Search engine optimization remains a popular topic among marketers, yet not everyone is adjusting to the evolving landscape. So many things have changed in 2023 that will continue to affect SEO well beyond just this year. Understanding these changes and adapting your strategy accordingly is key to achieving results year after year.

So, grab your chai latte (my favorite!) and hold on because I predict 2024 is going to be a bumpy one. 

A Continued Battle of The Fittest

Since the first search engine, marketers have tried to find ways to improve the visibility of their business. Two decades ago, when I was in elementary school, ranking was considerably easier than it is now. In the early 2000s, inserting keywords into your content was all that was needed to secure good rankings. However, search engines quickly figured it out and since then – it’s been a constant battle for businesses to find ways to prove their worth to Google. Over the past year alone, many changes and Google updates have significantly complicated SEO.

In 2023, there were nine total updates that Google made, four of which were core updates and others that focused on spam, reviews and helpful content. All of these changes, whether they were big launches or small tune-ups, are designed to make search work better for Google’s users and to make sure users can find relevant, high-quality information when they need it.

With these changes, your SEO strategy constantly needs to be updated. For example, we implemented an SEO strategy for a glass door company that was ranking consistently on the first page for “Glass Shower Doors” in and around Atlanta. But, once Google made their “Product Review Update” in February 2023, they were pushed down the page behind Home Depot and Lowes. Why? Their products are custom and not sold directly on the site, therefore they don’t have any reviews for their products. Without an SEO expert, sorting out what happened and how to address the issue could be difficult. We had to come up with an entirely new SEO strategy solely due to this update over which we, nor the client, had any control. It’s even forcing the client to look at new ways they can go to market to compete!

Companies like this client that consistently monitor these changes and adapt their strategies are the ones that survive the battle of the fittest. It’s not always about keywords. It’s also about building strong brands that prove their value consistently to search engines through knowledge. Success in SEO demands time, understanding, and a solid strategy that only the “fittest” will even try to accomplish.

Technical SEO Will Continue to Hold Its Dominance 

Over the past year, we’ve had a number of clients come to Forum who used other agencies for SEO. What we consistently have found is that those agencies weren’t at all focused on technical SEO. There was no strong keyword structure, meta information, focus on mobile-friendliness, etc. While technical SEO isn’t all of SEO, given how critical mobile experiences are, it’s becoming incredibly important.

For all of our SEO clients at Forum, the first thing we do when they sign on is run a technical audit on their site. It would be easy to jump into a content or backlink strategy, but if the structure is bad – we’re simply covering up what Google already sees. If your site isn’t working for your users, Google knows through its collection of data in Google Chrome. If users aren’t staying on your site or converting to business, all your efforts are wasted. And with Google’s page experience initiative, they reward content that provides a good page experience. If you have 404s and your website’s speed and load times are bad, as the kids would say “trash,” then Google will not rank that page because it will not benefit its users. They refer to these measures as Core Web Vitals.

This usually comes down to code, image sizes, etc. Clean code enhances these vitals. Optimized images and videos enhance these vitals. Things like too many plugins, code-heavy WordPress template sites, and more are likely to be detrimental as Google may not rank you because of it. Cleaning up these elements can make a world of difference in your marketing efforts.

Keep Your Content Fresh

In addition to regularly producing content, it will continue to be just as important to regularly review and update your existing content. Google gives a preference to recently updated content for certain searches, valuing the most current information. This can be as easy as adding the latest information, revising statistics, or refreshing images and examples. Maintaining fresh content not only benefits your search engine rankings but also keeps your audience engaged and interested. 

AI will have a Major Role in SEO 

AI is going to take over the planet. Kidding! But in all reality, AI is here to stay. We can either choose to deny it or embrace the benefits AI can provide to your overall content strategy. In terms of SEO, there are many benefits to using AI, but you should use caution. And no, I’m not talking about using ChatGPT to write content. Morgan Lee, Forum’s storyteller and wordsmith, has already shared his perspective on ChatGPT’s writing abilities.

As an agency, we have been experimenting with AI-based software since April of 2023. Given the increasing competitiveness in the field of SEO and the growing demand for ongoing SEO services from our clients, we are actively researching platforms that not only streamline our processes but also enhance the effectiveness of our SEO strategies.

One of our most beneficial AI-based tools analyzes content for our clients. Once a new article is complete, we upload the content through this software and it identifies opportunities for improvement, including word count, keyword suggestions and usage, and even prompts us to address additional questions. The software assigns a score to our content and empowers us to fine-tune the copy, ensuring it is more competitive and will have a better chance at ranking. 

There are also things Google is doing with AI. As Nick Kastner highlighted in his recent blog post, Google’s deployment of SGE in 2024 introduced an element of uncertainty to the SEO world. The effects of this technology are not fully understood, but it is fair to assume that its impact will vary across industries. As we navigate this uncharted territory, staying informed and agile in our approach will be crucial. SEO marketers must remain vigilant, continually analyzing and adjusting their SEO tactics to align with the dynamic changes brought about by AI.

More Companies will Hire SEO Experts

SEO is a daunting task for many businesses and it takes many hours to do good SEO work.

The number of tasks involved in optimizing a website for search engines, staying up-to-date on algorithm updates, making necessary changes and conducting frequent research can overwhelm businesses, particularly those with limited manpower. In an era where time is a precious commodity and resources are carefully allocated, dedicating the necessary hours to execute an SEO strategy can seem unattainable for many organizations. And, unfortunately, companies are still out there trying to trick businesses into SEO strategies that are dated, risky, and honestly, dangerous. In our opinion, purchasing budget-friendly or “standardized” SEO packages is a surefire way to ruin your rankings. Businesses beware and make sure you’re always working with a reputable SEO company. Investing time and resources in a well-rounded and ethical SEO approach will always prove to be the smarter long-term play.

In light of this, I see businesses exploring internal hiring options if budget permits, while others will opt in for external agencies with specialized expertise. This will allow them to benefit from the experience of professionals without incurring overhead costs associated with full-time salaries.

Looking For An SEO Agency?

If you’ve read my 2024 predictions and find yourself overwhelmed with all the changes in SEO, feel free to reach out to Forum Communications. We’re here to assist and provide customized solutions to enhance your digital presence and navigate the evolving SEO landscape.