The year of generative AI

The year of generative AI


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

By March, Search Engine Land had printed a number of tales that, in every other yr, all may 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 completely potential {that a} main Search story will break on Dec. 31.

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

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


Search Generative Expertise

The all-new, AI-powered Google Search — formally: Google Search Generative Experience — was introduced Might 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 Might 25. Right here’s our SGE hands-on and early reactions.

Dig deeper. Test driving Google’s Search Generative Experience

The AI-generated solutions are offered in a wide range of types 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 more countries, all whereas its content formats continue to evolve

Initially, SGE did not cite sources in its solutions (like Bard). Google started testing SGE links earlier than officially adding links in August.

Main as much as this:

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


Google tried to make it clear — Bard is not Search. This didn’t cease folks 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 answer 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 model 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 links or citations to the sources used to generate its AI solutions, with some seeing this a declaration of battle on publishers. Google’s preliminary rationalization was that Bard was “meant to generate unique content material and never replicate current content material at size.” Citations were added later.
  • Google appeared to rush the Bard announcement (extensively thought of to be so underwhelming that Google misplaced $100 million in market worth the next day) to Feb. 6 so Google may upstage a Feb. 7 occasion at which Microsoft introduced its new AI-powered model of Bing Search, powered with GPT-4. 
  • A month after asserting Bard, Google opened a waitlist. SEOs who received early entry shared early Bard issues, which included hallucinations and getting dangerous search engine optimization recommendation that went towards Google’s pointers (e.g., Bard thought shopping for hyperlinks is a good suggestion). General, SEOs weren’t impressed with Bard — Google Bard was called disappointing in comparison with ChatGPT and Bing Chat. 

Dig deeper: ChatGPT vs. Google Bard vs. Bing Chat: Which generative AI solution is best?

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 reminded us of the previous content material farms worn out by Google’s Panda updates.

Google appeared to vary its stance on AI content material this yr, lower than a yr after warning towards AI written content

Content material that’s useful and created for folks 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 creators quickly became concerned about AI answers stealing visitors and income:

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

Rating revelations

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

  • How Google Search and ranking works, according to 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, based mostly on Nayak’s testimony.
  • 7 must-see Google Search ranking documents in antitrust trial exhibits: We study loads from inside displays and paperwork, together with Google’s pillars of rating, what person interplay indicators Google appears at (clicks, reads, scrolls, hovers); how Google learns from customers and makes use of that knowledge to enhance Search; 18 points of search high quality and rather more.
  • Former Googler: Google ‘using clicks in rankings’: Eric Lehman, a former 17-year worker of Google, mentioned 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 (supplied within the two tales above) round simply how a lot click on knowledge was utilizing resulting from 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 advised us that links are no longer a “top 3” Google search ranking factor, which is in keeping with what Google said a year ago and advised us would occur nearly a decade ago.

Hyperlinks clearly nonetheless play a task in search engine optimization. Nonetheless, for Google, hyperlinks are much less vital 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 history of Google algorithm updates page options all the most recent information and steerage across the newest algorithm updates.

Google shared new link best practices of their search engine optimization and search developer documentation. 

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

Content material pruning

CNET received “uncovered” for deleting 1000’s of pages (a.okay.a., content material pruning), which is a reasonably widespread superior search engine optimization observe. 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.”

Nonetheless, 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 in some way imagine Google doesn’t like ‘previous’ content material? That’s not a factor! Our steerage doesn’t encourage this. Older content material can nonetheless be useful, too.”

Learn all about it in Google warns against content pruning as CNET deletes thousands of pages in addition to my follow-up information, Improving or removing content for SEO: How to do it the right way.

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 set up Google Analytics 4 for us if we didn’t

Whereas it appeared everyone was speaking about AI, GA4’s switch-or-else date — July 1 — ultimately got here. Regardless of all of the superior discover, marketers still 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 advised repeatedly, it could cease. I’m wondering if there are nonetheless any UA properties accumulating knowledge as we shut out 2023?

10 extra Google Search updates and modifications

Dig deeper. Inside Google’s massive 2023 E-E-A-T Knowledge Graph update


New Bing / Bing Chat / Bing Copilot

In January, we discovered Microsoft was planning on adding ChatGPT features to Bing. By February, we discovered it could be powered by GPT-4, (OpenAI released this model in March) and the new interface was spotted in the wild.

Microsoft revealed the new Bing at an occasion in February. Here’s our hands-on review from February. 

New Bing earned reward from SEOs (e.g., New Bing is mind-blowingly fast and better than I expected) regardless of seeming to have multiple 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 a million people signed up for the AI-powered Bing over the subsequent 48 hours. 

Dig deeper. Microsoft explains how Bing AI Chat uses ChatGPT and Search with Prometheus

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

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

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

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

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

In November, Microsoft introduced a rebranding of Bing Chat to Copilot. When that change will truly change into 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 ranking factors. 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 truly 17,854 Yandex rating elements. See Michael King’s glorious evaluation: Yandex scrapes Google and other SEO learnings from the source code leak.

Additionally, Russia’s largest search engine is now reportedly for sale.


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

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


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

Search Engine Land


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

Later within the yr, SearchBot received an enormous upgrade, together with new personas and picture era.

Sign up here at no cost entry.

SMX Superior and Subsequent

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

Beneath are hyperlinks to our protection of some search engine optimization session from Superior:

You possibly can count on to learn numerous protection of search engine optimization classes 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 advised us:

20 years of Barry Schwartz

Search Engine Land’s personal Barry Schwartz has now been protecting 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 based mostly on Search Engine Roundtable analytics knowledge.

search engine optimization in 2033

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

Pichai mentioned this yr Google Search will evolve substantively in next 10 years. And 2024 shall be one yr nearer to the kind of search that’s extra “customized” (howdy, Bard Assistant) and “ambiently obtainable to customers in radically alternative ways.” And he guarantees Google will get SGE right.

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

If you happen to’ve by no means seen the 2013 film “Her,” watch it. Or when you’ve got seen it, watch it once more. That may very well be the final route Google is heading. The way forward for AI Search may very well be:

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

We aren’t there but. Be taught all you possibly can about how fashionable serps work, generative AI, LLMs, retrieval augmented generation and generative engine optimization (GEO) in 2024.


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