Digital marketing predictions for 2024
The digital landscape is constantly evolving and changing and 2024 promises to be no exception with another year of transformation and disruption anticipated. From choppy market conditions, the increased integration of AI to changes to Google search, the senior team at Distinctly has compiled a snapshot of their predictions that will shape the year ahead and drive businesses to continued success. Strap yourself in and hold tight!
SEO & content
Economic environment / impact on bottom line
With ongoing economic uncertainty, accurately measuring SEO performance and demonstrating value will become even more important in 2024. As marketing budgets get stretched thinner, using the right metrics to prove ROI is paramount.
Historically, SEO has been seen as something of a black box when it comes to measuring the impact of optimisation on profit and growth. It’s clear that in future, SEO consultants need to use other metrics alongside typical reporting on rankings, traffic, conversions and revenue.
In recent months, KPIs like share of search to demonstrate SEO’s impact on market share and calculating return on organic search spend as a more accurate measure of ROI (akin to ROAS which is used to measure the return on advertising spend) have been suggested as being able to provide this insight.
Ultimately, we want to answer questions like, how do we connect the dots between the work that we do and the impact it has on the bottom line? How do we demonstrate that SEO has an impact on a brand’s market share and track this long term? As SEOs we all know that SEO is cost effective and pays dividends over time – but proving this to senior stakeholders within businesses is where we need to up our game across the industry.
Truly understanding the impact of SEO and Digital PR means that we know what tactics and channels are working better than others – making future marketing efforts more successful – and ensuring budget is funnelled into the right places.
The introduction of GA4 back in the summer has reshaped the digital analytics landscape and caused much disruption which will continue into 2024. We anticipate there will be continued demand for training and a reliance on AI within GA4 to help navigate and upskill businesses through this transition.
Google plans to remove access to all Universal Analytics properties by July 2024 meaning there will be a rush for businesses to protect all of their historical data if they haven’t done so already. The two most popular options open to businesses are to utilise Looker Studio dashboards or manage their own databases with the integration of BigQuery, and this will need to be a big focus for Q1/Q2.
There are some concerns around data depreciation and the release of new privacy features that may restrict the amount of data marketing teams can analyse on their audiences. IOS17 is a good example of this as their current private browsing features may become the default for iPhone users later next year.
Chrome is also planning to cull third party cookies for 1% of its users in Q1 and are aiming to completely remove them by Q3 2024. The effects remain to be seen, but the third-party cookie’s demise will markedly alter the landscape of privacy and advertising on the web.
Changes to Google search and impact on visibility / tactics needed
The SEO landscape continues to evolve with increasing competition for clicks. In 2024, Google is expected to expand its shopping ecosystem, further favouring paid results over organic ones and the trend of younger generations using social platforms like Instagram and TikTok for more traditional searches continues to grow. Despite these shifts, Google remains the primary engine for searches by a long way, and high organic rankings are more crucial than ever.
The biggest shift in the UK online landscape though will come via Google’s new AI-driven ‘Search Generative Experience’ (SGE), which has already launched in America and over 100 other countries. This will be many users’ first encounter with AI in search (or AI in general!). SGE offers faster access to answers, particularly for longer, more nuanced queries (at the expense of traditional web pages). Its chat functionality does offer businesses visibility through external site citations and links, however.
SGE’s arrival will impact the nature of informational searches, a trend already observed with ChatGPT’s usage over the past year. Bing’s version, Bing Chat, launched in the UK in February, provides businesses ‘organic’ chat visibility via paid ads and is something most businesses should be contemplating.
The importance of third-party site recommendations and reviews for products and services is also growing. Positive public feedback can increase the likelihood of being featured in AI-driven search conversations, highlighting the important role digital PR needs to play in brand perception. Review-based outreach should be a key component of all organic strategies going forward.
2023 was obviously the year of the Large Language Model. Whilst it might not have taken over society, it certainly took over everyone’s LinkedIn feeds. And bad news for those that are fed up with it: it’s not going away anytime soon.
But the truth is that the more you use ChatGPT, and I have spent a lot of time using it personally and professionally, you quickly realise its limitations. When you couple this with how slow moving organisations can be, it’s unlikely to be adopted at the rate that might be predicted in your social media feeds.
Still, AI and LLMs are here to stay, so what’s important is ensuring that if your team are using it, they are using it properly. 2024 should be the year of ensuring that your team have been trained in these tools properly, that they understand not how it works, but what it can and can’t do. By opening up the conversation and creating training and structure around the tool, it means nobody will be using it incorrectly, and also you can set rules and a party line of how to follow it.
2024 will be the true beginning of using these tools as established co-pilots, Digital PR sounding boards, and conversational encyclopaedias that allow you to supercharge your current working effort in Digital PR, ideation, and beyond.
We have seen a notable change in how and what journalists are covering over the last year that has subsequently changed the landscape in the link building techniques digital PR professionals use. News is changing faster than ever, social media apps such as TikTok being used as a news source has advanced the 24 hours news cycle and it is harder than ever to stay on top of relevant stories. We are seeing this reflected in the way publications are picking up stories and speed is more important than ever. Along with these changes, EEAT is a key focus when building links feeding into organic visibility.
With these two things in mind, link building tactics that are quick and provide an authoritative voice/comment are seeing great success. A simple and effective way to do this is with newsletters. Newsletters are a key tool to spread industry wide news and business updates on a large scale while also nurturing relationships with subscribers with relevant information. Outreaching to relevant newsletters allows for quick comment, the content is written, proofed and signed off and the relevant author can be attributed to the expert comment. Not only does this mean reduced costs for clients (no additional spend for content creation) but it means less time is spent on the production of outreach assets and used for media list building and analysis. With the loss of a lot of regional publications over the last few months we are seeing a lot of journalists turning to their own newsletters as a way of spreading relevant news to their warm audience, therefore improving the quality of content as well as domain authority.
White paper related
As we know, search engine emphasis on trust and EEAT signals have been a core part of developments in the last two to three years of search. This will likely continue to be a key focus and we can develop strategies to support this.
The impact on link building strategies can be seen in the methods we’re using to gain coverage and links for clients, with a lot more emphasis on the expertise, trustworthiness, and quality of research which goes into Digital PR campaigns. This is where our strategy of Digital PR whitepapers come in.
To ensure link building has a focus on impacting organic visibility through the focus on EEAT, we’ve developed a method which blurs the lines between traditional whitepaper marketing material and digital PR content, to create data and expert-led whitepapers. These step out of their traditional sales-heavy tone, and become a tool that generates engagement with customers, journalists, and the SERPs, while putting expertise at their core.
With further Ai-led changes to search engines in 2024, hosting and promoting authoritative content on client websites will become more important than ever. Digital PR Whitepapers will be a key part of the puzzle in link building for SEO.
This year, we’ve seen multiple cuts made to well-known media house brands, the most recent being Reach PLC. In November, the publisher decided to slash 13 of its online brands as part of its ongoing programme of cutbacks. This decision has resulted in 450 redundancies – including 320 editorial roles – following a downturn in digital revenues. In 2024, reactive PR will be a vital strategy to generate coverage for brands and connect journalists with relevant experts.
However, the focus will intensify on getting as many eyeballs on a page as possible to show what journalists are doing is adding value to a site. Our role as PRs will be to ensure that the insights we are providing aren’t just sent in a quick-fire outreach to show we are being ‘reactive’ but to provide meaningful answers, making the reader want to remain on the page. Reactive PR will not just be responding to relevant stories trending in the news, but identifying the trend ourselves.
We will need to put our journalist hat on and pitch these newly emerging trends to journalists, who are under the cosh, to provide them with valuable insight with the reason why. Reactive PRs will need to become experts in identifying trends before they reach their peak, finesse their email writing to write pithy pitches, understand what the journalists need to enhance their story and strike whilst the iron is hot as the competition intensifies.
Digitisation of Traditional Media
There’s been a noticeable rise over the past couple of years in traditionally offline based media becoming more accessible via self-serve digital platforms. Spotify Ads allows you to reach listeners in a way only radio would have previously, and has recently expanded to podcast targeting. Out of home digital displays are increasingly common in gyms, shared workspaces, petrol stations and on public transport. And while targeted TV ads like Sky AdSmart have been around since 2014, the surge in professionally produced video content for platforms like TikTok has made this a much more accessible avenue for businesses.
So what’s left to digitise? My prediction for 2024 is that brand new media, in traditionally offline spaces, will start to emerge. If you look at technology like The Sphere in Las Vegas, it’s a totally new concept that will inevitably lead to duplication and branding opportunities. There’s also been long untapped potential within the augmented/virtual reality spaces for a proper e-commerce offering. And who knows what other advertising avenues may stem from the rise in AI usage – a big blocker historically has been the ability to see the impact of digital displays on revenue and footfall for example. With more sophisticated tracking technology likely to emerge, this will become increasingly attractive to advertisers, and when combined with advanced interactive tech, it’s also more likely to engage customers.
Google campaign development / future of search ads
Google’s going to continue its march towards automation, with Performance Max featuring ever more heavily. There’s increasing visibility of Performance Max data, and more control with brand lists, but we’re also seeing DSA campaigns being steered towards Performance Max – and standard search might well be next, as we look at a broad match or even keyword-less future.
Merchant Center Next will change how feeds and shopping campaigns work; it’ll depend more on website structure than on the manual creation of a feed. We’re already seeing some of this automation in Merchant Center Classic, with automatic product detection appearing as an additional feed.
With this increase in automation, particularly from Performance Max, we’re likely to see increased spend on non-Search – more Display, more Video. Now is the best time to start considering creative to support these channels, particularly if you’ve never used them before. If you don’t have your own creative, you’ll see Google’s AI creating automated videos for you, and quality might vary. You might not have as much control over your bids, or even your ad placements, but you can continue to control your message and your brand image.
And don’t forget Bing – ChatGPT and their AI powered search is going to be a whole new field for ads.
Alternative platform competition (Amazon, social)
Another key trend to watch out for during 2024 is the continued rise of alternative paid advertising platforms. There are numerous social media platforms out there that are used daily by millions, and brands should be implementing tests on these platforms to expand their reach further than the conventional Google and Facebook.
TikTok for example, is growing at speed, with growth expected to continue into 2024 and beyond. The platform’s short video content is hugely popular amongst millennials and Gen-Z, and so is a key platform to test if younger people are your target audience. TikTok’s recent announcement of its new measurement tool, Engaged View-through Attribution, suggests the platform is moving towards providing advertisers with more insights into conversions.
We’re expecting interest and usage of the Amazon Advertising platform to increase amongst retailers in 2024. Amazon has become the number one e-commerce platform amongst consumers in recent years, and the platform will continue to entice retailers to dedicate ad spend to its offering and gain access to its large and loyal customer base in return.