2023’s Top SEO Trends: Shaping the Digital World

A Glimpse at the Past: SEO Evolution

In the land of the internet, the foundations of SEO were laid on keywords and backlinks, much like a house built on sand. Businesses stuffed their content with as many keywords as possible and acquired backlinks with little regard for quality, hoping to rank higher in search engine results. But as the digital winds blew, the foundations shook, leading to a significant shift.

The realization dawned that the internet is not a desolate wasteland to be dominated with keyword-loaded content, but a bustling marketplace to engage and serve real people. SEO started to pivot towards user experience, introducing updates to discourage manipulative tactics and encourage content that truly caters to users’ needs and interests.

SEO’s Infancy: Keywords and Backlinks

The keyword was king in the early days of SEO. It was a simpler time when the quantity of keywords mattered more than their context or placement. Similarly, backlinks were accumulated like precious gems, with the sole aim of tricking the algorithm into seeing your site as more relevant and authoritative.

But the keyword kingdom and the backlink empire were not to last. Google’s algorithm grew smarter, penalizing sites that indulged in keyword stuffing and low-quality link building. The emphasis began to shift towards providing value to the user, leading to the dawn of a new era in SEO.

The changing dynamics brought forth the need for a more thoughtful, user-oriented approach. SEO was no longer just about getting the most clicks, but about ensuring those clicks led to meaningful user engagement. The focus started to drift from mere visibility to quality and relevance of content.

The Shift towards User Experience

The SEO landscape started shifting like a sand dune under the force of the digital wind. The king and the empire fell, and in their place rose the user experience. Google, like a wise monarch, understood that their kingdom, the World Wide Web, is populated not by websites, but by users. And users demand a pleasant, efficient, and meaningful experience.

The factors that would determine a website’s rank began to include site speed, mobile responsiveness, site structure, and content relevance. Google’s algorithm became an astute gatekeeper, discerning not just what users were looking for, but how they were looking for it. Keyword stuffing and link schemes were sidelined, and the spotlight fell on the real stars: the users.

While it took some time for businesses to adjust to this new ethos, the change ushered in a new, more authentic way of connecting with users. SEO was not a game of trickery anymore but an exercise in empathy, understanding what the user wants, and providing it in the most accessible and engaging way possible.

The Emerging Trends: Future of SEO

The land of SEO isn’t a stagnant one. Like the mighty river Shannon that shapes the terrain it courses through, so do emerging trends shape the SEO landscape. These trends signal not just the future of SEO, but of the digital world as a whole. Their ripples will be felt across businesses, shaping strategies and determining visibility.

These trends are no sudden torrents but have been gradually accumulating, waiting to surge. They’re driven by technological advances, user behavior shifts, and changes in how search engines perceive relevance and authority. In essence, they are the confluence of artificial intelligence, mobile-first indexing, core web vitals, voice search, local SEO, and long-form content.

The Power of AI: From RankBrain to MUM

Just as the Rosetta Stone transformed our understanding of hieroglyphics, AI is revolutionizing how search engines decipher user intent. This is not a distant sci-fi prophecy, but a reality being shaped as we speak. Google’s RankBrain was the first AI algorithm used to process search results, a sign of things to come.

Now, AI is being employed more extensively, with Google’s Multitask Unified Model (MUM) taking centre stage. AI’s role in SEO is expanding, promising to render search results more accurate, personalized, and contextually relevant.

Understanding how RankBrain and MUM operate will help businesses to tailor their SEO strategies accordingly, ensuring they not only keep pace with the AI revolution but ride its wave to the shores of success.

Understanding RankBrain

Before AI, search algorithms were like trains running on predefined tracks. Enter RankBrain, the first AI-powered component of Google’s search algorithm, and suddenly, we had a self-driving car that could navigate the bustling streets of the internet.

RankBrain understands context and semantic search better than its predecessors. It could figure out what a user intends to find even if they don’t know the exact keywords. This marked a sea-change in how businesses needed to approach keyword optimization, making context and semantic search integral to SEO.

The Advent of MUM

While RankBrain was like a lantern illuminating our path, Google’s Multitask Unified Model (MUM) is akin to a lighthouse, shining its light far and wide. MUM is a more sophisticated AI model, capable of understanding content across multiple languages and formats. This greatly broadens the scope and relevance of search results.

MUM is capable of interpreting complex queries that require understanding and collating information from several sources. This has profound implications for businesses, as it will allow them to cater to nuanced and specific user queries better than ever before.

Preparing for the SEO Shift: A Tactical Approach

Just as a sailor prepares for a voyage by understanding the currents and adjusting his sails, so too must we approach the SEO shift. An understanding of the terrain isn’t merely an academic exercise, but a practical tool that enables us to chart the course of our online presence.

We need to embrace the winds of AI, adjust our compass for mobile optimisation, chase the Core Web Vitals, adapt our language for voice search and featured snippets, establish our foothold in the local scene, and unfold the map of long-form content. Now, let’s examine each of these tactics in detail.

Embracing AI for SEO

AI is like a skilled detective, combing through the data and piecing together user intent. It doesn’t just look at keywords but considers context, past behaviour, and the semantic meaning of queries. As businesses, we need to embrace this technology to stay relevant in search results.

Let’s consider Google’s BERT algorithm, which improves the understanding of natural language in search queries. We can no longer stuff keywords into our content and expect high rankings. We need to focus on creating meaningful, high-quality content that answers users’ queries effectively.

The process isn’t about outsmarting the algorithm but understanding its logic. Tools like Google’s Cloud AutoML can help us glean insights from our data, refine our SEO strategy, and create more targeted, effective content. It’s a partnership with AI, not a competition.

Keyword Optimization in the Age of AI

Think of keyword optimization like choosing the right bait for fishing. The better you know the fish, the better your chances. With AI, search engines understand user intent more accurately. So, our keyword strategy needs to evolve from merely focusing on popular keywords to understanding what users are really looking for.

For example, a user searching for ‘best Italian restaurant’ is likely looking for options nearby, reviews, and possibly online booking. Using AI-powered tools, we can understand these nuances and optimize our content to provide the most relevant and useful information, thereby improving our chances of ranking higher.

Mobile Optimization: A Must-Do

Given that most web users now access the internet via mobile devices, it’s akin to fishing where the fish are. Mobile optimisation ensures that our online presence is not just visible, but also usable and enjoyable on smaller screens. It’s not just about shrinking a website to fit a smaller screen but creating a seamless user experience, irrespective of the device.

Mobile optimisation is not a separate entity but an integral part of the SEO strategy. Google’s mobile-first indexing emphasises the importance of mobile-friendly websites. Neglecting this aspect is akin to opening a shop and then forgetting to unlock the front door.

Let’s consider a common pitfall – unplayable content. If a video on your site can’t be played on mobile devices, you’re alienating a large chunk of your audience. Ensuring all content is accessible and usable on mobile is a crucial step towards effective mobile optimisation.

Responsive Web Design: One Size Fits All

Imagine your website is like water – it should be able to fill any container, be it a cup (mobile), a jug (tablet), or a bucket (desktop). This is what responsive web design aims to achieve – a website that looks and works well, regardless of the device it’s viewed on.

For instance, text that’s easy to read on a desktop might be too small on a mobile device. A responsive design would automatically adjust the font size based on the screen size, ensuring readability across devices. This flexibility is at the heart of mobile optimisation, making your website accessible to all users.

Chasing the Core Web Vitals

Imagine if visiting a website were like entering a shop. The speed it takes to open the door (Largest Contentful Paint), the time it takes for an assistant to acknowledge you (First Input Delay), and whether items stay in place or mysteriously move around (Cumulative Layout Shift) are all aspects of the experience. These, in essence, are what Core Web Vitals measure – loading, interactivity, and visual stability.

Search engines care about user experience, and that’s precisely what Core Web Vitals address. Improving on these fronts isn’t just about appeasing Google; it’s about providing a superior experience to your visitors. Better performance can lead to higher user engagement, retention, and conversions.

Consider a scenario where a user tries to click a button on your site, but it suddenly moves, causing the user to click on something else. This is poor visual stability and can frustrate users. By addressing such issues, you can enhance user experience and boost your SEO.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Open the Door Quickly

Imagine you’ve invited guests to your home but take ages to open the door. They might get impatient and leave, right? The same holds true for your website. LCP measures the time it takes for the main content on a page to load. A fast LCP gives users the impression that the site is quick and responsive.

If a user clicks on your website and the main content takes ages to load, they might bounce off. Google recommends an LCP of 2.5 seconds or less for a good user experience. You can achieve this by optimising your server, removing render-blocking JavaScript and CSS, and managing resource load times.

Adapting to Voice Search and Featured Snippets

Remember the times when talking to your gadgets was something out of a sci-fi movie? Well, the future is here and voice search is not just a trend, but a significant shift in how people interact with technology. It’s as if we’ve developed a new dialect – the language of voice search.

The beauty of voice search lies in its convenience and efficiency. For businesses, this means we need to adjust our online language to match this new dialect. Similarly, featured snippets offer a shortcut to visibility. They’re the gold nuggets of the search engine world – highly visible and rich with information.

Let’s consider a local bakery in Cork. A user might ask their voice assistant, “What’s the best bakery near me?” If the bakery’s website is optimised for local voice search, providing information like opening hours, location, and customer reviews, it could be the answer the assistant provides, leading to increased visibility and potential business.

Voice Search Optimisation: Speaking the Right Language

Optimising for voice search is akin to tuning an instrument. The better you understand the nuances of the instrument, the better you can fine-tune it. Similarly, the better you understand the nuances of voice search, the better you can optimise your website to rank in voice search results.

For instance, voice searches tend to be more conversational and question-based. So instead of targeting the keyword “Cork bakery,” the bakery might target phrases like, “Where is the best bakery in Cork?” or “Best bakery near me”. It’s all about understanding and matching the user’s conversational tone and intent.

Excelling in Local SEO

Local SEO is a bit like putting up signposts in your neighbourhood. It helps people in your vicinity find you easily. As more consumers search for local businesses online, excelling in local SEO is no longer optional; it’s a must-do for businesses to be seen by local customers.

Visibility in local search results can drive foot traffic, boost sales, and increase brand awareness in your local community. It’s like having a billboard in just the right spot – except this billboard is digital, and it can potentially reach everyone in your area who’s online.

Imagine a small cafe in Galway. By focusing on local SEO, they could appear in the top results for searches like “cafe near me” or “best coffee in Galway”. This could attract local residents, workers looking for a lunch spot, or tourists visiting the city, driving increased business for the cafe.

Google My Business: The Yellow Pages of Today

Remember flipping through the Yellow Pages to find a business? Google My Business is the modern, digital equivalent of that. It’s an essential tool for local SEO, putting your business info right in front of users when they search.

Back to our Galway cafe example. By creating a Google My Business profile, they can display their location, hours, contact info, and even customer reviews right in Google’s search results. So, when someone searches for “cafes in Galway,” they’ll be able to find all the info they need about the cafe right away, making it more likely they’ll pay a visit.

Capitalizing on Long-Form Content

Long-form content is the novel in the world of blog posts and articles. It’s detailed, comprehensive, and often packed with useful information. It’s like giving your audience a full course meal instead of a snack, satiating their appetite for knowledge.

Google’s algorithms tend to favour comprehensive, high-quality content. But beyond the algorithm, long-form content can help establish you as an authority in your field, build trust with your audience, and foster engagement. It’s not just about ticking the SEO box but providing real value to your readers.

Consider an online clothing store publishing a comprehensive guide on sustainable fashion. This guide could cover everything from what sustainable fashion is, to how to choose sustainable brands, and tips on maintaining a sustainable wardrobe. Not only does this provide value to readers, but it can help the store rank higher in search results, attract more visitors, and build brand credibility.

Pillar Pages: The Backbone of Long-Form Content

Pillar pages are like the spine of a book, supporting and organising the content. They’re comprehensive, topic-focused pages that link to and from related content. They not only help organise your content and make it easier for users to navigate, but they can also boost your SEO.

Using our previous example, the online store could create a pillar page for sustainable fashion, linking to all their related content. This helps Google understand the content’s structure and relevance, potentially improving the store’s ranking for sustainable fashion-related searches. Plus, it gives readers a go-to resource for all things sustainable fashion, improving user experience.


Understanding and keeping pace with SEO trends can feel like trying to catch a hare on the run. But you don’t have to do it alone. Kinsale SEO, Ireland’s leading SEO company, is your trusty greyhound, skilled and experienced in the chase.

We understand that SEO is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s a bespoke suit, tailored to fit your business perfectly. Whether it’s leveraging AI, optimizing for mobile, focusing on Core Web Vitals, targeting voice search and featured snippets, or crafting long-form, EAT-compliant content, we have the expertise and tools to help you excel.

In the ever-changing landscape of SEO, Kinsale SEO is your compass and guide, leading you towards visibility, growth, and success. With us, you’re not just keeping up with the trends, you’re setting them.


Q1: What is the importance of AI in SEO?

AI is transforming how search engines process and understand queries, making search results more accurate and personalised. Embracing AI in SEO can significantly improve your website’s visibility and ranking.

Q2: Why is mobile-first indexing crucial for SEO?

With the majority of internet users accessing the web via mobile devices, Google now prioritises the mobile version of websites for indexing and ranking. A mobile-optimised website is vital for visibility and user engagement.

Q3: How do Core Web Vitals impact SEO?

Core Web Vitals, which focus on speed, responsiveness, and visual stability, are now part of Google’s ranking algorithm. Websites that perform well on these aspects are likely to rank higher in search results.

Q4: What role do voice search and featured snippets play in SEO?

With the increasing use of voice assistants, voice search optimisation is becoming vital. Featured snippets provide quick answers and often form the basis of voice search results, offering an excellent opportunity for visibility.

Q5: How can long-form content and EAT principles improve SEO?

Long-form content that demonstrates Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (EAT) tends to rank higher on search engines. Such content can boost your rankings and establish your credibility.

About the author

Casey Meraz is the Founder of Kinsale SEO, Juris Digital, Solicitor Digital and Ethical SEO Consulting. He has been helping companies thrive online through effective organic SEO and Local SEO programs.

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