Keeping up with the evolving digital marketplace is critical to the success of businesses that operate online.
We’re already through the first quarter of 2023, and in these past 3 months, we’ve seen significant developments in the world of digital marketing and SEO.
While AI chatbots have dominated online conversations, there are still other updates to know. For example, data privacy regulations continue to drive new products and services, and social media platform instability has driven marketers to take a fresh approach.
Whether you’re a content marketer or run an eCommerce business, finding the time to stay informed can be difficult. That’s why we compiled this list of the nine digital marketing and SEO updates to know from Q1 2023.
This roundup will give you the top-line news you need while saving you all the searching and scrolling. Let’s get started.
It wouldn’t be a digital marketing news release without a Google update. Some 13 days after Google began the rollout, the March 2023 broad core update was completed on March 28.
If you haven’t already dug into your Analytics account to see how this update affected your site’s rankings, don’t feel like you’re behind the eight-ball. These updates can take weeks to reassess and change rankings, so you shouldn’t expect to see any changes right away. However, you should keep an eye on your organic traffic and rankings, as well as the technical factors that impact your site’s performance.
Typically, these updates bring notable algorithm changes. Although generalized online chatter is no substitute for a deep dive into your Analytics property, it seems that, overall, this latest update may have had a more remarkable impact than other recent updates.
In most cases, as Google has previously explained, you don’t need to fix anything on your site if you see a decline in rankings following a core update. As long as you’re offering helpful, original content that follows the E-E-A-T guidelines, you’re on the right track.
If it seems like AI chatbot technology burst onto the search scene in Q1, that’s because it did—but it still has a long way to go. In reality, only a minuscule fraction of searchers can access Google Bard or Bing Chat.
AI is driving a wide array of changes in digital marketing and SEO, but these changes won’t occur overnight. In fact, Bard got off to a rough start by giving an incorrect answer that the company shared widely.
Nobody’s perfect, but sometimes being wrong has steep consequences—in this case, a $100 billion hit to Alphabet’s shares.
There are notable differences between Bard and Bing Chat. Perhaps the most significant difference is Bard doesn’t cite the web pages it used to inform its answer, while Bing Chat does. Understandably, that has some digital marketers concerned about negative traffic impacts.
But keep in mind that it’s still the early days for these AI tools, and we’ll likely see significant changes to Bard before it’s something searchers use regularly.
However, search engines aren’t the only places we’re seeing AI make an impact.
The emergence of AI-powered content tools has driven some intense reactions.
While plenty of purists worry that this will denigrate the overall quality of digital content and lead to declining trust in important sources—for example, news publishers—there are also multitudes of freelance bloggers who are thrilled about the possibility of more rapid production and more profit.
In February, Google Search released guidance for AI-generated content. The most important thing to understand is that this new capability doesn’t impact Google’s goal for Search: To reward original, high-quality content, regardless of how it’s produced.
Thin content will still rank as such, whether it comes from your human content team or AI. Similarly, helpful content that provides value to the reader through unique insights with original information should continue to perform well. And yes, AI is certainly capable of producing this type of top-ranking content.
As we round out our list of AI-centered developments, we turn to a new Google Lens feature set to become available worldwide in the coming months.
All the talk of AI so far this year might understandably lead one to think of it as a recent advent. However, Google has been using AI for a long time. For example, AI has been helping Search understand language and provide more valuable results to searchers.
Google didn’t stop there. They kept going with AI to understand visual media as well, and in early February, they announced a significant update to Google Lens.
Using Lens, Android users will be able to search their screens. Without leaving the app or site you’re on, Lens will let you search what you see in photos or videos, including within messages.
Google also enhanced multisearch—the feature that lets you search text and images simultaneously—with the power to search locally.
It’s part of Google’s effort to create “search experiences that are more natural and visual.” This Lens upgrade also goes to show AI is unlocking incredible new possibilities.
As Q1 concluded, Twitter began shuttering the legacy verified program. Moving forward, anyone wanting a blue checkmark on their account would need a Twitter Blue subscription.
It’s a second bite at the apple for Twitter, which had to end the initial Twitter Blue rollout after an epidemic of fake accounts that claimed to be “verified.”
Similarly, Meta is bringing its verification subscription to the table. Dubbed “Meta Verified,” it’s a bit more expensive, ranging from $11.99 to $14.99 monthly, compared to the $8 to $11 range for Twitter Blue.
The jury is still out on Meta Verified, but there remains considerable opposition to Twitter Blue. Some new subscribers have complained about reach, while others actively block verified accounts in hopes of decreasing their visibility out of protest.
Meanwhile, content creators and brands who’ve enjoyed success on TikTok are nervous about talk of a TikTok ban in the United States. With some 150 million TikTok users across the country, an outright ban would be quite the gut punch for advertisers and influencers.
While discussions about a ban are ongoing, there’s also talk of ByteDance divesting from TikTok in order to allay concerns and remain online in the U.S. Until there’s more clarity on this situation, the uncertainty will continue.
While social media volatility is top of mind, it’s not the only development that has many digital marketers reconsidering how they reach their audiences. Global efforts to make the internet a safer, more private place for users have been underway for years and are impacting the world of online advertising and SEO.
Perhaps the biggest privacy-related change will be Google ending support for third-party cookies by the end of 2024. Google Analytics 4 includes tools powered by machine learning to help fill some of the gaps that will be left when third-party cookies go away. Even so, marketers who have depended on these cookies for years are concerned about the impacts to their data, reach, and the health of their business.
In February, Google released the Ads Privacy Hub. It’s designed to help any business or digital marketing agency, regardless of size, utilize privacy-first measurement techniques, including building first-party databases. The privacy hub also includes a feature to help Google Ads account holders in select markets get a customized list of measurement solutions.
Google intends the new Ads Privacy Hub as a “guide to measuring and driving ad performance with the right strategy and solutions, all with privacy in mind.”
As tools and platforms increasingly prioritize privacy, marketers are adapting their cross-platform and cross-device measurement to comply with regulations like GDPR and the CCPA while also generating the vital data they need to improve the customer experience.
Switching to GA4 is a big step in the right direction, but ultimately site owners retain most of the power when it comes to cross-media audience measurement. In March, YouTube Managing Director Kate Alessi took to Google’s Ads & Commerce Blog to ask the industry to “come together to solve cross-media measurement for marketers, agencies and consumers…”
Or, Alessi writes, “…we can head down a path of creating new measurement silos, inconsistent standards, and unnecessary complexity.”
“The industry’s focus on third-party cross-media audience measurement is at an all-time high. Now is the time to act with focus and energy to evolve audience measurement,” Alessi states. “If we don’t seize this momentum to rally around marketer needs and adopt clear principles in third-party roadmaps, we all stand to lose.”
All types of digital marketers have a few universal needs when it comes to measurement and comparison. It will be interesting to see whether and to what extent those within the industry cooperate to achieve the best possible outcomes.
In January, Apple launched Apple Business Connect. Through Apple’s partnerships with a number of listing management companies, Apple Business Connect will let businesses tailor the way their details appear across apps.
“Apple Business Connect gives every business owner the tools they need to connect with customers more directly,” Eddy Cue, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Services, said in the announcement.
Apple Maps is likely the app where most would expect to see the impact of Apple Business Connect, but it will also give businesses more control over their image in apps like Wallet, Messages, Siri, and others.
Notably, within Apple Maps, businesses can take advantage of the new Showcases feature to show customers promotional offers or other incentives. Currently available to U.S. businesses, Apple will roll Showcases out worldwide over the next few months.
Through Apple Business Connect, businesses can emphasize actions for customers directly on the Apple Maps place card.
Google Maps is a go-to tool for people all over the world looking for reliable information, and the company aims to keep it that way, partially by restricting user-generated content when offensive or irrelevant posts spike.
Say two A-list celebrities get into a spat at a local restaurant, and one of them receives the bulk of the blame. That celebrity’s avid fans might take their frustrations out on the restaurant by spamming it with negative reviews. Obviously, this isn’t helpful or relevant to searchers, so Google may elect to impose posting restrictions until the posts die down.
It’s no secret that Google has been able to do this for some time now, but their January article explained the approach to posting restrictions to open the conversation so business owners know what to expect, when, and why.
Change is the only constant in digital marketing and SEO. Those who fall behind are at risk of being left behind.
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