The fourth industrial revolution and Web 3.0 continue to transform all legacy communication platforms – from how we consume news to how we market our products.
One field that stands as a fulcrum of this tech boom may be writing and art itself.
As new technology like AI-generated art and ChatGPT continue to become more sophisticated, many people are uncertain about the future of these fields.
Will search algorithms and people come to accept AI or reject it outright? Are we powerless to even stop it? Does AI harm or help the SEO industry?
I’ll discuss the confluence of many trends in the content marketing industry, which are rapidly evolving the way we approach everyday writing.
2023 Content Writing Trends
1. The Rise Of AI-Driven Content
It’s no secret that brands have leveraged AI marketing for years and probably even limited the usage of AI-generated content.
While Google has stated that AI-generated content meant to manipulate search results constitutes spam, it has also stated that the “appropriate use” of AI to assist content is not against its guidelines.
It’s difficult to discern how efficient Google is at detecting AI systems, but it’s clear that AI-generated content will be something to keep a close eye on.
According to a UBS study via Reuters, ChatGPT reached 100 million monthly active users in January 2023.
However, I’ve found several other AI platforms that provide similar chatbot services and the ability to write entirely SEO-optimized blog posts.
I’ll describe how to leverage AI later in this article, but learning to properly incorporate it into your workflow and work with these systems will ensure the best results.
2. Video Shorts Are Becoming Dominant
YouTube, Instagram, and Meta have all launched their video shorts on their platforms to compete with the cultural Megaforce that is TikTok.
Platforms like Instagram have even boasted a higher engagement rate in places like Brazil after the launch of its Reels. In fact, it is estimated to reach over 163 million users by 2028.
Video shorts and reels are a great way to curate brand exposure and engage with a large audience.
Unlike traditional long-form videos, short video clips have a better opportunity to go viral and lead directly to a new phenomenon in social media.
3. Influencer Marketing Is Evolving
Influencer marketing isn’t dead. Rather, it’s evolving.
What people once referred to as influencer marketing has really evolved into the creator economy.
Essentially, many brands are partnering with online creators who produce short and long-form content that bring subscribers to their platform.
YouTube announced last fall that it would split 45% of the revenue from Shorts ads with its creators (although that number has come under attack).
Regardless, it’s clear that renewed competition among social media giants and the evolution of social media has placed a greater premium on individual creators and rewarded them accordingly.
Everyone, from the White House to major makeup brands, is partnering with TikTokers, Instagram celebrities, and everyday content creators to promote brands and their messages.
Evidence of this is also reflected in the staying power of podcasting.
4. Podcasting Remains Strong
Podcasting represents one of the many awkward attempts of marketers failing to utilize new technology in their work offerings.
Much like TikTok and Instagram Reels, podcasting is better suited for personal branding and large-scale exposure than old-school SEO tactics.
Nevertheless, podcast listenership has grown by almost 30% since 2019 and continues to be a valuable tool for individual content creators and brand partnerships.
I suggest incorporating podcasting into your thought leadership strategy when possible and partnering with podcasts whose audience fits your brand.
Podcasting is not right for every brand, but it can be great for influencers, CEOs, and content creators your brand is partnered with.
5. There’s Greater Demand For Personal Experience
So, I started this list by stating how AI was the No. 1 content marketing trend of 2023, but I also listed how content creators are becoming more valuable.
This confluence of competing interests is no contradiction at all. Instead, it’s clear that many are looking to individual brands and thought leaders for their information.
Today, people don’t go to WebMD for health advice; they turn to Reddit or influencers.
Similarly, podcasters like Joe Rogan have several times more listeners than CNN on any given night.
This means that people desperately crave authenticity and turn to individuals they trust for advice.
Cultivating trust through thought leadership and personal branding is more important than ever.
If you search for an article on SEO basics, are you more likely to click on Search Engine Journal or some random blog?
In fact, personal branding and experience are so important Google has even added a new letter to its acronym EAT (now E-E-A-T) for the word “experience.”
So, tell more stories and convey greater empathy in your writing.
Leverage the tools listed above and make your writing more personalized to gain greater exposure.
6. Content Marketers Require Data More Than Ever
Zooming out a bit, I understand that podcasting and video shorts don’t make sense for almost 99% of businesses.
Instead, leveraging technology and focusing on data-driven content will be key to competing in the digital marketing space in 2023.
Fortunately, machine learning makes this easier than ever.
Investing in good software, such as SE Ranking, Semrush, or Ahrefs, will help you learn more about the competition and compete.
Similarly, updating your Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 will give you more detailed information about essential search metrics and strategies you can take to improve your campaigns.
7. Page Experience And Value Remain Integral
Finally, technology enables greater interconnectivity between all of our web platforms, and the ability to create seamless funnels and user experiences is paramount.
One innovation I’ve found interesting over the past year is the rise of shoppable content or the ability to purchase products on an embedded video or blog.
Little innovations like these increase the ease of conversions and make converting leads a synch.
I also suggest upgrading to a reputable CRM (customer relationship management) and integrating lead-magnet content, such as ebooks, infographics, and research, to entice more sales.
Make 2023 the year you maximize the value of your content and deliver a massive ROI.
2023 SEO Checklist For Content Writing
Now that I have covered some important trends, it’s time to move into optimizing your website’s content following the same trends for 2023. The following speaks to both page and blog content.
All guidance derives from the trends I’ve witnessed with clients and other website rankings over the year, and I expect much of this to stick throughout 2023.
To keep things organized, I advise my writers to think about SERP information first, then follow the page from top to bottom.
Begin with the title tag and meta description, and move down through the actual page as you see it on the screen.
Following is the checklist for optimizing each content element as we throttle into 2023.
1. Keyword Research Optimization
I spoke at length about the importance of data before. However, the greatest bit of data we can use comes from our keyword research.
Keywords are the currency of SEO.
All SEO professionals know that keyword research is the first step in creating optimized content.
SEJ features hundreds of articles on performing keyword research, so I won’t go into crazy detail here.
But sadly, many SMBs still refuse to perform any type of keyword research.
This is normal for new clients at my agency who have never worked with an SEO pro before.
But unfortunately, I also see a lack of keyword research for new clients who have worked with SEO professionals before.
If you neglect to perform keyword research, you’ll fail to garner any traction in the search results.
Here are some thoughts on keyword research trends as we head into 2023:
Target 80% Evergreen Keywords; 20% Trending Keywords
Take the time to truly understand the evergreen content needs of your market and audience, and target evergreen keywords for that content.
The goal is to have that content add value and solve the reader’s problems for many years into the future.
An example from a digital marketing agency: content writing tips, SEO basics, etc.
That said, you must also pay attention to trending keywords, such as the latest products available in your marketing.
An example from a digital marketing agency: how to optimize for voice search, predictive search, etc.
And if you follow these trending keywords and create authoritative content early enough, some may turn into evergreen keywords, and you’ll have a jump on the competition.
Create A Buyer Persona: Target Keywords And Content Toward That Buyer Persona
Spend time building your buyer persona, and create an actual fictional character such as SEO pro Sara.
- What would Sara be searching for?
- What keyword would attract her to your content?
- What type of CTAs will Sara engage with?
- How about imagery?
Don’t Go Crazy Over Volume
When creating a constant flow of content, typically through a blog, don’t go crazy over only targeting high-volume keywords.
Depending on the ROI of a service or product, I’ll target keywords as low as 10-20 visitors per month.
I had a client who sold annual investing services with high guarantees worth around $4,000 yearly.
I targeted a few terms of around 20 search volume and sold 8 of those annual services – $32,000 and all re-signed through the following year.
That is not bad for a low-volume keyword target.
Monitor Keyword Performance Closely
We track client keywords through Semrush, and if something’s not working as it should after around six weeks, we analyze the content and all of our target keyword positioning.
Sometimes a simple swap of words in a title tag helps with rankings.
Other times, it’s a complete overhaul of the content itself.
This is why tracking progress and continually revamping older content throughout the year is vital.
Don’t Forget About The Related Keywords
When I complete keyword research and have a target keyword that I’ll use for a page, I’ll also provide a list of related keywords for when I get to work.
Related keywords show more relevance to your topic, which helps send stronger signals about the page’s intentions for both search engines and readers.
Which title tag above attracts your eye?
2. Title Tag Optimization
David Ogilvy, the late Brit known as the “father of advertising” and founder of Ogilvy & Mather, said:
“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar.”
Though Ogilvy was a traditional advertiser, his guidance rings true for 21st-century online marketing.
Title tags remain one of the strongest signals for search engines to explain what that page is about.
When writing title tags, they must not only engage humans but also satisfy SEO.
This is why the target keyword must be included in the headline.
The best practice is to have it as close to the front of the title as possible, and I’ve witnessed rankings change based on swapping around words in titles.
Here are other things to check off about title tag creation:
Keep It Short
The standard practice for SEO professionals is to create title tags between 50-60 characters because Google typically truncates everything after 60.
But after a year of experimenting with various lengths, I try to write them shorter – like 40-50 characters.
This requires added energy from copywriters, but the effort is worth it.
Sometimes when creating a content strategy for clients and my workflow, I spend more time creating a list of optimized topics than writing a single 1,500-word article.
A Conductor study revealed that headlines featuring numbers (exact numbers of points such as 47 Content Writing Tips) get 36% more clicks.
Without a doubt, use numbers where possible.
Use Brackets Or Parentheses
HubSpot reported that using brackets in titles increases click-through rates by 38%.
3. Meta Description Optimization
Here are the tips on optimizing meta descriptions in 2023:
Keep Them Shorter Than the Recommended 150-160
This is especially true for mobile. We began experimenting with metas around 120-130 and observed increased click-through rates among various clients.
Think Free Advertisements
Think of these as a free way to advertise and as a main supporter of your title tag.
A good formula is the struggle/solution statement that entices a searcher to click.
Also, include a call to action with some “words that sell” (for more on that, read Richard Bayan’s Words that Sell).
Always Use Your Target Keywords In The Meta Descriptions
Though Google says meta descriptions have no direct ranking value, they certainly have an indirect ranking value.
If the target keywords are searched for, they will become bold in the meta descriptions, providing relevancy to the searcher’s intent. This influences a clickthrough, indirectly affecting rank value.
Also, though Google might only use your meta descriptions about 3o% of the time and typically automatically populates them, it’s still the best practice to provide unique meta descriptions for every page across the website.
4. Header Tag Optimization
Header tags are simply subtopics that break up the text and provide structure. These are especially effective in listicle articles where every number/section is the next section’s overall topic.
Most people scan when reading; these header tags are the first thing people typically read.
Everyone wants to know what’s in it for them, and this makes that super simple. They also are vital to ranking for featured snippets.
Google typically takes header tags and uses them as bullets for a snippet. The query [title tag optimization] provides the perfect example:
To optimize these in 2023:
Use Target And Related Keywords
Always use your main keyword in at least one header tag and high-value related keywords in others.
Instead, infuse keywords naturally.
This should be easy if you outline your content and set out to provide the most valuable information to the reader about the subject.
Keep Them Short
I’m saying as short as possible – six words or less. Remember, your audience is not dumb.
This section is about a checklist for optimizing content elements.
I don’t have to write “Optimizing header tags in 2023 based on current trends.”
Instead, “header tag optimization” suffices.
5. Internal Links/Image Optimization
Internal links within the text itself are vital for strong SEO.
They send strong signals to search engines about the relevance of another page on your website and how you place value on that page.
Don’t Go Crazy With Internal Links
Instead, use them where a reader naturally values the added content to learn more.
Use A Strong Anchor Text
The goal here is to use anchor text that includes the target keyword of the page being linked to.
This practice is all about sending the strongest signals possible to search engines and users about what you think is valuable information that supports the current page’s content.
As for images, remember: Search engines can’t read an image (photo, PDF, etc.), so we use “alternative” text.
Here are quick pointers for 2023:
Each Image Should Have A Unique Title And Alt Text That Includes A Target Keyword
The latter is crucial because, according to Google, people search for over a billion images daily.
And if these images feature alt text that’s keyworded for the image search query, you’ll quickly discover other streams of traffic.
And for titles, nothing is worse for search engines than “Shutterstock – 2828923990213409858329.”
My agency places unique titles on all – even if they are the same; we simply notate them by -1, -2, -3, etc.
Use Captions Wherever Possible
I discovered that simply adding captions to images at a motorcycle publication increased on-page time by over 20%.
Explain as much as possible, but don’t keyword stuff.
Here’s an ideal place to use related keywords, but only those related to the image.
Make sure to use italics to differentiate the text from the body of the content. Some content management systems don’t do a good job of this, so simple italics will work.
6. Body Of Content Optimization
Following are some quick bullet points for optimizing the actual body of the content on any page or blog:
First, Think About ‘Psychological’ Space
This means not writing long, Faulkner-type sentences or creating long paragraphs.
Short and choppy for the win, considering people scan content and will ignore anything that looks hard to read. This is especially true on mobile!
Forget About The Keyword Density Of A Target Keyword
Although many tools still exist for this purpose, forget about keyword density.
Use your target keyword and list of related keywords naturally throughout the content.
For 90% of my client blog/page work, I begin with the list of target and related keywords. I glance through them before writing, and they usually appear automatically throughout my writing.
I still check the list during the editing stage and naturally infuse as many as possible throughout the text.
Sometimes a few related keywords don’t make sense, so I don’t use them.
Thoughts On Length
Regarding length, I’ve been experimenting for over a year on this and getting some mixed signals from Google.
But one thing is for sure – longer is better for most situations.
For the main category and product pages, I target a minimum of 500 words. Regarding blogs, the minimum is bumped to 1,200.
However, many categories land around 1,500 words, and for more intense subjects (such as articles for publications like Search Engine Journal), my minimum is 2,000 words (though they typically finish much longer).
Two Dark Points
Here’s a quick checklist of two essential elements that should be included in every body of content across your website in 2023 – from service/product pages to blogs to about pages.
- Bullet Points.
Each element sends strong signals to search engines, explaining that readers, and thus search engines, should pay attention because these elements are vital to the content’s message.
7. Learn To Use AI Effectively
One final point I want to reiterate is how to use AI appropriately. There are several ways to use ChatGPT to augment your workflow, from using it as a search engine for research to optimizing the HTML of your website.
The key is to use AI as a guide and as an assistant, not to replace the act of writing itself.
Here are some key notes to consider when adopting new AI platforms into your workflow.
Search Engines Consider AI-Content That Manipulates SERPs As Spam
Churning out multiple blog posts using ChatGPT or any other predictive text will probably be detected as spam.
Instead, use these tools as research or as quick blocks of text when struggling with writer’s block. Then, edit them down and refine them into your own voice and style.
Make Writing Personal And Humanized
I mentioned earlier that Google added experience to its E-A-T algorithm, prioritizing the author’s expertise and experience as a ranking factor.
Adding personal anecdotes to text and personalizing your content will be massively important and is just one way Google is attempting to thwart AI.
Furthermore, between the time it takes to edit AI-generated content and write it yourself, you are not saving that much time – you are risking a whole lot more.
Use AI For Editing And Organization
One ethical feature of ChatGPT and other tools is the ability to edit and minimize your text.
For example, if you tell ChatGPT to shrink a meta description above 160 characters to below that length, it can do it easily. It can also do the same for any blog you write.
Tools like Grammarly and Hemingway also use predictive text and machine learning to accomplish the same task and are invaluable.
Again, leverage AI to optimize your writing, not replace it entirely.
As technology advances, the need to balance the impulse to supplement too much of our workflow with AI and to keep our writing organic will be difficult.
Nevertheless, users and search engines prefer creative and organic content over AI.
Does this mean AI is useless or harmful? No.
Rather, there are several areas we can leverage AI to optimize our workflow, catch any errors we would usually miss, and help us automate some of our internal processes.
The balance between Yin and Yang will always remain central to the human experience.
In today’s world, balancing the growing demands of technology with our ethics and creative capacity will be key to how we address this new and uncertain territory.
Featured Image: kung_tom/Shutterstock