As we gaze into a crystal ball at the future of SEO, we can anticipate several SEO trends in 2024 that organisations should prepare for in their SEO strategy. These trends include new search features being rolled out into existing platforms like Google and Bing and trends that have already been prevalent, but we suspect will continue to be relevant in 2024.
Of course, we must look at how Artificial intelligence (AI) will impact SEO and reshape how algorithms understand and rank content. But don’t worry. I’ll give you tips on improving your search results, driving traffic to your website, and growing your digital presence.
A Summary of SEO Trends in 2024
SEO trends in 2024 are expected to be dominated by the integration of AI into search engine functionality, the rise of zero-click searches, the increasing importance of ethical link-building, and the focus on building topical authority for both SEO and AEO. We’ll touch on the changing behaviour on social media platforms and the growth of social searches.
1. Google Search Generative Experience (SGE) is coming
Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) is an AI-powered feature that enhances search engine results pages (SERPs). It provides AI-generated results for search queries, prominently displayed at the top of the SERPs with links to relevant content.
SGE is currently accessible to a select group of individuals in the United States, exclusively in English. However, I anticipate a gradual expansion of availability to users internationally throughout 2024 as the battle for AI search integration heats up.
It’s important to note that SGE isn’t like other AI tools such as ChatGPT. It’s not a chatbot as such. Instead, when you conduct a search on Google, you’re presented with an AI-powered outcome. This snapshot comprises pertinent links to some of the underlying sources and additional prompts to delve deeper into the subject. Which may include the ability to ask follow up questions.
The existing SERPs results with links to websites still appear under the AI response, but SGE appears like a slightly larger featured snippet at the top of the page. The links the AI displays (including links to further information and product pages for sales-related queries) will be highly sought after, much like the current position 0 slot (position 0 refers to being featured in Google’s snippets).
Adapting SEO Strategies to SGE
It’s still too early to determine how SGE will influence user search habits or its exact impact on SEO. However, one thing is clear: SGE won’t make SEO obsolete. Even though AI-generated results may shape user behaviour, traditional search results still dominate the search engine results pages (SERPs). Moreover, SGE-generated content includes links to relevant sources. This means that having your website featured in these results is still key for driving traffic.
It’s important not to discard traditional SEO strategies in light of SGE. Conventional SEO will continue to be relevant in the future of SEO. While SGE might provide a concise summary, it guides users towards more detailed content for comprehensive information. Users will still seek out full articles because they value trustworthy content and are unlikely to be satisfied with a short AI-generated snippet when searching for human experiences and insights.
While SGE might slightly change search behaviours, it certainly won’t signal the end of your website traffic.
2. Zero-Click Searches: Challenges and Opportunities
Another SEO trend disrupting the conventional SEO scene and shaping the future of SEO is zero-click searches. Nowadays, users can often get the answers they’re looking for directly from the search results page without clicking any links.
The Rise of Zero-Click Searches
The prevalence of zero-click searches is steadily increasing. According to the Semrush Zero-Clicks Study, 57% of mobile and roughly a quarter of desktop searches leave the search engine results page (SERP) without clicking on an organic or paid result. This trend reflects the changing behaviour of users and their desire for quick and immediate answers.
What are Zero-Click Searches?
Zero-click searches occur when the user’s query is answered directly on the search results page. This eliminates the need to click through to a website. Zero-click searches are made possible due to featured snippets and knowledge graphs, short selections of text, or visualised data appearing at the top of Google’s search results that directly answer the user’s question.
Types of searches often answered with a snippet or a knowledge graph include factual information, definitions, quick answers, and data or statistics. For example, if a user searches for “What is the capital of France?” a snippet will likely provide the answer (“Paris”) without the user needing to visit a webpage. Similarly, simple calculations, weather forecasts, and conversions (like miles to kilometres) are often presented as zero-click searches.
It’s important to note that while zero-click searches provide quick answers, they do not provide in-depth information. The need for in-depth information is where comprehensive content on a webpage becomes critical.
SEO Strategies for Zero-Click Searches
The rise of zero-click searches presents challenges and opportunities for SEO specialists. While attracting organic traffic may feel harder when users get information directly from search results, zero-click searches can boost brand recognition, visibility, and authority. Being featured in Google’s snippets, often called position 0, offers a prime opportunity for users to click through to your website. Appearing in snippets also boosts brand recognition and authority, as Google’s selection can be seen as a vote of confidence and trust in your content.
To optimise your site for zero-click searches,
- Focus on providing concise answers to common queries and structuring your content with clear headers, lists, and tables.
- Utilise schema markup to give Google a better context of your content’s meaning and relevance.
- If you’re a business with a physical location, optimising for local SEO can help you appear in the coveted “Local Pack.”
- Provide in-depth, authoritative content. If your content is recognised as a reliable source on a specific topic, it may be included in a Knowledge Panel. This further boosts your visibility.
3. The Growing Importance of Digital PR in SEO
Digital PR isn’t exactly a new SEO trend for 2024. Digital PR has been growing year on year in recent years and will be more important than ever in 2024. Ever since John Mueller, the Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst and Search Relations team lead at Google, tweeted that digital PR is “just as critical as technical SEO, probably more so in many cases”, the popularity of SEO has rocketed.
Digital PR is a strategy brands use to boost their online presence by building relationships with content writers and journalists. These actions gain press hits and ethical backlinks. Digital PR increases reach and visibility, positively impacting search engine visibility and the website’s Domain Authority (DA). The crossovers between SEO and PR are growing as the demand for better content and ethical link-building increases.
AI-powered spam detection and link quality assessment.
AI is revolutionising not only how we interact with search engines but also how organisations approach link building. Advanced AI algorithms, like Google’s Spambrain, sift through millions of links to ensure only high-quality, relevant ones contribute to a site’s SEO ranking. As AI improves, it will better identify unethical link-building practices.
Google strongly opposes buying links, considering it a violation of their Webmaster Guidelines and categorising it as a “link scheme.” However, many in the SEO industry have relied on this method to rank their content. Sites caught in link schemes may be penalised, resulting in reduced visibility or removal from Google’s index.
With AI, spotting link schemes will be easier for Google, potentially reducing traffic for organisations that have relied on this approach. Embracing ethical and approved link-building practices, such as Digital PR, is the alternative to these frowned-upon methods.
How Digital PR Enhances SEO Efforts
Digital PR involves an effective, ethical link-building approach that enhances online presence while following search engine guidelines.
It includes cultivating relationships with influencers and organisations, creating high-quality, newsworthy content, and strategically promoting it for more online coverage.
The SEO objective (among other objectives) is to earn high-quality inbound links, boost domain authority, and increase website traffic. Unlike unethical practices like link farms or private blog networks, digital PR focuses on earning links honestly by providing real value to the audience.
This approach aligns with online fairness and integrity. Implementing digital PR can lead to increased brand awareness, improved reputation management, and valuable partnerships.
Organisations must invest in sustainable link-building strategies to improve search engine rankings and build long-term credibility and trust. Digital PR goes beyond securing backlinks for SEO. It involves building relationships with influencers, bloggers, journalists, and content creators to amplify brand messages. This collaboration can result in valuable social media mentions, guest opportunities, and mentions in traditional media, which all go towards improving the E-E-A-T of your content.
4. Focus on Topical Authority for Improved Rankings
Increasing emphasis on topical authority is another significant trend in the SEO field. In the world of SEO, it’s not enough to simply know your stuff – you need to be recognised as an authority on your topic. This is where topical authority comes in.
Topical authority is about demonstrating comprehensive knowledge and expertise in a specific niche or topic. It’s about going beyond the surface-level understanding and delving deep into the subject matter. This could involve everything from conducting original research and sharing unique insights to producing high-quality content covering a topic from all angles.
In the past, SEO was often about targeting as many keywords as possible. But as search engines have evolved, they’ve become better at understanding the context and relevance of content. This means that simply stuffing your content with keywords is no longer enough. Instead, you need to provide valuable and in-depth content that truly answers the questions your audience is asking.
Building topical authority doesn’t happen overnight. It requires consistent effort and a commitment to producing high-quality content. But the rewards are worth it. When you’re recognised as an authority in your field, you’ll rank higher in search engine results and build trust with your audience, leading to increased traffic, better engagement, and, ultimately, more conversions.
5. Increased Emphasis on E-E-A-T
With the emergence of AI-generated content, such as AI-written articles and web pages, E-E-A-T’s significance is expected to increase further by 2024. In December 2022, Google introduced an additional “E” to form E-E-A-T, emphasising the importance of Experience, something AI lacks. AI cannot provide firsthand reviews of products or restaurants it has never encountered, nor can it convey experiential insight in its content.
E-E-A-T, an acronym for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness, encompasses Google’s guidelines for assessing the credibility and quality of website content. As Google continues to refine its algorithms, E-E-A-T will become even more pivotal in prioritising high-quality content that offers expert knowledge and reliable information.
Google has highlighted the particular significance of E-E-A-T for “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) content, as it directly impacts users’ well-being and safety. However, E-E-A-T is not limited to specific sectors or industries. These interrelated criteria serve as a measure of a site’s performance.
Implementing E-E-A-T into Your SEO and Content Strategy
Adding E-E-A-T to your content requires a holistic approach that combines elements of SEO, public relations and digital PR, as well as clear subject knowledge. As SEO and digital content evolve, skills from traditional media services like journalism and public relations are becoming increasingly important, blurring the lines between what is SEO and what is PR.
Below are some tips for adding E-E-A-T to your content.
- Mentions across newspapers and respected websites
- High-quality reviews, endorsements and shares from topic experts
- Showcase Expertise and Experience by publishing insightful opinion pieces on relevant topics
- Conduct unique and trustworthy research on related topics
- Publish strong author bios that demonstrate the writer’s experience and expertise
- Raise your digital presence and manage your online reputation effectively
- Make sure your website is secure and well-structured
- Cite Reputable Sources in your content
- Seek out interviews and guest appearances where you can reference and, ideally, link to your content.
- Get your content featured on reputable platforms.
You can see why we think integrated PR and digital campaigns are the way forward for organisations wanting to raise their profile and brand visibility.
6. Answer Engine Optimisation (AEO): The Future of Search
AI and chatbots are transforming the way users search and discover information. Answer engines, which are search engines designed to provide direct answers to user questions, play a significant role in this process. These engines comprehend the purpose behind a query and analyse website content to deliver answers that align with user intent.
Examples of answer engines are ChatGPT, Google SGE, Microsoft’s Bing chatbot and technology like voice search.
How to prepare for Answer Engines searches
AEO, Answer Engine Optimisation, as the name suggests, is the process of optimising content for answer engines.
AEO is an evolution of SEO. While SEO optimises website content to rank higher in search results, AEO takes it a step further and optimises content for answer engine results too. It aims to answer users’ queries directly, becoming the featured snippet or top result provided by answer engines. This requires understanding user intent and creating concise, informative, authoritative content. AEO is about becoming the go-to source for reliable answers in your industry.
To optimise content for answer engines, develop an AEO strategy that complements your SEO strategy. Focus on concise, clear content that AI easily understands. Use a Q&A format in your content, like an FAQ section. Include optimising for voice search by providing a conversational tone, natural language, and schema markup. This helps your site appear in rich snippets used by voice assistants and answer engines.
7. Social Media as a Search Engine
This is a much-debated trend with questionable statistics that have been misquoted and embellished over the years, so I won’t add to the confusion here; what I will say, though, is that people’s relationship with social media as a source of information is changing, particularly for the younger generations.
As young people put more trust in peer-to-peer news than formal news channels and turn to social media for recommendations and information about a given topic or area, thanks to its bite-size video responses, we must change how we use social media.
People are searching social media for answers to queries, so brands brave enough to answer those queries through short-form content like a TikTok video or Instagram Reel are likely to see increased trust in their brand, increased brand visibility and potential click-throughs to their website.
Optimising your content to appear in social search results will be increasingly important. It’s no longer just a matter of adding a hashtag to your description to appear in people’s feeds. Now, the algorithms take into account your entire description to understand the relevance of your content for the searcher’s intent.
For brands who want to increase their digital presence across multiple channels, understanding the changing behaviour of social media as a search engine and how to optimise your social media content accordingly will stand you in good stead for the year ahead.
Optimising Content for Social Search
Below are just a few tips to optimise content for social search.
- Familiarise yourself with the unique attributes and capabilities of each platform.
- Learn about the culture of the platform and the type of content people are looking for on that channel.
- Write descriptions for your social posts that will help them get found in social searches.
- Create content that encourages sharing and repeat watching.
- Interact actively with users.
By tailoring your content to the preferences and behaviours of social media users, you can extend your reach and engage with a wider audience.
In conclusion, the SEO landscape is constantly evolving, shaped by new technologies, changing user behaviours, and shifting market dynamics. By staying current with the latest SEO trends and adapting your strategies accordingly, you can stay ahead of the curve and ensure your website remains visible and relevant in the ever-changing world of search.