’s first search result averages 26.9% mobile click-throughs and 32% desktop click-throughs. It’s clear that SEO (search engine optimization) plays a crucial role in determining a website’s ranking on search engines.
With Google’s frequent algorithm updates and the rise of machine learning, there has been speculation about the death of SEO and organic SEO strategy. In this post, we’ll examine this speculation, AI and machine learning’s effects on SEO techniques, and the future of organic search engine optimization.
The Death Talk
Despite the continued importance of SEO, rumors of its death have circulated. Some think RankBrain, the drop in organic search results, and the rise of voice search and AI are why organic SEO is losing popularity. However, these claims are largely based on speculation and incomplete data.
Backlinks as a Ranking Factor
Backlinks have been an important (off page SEO) ranking factor for search engines for many years. Search engines use a website’s number, quality, and relevance of backlinks to determine its popularity and authority. The more high-quality backlinks a website has, the more likely it is to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).
But: Over the past few years, the importance of backlinks as a ranking factor has decreased. This is due to the increasing sophistication of search engines and the rise of machine learning algorithms that can better understand and interpret content on websites. The quality of backlinks has become more important than the quantity, with search engines placing a higher value on backlinks from reputable and relevant websites.
Decreasing Importance of Backlinks
The decreasing importance of backlinks is part of a wider trend towards more sophisticated search algorithms that focus on content quality and user experience. Machine learning has helped search engines understand the context and meaning of website content, making it easier to assess its relevance and quality.
Because of this, backlinks aren’t as important as they used to be. Search engines prioritize content quality, user experience, and relevance to the user’s query. Link building is no good seo tactics anymore, while good blog posts will get quality links anyway. This has made it more challenging for websites to rank highly in search engine results pages simply by acquiring a large number of backlinks.
Google’s Algorithm Updates
Google’s ranking factors are largely determined by SEO, and over the years, the search engine giant has undergone several major updates to its algorithm. Some of the most notable updates include:
- Panda (February 2011) – This update prioritized quality and usability and dropped spam and black-hat SEO, like keyword stuffing.
- Hummingbird (August 2013) – This update increased and improved Google’s mobile search algorithm by prioritizing conversational speech.
- RankBrain (Spring 2015) – This update used machine learning to answer ambiguous queries.
- BERT (November 2018) – This update helped Google understand natural language.
- Vicinity (December 2021) – This was Google’s biggest local search update in five years and helped boost local businesses by proximity targeting.
SEO professionals had to rethink their approach after each Google algorithm update, and the same is still required today.
The Impact of RankBrain and Machine Learning
One of the main reasons for the death talk surrounding organic SEO is the rise of machine learning and AI, particularly Google’s Hummingbird algorithm-based system, RankBrain. This system has changed the way the search engine matches keywords to user queries and has reduced the effectiveness of long-tail keywords. RankBrain identifies user intent and returns more relevant results, even if the web page does not contain the exact keyword. Means, RankBrain tries to “understand” by search queries what people are looking for.
Another factor that has affected organic search results is the increased competition from paid advertising. Sponsored ads have moved to the top of search engine results pages (SERPs), pushing organic results below the fold. This has led to organic SEO professionals having to develop new strategies to compete with paid ads and appear on the first page.
Local search has also changed the SERPs, with Google adding a local pack to search results for relevancy. This has enabled local search result competition and paid search ads. Other factors that have contributed to the decline of organic results include advertising, auto-extensions, and the rise of voice search.
The Rise of Machine Learning: Summary
Machine learning is a rapidly growing field, impacting various industries such as healthcare and transportation. It is also increasingly relevant to SEO, as it helps rank websites using natural language.
Google’s Hummingbird algorithm-based machine learning system, RankBrain, is particularly important to SEO professionals. Hummingbird prioritizes conversational speech, making RankBrain critical in understanding user intent and delivering more relevant results.
RankBrain has mostly impacted long-tail keywords, reducing their effectiveness and eliminating spam content.
The Future of Voice Search in SEO
With 27% of global mobile users conducting voice searches and a 213% increase in voice shopping from 2018 to 2021, voice search and AI are rapidly growing. To rank high and receive verbal click-throughs, your content must answer questions effectively and fill a niche.
Voice Search Optimization
With the growing popularity of voice search, companies must optimize their websites for voice search to remain competitive in the search rankings. To do this, companies should focus on long-tail keywords, provide quick and concise answers to questions, and use structured data to enhance their search results.
Importance of Local SEO in Voice Search
Local SEO will play a crucial role in voice search optimization, as voice search often returns local results. Companies should focus on local keyword optimization and make sure their website is listed in relevant local directories and search engines.
Integration of Visual Search in SEO
Importance of Visual Content in SEO
Visual content, such as images and videos, is becoming increasingly important in SEO. Companies should incorporate high-quality visual content into their website and optimize it for search engines to rank higher in the search results.
Enhancing Visual Search Results with Structured Data
By using structured data, companies can enhance their visual search results and increase their visibility in the search rankings. This includes incorporating schema markup, using descriptive alt text, and optimizing image file names and sizes.
The Future of Personalized Search Results
Importance of Personalized Search Results in SEO
Personalized search results, based on a user’s search history and location, are becoming increasingly important in SEO. Companies should focus on creating high-quality, relevant content that appeals to their target audience and optimizes their website for personalized search results.
The Role of Machine Learning in Personalized Search Results
Machine learning algorithms play a crucial role in determining personalized search results. Companies should incorporate machine learning into their SEO strategies to better understand their target audience and improve their search rankings.
The Impact of Paid Ads and Local Search
Organic search results are being replaced by paid advertising, pushing organic results lower on the first page. This has created new challenges for organic SEO professionals, who must develop new strategies to compete with paid ads and appear on the first page. Additionally, Google’s emphasis on local search has altered SEO strategies, as local search results compete with paid search ads.
Other factors, such as advertising, auto-extensions, samples, slideshows, and news, have also contributed to the decline of organic search results. Nearly 65% of clicks in 2020 went unclicked, causing frustration for SEO professionals but presenting opportunities for structured data to become a featured snippet.
The Future of Organic SEO
Organic SEO is not dead, but it has changed. With the increasing use of machine learning, AI, and the Internet of Things (IoT), the way SEO is performed will continue to evolve. Companies that invest in search engine optimization and build high-quality websites that provide value to users will continue to rank well on search engines. Some of the trends that are shaping the future of SEO include voice search, visual search, and personalized search results.
In conclusion, while organic SEO may be facing challenges, it is still an important aspect of digital marketing. Companies that invest in high-quality websites that focus on users and use SEO best practices will rank well on search engines and attract visitors. As technology continues to evolve, so too will the strategies for optimizing websites for search engines.