Is it often that you find yourself pondering on how to stay abreast of the ever-evolving digital environment?
The behaviours of online searchers are perpetually changing and it can be quite challenging for a brand, heavily reliant on online performance, to keep pace. There are, however, two factors that might ease your concerns: (1) rest assured, you are far from alone in this predicament, and (2) you have stumbled upon the definitive study on search behaviours. We are thrilled to present the State of Search, an annual, all-encompassing analysis by Semrush of Google updates, search behaviours, and SEO activities. Our State of Search 2023 infographic is where you’ll find the comprehensive report.
Our study utilised a vast selection of tools and reports, which includes data from the Semrush Sensor database, Domain Analytics, Traffic Analytics, and more. The aim is to assist you in refining your SEO strategy and outperforming your rivals. Our analysis sheds light on trends using recent search data and by comparing search behaviours in 2022 to those in 2021. This provides insights into the ways people searched, industries performed, and SERPs changed worldwide. Here’s a sneak preview of our findings before you delve into the infographic.
What Were This Year’s Traffic Trends? We calculated the overall traffic trend in 2022, based on the top 50,000 domains in the US, using the Semrush .Trends Rank and Traffic Analytics (Clickstream data). On average, these websites received around 140 billion visits monthly and, bearing in mind the mid-year recession, the traffic trend seemed to reflect the economic activity in 2022. A slight decline was observed midway through 2022, with recovery by year-end.
The Search traffic trend of these domains mirrored this pattern, contributing approximately 18% of the total traffic for the year. We invite you to explore the State of Search 2023 infographic for an in-depth look at the data, which includes Search traffic for some of the world’s most visited websites.
What Were the Industry Trends in 2022? We analysed Search traffic trends for select industries to understand the potential shifts from one brand to another.
Some sectors seemed to be directly affected by geopolitical and economic crises throughout the year, including Media, Retail, and Service and Technology. Others seemed to have been more influenced by seasonal changes in consumer demand, but one particular industry experienced a sharp decline after peaking in July—see for yourself in the infographic.
Despite the worldwide impact of global economic changes and crises, most industries exhibited growth and reclaimed their levels of online Search traffic by the end of 2022. Here, we can see the year-on-year (YoY) changes per industry from December 2021 to December 2022:
The Electronics, Beauty, Media and Food industries all experienced YoY growth
The Retail, Online Education and Travel industries witnessed a reduction in traffic, although not significantly
The Service and Technology and Fashion industries saw more substantial drops in traffic in 2022.
What Were the Trends in Google Updates and SERP Volatility?
In 2022, 10 Google updates were confirmed, slightly fewer than in 2021. However, our State of Search study indicates that the yearly average has been climbing since 2017.
A portion of our analysis was dedicated to estimating the impact of Google updates over time. You might be intrigued to learn from the data that the effect of these updates appeared to be comparatively low in 2022. Find out which updates had the least significant impact in 2022 right here.
Regarding volatility, it was actually higher in 2022 than in 2021, despite lower readings on the Semrush Sensor from July onwards. This might be due to a shift in how Google is diversifying the way updates are developed and released. All updates in 2022 were less impactful than those in 2021, but the last Core update in March 2023 had a considerable impact, which contradicts the theory that Google is transitioning to a more continuous algorithm update. Perhaps the March 2023 update was more substantial due to the influence that ChatGPT has had on Google…
How Did Search Intent Change in 2022 Compared to 2021?
To estimate the change in the distribution and search volumes of keywords by search intent in 2022, we utilised the Semrush Domain Analytics database, which continually tracks 159 million desktop keywords in the US.
Our analysis revealed an intriguingly positive trend for two specific keyword groups, while the other two showed a contrasting trend. It’s clear that Google has altered the balance of the SERPs and started shifting the searcher’s focus away from purely informational results—dig into the data in the infographic for more details.
As a continuation from our Zero-Clicks Study in 2022, you can also explore how Click-Through Rates (CTRs) played out in Google’s SERPs in the comprehensive report for this year’s State of Search. How many searches resulted in a click on the first result? How did mobile fare in comparison to desktop? Have Google’s changes led to a further decrease in clicks by providing more ad-based results?
You can find additional related insights in Backlinko’s CTR Study, which has been updated based on the same data.
What Were the Website Trends in 2022?
2022 marked a three-year decline in the number of ranking domains, according to our State of Search data. This could be partly due to some of the indexing issues Google encountered last year, or the possibility that it’s better than ever at combatting spam and removing irrelevant domains from its index. We must also consider the likelihood that more domains created at the onset of the pandemic have now been abandoned, while more authoritative brands have expanded into ranking for more keywords with fewer pages.
It’s clear here that having a robust digital strategy complete with high-quality content is crucial. This puts businesses under increasing pressure to invest in SEO and content. This could put smaller businesses at higher risk if they are unable to compete with the superior budgets of larger brands.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom for these websites. We found a significant amount of new websites appearing in Google’s search results in 2022—28% more domains appeared on top of the ones we were already tracking in our database. This percentage was lower in 2022 than in 2021, but still higher than it was in 2020:
What Are Your Thoughts on the State of Search 2023?
Our findings from this State of Search 2023 study demonstrate that last year was certainly a challenging one in terms of online traffic. There were clear winners and losers, but it seems that nearly every industry was affected by changes to the SERPs and the way Google ranks.
Dive into the data for yourself and share your thoughts on how mobile fared against desktop and what recent updates might reveal about Google. Will those industries that faltered in 2022 adapt and rebound stronger in 2023? Will Google keep us guessing about the frequency of its updates? Will the State of Search undergo yet another transformation in 2024?