Category: Author: David Hall
Search engine optimization strategies continue to get increasingly more challenging as Google and other search engines refine their algorithms and user behaviors change. Let’s give you some insight into what SEO strategies work in 2023. In addressing this subject, we like to remind people that from its beginning, Infinity Dental Web has been known as the SEO guru of the dental website industry. The writers at Search Engine News have said so much, and our SEO department has a long list of certifications and credentials.
Since Google captures about 90% of searches in the United States, we’ll focus on Google.
What’s Happening at Google
To understand what is happening in the world of search, we need to first understand what Google is trying to accomplish.
Google began by basing their rankings largely on links web pages attracted from other sources on the internet. This worked very well. However, in time, smart webmasters were able to figure out link-building schemes and other tricks to bring top rankings for their websites. We were in the middle of that and were able to garner a number one ranking for any client willing to pay us for the work involved. So, about 15 years ago, Google began launching major updates to defeat these webmaster tricks. They developed a system for deciding when links were natural and when they were artificially generated. They also tuned their algorithm to rate content for quality content based on internal clues. Major milestones were the Panda update in 2011 and the Penguin update in 2012, which combined resulted in a major disruption of rankings.
Then about five years ago, they began another major initiative that involved a fundamental shift in their strategy. They had been using external signals to help determine quality websites and accurate information. But they now decided that they wanted to determine themselves which websites they would reward with high positions. From internal sources at Google we learned that their primary motivation was wanting to use their influence to shape public opinion. They refined their algorithms to filter out information they considered unreliable, regardless of how many links it had attracted. It was a shift from a “free-market” approach to information—letting the public rate the quality of information—to an authoritarian approach where Google would decide what was good information and bad information. This has progressed to where Google is now using sophisticated artificial intelligence tools to guide its rankings.
Search engine optimization experts are now left with a limited number of tools to help their websites rank well. While there are mistakes they can make that will penalize their websites, there are no sure-fire tools that will assure high rankings. Here is a guide to what, in 2023, can be done. But it’s best not to think of these as tools to obtain high rankings, but as tools to avoid poor rankings.
A fundamental principle of SEO in 2023 is the creation of what Google calls user-centric content. Google wants content that is informative, engaging, and relevant to the target audience. To achieve this they recommend the following:
- Understand User Intent: Conduct thorough keyword research to identify the search intent behind user queries. Are users looking for information, products, or solutions? Create content that aligns with these intents.
- Provide High-Quality Content: Focus on producing high-quality, authoritative content. This includes well-researched articles, informative videos, and interactive infographics that answer user questions comprehensively.
- Identify Snippet Opportunities: Featured snippets are the selected search results that appear in a box at the top of the SERPs, providing a quick answer to a user’s query. To rank as a featured snippet, identify commonly asked questions in your niche and create content that directly answers them. We have been able to earn “featured snippet” status for some of our clients’ search terms.
A few years ago, Google began asking webmasters to put certain data, such as office hours, location, services provided, etc., into a structured format. This helps Google and other search engines to gather the data in a way that helps them understand it. A good webmaster should use data markup language (Schema.org) for any data recognized by search engines.
Core Web Vitals and Other Technical Issues
Google’s Core Web Vitals, which measure factors like page loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability, have become crucial for SEO. Other technical issues, if ignored, can result in downgrading rankings. Google recommends attending to the following issues:
- Page Speed: Minimize HTTP requests, leverage browser caching, and compress images to speed up the website’s loading time.
- Mobile Optimization: Ensure that the website and content are mobile-friendly. Ensure the website loads quickly and functions smoothly on mobile devices.
- User Experience: Focus on improving the overall user experience by reducing elements that cause layout shifts and optimizing interactive elements.
- Navigation: Google wants users to be able to easily navigate your website. Confusing navigation structure and broken links will cause problems.
Attention to these Core Web Vitals and other technical issues and continually tweaking them for improved performance is a major ongoing activity by our search team at Infinity Dental Web.
Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness
This concept, which Google calls E-A-T, was introduced when they decided they wanted to become the decider of which information they would promote. Critics complain that if you disagree with Google on an issue, they don’t consider you trustworthy. Further, no one has figured out just how they determine which information they consider correct. But here are some guidelines they have shared:
- Author Bios: Include author bios with credentials and links to social profiles to establish expertise.
- Backlinks: Build high-quality, authoritative backlinks to the content from reputable sources.
- Quality Control: Regularly audit your content for accuracy and update it as needed.
Another problem with this E-A-T concept is that it is geared toward informational websites, and exactly how it applies to business websites such as sites for dental offices or other local businesses isn’t clear.
Local SEO and Google My Business
Local SEO affects rankings in Google Maps. Getting top rankings in Google Maps is a major focus of ours. This is one area where we can have a significant impact for our clients. Here is what Google recommends for strong maps rankings:
- Claim and Optimize Google My Business: Claim your Google My Business listing and keep it up-to-date with accurate business information, photos, and reviews.
- Local Citations: Ensure the business information is consistent across online directories and wherever it is listed online.
- Patient Reviews: Encourage satisfied patients to leave positive reviews. And we have learned from experience that rankings are enhanced when patients mention specific procedures in their reviews.
Google seems to be poised to penalize websites that aren’t accessible to people with disabilities. Some experts suspect that this is already a small ranking factor.
Some content writers have had the idea to use AI aps, such as ChatGPT, to write content. While AI is a useful tool, Google is working to downgrade content generated in this way. You can use AI to help you write, as long as you use it only as a guide. You need to heavily edit the AI-generated content, combine it with personal knowledge, add some research of your own, and verify whatever else you’re including in the content.
While there are things SEO specialists need to do to prevent a website from being penalized, there is no longer any formula for getting high rankings organically in general search. The end result is to push businesses that want high rankings into paid search. Is that Google’s goal? We don’t know, but we do know that is the effect of their policies. Paid ads are now, for some search terms, dominating the above-the-fold listings in search results.
To illustrate the difficulty of getting top rankings, I did a search on “search engine optimization expert.” In former days, SEO experts vying for your business could demonstrate their expertise by garnering a top ranking for this term. However, there were no such experts listed organically on the first page of Google results, and only one on the second page. There were, however, a number of such experts with paid ads on the first page. A take-away here is to beware of any supposed SEO expert who claims they can improve your rankings. Google has successfully made top rankings so mysterious that no outside experts can dominate them.
In the midst of this confusion, clients of Infinity Dental Web can rest assured that you have the highest level of expertise working on your SEO. We aren’t aware of any dental website company with stronger credentials in this area.