written by
Liam Carnahan

SEO Best Practices for 2023: How to make it to the first page

Content Marketing Search Engine Optimization 11 min read

In 2022, Google released eight updates to its algorithm, tweaking and redefining the gold standard for what constitutes SEO best practices.

Compare that to 2020, when there were only 3 updates.

The search giant’s algorithm is growing and evolving faster than ever. And in the meantime, search algorithms on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram are becoming more and more sophisticated.

It can be hard to keep up, but to get your content to the first page, you have to stay on top of the changes. That’s what this article is for.

Below, you’ll read our roundup of the SEO best practices for 2023 and beyond. Here’s what’s covered:

A banner linking to a free SEO Fundamentals course

Content is still crucial, but it has to be helpful

Content has been the fulcrum of SEO since its beginning. But over the years, every update Google has made to its algorithm has told us one thing:

Google wants you to produce high-quality, accessible, and helpful content.

This is nothing new, but let’s focus on that last word for a moment: “helpful.” Google’s latest big update is called the Helpful Content Update, and it shows us exactly how focused the search company is on this specific aspect of content.

In their official blog post regarding the update, Google recommends content creators ask these questions before publishing:

Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you?
Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visiting a place)?
Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they've learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they've had a satisfying experience?
Are you keeping in mind our guidance for core updates and for product reviews?

The easiest way to follow SEO best practices in 2023 is to follow Google’s public instructions. In this case, that means ensuring everything you post is intended to serve your audience and answer their questions about your area of expertise.

Use AI to support your human creators, not replace them

In that same Google update, there’s another phrase that should catch your attention:

“...[the] ‘helpful content update” [is] part of a broader effort to ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results.

Why is Google talking about humans creating content? What’s the alternative? The answer is artificial intelligence. Tools like Jasper.ai and Copy.ai are becoming increasingly popular, but Google clearly sees this as somewhat of an issue.

StoyrChief ran its own test of AI blogging tools and found that while they are certainly helpful for coming up with content topics and developing outlines for content, they do not hold a candle to the talent of human writers.

There’s no issue with using AI to support your content creators. In fact, StoryChief uses AI to determine how your content is performing in terms of SEO. But you still need human writers, editors, and designers who can bring the content up to Google’s level of expectations.

If you’re generating the majority of your blog articles relying entirely on AI, Google is going to penalize you. In fact, they came out and said so in a recent Google SEO Hangout:

Think outside the Google box when it comes to search

Google still owns the lion’s share of the searches happening on the internet, but they are far from the only players in the game.

While speaking at a conference in July 2022, Google Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan said:

“In our studies, something like almost 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search,” he continued. “They go to TikTok or Instagram.”

Studies also show that when people are searching for products to purchase, they don’t go to Google first:

A graph showing where consumers begin their search when shopping online, showing Amazon taking 63% of searches.
Source: Amazon Advertising Report 2022, JungleScout

As you consider the SEO best practices for 2023, investigate where your audience is performing searches outside of Google.

For example, if you operate a hotel, then your audience may be more likely to encounter you on hotel booking engines than on Google. If your target audience is under 35, you have an opportunity to show up in their searches on TikTok and Instagram.

Once you know where your audience is operating, research how those algorithms work and make it a core part of your strategy. You can find more guidance on social media algorithms here:

Social Media Algorithms: Updates & Tips by Platform [Updated for 2023]

Consider your global audience and the traffic they bring

One of Google’s more recent updates, known as the Google Multitask Unified Model, or MUM, has interesting implications for multi-language searches.

MUM uses sophisticated AI to interpret linguistic nuances that the search engine wouldn’t have understood just a few months ago. There’s a lot that MUM can do, but for the most part, it’s an update that aims to make search terms easier to understand.

There isn’t much content creators need to do to keep up with MUM, but the fact that the update can understand and translate 75 different languages tells us something: Google is thinking globally.

If you haven’t started adding a global and multi-lingual component to your SEO strategy, now is the time. Even if your audience is located in one geographic region, consider whether they may speak more than one language (and therefore may be using more than one language to find your content).

If that’s the case, consider publishing content in multiple languages to reap the benefits.

As you’re carrying out keyword research and planning content, take a look at the global search volume (GV) for the terms you’re considering. You may discover that you have an opportunity to reach an international audience (and subsequently more organic traffic) by targeting keywords that have higher GV.

In tools like AHREFS and Semrush, this information is pretty easy to come by:

A screenshot from AHREFS shows the global volume for keywords related to climate change.
In AHREFS, Global volume is listed to the right of local volume.

Make accessibility a big part of your SEO strategy

All search algorithms are built to make searching easier for larger populations. Google and other search engines reward content that helps with this mission. That’s why many SEO best practices are centered around accessibility.

For example, it’s long been considered best practice to add alt tags to the images and videos you include in your content. This not only helps search bots understand what the image or video is showing, but it also provides descriptions for people who have vision impairments.

If you’re still using your alt description to cram more keywords into your content, rethink this strategy. Instead, add a concise description of the visual content. If a keyword fits in that description naturally, that’s fine, but don’t force it in.

For example, a good description for this image would be, “A view of the Boston skyline on a partly cloudy day, overlooking the greens of Boston Common.” That description tells you exactly what you’re looking at, which is the whole point!

A view of the Boston skyline on a sunny day, overlooking the greens of Boston Common.
Source: Sean Sweeney, Unsplash

In addition to alt tags, there are other things you can do to make your content more accessible and, therefore, more search-friendly:

  • Use a readable font with a larger (12pt - 16pt) font size
  • Avoid colored text on a colored background (black and white works best!)
  • Create a “dark mode” version of your website or app
  • Add captions to all video content
  • Provide written transcripts of audio content
  • Create audio recordings of your most popular content
  • Offer content in multiple languages
  • Ask your audience what accessibility options you can provide

Audit your internal links and leverage the SEO power they bring

Internal links are one of the most important SEO best practices, and one of the most overlooked.

Internal links, which link from one page on your website to another page on the same domain, help search algorithms understand the structure and layout of your website. Knowing the SEO best practices for internal links is vital if you want to remain competitive in 2023, so here are a few tips:

Link often to your most important pages

Google sees internal links as an indication that the page you’re linking to is important. Use this to your advantage by sending a good number of internal links to your most important pages, such as:

  • Home page
  • Services pages
  • Top product pages
  • Contact/conversion pages

Use keywords in your anchor text

When linking to another page, try to include that page’s focus keyword within the anchor text. For example, look at how I managed this earlier in this very article:

A screenshot of an internal link pointing to the keyword

In this case, I was linking to a blog that I want to rank for the keyword “AI blogging tools.”

Analyze your internal links

As you create more content, it’s important to go back and link old blog articles and posts to your most recent publications. A tool like LinkWhisper can help you audit your old blogs and find internal linking opportunities.

If you keep a healthy content calendar, then spend time every month looking back at older months’ content and assessing whether you need to add internal links. If you do this frequently, it will save you from having to overhaul all your internal links at once.

Use partnerships and social promotion to bring in backlinks

Backlinks are still an important component of SEO best practices in 2023. Google uses the links pointing to your site from other reputable, relevant websites to assess your domain authority, which affects your SEO overall.

Google has been clear that they want websites to obtain backlinks organically; the algorithm screens for websites that obtain links through nefarious methods (like purchasing backlinks).

Instead, Google wants websites to obtain backlinks by publishing content that’s worth linking to. Historically (and still in 2023), content that naturally brings in backlinks includes:

  • Surveys and studies
  • Articles with lots of statistics
  • Content featuring quotes and roundups
  • Guides, walkthroughs, and lists
  • News updates

In addition to creating content that falls into these categories, you can enhance your backlink profile by building partnerships. Connecting with other websites that share your same audience (but aren’t your direct competitors) can help you pull in valuable backlinks at a much higher rate.

Furthermore, you should be leveraging your own social media and the social media of your partners to reach a wider audience and promote your content further.

Diversify, test, and repurpose your content regularly

At this point in the article, you may be thinking: “Meeting SEO best practices is a lot of work.”

You’re not wrong. There are more people than ever creating high-quality content. Getting to the first page for your target keywords requires consistent production and promotion.

To succeed, you must find a way to get the most mileage out of everything you create by diversifying and repurposing your content.

For example, let’s say you‘ve just written a long-form search-optimized blog article. Instead of publishing it and walking away, you could increase the reach and lifespan of the content by:

  • Creating Twitter threads showcasing the top points
  • Turning the blog into an email sequence for your mailing list
  • Using the blog imagery on your Instagram feeds
  • Republishing the blog on LinkedIn and Medium
  • Turning the blog into a podcast
  • Creating a video explainer to go along with the blog
  • Repurpose your Twitter thread into a carousel post using our Twitter Thread Designer

Repurposing content in this way allows you to reach different audiences with different types of content. Over time, you’ll learn what formats and subjects resonate best with your audience, and you can adjust your content strategy as needed.

Final thoughts: It all comes back to quality

There’s a lot to consider when you’re trying to meet SEO best practices in 2023. But if you only take away one thing from this article, make it this:

The most important SEO factor is quality.

Nearly every item on this list comes back to that. The SEO content you create must be well-written and digestible. Your website must be structured in a way that's clear and user-friendly. Your promotion strategies must be thoughtful and genuine.

At the core of all this is quality. Keep up the quality, and SEO wins will follow.

Join over 10.000 marketeers for the latest content marketing insights.
Sign up for our newsletter