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What’s on the horizon for SEO in 2024? SEO professionals have shared their insights and predictions to help brands prepare for the coming year.
Search Engine Journal has released its annual SEO trends report, with insights and predictions for 2024. 20 SEO specialists contributed their thoughts and observations to predict a baseline for what we can expect over the next year.
AI is in everyone’s heads. It’s all we seem to hear about nowadays, with new tools and updates regularly being developed and released to the public with mixed receptions. In the 2023 report, AI was a significant trend highlighted by the contributors, but this year it really has taken the cake.
Here’s what the contributors have predicted for the SEO landscape in 2024.
Helpful content reigns supreme
Google regularly rolls out helpful content updates in a bid to combat content that has only been produced to rank well in the SERPs, rather than being valuable and useful to the end user.
The explicit explanation of how Google determines which sites and pages are ‘helpful’ has always been left rather ambiguous, but 2023’s helpful content updates were clear: Google’s algorithms generate site-wide signals and bases these signals on the helpfulness of your site. Sites that are determined to have relatively high amounts of unhelpful content overall are less likely to perform well in Search, assuming that there is other content elsewhere on the web that is better to display.
Adam Riemer, President of Adam Riemer Marketing warns that unhelpful content on your site can lower your chances of other, more useful pages performing well in the SERPs. Since Google looks at your site as a whole, one great piece of helpful content might not cut it if the algorithm deems your site unhelpful overall. In 2024, focus on making all of your pages helpful and user-friendly.
The surge of AI-generated content
Angie Nikoleychuk, Content Marketing Manager at Search Engine Journal says that we can partially blame AI for the sudden surge of low-effort and low-value content online. AI has allowed brands to pump out lifeless (yet still SEO optimised) content in quick succession with minimal human input. Nikoleychuk predicts that search engines will release more spam and useful content updates in 2024 to try and weed out low-value content.
The more unhelpful content that fails to meet the needs of users will lead to steadily declining trust. It’s likely that users will shy away from generic and AI-written content in 2024, so while this content might generate traffic, we will see this content genre start to generate fewer clicks and conversions.
Providing true human value to the end user
Users want value. They have questions that they want answered, or they’re trying to learn something new, or simply looking for entertainment. Whatever their wants and needs, the end goal of value stays the same. In 2024, readjust your SEO strategy towards human-centred search. Consider where the user has been, where they’re going and what their motivations and interests are. These are aspects that an AI can’t delve into, separating generic content from truly valuable offerings.
Nikoleychuk said: “The distinction between the SEO of the last few years and tomorrow’s human-centred search is small, but it’s important. For years, keywords and links have defined what a page is about. In 2024, SEO and search will be about the ‘how.’”
Mordy Oberstein, Head of SEO Brand at Wix has also predicted a focus on helpful content with a more human-centred approach. He’s presented the idea of ‘situational content’ being an important strategy in 2024. The idea is that various outcomes of any given advice are predicted and offered within the content to present the next logical steps. For example: if X doesn’t work, you might want to try Y.
This addresses the user’s needs directly, becomes more conversational than standard content, and proves knowledge, since to predict and solve situations, the author needs to actually know what they’re talking about. This type of content can indicate to users that a real person, not an AI, wrote it. AI cannot replace ideas and creativity, which is where humans can really step up and add value.
Patrick Stox, Product Advisor & Technical SEO at Ahrefs believes that injecting experience and expertise into content is a great way to add value. You may not have the right knowledge, so find someone that does. Conduct interviews or welcome guest content to embrace genuine insights, stories, knowledge and experiences in 2024. This is what users want and need – the human-centred approach.
Vahan Petrosyan, Director of Technology at Search Engine Journal said: “Machines can’t replicate the personal insights and feelings gained from real-life experiences like product reviews. For users searching for [the best laptops for graphic designers], the real working experiences of design professionals with specific products are crucial, rather than just a generic list of potential laptop options.”
AI lacks real experiences
AI can provide a world of information on a topic, but where does it progress from there? If a user wants original data, ideas, thoughts or complex solutions, we as humans have the opportunity to set ourselves apart from the machines. Take this example:
You want to learn how to boil an egg. By inputting an incredibly simple ChatGPT prompt I was provided an answer within seconds. This is a fine description of how to boil an egg – clear instructions with more than enough depth for the most novice of chefs to follow with success. There’s variations on cooking times to help you achieve the desired result, and even a tip for easy peeling of the shell. I could take this answer and plop it straight onto my website and consider that recipe guide complete.
When putting the same prompt into Google and selecting the top result from Recipe Tin Eats, I’m met with the same level of instructions for how to physically boil an egg. However, complementing this is additional information, the author has included rules and tips for more success, and ways to take the recipe further than just a plain and simple boiled egg. It’s also written like a human, with personality rather than a standardised computer response, which is much more fun to read. Oberstein predicted that conservational writing will take the lead in 2024, and this example makes it easy to understand why.
Don’t get me wrong, I could have input a few additional prompts into ChatGPT to get an expanded answer that covers this additional information, but how reliable would it be? ChatGPT pulls information from the internet (prior to 2022) and collates an appropriate response with what it finds. It could produce tips from multiple sources that could contradict each other. Reading straight from a food blog written by one individual with real-life experience of boiling (what I’m sure has been many) eggs over their lifetime gives a much more valuable and trustworthy answer.
Andrea Volpini, Co-founder and CEO of Wordlift has given a nod to this in his prediction: brands will need to develop intricate ontologies in 2024 to stand out from the sea of AI authorship online. An ontology is a way of showing that you not only know the basics, but can showcase knowledge on other topics and properties and how they relate to each other. By showing in-depth knowledge to both users and search engines, by proxy you’re showing that you are best placed to offer the relevant products and services.
Ontologies allow brands to define complex relationships and hierarchies within their domain of knowledge, allowing for better content organisation and more relevant search results. In 2024, it’s important to preserve and amplify a brand’s unique voice amidst the vast sea of AI-generated content.
The SERPs are evolving
Helpful content provides value to users, which can help build relationships between the brand and the consumer. Andrew Chadwick, Co-founder of Keyword Insights believes that building a strong brand presence will be crucial for 2024. That might sound like an obvious statement, as many brands are well aware of the importance and have existing strategies focussed on building and maintaining brand presence. However, in 2024, brand presence may become vital for SEO.
The SERPs are evolving rapidly and algorithm changes can have big impacts on visibility, seemingly overnight. Recognisable brands may be likely to attract more clicks, even if their rankings in Search are fluctuating. In 2024, invest in brand-building initiatives and collaborations, whilst striving to provide exceptional customer experiences and consistently deliver valuable content.
No one can truly predict the upcoming disruption to SEO that we’re sure to see in the coming year, but throughout 2024, brands need to be prepared for change, no matter how big or small that may be.
A big change already teased last year is Search Generative Experience (SGE). Still in early access but likely to fully roll out in 2024, SGE has the potential to change the search engine experience for many users. The SEO Trends report editors highlighted that how people have searched for information since search engines first appeared isn’t easily redirected, so SGE may not have as detrimental of an impact on a user’s search journey as we currently fear. But again, we can’t know for sure right now.
Shelley Walsh, SEO Content Strategist for Search Engine Journal said: “Instead of focusing on what SGE could take away (clicks), we need to focus on what Google is trying to achieve and remember they need content and clicks as much as we do. For SEO, it is more important than ever to be in those top results so that you will be included in SGE. It also means being the source of data and information and providing unique and valuable concepts and content.”
Prepare for disruption. Prepare for unusual performance interruptions. Prepare to develop new strategies. Prepare to adjust your performance metrics. Every year brings change to the world of SEO, but the best marketers keep up with the times and adapt alongside them. Besides, how many times have you heard the phrase ‘SEO is dead’, just for it to remain very much alive?
I’ll end with a quote from Ryan Jones, SVP and SEO for Razorfish, who said:
“Be prepared for SEO to be declared dead multiple times, only to be replaced with something that looks a lot like SEO.”
If you want to read the full SEO Trends report for yourself, download it here.
Feeling overwhelmed with the potential changes to the SEO landscape? Why not enlist the help of a friendly agency to guide you through 2024?
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