Search Engine Roundtable’s 20th Anniversary

20 years ago tomorrow (December 2, 2003), I started this blog aimed at archiving some of the best discussions within the search marketing community. It has now been 20 years that I’ve been writing on this site, covering what you – the search marketers are talking about from within the search community. Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of the Search Engine Roundtable – I would post this tomorrow, but it is Shabbat, and I will be offline most of the day.

I’ve been writing about search for over two decades and almost half of my life. More importantly, I’ve been doing it consistently every workday, several times per day, no matter how I feel, for 20 straight years. As I say every year and think almost every day, it is hard for me to fathom that I still can find several new things to write about every single day on this niche topic of SEO, PPC, and search marketing.

20 Years Of Passion:

20 years ago, I started this site as a way to keep notes on what the search marketing community was talking about. A roundtable of discussions, if you will, between the smartest search marketing minds. Finding new tests and concepts that most have not yet seen yet, to bring those to a larger number of search marketers. That passion and that mission have not changed – I still try to cover what the search marketing community is buzzing about, what the community cares about, and what the community is saying about those changes in our industry.

I still continue to publish several stories here a day and on Search Engine Land. I still produce my weekly video recaps, please subscribe to the YouTube channel. I also continued to do the search vlog where I try to bring more attention to new and maybe old individuals in our community, but I might be pausing this in the coming weeks. I also publish these videos on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or your favorite podcast player. Don’t forget about the fun daily photos and big monthly Google webmaster reports. These are all aimed at saving you time while catching you up on new topics and making you smile at the same time.

If you want, you can read last year’s recap – the 19th year anniversary of the Search Engine Roundtable as well.

Our Growth & Analytics:

Keep in mind, we all switched over to GA4 so the numbers are not really apples to apples exactly. I think we saw a 6.5% increase in traffic this year, while last year, we saw a 6% increase in traffic from the previous year. Search traffic increased by over 12%, with an 11% increase last year. Our direct traffic was also up over 21%; last year, it was up 6%. Social traffic was up 18.5%, last year it was even. Email traffic was up 3.5%, but it was up 22% the year before.

Mobile traffic share is 41.6%, and add 2% more for tablet traffic, it was 43% last year. Chrome browsers still dominate on this site. US is still the most popular source of traffic, followed by India, then UK, then China and then Canada. 62.6% of the readers are male. Again, this is using GA4, not UA3, so the comparisons may be off. Also, this combines app usage and AMP (which we removed this year) usage.

There are now about 36,445 stories on this site, I wrote about 33,545 of them – about 92% of them. I posted about 2,000 stories this year alone! We also had about 19,000 comments posted this year on the published stories, so thank you for all who comment – I do read them all and do my best to deal with spam.

With YouTube, my channel – please subscribe has over 1,800 new subscribers (now at ~16,900 subscribers). There are over 6.7 million views on those videos, with over 68,000 hours of watch time. Oh, and I made just over $1,000 in YouTube ad revenue in the past year, which is $500 less than last year’s revenue. However, if you watch, you will see I have video sponsors now – thank you, sponsors!

Finally, we are slated to launch a new design on January 1, 2024. It has been over a dozen years since I updated this site’s design and platform and this one will be a big update, so stay tuned.

Most Important Stories In Past 12 Months:

Like always, I am hyper-focused on covering both the confirmed Google search ranking algorithm updates and the unconfirmed ones. We had four core updates this year, three reviews update this year, one helpful content update (well, two if you count December 2022) and a spam update (link spam update in December 2022). So 10 confirmed updates in 2023 or 12 confirmed updates since December 2, 2023. Those updates were mostly big and we had a ton of unconfirmed updates. Google even gave us a page to track those updates.

Google changes how its page experience signals work for ranking, dropping a ton of Search Console tools around that. Google released its hidden gems ranking system this year, spoke about topic authority ranking, language matching system, and a lot of site name changes.

If 2023 had any theme – that theme would be about AI and Search. We had OpenAI’s ChatGPT cause huge waves through the search industry. Microsoft partnered with them to make Bing Chat, now Copilot. Then Google answered with Bard and then the Google Search Generative Experience. Of course, ads will be interesting to follow and then how these AI services will send publishers and websites traffic is an important topic to follow.

Changes to search is coming beyond AI or with AI; with Google getting more personalized, Bing improving its ranking systems with AI and Yahoo promising to make search cool again.

Of course, the Department of Justice is doing its thing with Google, which has been pretty insightful and eye-opening for many of us. As what when the Yandex search code was leaked. It all comes down to SEOs ruining the internet while playing with the alligators at late night parties.

There was a lot that I wrote, like I said above, but here is what I think are the most important stories over the past 12-months or so (if I missed any, let me know in the comments):

Google Core Updates:

Google Helpful Content Update:
Google Reviews Update:
Google Spam Update:
Google Page Experience:
Misc Google Search Algorithm:
Unconfirmed Google Search Algorithm Updates:
Google SGE & AI:
Bing Chat / Copilot:
Other AI Search:
Crawling & Indexing:
Google Search Console & Merchant Center:
Search Features:
Search Ads:
Local Search & Google Business Profiles:
Google Analytics:

Most Viewed Stories In Past 12 Months:

Here are the most viewed stories in the past 12 months of 2022 based on Google Analytics. The theme – Google Search ranking updates:

Looking Forward To 2024:

Last year, I said we will see a lot more for the helpful content update, in a very big way. The core updates, I think, may be lighter and less impactful. I do think we will see stronger spam updates in 2024 as well. I was wrong on some levels, the core updates were not weaker and we only had one helpful content update in 2023 and only one spam update in 2023. But the updates were very strong and impactful – for the most part.

I wrote that AI will become used more in SEO, for better or worse, which was a no-brainer and I was right. I also said we will see more from Google and others with search interface changes; which we 1000% saw, especially a few weeks ago with the personalization and follow feature and notes.

I also said AI will play a big part of search and search ads – which is an understatement for what was announced in 2023.

Looking forward to 2024 – the easy answer is to say AI in search will continue to be a big deal. Google will launch a more subtle layout for the SGE AI-generated answers. We will see new AI-based ad formats from Google and Bing. I do hope we will see less personalization but I suspect we will see more of it, baked into AI for search and Google Assistant.

More and more tasks will be handled by AI for both technical SEO, content SEO and search ads.

It is just such an exciting time in search with so much changing and I think most of us see the direction things are headed.

Thank you:

As I said last year, I deeply appreciate and thank you all so much for reading every day, commenting (or ignoring the comments) and for sharing the stories here. Keep up the chatter and let’s build an even better search community this coming year. Everyone stay safe and healthy!

Thank you,

Barry Schwartz

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