Search engine marketing in 2023: key trends

17 May 2023

What are the trends in search engine marketing in 2023? What should we look out for when machine learning takes over part of our work? We list three notable trends and provide some best practices.


Artificial intelligence, the human way

There's no way around it: AI tools like ChatGPT and Bard are turning the world upside down. It has never been easier to create copy for an ad or web page, among other things. But is it smart to trust AI with this?

Open AI can indeed deliver ads, extensions, and copy. But the model is not trained to understand context. Our tip: use artificial intelligence to gather creative ideas. From there, you can interpret those ideas and leverage them for your project. That way, you create content for people — not machines.

RSAs: quality over quantity

In search engine marketing, we are also seeing strong automation. The move from expanded text ads to responsive search ads (RSA) is perhaps the most significant change. But how can you fully harness the power of RSAs? Two key tips:

  1. Stand out with your call-to-actions (CTAs)

You'll find ads with boring CTAs all over the place. An easy way to stand out from your competition is to use an original call-to-action. Need a little inspiration? Take a look at these examples:


2. Give machine learning the space to learn

Google encourages you to add lots of headlines and descriptions to your RSA. It looks like your ad strengthens because your ad strength score increases. But don't be fooled: this score says nothing about the quality of your ad. It only indicates whether you bring enough variety to your assets.

Too many combinations can also get in your way. This makes it harder for machine learning to figure out which combinations are effective for your ad.

Our advice: fix your headlines and descriptions to a certain position. That way, you reduce the number of combinations Google can make. The fewer combinations, the better machine learning can test what really works — as you can see in this table:


For the best results, we recommend testing your ads. Add six to eight headlines and test the difference between RSAs with and without fixed headlines.

New search experiences thanks to MUM

Google introduced MUM (Multitask Unified Model) in May 2021. By extracting information from both text and images, Google can answer complex queries in no time.

With MUM, Google is taking an important step towards a semantic (or meaning-based) search engine. The model allows Google to better understand search intent and context. That way, MUM can answer more complex queries that current SERPs do not satisfy.

The new model also affects the search experience. Google will show more rich snippets and related videos and images. But users will also be able to use Google Lens to formulate a search query. For example, a user can take a picture of a broken bicycle chain and ask how to repair it. The benefits are obvious.

MUM in practice

To show the impact of MUM on search queries, let's dive into football. If you search for 'football', you generally get the BBC website as the first result. That changes during the 2022 World Cup.

Google then takes control and prioritises the World Cup results. The BBC website continues to rank first for the keyword 'football', yet suffers a steep drop in clicks.  So at a time like this, Google decides what the user wants to see.

The implications for you

To better understand search intentions, Google needs to collect a huge amount of data. But above all, that data has to be clean. That's why Google now shows zero-position results and related searches without ads. On top of that, you can upload merchant listings for free if you have a webshop and Google can integrate you into the Shopping feed for free. 

This results in you generating fewer clicks to your website, even though your position remains identical. Moreover, you also face more competition: MUM itself will translate texts to best answer the user's query. 

The solution? Commit to quality and structured data to show Google your expertise. You should count on less ad space and clicks and therefore focus on strong branding. That way, you show at a glance that users can come to you with their question.

Improve your search engine marketing now with iO

Today, search engine marketing involves a lot. Where is the fine balance between artificial intelligence and the human touch? How do you create successful responsive search ads? And how do you capitalise on innovations such as MUM? 

The experts at iO will help you with these questions. Together with you, we genuinely want to achieve success with your search engine marketing. Sounds like music to your ears? Feel free to contact us.

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