The yr of generative AI


The yr 2023 was in contrast to every other I’ve seen in search engine marketing and Search. I say this as somebody who has been on this trade since 2007. Many others I spoke to expressed related sentiments at numerous factors all through 2023. 

By March, Search Engine Land had printed a number of tales that, in every other yr, all might have been the story of the yr. 

And the information and updates stored coming, day after day, week after week and month after month. Till finally, right here we’re, with no extra yr left to go! Though, with how this yr has gone, I could also be tempting destiny – it’s fully attainable {that a} main Search story will break on Dec. 31.

Search Engine Land has lined all the most important tales for 17 years, and we did it once more in 2023. 

Right here’s our look again on the greatest search engine marketing information and updates of 2023. 


Search Generative Expertise

The all-new, AI-powered Google Search — formally: Google Search Generative Expertise — was introduced Could 10 after months of hypothesis and rumors. It was powered by a number of large-language fashions (LLMs), together with PaLM2 and MUM. 

It got here with a waitlist (a recurring theme in 2023). Google opened entry Could 25. Right here’s our SGE hands-on and early reactions.

Dig deeper. Take a look at driving Google’s Search Generative Expertise

The AI-generated solutions are offered in quite a lot of kinds through a snapshot, with hyperlinks, pictures, movies and the power to ask follow-up questions. SGE has obtained numerous function updates and expanded to 120 extra international locations, all whereas its content material codecs proceed to evolve

Initially, SGE didn’t cite sources in its solutions (like Bard). Google started testing SGE hyperlinks earlier than formally including hyperlinks in August.

Main as much as this:

Dig deeper. Google patent describes how the Search Generative Expertise works


Google tried to make it clear — Bard just isn’t Search. This didn’t cease individuals from complicated Bard with some AI options it teased on the identical time (which we later discovered was SGE). 

However the arrival of Bard — Google’s reply to ChatGPT — was large information within the Search world. Bard is Google’s experimental conversational AI service, powered by LaMDA. 

Bard was upgraded to Google’s Gemini mannequin in December. Assistant with Bard, a “private assistant powered by generative AI,” will quickly be added to Google Assistant on iOS and Android.

  • When Bard was launched, there have been no hyperlinks or citations to the sources used to generate its AI solutions, with some seeing this a declaration of warfare on publishers. Google’s preliminary rationalization was that Bard was “supposed to generate authentic content material and never replicate present content material at size.” Citations have been added later.
  • Google appeared to rush the Bard announcement (broadly thought-about to be so underwhelming that Google misplaced $100 million in market worth the next day) to Feb. 6 so Google might upstage a Feb. 7 occasion at which Microsoft introduced its new AI-powered model of Bing Search, powered with GPT-4. 
  • A month after saying Bard, Google opened a waitlist. SEOs who obtained early entry shared early Bard points, which included hallucinations and getting unhealthy search engine marketing recommendation that went in opposition to Google’s pointers (e.g., Bard thought shopping for hyperlinks is a good suggestion). General, SEOs weren’t impressed with Bard — Google Bard was referred to as disappointing in comparison with ChatGPT and Bing Chat. 

Dig deeper: ChatGPT vs. Google Bard vs. Bing Chat: Which generative AI answer is greatest?

AI content material

The arrival of generative AI led to manufacturers, together with BankRate, CNET and others, experiment with publishing AI-generated content material, as we noticed in January. This emergence of generative AI-written content material reminded us of the previous content material farms worn out by Google’s Panda updates.

Google appeared to alter its stance on AI content material this yr, lower than a yr after warning in opposition to AI written content material

Content material that’s useful and created for individuals first (vs. solely for incomes search rankings) was now OK, in keeping with Google’s Danny Sullivan. Google reiterated its stance a month later, with Sullivan saying Google’s focus is “on the standard of content material, moderately than how content material is produced.”

In the meantime, content material creators rapidly grew to become involved about AI solutions stealing site visitors and income:

We additionally noticed unhealthy examples of AI content material this yr:

Rating revelations

search engine marketing wasn’t entrance and middle on the U.S. vs. Google antitrust trial, however we discovered loads about how Google really ranks pages. 

  • How Google Search and rating works, in keeping with Google’s Pandu Nayak: That is an absolute must-read. Find out how indexing, algorithms, deep studying programs, human raters, click on and question knowledge and extra form Google’s Search outcomes, primarily based on Nayak’s testimony.
  • 7 must-see Google Search rating paperwork in antitrust trial displays: We study loads from inside shows and paperwork, together with Google’s pillars of rating, what consumer interplay indicators Google appears at (clicks, reads, scrolls, hovers); how Google learns from customers and makes use of that knowledge to enhance Search; 18 features of search high quality and far more.
  • Former Googler: Google ‘utilizing clicks in rankings’: Eric Lehman, a former 17-year worker of Google, stated throughout his testimony: “Just about everybody is aware of we’re utilizing clicks in rankings.” When this was printed, we didn’t but have the total context (offered within the two tales above) round simply how a lot click on knowledge was utilizing on account of less-than-stellar reporting from individuals who simply don’t perceive a lot about how search works.

Additionally this yr (separate from the antitrust trial), Google’s Gary Illyes informed us that hyperlinks are not a “high 3” Google search rating issue, which is according to what Google stated a yr in the past and informed us would occur practically a decade in the past.

Hyperlinks clearly nonetheless play a task in search engine marketing. Nevertheless, for Google, hyperlinks are much less necessary for rating webpages than in years previous.

Hidden gems, private search and Notes

Google introduced a trio of updates in November:

Algorithm updates

Though it felt like an extremely risky yr, and we have been warned to “buckle up” for extra, Google solely launched 9 algorithm updates this yr – lower than the ten it has launched the earlier two years. You possibly can learn the annual recap of 2023 Google algorithm updates by Barry Schwartz.

Reminder: Our historical past of Google algorithm updates web page options all the most recent information and steering across the newest algorithm updates.

Google shared new hyperlink greatest practices of their search engine marketing and search developer documentation. 

This assist doc developed from masking the fundamentals of crawlable hyperlinks to masking anchor textual content placements, the way to write good anchor textual content, inside hyperlinks and exterior hyperlinks.

Content material pruning

CNET obtained “uncovered” for deleting 1000’s of pages (a.okay.a., content material pruning), which is a reasonably frequent superior search engine marketing follow. CNET wrongly believed that content material deprecation “sends a sign to Google that claims CNET is contemporary, related and worthy of being positioned greater than our rivals in search outcomes.”

Nevertheless, Google’s Sullivan needed to make Google’s stance on this tactic clear:

  • “Are you deleting content material out of your web site since you one way or the other imagine Google doesn’t like ‘previous’ content material? That’s not a factor! Our steering doesn’t encourage this. Older content material can nonetheless be useful, too.”

Learn all about it in Google warns in opposition to content material pruning as CNET deletes 1000’s of pages in addition to my follow-up information, Enhancing or eradicating content material for search engine marketing: How you can do it the correct approach.

In memoriam: Google Analytics UA

We knew the top of Common Analytics (UA) was inevitable. Google printed weblog posts, despatched us emails, posted reminders on social platforms and confirmed us an intrusive interstitial each time we logged in. Google even threatened to arrange Google Analytics 4 for us if we didn’t

Whereas it appeared all people was speaking about AI, GA4’s switch-or-else date — July 1 — finally got here. Regardless of all of the superior discover, entrepreneurs nonetheless felt unprepared. Our protection:

We thought UA would cease processing knowledge. It didn’t. UA properties stored processing knowledge. Ten days later. A month later. Two months later

Search Engine Land’s UA property lastly stopped processing knowledge on Sept. 8 — 68 days previous the date on which we have been anticipating, and informed repeatedly, it might cease. I ponder if there are nonetheless any UA properties amassing knowledge as we shut out 2023?

10 extra Google Search updates and adjustments

Dig deeper. Inside Google’s huge 2023 E-E-A-T Data Graph replace


New Bing / Bing Chat / Bing Copilot

In January, we discovered Microsoft was planning on including ChatGPT options to Bing. By February, we discovered it might be powered by GPT-4, (OpenAI launched this mannequin in March) and the new interface was noticed within the wild.

Microsoft revealed the brand new Bing at an occasion in February. Right here’s our hands-on assessment from February. 

New Bing earned reward from SEOs (e.g., New Bing is mind-blowingly quick and higher than I anticipated) regardless of seeming to have a number of personalities (or “confused”) early on and obtained a number of high quality enhancements since.

It additionally got here with a waitlist and would solely be open to Edge customers on desktop initially. Over one million individuals signed up for the AI-powered Bing over the following 48 hours. 

Dig deeper. Microsoft explains how Bing AI Chat makes use of ChatGPT and Search with Prometheus

Microsoft’s AI-powered search earned a lot media consideration and created the notion that the corporate would possibly lastly acquire floor on its longtime rival, Google. However hype, because it usually does, seems to not be actuality.

It appeared like Bing made some small features in search market share by March. We later discovered that the brand new Bing attracted many new Edge customers, who then selected Google for Search as an alternative of Bing.

It grew to become clear by Could that Microsoft Bing had failed to achieve market share. Even clearer after six months of the brand new Bing — Microsoft disputed the numbers however failed to offer any figures.

By the point Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke on the U.S. vs. Google antitrust trial, he gave the impression of a defeated man, saying at one level:

  • “Yeah, I imply, look, that’s referred to as exuberance of somebody who has like 3% share, that possibly I’ll have 3.5% share.”

In November, Microsoft introduced a rebranding of Bing Chat to Copilot. When that change will really grow to be seen stays to be seen, as Bing nonetheless refers to its chat expertise from Search as “Bing Chat” or “Chat.”

Dig deeper:


A former Yandex worker allegedly leaked supply code, a part of which contained 1,922 search rating elements. This was large information when it broke, however has virtually been forgotten now. 

It turned out that 1,922 determine was low — there have been really 17,854 Yandex rating elements. See Michael King’s wonderful evaluation: Yandex scrapes Google and different search engine marketing learnings from the supply code leak.

Additionally, Russia’s largest search engine is now reportedly on the market.


Yahoo began dropping hints in January about its return to competing within the search area. Along with hiring, a tweet promised Yahoo was going to make search “cool once more.”

Now we all know Yahoo’s new Search expertise will begin rolling out within the first few weeks of 2024, Brian Provost, SVP & GM, Yahoo, informed me at SMX Subsequent in November.


The ad-free search engine, based in 2019, shut down.

Search Engine Land


We turned Search Engine Land right into a chatbot this yr. Sure, we educated ChatGPT on our content material so you may discover, experiment and study extra about search advertising and marketing.

Later within the yr, SearchBot obtained an enormous improve, together with new personas and picture technology.

Join right here without cost entry.

SMX Superior and Subsequent

We ran two digital occasions this yr – SMX Superior in June and SMX Subsequent in November. Each exhibits have been packed filled with actionable search engine marketing ideas and insights. 

Under are hyperlinks to our protection of some search engine marketing session from Superior:

You possibly can count on to learn a lot of protection of search engine marketing periods from SMX Subsequent over the approaching weeks on Search Engine Land.

Plus, congratulations to all of the 2023 Search Engine Land Award winners.

Wage & Profession Survey

Right here’s what you informed us:

20 years of Barry Schwartz

Search Engine Land’s personal Barry Schwartz has now been masking all issues seek for 20 years — 17 of these right here at Search Engine Land. JR Oaks did an enchanting breakdown of 20 years of search primarily based on Search Engine Roundtable analytics knowledge.

search engine marketing in 2033

What’s subsequent for search engine marketing? Extra AI. We’re solely on the daybreak of our generative AI journey and AI-driven Search as we enter 2024.

Pichai stated this yr Google Search will evolve substantively in subsequent 10 years. And 2024 might be one yr nearer to the kind of search that’s extra “customized” (hey, Bard Assistant) and “ambiently obtainable to customers in radically other ways.” And he guarantees Google will get SGE proper.

DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman echoed this, saying Google will look a lot totally different in 2033 – the place dialog is the interface, not a Search field.

For those who’ve by no means seen the 2013 film “Her,” watch it. Or when you’ve got seen it, watch it once more. That could possibly be the final path Google is heading. The way forward for AI Search could possibly be:

  • Just about assisted.
  • Conversational.
  • Predictive.
  • Adaptive — to evolve and perceive you.

We aren’t there but. Study all you may about how fashionable search engines like google and yahoo work, generative AI, LLMs, retrieval augmented technology and generative engine optimization (GEO) in 2024.