Step into 2024, where SEO is on the brink of transformation. This post offers a deep dive into the minds of four SEO experts at Yoast. Each expert sheds light on the impact of the changes they see happening. Explore their collective wisdom as they dissect the future of search, the evolving challenges of engagement, and the strategic shifts vital for success in a year where things are moving quickly.
Table of contents
Setting the stage
As 2024 nears, reflecting on the transformative year 2023 for the SEO industry is important. It was a year marked by significant algorithmic shifts and technological advancements. Plus, evolving user behavior redefined the strategies of digital marketers worldwide.
In 2023, the SEO community witnessed the full impact of Google’s helpful content update. This placed a premium on user-centric content, diminishing the effectiveness of keyword-stuffed articles. In return, it rewards content catered to user needs and intent. This update re-emphasized the critical importance of understanding the searchers’ journey and creating content that offered genuine value.
The rise of artificial intelligence also reached a tipping point in 2023. AI-powered search features and content tools are becoming more mainstream. Integrating AI into search algorithms brought about smarter, more contextual search results.
As we move into 2024, these trends and challenges form the backdrop against which we navigate the future of SEO. The industry is set for another year of rapid evolution. Adaptability, strategic planning, and a keen eye on user experience will be the hallmarks of successful SEO.
2023: The year AI didn’t take over
To kick things off, our principal SEO expert, Carolyn Shelby, about the impact of AI on SEO in 2024:
As 2022 drew to a close, there was a sense that AI was about to take over everything, not just SEO. It was going to steal our jobs and replace us (humans) in nearly every possible way. In SEO, there was a massive interest in detection processes to determine what content people created and what AI created. There were questions about how the search engines were going to treat content deemed to be non-human. Thankfully, 2023 is almost over, and we are all (mostly) still employed, and none of us have new robot overlords.
Instead of completely taking over, AI is embedded within and added to most of our technology — especially in SEO. It’s a helper rather than a replacement; we’re all learning to leverage this new assistance. Even Google changed its language on treating AI-generated content to remove the stigmatization of using AI to help write. AI isn’t ruling over us; it is making us more efficient and helping us do our work faster. It might make you even better — if you’re good with your prompts.
Looking ahead to 2024, it’s clear that the integration of AI enhancements into everyday life will continue and probably accelerate. The most beneficial skills prized in the workplace will be language and logic skills that improve your prompts.
The search engines are furiously competing to enmesh the AI equivalent of Clippy into their overall experiences. That, in particular, concerns the SEO community because it raises questions about potential traffic loss. Especially when the SERP starts reading and summarizing your search results to answer questions without needing to click through. As a result, it prevents users from doing research. The lack of a need to do research raises concerns about bias in the algorithms and big tech possessing undue and unchecked influence over the masses.
So many ethical concerns, so few guardrails.
SEO will survive
Ultimately, SEO will survive this, as will websites. SEOs are still necessary, and we now have the luxury of offloading our tedious tasks to AI helpers. Our sites might lose some traffic to the AI in the SERPs, but quality content that provides valuable information will always be needed and should win out. We need to moderate some of our expectations regarding how we interpret our analytics, and our conversion metrics might start looking different. But to be fair, traffic now doesn’t look or convert the same as it did five or ten years ago. Things change, but SEO will adapt and evolve.
What do you E-E-A-T?
Now, our other resident SEO expert, Alex Moss. He has the following to share on the growing impact of E-E-A-T in 2024:
Authority within SEO isn’t a novel concept. For years, SEO experts have concentrated on page and site-level metrics. However, the rise of entities, recognized through schema markup and the Knowledge Graph, is now pivotal in enhancing a site’s or individual’s Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T). In 2024, it’s crucial to implement the correct schema markup for a page or site. Plus, you should craft content that genuinely serves the end user.
Over the past year, Google has underscored the importance of E-E-A-T with several updates, including an additional “E” for experience. This reflects a shift towards valuing personal experience in creating helpful, user-centric content. Alongside this, Google has updated its schema documentation — most notably with the anticipated enhancements to the Organization schema. In addition, it also introduced new types, such as profiles for individuals, discussion forums, educational offerings, and vacation rental listings.
Google’s focus on E-E-A-T will intensify in 2024, with further expansions and refinements to schema types and entity recognition. This evolution promises to intertwine individuals’ Knowledge Graphs more closely with the entities they are associated with, thus amplifying the importance of E-E-A-T in SEO.
The shift in online search behavior
In 2024, content specialist Camille Cunningham sees more changes happening in the way people search for answers to their questions:
When we think of how people find us online, we often picture someone typing in a keyphrase in Google’s good old search bar, hitting enter, and getting a neat list of search results. But as online search behavior evolves, we see a noticeable shift to other devices and platforms.
The importance of mobile
It may not be news to you, but the popularity of mobile is continuously growing. According to Hubspot, a percentage of 54% of consumers primarily use their phones for online searches. In that same research, they found that 80% of Gen Z, 62% of millennials, and 66% of Gen X use their phones most often when searching online. The younger generations (and the ones still to come) expect a great mobile experience whenever they experience you online.
The importance of social media
Related to this, you need to think bigger than just appearing in Google. Another development that will continue well into 2024 is using social media as a search engine.
People are spending loads of time on social media and using it to (actively) find information. Especially for younger generations, this is where you can reach them and get them interested in your business. These people will not be reached through traditional SEO; you’ll need to figure out where they hang out online and be there. Build your brand there and earn their trust through content that resonates with them.
Keep investing in user research and stay flexible in your marketing to ensure you cater to your audience’s changing needs. Constantly evolve with your target audience because user behavior will continue to change.
Google’s Search Generative Experience rolling out
Yoast’s strategic content specialist Edwin Toonen talks about the impact the SGE will have:
In 2024, Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) will change the game. Google will probably roll it out worldwide sometime next year. With SGE, users will get more options to shape their searches and the results they get. In general, they can do more on the SERPs. They will likely search differently, asking more complex questions rather than entering short keywords. We must prepare for this by creating content that answers these more detailed questions.
There’s been a lot of talk about zero-click results, and getting traffic to websites will definitely change. SGE will provide answers directly on the search page, which could mean fewer people clicking through to websites. This requires a new approach from all of us, as we must find fresh ways to engage users and measure success. Also, we need to assess how much site traffic the SGE can cost us and adjust our strategies accordingly.
Content accuracy is now more important than ever. To be used by SGE, content must be factually correct and highly relevant. Therefore, we must focus on quality to ensure SGE picks up our content. In addition, we must find new ways to align our content with what SGE seeks. While writing that unique content, use AI sparingly to ensure our original work stands out.
Underneath all that, structured data is the bedrock for everything. By embedding this standardized format, we can directly communicate the context of our website’s content to Google. This clarity allows SGE to parse accurately and present information in response to user queries.
To keep in mind
Amid these changes, Google’s ad business remains a focal point. It has a history of integrating new features with an eye on monetization. Any advancements, including SGE, will likely support and enhance their advertising model. As we work through these changes, we must remember that Google will prioritize features that tie back to revenue generation. This will influence how organic and paid content coexist on SERPs.
In short, SGE is a wake-up call. But, as with everything, there are opportunities. It’s an exciting time for SEO!
Conclusion to SEO in 2024
As we look ahead, it’s clear that four key drivers are reshaping SEO in 2024. First, artificial intelligence is not just on the horizon — it’s here, fundamentally altering how we approach search engine strategies. AI’s influence spans from content creation to search query processing, setting a new bar for what it means to optimize for search.
Simultaneously, Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) makes its presence felt. Its immediate impact on user search habits and site traffic compels us to re-evaluate our tactics to stay ahead.
The emphasis on E-E-A-T and entity SEO is rising to new heights of importance. The confluence of user experience, demonstrated E-E-A-T, and a clear understanding of entities and their relationships will form effective SEO.
Lastly, a new wave of user and search behavior changes is upon us. These shifts demand our attention and adaptability as they redefine the avenues users seek and consume information.
In summary, SEO in 2024 is dynamic and challenging but also brings opportunities. Staying attuned to these four focal points — AI’s transformative role, the ripple effects of Google’s SGE, the cruciality of E-E-A-T and entity SEO, and the evolving patterns of user behavior — will be pivotal for anyone looking to navigate the future of SEO successfully.