The start of a new year is a time when a lot of people start to think about the year ahead and the things they would like to achieve. If you manage a website, then now is a great time to think about your SEO strategy for 2024 and the things you would like to achieve organically over the next 12 months.
We create bespoke SEO strategies for all our clients – all focus on a 12-month period and these are typically a calendar year or a financial year. However, you choose to do your planning, 2024 looks like it will be a year of change in the world of SEO (I’m not sure there has ever been a year without change in the SEO industry). Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) looks likely to roll out in the next 12 months and has the potential to have a huge impact on the organic landscape. Planning for these changes is challenging. At this time, we have very little to go off other than the news release which was published by Google in early May 2023. Early reports suggest there could be some major changes to the way websites are ranked and this is certainly something we are monitoring closely.
As we start to look at some of the goals and tactics we might want to roll out for clients in 2024, we often end up circling back to the same overarching goals as an SEO agency: increase traffic, improve keyword rankings, improve technical performance, and increase conversions. These goals or objectives will typically underpin most SEO strategies – at the end of the day, that’s what we are tasked with doing – driving more traffic, sales, and revenue. We do of course tailor these objectives so we will often find that we target specific areas of a website for improvement and this will vary from client to client depending on their needs.
One thing that does change every year is the tactics that we deploy in which to achieve the goals. The SEO landscape is an ever-changing one and our tactics need to change to embrace these changes and ensure we stay ahead of the game for our clients. The tactics that were effective in 2023 may no longer apply in 2024 or we may need to evolve those tactics to maximise the potential returns.
To stay ahead of the curve, here are the critical elements to incorporate into your SEO strategy.
1. Mobile-First Indexing
It feels hard to believe that in 2024, there are brands out there that are not taking a mobile-first approach to SEO, however, we continue to see websites that focus more of their attention on desktop performance.
Google announced mobile-first indexing back in 2016, and it has since become an integral part of SEO. With Statista reporting that over 50% of global website traffic was generated through mobile phones in 2020, the focus on mobile-first indexing is expected to continue into 2024 and beyond.
One thing we have always advocated for is to deliver the best possible experience for users across all devices. Whilst Google may have shifted to mobile-first indexing which has led to the majority of brands leading with a mobile focus, we still have a number of clients whose majority of organic traffic still comes from desktop. Whilst Google might want them to focus on delivering a great mobile experience, this shouldn’t be at the expense of delivering an average experience on desktop where the majority of visitors are going to experience the site.
2. Voice Search Optimisation
According to Alpine.AI, there will be more than 8 billion digital voice assistants in use by 2023, underlining the importance of voice search optimisation for SEO in 2024. Ensuring that your content is structured to answer common customer queries will be vital.
It feels like we have been talking about voice optimisation for nearly a decade now, however, it does feel like we have reached the tipping point at which it becomes a huge opportunity in 2024 for any brands that focus on delivering a voice-optimised experience online.
Just this week, an email landed in my inbox from leading SEO and Digital Marketing Specialist, Neil Patel, talking about how Voice Search will be a billion-dollar industry in 2024 so it is definitely something every SEO strategy needs to incorporate.
Optimising for voice search also helps with optimising for AI-powered tools such as ChatGPT. That’s because a lot of prompts that are used on tools like ChatGPT and Bard are conversational and mimic the way people search on voice-activated devices so by optimising for voice, you potentially open up new channels as well.
3. User Experience (UX)
User Experience sometimes feels like a difficult one to quantify for an SEO strategy, however, new metrics in GA4 along with other UX indicators such as site speed and data from tools like Hotjar can really help to focus in on delivering a better user experience through a range of tactics.
Google’s Page Experience update in 2021 highlighted the importance of UX in SEO. A survey by Forrester Consulting found that well-designed UX could raise conversion rates by up to 400%. For your 2024 SEO strategy, prioritising elements such as site speed, navigability, and content layout will be crucial.
The Rise of the User (and Their Intent):
- A 2023 SEO survey by Moz found that 78% of marketers consider understanding user intent the most important SEO factor. (Moz, 2023)
- According to a report by SEMRush, Google’s Helpful Content Update prioritised content that aligns with user searches, leading to a 17% drop in organic traffic for sites focused on keyword stuffing and thin content. (SEMrush, 2024)
4. Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals, introduced by Google in 2020, measure loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability of a page. A study by Searchmetrics revealed that only 4% of websites passed all Core Web Vitals in 2021, showcasing the significant opportunity for improvement here in 2024.
We have been focusing on core web vitals since they launched in 2020, however, we always have to strike a balance with our clients between delivering a website that meets their brand requirements and one that ticks all the Core Web Vital boxes.
We have made some significant progress over the past three years with many of our clients meeting all the requirements when it comes to Core Web Vitals, however, we still have some way to go with others. The challenge for most remains on hitting mobile goals. Typically, desktop Core Web Vital scores tend to be higher on desktop than on mobile for the majority of our clients so delivering a fast, stable experience on mobile remains a priority in 2024.
5. Content Quality and Relevance
While many things change in SEO, the importance of high-quality, relevant content remains constant. A HubSpot report found that companies that blogged 16+ times per month got 3.5 times more traffic than those blogging 0-4 times per month. In 2024, a commitment to content quality should remain at the heart of your SEO strategy.
One of the challenges of delivering high-quality content in 2024 is the threat from AI (see more below). Whilst AI is something brands should be embracing, there is a risk that brands will saturate the market with run-of-the-mill, carbon-copy content that does little to add value to their audience.
Alongside your SEO strategy should sit a content strategy that has your audience at its heart, helping you to focus on exactly what they want and how they want to consume it. In some sectors, long-form blog content is still a winner – in others, it’s short-form video content that captivates their audience.
Understanding your audience is key to delivering content that adds value and has a much better chance of ranking well in the search results.
Crafting Content that Captivates:
- Long-form content still reigns:Backlinko’s 2023 study revealed that the top 10 results on Google averaged 2109 words. (Backlinko, 2023)
- Visuals speak a thousand keywords: An Ahrefs report showed that pages with images generate 53% more organic traffic than those without. (Ahrefs, 2023)
- Video magic:Cisco predicts that 82% of all online content will be video by 2024. (Cisco, 2023)
6. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
One of the major talking points in 2023 has been the introduction of AI tools like ChatGPT, Bard, Jasper and more. People have talked ad nauseam about the use of AI in digital marketing and we expect that conversation to continue deep into 2024.
AI is revolutionising the realm of SEO, enhancing efficiency, and paving the way for precise, data-driven strategies. According to a report by McKinsey, AI-powered tools can automate SEO tasks such as keyword research, content optimisation, and link building, enabling marketers to craft strategies that are more targeted and effective. Furthermore, AI algorithms can analyse vast quantities of data to predict consumer behaviour, informing the creation of content that is personalised and highly relevant.
In addition, AI is facilitating the optimisation of voice search, a trend that is rapidly gaining traction. As highlighted by a study published by Gartner, approximately 37% of organisations have implemented AI in some form, a significant portion of which is dedicated to enhancing voice search optimisation. This shift towards voice-based search queries necessitates a deeper understanding of natural language processing, an area where AI truly shines. By leveraging AI technologies, businesses can effectively cater to voice-based searches, thereby enhancing their SEO performance and increasing their visibility in the digital landscape.
We have certainly started to use AI to maximise our efficiency and hopefully deliver a much better service for all our clients. We are still in a trial and error phase in terms of learning how best to use AI and other automation, however, we are already seeing the benefits in terms of time savings and our ability to add value through our own expertise due to the additional time we are now saving.
Would any piece about SEO Strategy or SEO full stop be complete without at least one reference to backlinking?
Backlinks continue to hold considerable weight in the SEO landscape of 2024, serving as key indicators of a website’s credibility and relevance to search engines. A report by SEMrush underscores their importance, ranking backlinks among the top five factors influencing Google’s algorithm. When a high-authority website links back to your content, it acts as a vote of confidence, signifying to search engine algorithms that your content provides value and merits priority in search results.
However, it is critical to remember that not all backlinks are created equal. The focus has shifted from quantity to quality, with an emphasis on securing links from reputable, high-authority websites. According to a study by Moz, the authority and relevance of the linking site play a more significant role in how the backlink is evaluated by search engines. Hence, businesses must adopt strategic and ethical link-building practices, ensuring the acquisition of backlinks that truly enhance their digital visibility and SEO performance.
Backlinking is certain to play an integral part in all our client’s SEO strategies in 2024 and this is an area we feel we can really add value as it is work that can’t be done by AI – acquiring high-quality backlinks from highly relevant websites is about fostering relationships, reaching out in a personal way, and crafting the type of content that also adds value to the linking website and its audience.
One other reason to focus on backlinking in 2024 is the launch of Google’s SGE. Whilst we can’t be sure exactly how this will look or perform as it is still under testing, it appears that the AI-driven element of the search generative experience will be AI-driven and is likely to rely on domain authority and brand mentions across the web that relate to a specific search topic. The more you can get your brand out there and linked or mentioned on external websites, the more likely it is to be picked up and cited by AI tools including SGE, ChatGPT and Bard.
In conclusion, the future of SEO in 2024 will be multi-faceted, encompassing aspects such as mobile-first indexing, voice search optimisation, UX, Core Web Vitals, quality content, AI, and backlinking. By incorporating these elements into your strategy, you can ensure your brand stays visible and relevant in the evolving digital landscape.
If you don’t already have an SEO strategy in place and you’re not sure where to start, talk to the team at Digital Hothouse today and we would be more than happy to catch up over coffee and talk about the direction of your business in 2024.