2024 AI & SEO: Your 24-Expert Guide To Successful SERPs

2024 AI & SEO: Your 24-Expert Guide To Successful SERPs

SGE and generative AI are here, and they’re making a splash in a big way. SERPs as we know them are completely changing, and it’s up to us to pivot.

But how do you do that while keeping your SEO strategy strong? And how do you convince your higher-ups (if they need convincing) that your new path is worth the shift?

These are the questions we wanted to tackle in this collection of articles. We know that it can be tricky to keep up with all the latest developments and new tech in SEO, so it’s time to demystify some of the latest trends.

After all, it’s better to embrace change than run from it.

I especially think you’ll like referring to “Google SGE And Generative AI In Search: What To Expect In 2024” as you build this year’s strategy. I know I did. SGE has continued to evolve this year, and I’m already hard at work discovering ways to adjust to this new way of using Google.

Read on and find out how your 2024 SEO strategy can benefit from these new developments.

Until next time!

Katie Morton
Katie Morton Editor in Chief, Search Engine Journal

21 SEO Experts Offer Their Predictions For 2024

Gain wisdom from top SEO pros as they reflect on intense changes and share predictions for 2024, including embracing AI tools for enhanced productivity.

Shelley Walsh Shelley Walsh 16K Reads
21 SEO Experts Offer Their Predictions For 2024

Most people working in SEO will tell you that we have just been through an exceptional period of change and rapid learning required.

From the explosion of generative AI – first from ChatGPT and then Bard running to catch up.

The Google updates that were unrelenting.

And Universal Analytics finally being deprecated and switched off, with GA4 being a steep learning curve for anyone who wasn’t prepared in advance.

In 2024, as the dust settles around the introduction of gen AI, the predominant focus is going to be embracing the new tools to help as an assistant for workflow and productivity. For those who don’t take the time to experiment with AI and learn how to write prompts, there is a real threat of being left behind.

We don’t see AI replacing good quality writers or SEO, but we do see AI as an opportunity to enhance and augment what we already do.

[SEO Trends 2024] Download the free ebook 

What SEO Pros Should Focus On In 2024

As SEO is all about collaboration and sharing knowledge, we turned to some of the best minds in the industry to get their thoughts on where the industry is going and what might happen next.

1. Kevin Indig, Growth Advisor:

If Google’s frenzied algorithm updates in 2023 have shown us one thing, it’s that the bar for content and domain quality has risen faster than we thought. In 2024, we need to find ways to scale the production of high-quality content and groom our content portfolio.

The most obvious way is using AI, but we need to significantly increase the output quality and add human input. In some cases, AI might be the wrong content creator, but I think we underestimate how good it can really be.

2. Pedro Dias, Technical SEO and Growth Advisor, Visively:

This is a hard question to answer [What SEO pros should focus on in 2024]. Mostly because SEO is so driven by specific problems you need to solve at different levels of an online business. And every business may have different needs depending on the stage they’re in.

But, if I really have to pick a common issue I see across the board, it’s not really related to SEO tactics, or any specific search feature, but related to how SEOs and businesses are often misaligned with their expectations from search.

So, an actionable and practical take on this would mean that SEOs need to close the gap on what their businesses can expect from search and where they are in this path. Then, they need to communicate clearly what needs to be done and why – I’ve recently tweeted/posted on X (Twitter) about the issues around complex prioritization, and the lack of clarity around business-related problem-solving.

I think a lot of SEOs don’t do this well enough – probably because they lack the strategic vision of what the product they work for should look like in a search ecosystem in 2023 – and so, they often hit walls and don’t get the support they’d need to move ahead.

And it doesn’t matter how advanced or good you are at Python or AI, or how knowledgeable you are around specific search niches. If you can’t translate this to “business-related problem solving” speak, you’ll be stuck indefinitely.

3. Eli Schwartz, Author Of “Product Led SEO” And Growth Advisor:

With the launch of the generative experience, Google will now be taking the top of the funnel for itself, leaving SEO to the mid-funnel. To be fair, it isn’t really “taking” it; they are just answering what is essentially commoditized information.

To date, Google has only delved into short answers when it could rely on structured data that was more than likely to be accurate.

In this bucket would be topics such as population counts, sports scores, ticker symbols, heads of state, and all other kinds of results that we see today in knowledge graph answers.

Generative results in search mean that SEO moves from the top of the funnel to mid-funnel:

Instead of targeting keywords with the most search volume to hopefully peel off the maximum amount of clicks, SEO efforts will need to be more deliberate to target the right users with the right keywords.

  1. Make sure your content aligns with an actual buyer persona.
  2. Use modifiers on those head keywords you used to target, like “price,” “reviews,” and “features.”
  3. Lastly, write content that compares you to your competitors.

4. Shelley Walsh, SEO Content Strategist at SEJ and ShellShock:

With so much changing in SEO, now is the time to look at what is fundamental and never changes.

One of the foundations of good marketing is to put the user first.

Recently, it was revealed in Google’s antitrust lawsuit how user clicks are a factor that influences visibility. This highlights that Google does put emphasis on user signals. And why does Google do this – because they know that the user is central to everything.

If you can understand that SEO is structured around making it as frictionless as possible for a user to do what you want them to – then you have the right mindset to build your strategy.

This underlines technical SEO and it underlines creating content that has a reason to exist.

If you understand how a website works, how a search engine works and how users behave online, then connecting the user to the action is common sense. It’s not complicated, but it is really hard to do this well.

Focus on the cross-section of usability, conversion, technical excellence and high-quality content output.

Generative AI tools are changing how the discipline of SEO will be applied, but they can’t change the fundamentals.

Tools are tools and should be treated as such. They can never replace applied knowledge, experience and expertise.

When everything is changing, hold on to what is timeless.

5. Jamie Indigo, Director Of Technical SEO At Cox Automotive:

Ecommerce SEOs need to look at how Google is changing their role in SERPs. The company no longer wants to be the search engine you use to find the sites with the products – they want to be where you shop for products.

SERPs will continue to cut out category and product listing pages in favor of showing product results directly in SERPs.

“Shop {categoryName}” is likely where your category and product listing page traffic has come from historically.  Now “Shop” queries (and many other transactional intent keywords) trigger SERPs powered by Shopping Graph.

Everything from prices, product reviews, seller reviews, multiple images, and down to the last “Buy now click” can be facilitated without leaving Google.  Google is using their new Notes feature to cultivate UGC social proof and facilitate quicker conversions.

Organic Shopping results (seen by filtering Search Appearance to Product Results) will continue to gain prominence.  This means SEOs need to be the Merchant Center and optimize their feeds.

Some enhancements, like deals, can only be submitted with Free Feeds.  Google will continue leveraging feed fields like “Discounts” to create SERP shopping pages that show both organic and paid feed results where that information is available.

Google will likely expand their learnings into other verticals as they refine and ⚡️syngerize⚡️

6. Mordy Oberstein, Head Of SEO Brand At Wix:

One of the interesting things I’ve seen is a huge surge in rank volatility circa Q3 of 2023 (per the Semrush data set). When you compare rank fluctuations to early in the year and even prior years, there is a clear divergence from the overall trends.

You don’t need to be a data scientist to see this. In the span of four months (less really), we had the August 2023 Core Update, the September 2023 HCU, the October 2023 Link Spam Update, the October 2023 Core Update, the November 2023 Core Update, and then the November 2023 Reviews Update.

The obvious question is: What role does AI play in this? Is AI content behind all of these rank fluctuations?

Yes and no.

The scenario reminds me of COVID. When COVID hit, rankings went berserk. Old queries had new intents, and new queries had to be understood and processed by the algorithm. What’s happening now reminds me of that. And I think part of the reason is AI, but I think it goes beyond AI.

Look at some of the things Google has recently announced, from Notes [an experimental feature in Search Labs]  to saying they are trying to reward more content that rests on firsthand knowledge to the perspectives filter to even the additional “E” for experience in E-E-A-T.

I’ve been on a soapbox about this for years: We don’t appreciate how fast content consumption trends change and how impactful those changes are. The web is undergoing a fundamental shift.

Yes, a big part of that is AI-written content, which opens the floodgates. (I know Google has said they are not targeting AI content, just low-quality content. However, to quote Animal House, “What’s the difference?”)

But a lot of that is just how fast content trends are changing. The proof is in the announcements I just mentioned and the theme you see within them. Namely, a focus on information that rests on actual experience and people – not just brands or authors who seemingly only exist in the ethers of the internet.

So what should SEOs focus on in 2024?

Not AI. Not SGE – content trends.

The advent of AI has reignited the conversation around what content users want, how they want to consume it, and how skeptical they are about it (I will tell you this is very much part of the conversation I have with my team at Wix when we create content). To the latter point, the more specific, nuanced, and targeted the content is – the more the consumer will trust it.

Google knows this. And while it has focused on the great AI race to nowhere, I think seeing any lack of growth in Bing’s market share will be taken as a strong signal that AI is not what the user ultimately wants (although it’s probably what the shareholders want, so don’t expect it go anywhere).

Increased topical parsing, increased relevancy, and increased quality (which, for these purposes, I am going to define qua the content’s ability to offer an authentic experience) will circle back around to coming into Google’s primary focus.

Simply, Google, as it usually is (I say usually to factor in the AI wars), is focused on emerging user trends and consumption preferences.

In 2024, I think SEOs should take a step out of the algorithmic bubble and start looking at the content trends that Google themselves are focused on.

7. Katie Morton, Senior Managing Growth Editor, Search Engine Journal

Adaptability and evolving strategy are essential in 2024 and beyond.

With the release of AI, the one thing we can all predict from now until the end of time is exponentially faster technological innovation. This will result in near-constant changes in how we think about and work in an SEO industry that will be marked by—dare I say—upheaval.

While 2023 was stunning in the number of major algorithm updates by Google, we haven’t seen anything yet. SEO pros need to get used to the one-two-punch of constant algorithm updates.

To stay competitive in SERPs, SEO pros and content strategists need to embrace a strategy that involves the creation and optimization of multimodal content—that is, content that includes video, audio, and images, as well as text.

The ability to optimize multimedia content to stay competitive in SERPs will soon dominate the SEO landscape in a big way.

As AI evolves to improve its ability to create content, it makes sense that Google’s own algorithmic AI improves right alongside these developments.

With AI’s growing capability of understanding audio, video, and images, Google’s algorithm will get better at accurately indexing and serving multimedia content. This will add competitive pressure to SEOs who are stuck in a text-only content environment.

Helpful content is king. Google has made it clear that, when it comes to content, helpfulness is more important than ever. Users are increasingly listening to and watching content, and marketers are finding that use of video increases sales.

With the helpfulness of multimodal content, along with Google’s increasing ability to understand video, audio, and images, it stands to reason that multimedia content will begin to play a bigger part in SERPs in 2024.

Google recently announced its multimodal AI model, Gemini:

“Gemini is built from the ground up for multimodality — reasoning seamlessly across text, images, video, audio, and code.”

Google promises integration of Gemini in Search, Ads, Chrome, and Duet AI.

Using prompts, Gemini can generate code, and text and images combined. It can also understand, reason and offer insights into vast amounts of data and multimodal inputs.

[Free Download:] Top SEO trends to shape your 2024 strategy

While Google’s launch demo caught flak for being contrived as opposed to an authentic demo, I think that’s a minor point. Gemini is touted as being a significant advancement in large language models (LLMs) and MMLU (massive multitask language understanding).

After its full release, beginning with Gemini Pro on December 13, 2023 and additional version releases staggered in the coming months in 2024, we will have to wait and see whether Gemini lives up to the hype.

It’s likely Gemini’s reputation will remain in flux as it’s benchmarked against the advancements of competitors, and as the AI model continues to learn, and learn faster in the wake of its public deployment.

As if that’s not enough to keep you busy, it will also be key to business success to deepen your symbiotic relationships with marketing, sales, and your product and web development teams.

In the face of ongoing economic challenges, Return on Investment (ROI) is mission-critical. The best SEO pros have business strategy on lock. They have a deep understanding of various revenue streams feeding the different business units they serve, and how to attract those customers organically for maximum revenue generation.

It will be more important than ever for SEO pros to work closely with marketing, sales, product managers, and web developers to capture highly-qualified leads. User Experience (UX), content design, and conversion rate optimization (CRO) will be key to capturing the traffic SEO pros bring to business websites and platforms.

The coming harsh economic realities of 2024 will necessitate a holistic approach to digital strategy—to ensure traffic is not only driven to the website, but also converted into meaningful leads, revenue, and business growth.

In 2024 and beyond, the only constant in SEO will be change. The continual development, training, and integration of AI into the SEO industry; plus, changes in how we create content and what makes it “helpful” in Google’s eyes; and increased economic vulnerability on a global scale will all demand adaptability and strategic foresight.

8. Motoko Hunt, President, International Search Marketing:

As SEO professionals, we tend to focus on the search engine algorithms and rankings/visibilities.

In 2024, I wish more SEOs would pay attention to clients’ business goals and provide the SEO recommendations that help them achieve their goals. It’s one thing to send a list of 100 action items, but it won’t help them unless the items are implemented.

Oftentimes, the delay with the implementation is not that they are not interested in fixing the issues. Each company has different processes, resources, budgets, etc., as well as higher priority items. Try to understand how a client’s SEO/IT/Content processes are set up and how they operate.

If you can prioritize the action items in smaller batches, it usually gets fixed gradually. Things move even quicker if you can create a business case of how a company can benefit from fixing each issue.

We SEOs live deeply in the SEO world, but our clients are not SEO experts. The people who need to discuss (negotiate) the SEO fixes are definitely not SEO experts. By breaking your recommendations down into smaller action items, it’s easier for them to understand what they need to do.

We are in a good time when most businesses understand the importance of SEO. There’s no need to convince them about SEO. At the same time, there are millions of SEOs out there to choose from.

Besides the SEO skills, how you work with clients could separate you from other SEOs in 2024.

9. Suganthan Mohanadasan, Co-founder and product lead, Snippet Digital:

SEO experts should pay attention to changes in how people search online, especially when it comes to new demographics like millennials. It’s worth noting that not everyone relies solely on Google for their online searches anymore.

Social media platforms have become significant search engines for many people, particularly when they’re looking for information about experiences like travel, holidays, or the latest trends.

On the other hand, topics related to medical and financial matters still tend to be searched for on Google. So, it’s important to figure out where your target audience is searching and adjust your content strategy accordingly.

This might mean creating content specifically for certain social media platforms or adapting and sharing existing content in the right channels to connect with your audience effectively.

10. Duane Forrester, VP, Industry Insights, Yext:

I have been doing SEO since 1998, so I’m basing my opinions here on an entire career’s worth of knowledge, learnings, and insights. It’s a constantly evolving space, which makes it challenging to get these predictions right, but always fun to try.

In November of 2022, OpenAI launched ChatGPT broadly. It’s safe to say that at that point, most of us didn’t fully grasp the changes it would bring in such a short time. Yet, we’ve adapted, and I expect more adaptation through 2024.

One key area people will need to focus on and get right is structured data. With the advent of generative AI-powered systems, more and more crawlers are scouring data to feed systems where consumers are turning for answers.

That structured data helps ALL systems better understand content. It’s not just a “Google Thing,” so skipping this, or lagging behind, opens a gap that competitors can move through. Close the door, get it done.

Tight on the heels of this, I expect we’re going to see an entirely new understanding of what it means to be “useful” when it comes to content and customer journeys. Sure, the search engines have been talking to us for years about the importance of “being useful,” but SEO teams still focus on keyword research, producing pages that fill content gaps, and getting it all published.

And while those should remain part of a robust SEO program, teams need to add customer listening, sentiment extraction, and intent understanding into the mix, as well. Keyword research equalling content is an old playbook and one being eclipsed by businesses that effectively listen to customers and give them exactly what they’re looking for.

One prediction close to my heart is that marketing, content, and SEO teams will realize the need for closer collaboration with all teams and put systems into place to break down the silos that have historically existed across these groups. The SEO program needs to understand what’s happening in the social spaces.

Paid needs to share precisely what is and isn’t converting so that SEO can refine strategies with relevant content. There are many more examples, but I’m hopeful that 2024 is the year we start to see this change truly take root in businesses. 2024 is the year of meaningful, cross-team conversations: buy the pizza, invite your teammates, and align on shared goals.

Ending on an AI-related note, I’m predicting that 2024 will be the year when personal agents begin to be widely adopted, reaching a scale of use that has real implications.

We’re on the cusp of a new era in search technology that will be built on a foundation of user confidence in platforms that not only secure their personal information but also take direction from personalized search tools.

These tools, be they virtual characters or GPT-style programs, will conduct searches as effectively as users themselves – and as they become more mainstream, businesses will need to pivot, focusing on structured data and user value to stay relevant.

11. Dan Taylor, Partner & Head of Technical SEO, SALT.agency:

Google’s efforts to surface “hidden gems” in search is going to be something we have to factor into how we structure and portray our webpage’s value propositions and beneficial purposes.

In my opinion, this effort to surface “authentic content” is also, in part, why Reddit has seen such an increase in search visibility – because despite our opinions on how useful or “quality” a lot of content is on the platform, it’s definitely authentic, genuine, and full of first-hand knowledge. This could also be an initial “over-correction”

Doing this scalably across large websites will be a challenge. Still, it is achievable – and one way to develop this within any organization is to leverage content with your evangelists and create “we experience content.”

For ecommerce businesses, this can be as simple as identifying your most loyal customers (sales, lifetime value) and reaching out to engage them in producing content either at a specific product or category level, or content for the wider brand.

This content can add value to product listing pages (PLPs) and product description pages (PDPs), giving them a unique proposition to other brands with the same generic, optimized ecommerce landing pages.

SaaS companies can do this through community-led content by facilitating product and tangential topic conversations in their own environment, taking them away from third-party forums that open the door for competitors to engage.

12. Navah Hopkins, Optmyzr:

This might seem really simple and basic, but there are still folks who don’t have a solid UTM strategy and cookie consent baked into their marketing operations. This is going to come back to bite folks as the privacy first web gets stricter on what can be tracked.

The reason why both cookie consent and UTM parameters are important is attribution is constantly shifting, and if you don’t have a solid UTM strategy, odds are there will be misattributed traffic.

Additionally, with the depreciation of some tracking IDs (like the gclid and fbclid), having a uniform UTM system will ensure PPC and SEO can exist side by side without reporting anomalies. Make sure that naming schemes are the same throughout your organization.

Cookie consent has been a critical item for the EU for years and some parts of the US. In 2024, this is expanding to other US states, and so folks who put it on the back burner or didn’t want to risk visibility now will be playing catch-up.

Cookie consent doesn’t need to be complicated, and you don’t need to make it obtrusive. You do need to make it an opt-in conversation, as well as let folks have the option to select which cookies they’re willing to let you track.

13. Ross Tavendale, Managing Director, Type A:

In 2024, SEOs should be getting to grips with AI. Not as something to create content or to do all your work for you, but as a gateway to massive amounts of computing power that your laptops and even virtual desktops have never seen.

In 2024, SEOs should be zooming out of their campaigns and thinking about deliverables as ‘input databases’ and understanding how they are all connected.

For example, a technical audit is an input database, GSC is an input database, and content gaps are an input database, all joined together with a simple joining key – the URL.

With this in mind, we should be examining how we interact with these deliverables and what outputs we are looking to achieve and use data explorer in GPT to merge, clean, and wrangle this data together.

We should also be thinking about how we can turn John Mueller and Matt Cutts into robots. Getting creative by downloading the transcripts of everything they have ever written and creating a custom GPT bot that can answer your SEO questions for you based on 10 years of their videos, podcasts, and articles.

14. Gianluca Fiorelli, International And Strategic SEO Consultant:

Concentrate on analyzing the search journeys… Using Google as a tool.

We live in the era of Messy Middle; the search results pages bloated with search features and the related increase of the so-called “0 click SERP” are the consequence of how Google is dealing with the Messy Middle.

Therefore, it is even more important now to understand what could be the potential search journey path a person may take starting from an initial “germinal” query.

We can conduct this research with the help of focus groups and audience analyses. However, while this is correct and should not be quit as a procedure to follow, it misses one important thing: what we discover may not necessarily align with what Google thinks the same audience may search for.

So, how can we see the search journeys Google considers the most probable?

Looking at a search feature that has existed practically since the beginning of Google and that has been updated this year: the search menu, which now presents Filters and Topics (see here).

Ok, but how can we use them?

We can use them as a sort of People Also Ask for search journeys. If we can use People Also Ask as a way to discover potential topics for the creation of informational content hubs, we can do something similar with the Topics presented in the Search Menu.

Example: “Painting Warhammer minis” because you are passionate about the Games Workshop game, have a website, and want to be the most visible possible on Google.

[Recommended Read] → SEO Trends 2024

The topics Google presents to us are:

  • 40K.
  • For Beginners.
  • Guide PDF.
  • For money.
  • Guide book.
  • Service.

If we click on them, we are directed to a new SERP showing us the results of the corresponding rewritten query search:

  • Painting Warhammer minis 40k.
  • Painting Warhammer minis for beginners.
  • Warhammer painting guide PDF.
  • Painting Warhammer miniatures for money.
  • Warhammer 40k painting guide Book.
  • Warhammer miniatures painting service.

We already have great insights about three potential search journeys:

  • Practical guides about how to paint Warhammer minis: 1) per type of Warhammer game (40K, but it could also be Age of Sigmar or Blood Bowl or any other game). 2) per level (beginners but also medium and advanced painters).
  • Painting guides, both as downloadable PDFs (for us, this could be a lead generation goal) and books (affiliate? It could be).
  • Warhammer painting marketplace (“painting Warhammer miniatures for money” and “Warhammer miniatures painting service”), which could be our real source of revenue if we want to create a business around the passion and the fans of Warhammer.

This is just a little example of the insights we can think about the potential search journeys our users may take inside Google, during which we should always be visible.

We could – as we can with People Also Ask – dig further by clicking the Topics of the Topics we have just seen above. And they are there, hidden in plain sight.

15. Jono Alderson, Independent Technical SEO Consultant:

As ever, SEO seems to be going through an existential and identity crisis. It’s clear that Google (and others) are continuing to reinvent what a “search” is, and they’re continuing to change the relationship between searches and publishers in the process.

As the internet fills up with near-infinite amounts of derivative, generated content (thanks, SEO industry), Google is understandably becoming pickier about what they ingest and what they return to users.

So it’s no longer enough to produce content, get links, and have a strong technical foundation; that’s not even going to get you indexed in many verticals. And if you do get indexed, there’s no guarantee that your content will turn up on any of Google’s surfaces or send any traffic to your website.

So, what do we do, as a discipline that is fundamentally one that produces content (which Google no longer wants or needs), chases coverage (as the traditional PR industry out-performs us as the role of websites and links diminishes), and improves websites (which play an increasingly passive role in Search)?

I think there are a few practical things we can do.

We can evaluate our content marketing machines with a critical eye (and surveying and feedback tools) to validate that they’re actually designed to help audiences, and not just to try to sell to solution-aware buyers.

We can invest our link-building budgets in training our call center staff, reviewing our user experience, and improving our accessibility.

We can make sure that our senior execs are media trained, on hand to give interviews and quotes to the media, and that they’re producing short-form video that shares and showcases their expertise.

We can give away our best resources for free to win hearts and minds higher up the funnel.

We can choose to stop being a discipline whose job is to produce content, get links, and improve websites. We can be an industry that improves how helpful businesses are to their audiences, using a breadth of domain expertise that no other industry can compare with.

16. Sherry Bonelli, Owner Of Early Bird Digital Marketing:

In 2024, SEOs need to forget about writing “SEO-optimized” content and instead focus on writing helpful content for their readers if they want to rank high on Google. With Google’s Helpful Content System, Google has made it clear that they will reward content that is written for the end user – not content written for search engines.

Google’s Helpful Content System generates a signal used by their automated ranking systems to better ensure people see original, helpful content written for people in search results.

This means that SEOs need to think differently about how they write and optimize content.

First, you must think about the questions that your customers are asking about the products or services you offer and then write authoritative and informative content around those topics. Forget about focusing on keywords and instead focus on answering the questions people have about the topic.

Try to answer the specific questions about the topic as early as possible in the content – don’t write long, flowery paragraphs just to try and get more words into your content. Get to the point and answer the questions.

Also, be sure to add unique content – like research you’ve done, case studies, surveys, a unique perspective from the author, or some other exclusive content that isn’t found in all the other content about the topic. (That means you need to really evaluate competing pages!)

Think about what will make your content stand out among all the other content about the same subject. What does your content have to offer that’s different?

Ensure that the author is writing from experience and that the writer’s experience is clearly demonstrated in the content. Google is looking for expert perspectives from people with true experience about the subject matter – so make sure that the experience is evident in the content.

For example, would you trust content written by a certified LEED Green Associate or someone who is just passionate about using recycled materials to build a building? Which one has more authority and expertise? Google would see the LEED Green Associate as having more authority and expertise if the content is written correctly.

Next, ensure that you are building “writing authorities” at your company – people who are recognized as experts who are knowledgeable about the topics they are writing about.

This needed expertise falls in line with E-E-A-T (Expertise, Experience, Authority, and Trust), which is discussed at length in the newly updated Quality Raters Guidelines (which every SEO should become familiar with).

You can do this by having your writers write guest blog posts on leading industry websites, give webinars, speak at events and conferences, be expert panelists, guests on podcasts, etc. Be sure and promote all these things on the author’s bio page on your website and include backlinks to the articles, webinars, podcasts, etc.

Once you have a solid, helpful piece of content written for the reader, then you can optimize the headers, alt tags, title, and description tags — and do the rest of the SEO basics.

In 2024, content is going to be all about the end user. Get started writing helpful content today.

17. Alli Berry, SEO & Content Consultant:

Heading into 2024, I would recommend being dialed into the ongoing antitrust lawsuit against Google and any future lawsuits ahead. It seems likely that this is only the beginning for Google and other big tech companies.

Thanks to the Department of Justice (DOJ), we’ve learned a lot of juicy information about Google’s algorithm, relevant to anyone working in SEO.

For example:

We’ve learned that there are three pillars of rank: on-page (what the document says about itself), links + anchors (what the web says about the document), and user interactions (what users say about the document).

While we have known about on-page and links + anchors for years, the user interactions part has been more of a mystery. In the past, Google has denied using things like click data for rank.

But we’ve now learned that Google is measuring user interactions in four ways:

  1. Hover/mouse movement.
  2. Clicks.
  3. Scrolls.
  4. Whether the user enters a new query.

While some of the documents revealed with this information are from 2016, we now know how Google has been using click data, and based on some of the information they’ve redacted, they likely still are.

This is actual proof that your metadata needs to do more than contain the right keywords. It should show immediate value to the user, be informative (and compelling), and establish trust to get those clicks. And once you’ve got the click, you need to retain the searcher with content that meets those criteria as well.

Nothing we didn’t necessarily think before – but now we know.

We all should be tuning in to see what else we learn in 2024 from this case.

You can keep tabs on trial documents here.

18. Cyrus Shephard, Founder and Head of Strategy at Zyppy SEO:

So, I hate to say it, but in light of evidence pouring out of the US vs. Google antitrust trial, it’s become surprisingly clear how much Google relies on user behavior data to shape actual web rankings.

For years, Google has told SEOs to “focus on the user,” but we never understood the secret reason that was true: rankings wholly rely on user behavior via clicks, scrolls, additional searches, and more.

What does focusing on the user mean besides the typical empty platitudes? For most, it starts with having a title, description, and favicon that users want to click above all others. But it’s more than that. It showcases a navigation that highlights your Expertise, Authority, and Trust.

Working as a Google Quality Rater, I only have a short time to evaluate each page, and so do users. Is your subject matter expertise clearly obvious on the page? Or do users need to click and hunt it out? Does your logo clearly communicate what you do?

Google can’t likely read your logo, but users can, and Google can read users. Likewise, if you label your blog “Blog” in your navigation, how about labeling it something to show your expertise, such as “Protein Research,” “Tennis News,” or “Coffee Blog.”

Finally, make sure to answer users’ questions as quickly and directly as possible. Google is very good at figuring out when a user is satisfied. These may sound like tired and trite pieces of advice, but we are starting to learn there is a lot of real Google science behind it.

19. Dixon Jones, CEO, Inlinks:

Find a Data Layer of your own!

It is clear that AI is going to make big inroads. We can fight it, but I think that is a bit like burning books or banning the printing press. It is coming anyway, which will herald a new dawn of what may largely be regurgitated junk.

If you have some unique data of your own, then you may be able to leverage this to be one step ahead of the pack.

A great example might be some statistical data of your own. This can be used to generate interesting takes and analyses.

The AI can still help you quickly interpret the data, but if the data is yours and yours alone, then you get something unique and, hopefully, something that people want. Something helpful.

20. Fabrice Canel, Principal Product Manager – Microsoft Bing:

Take control of your SEO game with real-time indexing by adopting IndexNow.

IndexNow is the free protocol empowering websites to take control of their own content indexing instead of depending on unpredictable traditional crawl methods. With a simple ping, websites can now update multiple search engines with their content changes as soon as they happen.

Whether you’re adding, updating, or deleting content, search engines quickly reflect your changes in their search results – giving consumers access to the most relevant information on your website at the time of search.

With rapid ongoing expansion, by 2024, more than 10 search engines are expected to support it, and hundreds of millions of websites will support it.

21. Martha van Berkel, Schema App:

2024 is a year where the value of Schema Markup will go beyond just rich results. Its semantic value will determine how your marketing content is understood by search engines and other AI or Large Language Model (LLM) driven services that seek to provide answers to your customers.

This change will require SEOs to shift from optimizing pages to translating their brand story into the language of machines – Schema.org. They will do this by building a content knowledge graph using Schema Markup.

Your content knowledge graph will help AI and search engines understand the relationships between entities on your site and provide your organization with a control point to ensure your content and brand are understood as you intended.

[Discover:] Expert insights & actionable tips for SEO in 2024

As humans, we aren’t just reading the words when we read content. We’re relating concepts to our experiences and existing knowledge.

For example, the mention of chocolate makes us think of our favorite chocolate bar or reminds us of our childhood experiences. A story about ranking change reminds us of the emotions and learnings we experienced when we won or lost the SEO game.

How the machines’ neural brains work is not so different from ours. AI LLMs are reading content and making meaningful connections across words, topics, and entities to determine what content will evoke emotion, satisfaction, or a click for its human customers.

In 2024, SEOs can use schema markup to build meaningful connections in the data to connect and delight current and future customers.

There is no doubt that SEO is changing more rapidly than at any other time in the 25 year history of the industry.

The challenge for SEO professionals that have been in SEO for more than five years is that they are having to adapt and learn new skills of leveraging AI tools. The edge they have is understanding how search has evolved helps them to look more holistically and bring a deeper knowledge to problem solving.

For those just entering the industry, now is an exciting time and they will be more native at creating prompts and embracing new technology. However, understanding the fundamentals is still essential to be able to know how and when you can use tools.

Experience is still critical, because a tool can never be a replacement for knowledge.

More resources: 

Featured Image: Fit Ztudio/Shutterstock 

2023 Google Algorithms & SEO’s Future: Powerful Predictions For 2024

Maximize your SEO efforts in 2024 with insights on Google's SGE, algorithm updates, and expert tips to keep your site ahead. Stay informed and adapt now!

Conductor Conductor 7.4K Reads
2023 Google Algorithms & SEO’s Future: Powerful Predictions For 2024

Learn how you can leverage 2023’s most significant SEO trends, updates, and challenges to inform and align your 2024 strategy.

From Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) to ranking factor changes and other impactful events, the world of SEO has seen plenty of change in 2023.

With all of these changes, you need to stay ahead to keep your website performing at a high level in 2024.

In this article, we’ll explore:

  • Major algorithm updates.
  • Shifts in what are (and aren’t) ranking factors.
  • Impactful events from 2023 that shaped the SEO industry.
  • Expert predictions on 2024’s SEO trends, challenges, and opportunities.

2023’s Google Algorithm Updates & Introduction Of Search Generative Experience

As part of your everyday work, you’re used to algorithm updates and the best ways to pivot.

In fact, in 2023, there were:

  • 4 Google Core Algorithm Updates.
  • 3 Google Reviews Updates
  • 1 Helpful Content Update
  • 1 Spam Update

However, in 2023, Search Generative Experience (SGE) has added a new level of complexity to search.

Google’s SGE is a whole new ballgame for how we search and find information online.

SGE uses generative AI to break down the top SERP content into a single snippet at the top of the page. This helps Google’s overall goal of providing users with quick answers to complex questions.

However, the implications of SGE are huge for your site’s organic discoverability and the future of search as we know it.

What Is Search Generative Experience (SGE)?

SGE is an experimental update to Google’s search engine that uses artificial intelligence to generate contextual answers to complex questions.

SGE leverages AI in the following three ways to enhance its search experience:

  • AI Snapshot: The AI-generated snippet located at the top of the Google SERP that answers the users’ questions. See our screenshot of the AI snapshot answering the query ‘What is the strongest bone in the human body?’ below.
  • Conversational Mode: Answers follow-up questions related to a topic while keeping the context of the original search.
  • Vertical Experiences: Provides a preferred list of features and more product details in commercial searches.

How Will SGE Impact SEO?

AI is now in the spotlight, living in the area that once held the coveted first position on SERPs.

As you know, SEO success hinges on a website’s ability to rank well on SERPs, because _ of clicks are often to the website that holds position one.

Before SGE, search ads and featured snippets were the main hurdles to getting the most clicks for a specific keyword.

Now that the SERP layout has changed, AI is in the spotlight.

The AI snippet takes up the best SERP real estate there is, pushing down the paid and organic results and even the featured snippets, and that’s before we expanded the AI-generated snippet.

As you can expect, once you expand the AI spotlight section, it dominates the page, and every other result is pushed below the fold.

The impact on site traffic and the CTR of organic results will be devastating even if your rankings remain the same. And in case you thought your paid ads would be safe, we have bad news for you. The AI spotlight will take precedence over every result, whether organic, paid, or featured.

While Google’s goal remains to get its users the answers they need, SGE marks a shift in how it gets users from point A to point B.

Specifically, Google used to give users answers to their questions by directing them toward helpful sites and content, ultimately taking them away from the Google SERP.

With SGE, Google is encouraging users to remain on the SERP.

5 Ways To Align Your 2024 SEO Strategy with SGE

The introduction of SGE is poised to significantly disrupt traditional search engine rankings and click-through rates (CTR), signaling a paradigm shift where the focus will transition from mere “rankings” to the more strategic concept of “real estate” in search engine results.

This change underscores the need for businesses to adapt their strategies to maintain visibility and relevance in a highly competitive online environment.

1. Think About Real Estate, Not Rankings

Due to SGE’s conversation snippet taking up the majority of the SERP and pushing your hard-earned positions below the fold, it’s important to begin discovering ways to get your brand back in front of search traffic.

As we mentioned above, Google’s new AI snippet takes up the best SERP real estate, effectively pushing down the traditional paid and organic results and even the featured snippets.

Additionally, SGE’s answers are comprised of everything from specific website snippets down to comments on social media platforms and forums.

To get your brand back above the fold, consider a holistic approach to your SERP takeover.

Aim to position your brand in:

  • Paid Search, to be seen first after SGE.
  • Organic Search, to continue to build authority.
  • Social Media Marketing to increase your brand’s chances of informing SGE on SERPs.
  • Knowledge Graphs to increase your brand’s visibility on SERPs.
  • Rich Snippets to increase your brand’s visibility on SERPs.
  • SGE, to reclaim your position above the fold.

2. Specificity In Content Creation Is Key

As of now, SGE is pulling the most relevant and helpful snippet of the content appearing in the top 2 organic results for its answers.

Google is looking for the best possible answer to user queries, which may be in a comment on a forum, a snippet from an article, or a post on a site like Quora or Reddit.

So, to improve your brand’s chances of gaining more SERP real estate, create content with a high level of specificity and expertise to increase your chances of Google pulling your content as a specific snippet.

3. Solidify Your Author’s Expertise

Experience-Expertise-Authoritativeness-Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T) has become the Google mantra, permeating everything they do.

Helping Google understand who is writing a piece of content and why they are an authority has become a necessity versus a nice to have.

To help Google understand who your authors are, it helps to have a clear answer on who the author is, why they are an expert in the industry, and why they are an expert on a specific topic.

How to solidify your expertise in authorship

  1. Create an author page on your company’s website with a clear breadcrumb that establishes your position at the company.
  2. Ensure that your name and title are clearly stated. Include links to more pieces you’ve contributed to.
  3. Link to your LinkedIn profile
  4. Link to and from Wikipedia
  5. Link to other articles and publications
  6. Ensure your author schema markup is implemented correctly

4. Dive Deeper Into Search Intent

When it comes to search intent in 2024, your goal is to understand what each person is searching for, on a deeper level.

You can uncover these insights by capturing, monitoring, and converting search intent on a holistic level.

What To Do, Starting Now

Uncover performance insights on entire groupings of keywords, such as semantically related keywords and topics.

Long-Term Tasks

Implement recommendations, opportunities, and gap identification based on semantic analysis of topics and topic clusters.

5. Strive For Hyper-Personalization In Results

Because of SGE’s conversational nature, audiences may begin to expect a hyper-personalized experience.

In order to help meet your future prospect’s expectations, it’s important to constantly improve your website’s user experience.

Long-Term Tasks

  • Ingest 3rd-party data to surface which users are in the “unauthenticated web” (Cookieless)
  • Identify the impact of “conversational style search” where users give personal inputs
  • Capture and surface this information in reporting and recommendations

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Google SGE And Generative AI In Search: What To Expect In 2024

Explore the growth of Google's Search Generative Experience (SGE) in 2023 and how it is poised to revolutionize search marketing and advertising in 2024.

Kristi Hines Kristi Hines 17K Reads
Google SGE And Generative AI In Search: What To Expect In 2024

Initially, the Google Search Generative Experience (SGE) experiment in Labs was expected to “end” in December 2023. But with the latest redesign of the Google Labs website, many have noticed that the end date for SGE has disappeared.

What does this mean for Google SGE and the future of generative AI in search? Here’s what we know about Google SGE and what we can expect with generative AI in search for 2024.

google sge example mobileScreenshot from Google, December 2023

Consumers Want AI-Powered Search

According to a survey of 2,205 adults in the United States, the AI-powered product that people are most interested in is search.

Also included in the list of AI products are AI-powered smart assistants, shopping recommendations, and ads. (Feb 2023)

most wanted ai powered features search ads study statistics 2023Screenshot from Statista, December 2023

Over 25% Of Users Trust AI-Powered Search Results, Brand Recommendations, And Ads

The same survey revealed the level of trust that US adults have in AI-powered search regarding unbiased search results, recommended brands, and ad relevancy.

Also worth noting is that almost a third of AI-powered search users believe the results are factual.

trust in ai powered search ads study statistics 2023Screenshot from Statista, December 2023

29% Of Adults Would Switch To AI-Powered Search

Regarding the adoption of AI-powered search, 40% of millennials are willing to make the switch to an experience like Google SGE.

ai-powered search adoption rate study statistics 2023Screenshot from Statista, December 2023

Google’s Biggest Priority: The Evolution Of Search With AI

During the Q2 earnings call in July, Google CEO Sundar Pichai described the evolution of search with generative AI as one of Google’s top priorities.

This quarter saw our next major evolution with the launch of the Search Generative Experience, or SGE, which uses the power of generative AI to make Search even more natural and intuitive. User feedback has been very positive so far.

SGE answers questions and provides new paths for search users to follow.

It can better answer the queries people come to us with today while also unlocking entirely new types of questions that Search can answer.

For example, we found that generative AI can connect the dots for people as they explore a topic or project, helping them weigh multiple factors and personal preferences before making a purchase or booking a trip.

We see this new experience as another jumping-off point for exploring the web, enabling users to go deeper to learn about a topic. I’m proud of the engineering excellence underlying our progress.

Google aims to continue increasing the speed of AI responses in search.

Since the May launch, we’ve boosted serving efficiency, reducing the time it takes to generate AI snapshots by half. We’ll deliver even faster responses over time.

We’re engaging with the broader ecosystem and will continue to prioritize approaches that send valuable traffic and support a healthy, open web.

Unsurprisingly, Google is testing new ad placements.

Ads will continue to play an important role in this new Search experience. Many of these new queries are inherently commercial in nature. We have more than 20 years of experience serving ads relevant to users’ commercial queries, and SGE enhances our ability to do this even better.

We are testing and evolving placements and formats and giving advertisers tools to take advantage of generative AI.

During the most recent earnings call in October, Pichai offered more updates to SGE.

We’ve learned a lot from people trying it, and we’ve added new capabilities, like incorporating videos and images into responses and generating imagery. We’ve also made it easier to understand and debug generated code.

Direct user feedback has been positive, with strong growth in adoption.

In August, we opened up availability to India and Japan, with more countries and languages to come.

Google is prioritizing approaches that continue to drove organic search traffic to websites.

As we add features and expand into new markets, we’re engaging with the broader ecosystem and will continue to prioritize approaches that add value for our users, send valuable traffic to publishers, and support a healthy, open Internet.

With generative AI applied to Search, we can serve a wider range of information needs and answer new types of questions, including those that benefit from multiple perspectives.

We are surfacing more links with SGE, and linking to a wider range of sources on the results page, creating new opportunities for content to be discovered.

As confirmed by the earlier survey, the response to ads in AI-powered search is positive.

Of course, ads will continue to play an important role in this new Search experience. People are finding ads helpful here, as they provide useful options to take action and connect with businesses.

Advertisers can expect native ad formats to fit into SGE responses.

We’ll experiment with new formats native to SGE that use generative AI to create relevant, high-quality ads, customized to every step of the search journey.

Google considers Bard a complimentary product for SGE users to boost productivity and connect users to their Google Docs and Gmail.

The second area we are focused on is boosting creativity and productivity. Bard is particularly helpful here; it’s a direct interface to a conversational LLM, and we think of it as an early experiment and complementary experience to Google Search.

Related: Why is Google SGE Stuck in Google Labs?

Over 20% Of People Use Generative AI Regularly

McKinsey & Company’s State of AI report from August offered a breakdown of generative AI use at work and outside of work by industry based on a global survey with 1,684 participants.

generative AI tools at work by industry study statistics 2023Screenshot from McKinsey & Company, December 2023

Google To Maintain Lead In Search With Massive Dataset

In October, Baron Insights shared an analysis of generative AI applications, noting that Google would maintain its lead in search with the “largest set of consumer data” of any of its competitors.

However, we believe Alphabet will maintain its leadership role due to its dataset advantage derived from having over 90% of broad search queries, interactions with an estimated four billion consumers globally, and scaled and highly specific infrastructure to provide search-like results.

Alphabet’s dataset advantage also reaches well beyond search into domains such as maps, images, videos, audio, home devices, mobile phones, travel, and retail.

Google Search Generative Experience, a GenAI agent in beta, is already demonstrating how Alphabet can substantially improve search results through GenAI. At the same time, competitors are still trying to catch up to Google’s traditional search capabilities.

google sge desktop product viewersScreenshot from Google, December 2023

Experiments With Gemini Increase SGE Performance

When Google introduced Gemini, a new family of large language models (LLMs), it revealed all of the ways Gemini was being utilized in Google products.

This included experiments with Gemini for SGE that boosted the speed of its responses and the inclusion of Gemini Pro in SGE’s companion, Bard.

Screenshot from Google, December 2023

Over One-Third Of SGE Results Include Local Packs

An analysis of Google SGE by BrightEdge revealed the impact of SGE on local SEO.

google sge local packsScreenshot from BrightEdge, December 2023

It also summarized the top content formats presented in SGE responses.

google sge content formatsScreenshot from BrightEdge, December 2023

For AI-shopping assistance, SGE offers Product Viewers for apparel and general products.

google sge product viewersScreenshot from BrightEdge, December 2023

Gemini Will Help Google AI Compete With GPT-4

A recent Schwab Equity Ratings Report offers insight into how Google AI stacks up to its competition.

Although the first iteration of Gemini offers a notable step up in inferencing capabilities, we believe it is still inferior to OpenAI’s GPT-4, which we view as the highest bar in the industry. Gemini will help power Bard and Search Generative Experience (not widely accessible yet) as well as Google Ads, customer cloud models/APIs, other apps, and the Chrome browser. We note that Gemini runs on internally designed TPUs, but we see future upgrades/iterations also leveraging the most advanced GPUs. Although we believe GOOGL may still be a step behind MSFT/OpenAI, AI advancements are moving incredibly fast, and we think future Gemini upgrades will allow GOOGL to keep up with the competition and be a major AI beneficiary.

google sge local pack best restaurants phoenixScreenshot from Google, December 2023

SGE Included As One Of Google DeepMind’s Top AI Advances

In a recap of groundbreaking AI advances in 2023, Google DeepMind highlighted the role of LLMs in elevating search.

LLMs are being employed not only to organize information more effectively but also to provide a more conversational and interactive model for users interacting with search engines. This transformation elevates the role of search engines beyond simply retrieving information. The advanced capabilities now include synthesizing data, generating creative content, and building upon previous searches. Despite these advancements, the primary purpose of connecting users with the web content they are looking for remains a core function.

DeepMind also included SGE’s companion, Bard, and its latest updates, plus a sneak peek into what’s in store for 2024: Google Bard Advanced.

In six out of eight benchmarks, Gemini Pro outperformed GPT-3.5, including in MMLU, one of the key standards for measuring large AI models, and GSM8K, which measures grade school math reasoning. Gemini Ultra will come to Bard early next year through Bard Advanced, a new cutting-edge AI experience.

Screenshot from Google, December 2023

Concerns Over Copyright, Loss Of Organic Search Traffic Rise

Concerns mount over the ways Google SGE infringes on copyright, as analyzed by the Atlantic (via WSJ), News/Media Alliance, Tom’s Hardware, and others in publishing.

Both offer instances where content from publishers is utilized to generate a response in SGE that requires no further research.

In addition, SGE’s potential effect on the traffic websites rely on from organic search has led to a class action complaint filed against Google, filed in mid-December.

google sge example mobileScreenshot from Google, December 2023

Verdict: Google SGE Is Here To Stay

Ultimately, the growing demand for generative AI tools and AI-powered search, combined with the clear monetization potential via Google Ads, outweighs complaints about copyright and traffic.

Therefore, it is safe to assume that SGE will be a part of Google search results, much like featured snippets and other SERP features that continue to push organic listings further down the page. This makes the number one spot in organic search a crucial asset.

Marketing Strategies For Google SGE And Generative AI Search

How can marketers adapt to Google SGE and generative AI search experiences from Bing and other search engines?

  • Expect a shift towards more long-tail and conversational keywords.
  • Learn from AI search assistants like Perplexity: ask questions and observe how the questions are transformed into search queries.
  • Monitor keywords for changes in intent and consider question-based and conversational phrases in your strategy.
  • Aim for a diversity of content types to improve visibility.
  • Create “Helpful Content” that satisfies E-E-A-T.
  • Use proper markup schema on text, image, and video content to ensure it appears in relevant AI responses.
  • Always include citations/links to original sources.
  • Diversify your traffic to prepare for a potential loss of organic search traffic with zero-click answers.
  • Monitor your analytics and the evolution of SERPs for your website’s top search terms.

Most importantly, experiment with Google SGE and AI in search.

Test AI-powered search engines and assistants with your brand name, your products, and your customer’s top questions. See where it takes you and optimize your presence online accordingly.

Screenshot from Google, December 2023

Featured image: Tada Images/Shutterstock

Do Keywords Still Matter?

Explore keywords' pivotal role in Google's indexing system, user experience, and content creation for effective online visibility and strategic connections.

Winston Burton Winston Burton 16K Reads
Do Keywords Still Matter?

Are keywords still important today?

Keywords – ranging from single words to complex phrases – are still instrumental in shaping website content to boost relevant organic search traffic and essential tools for connecting the target audience with your website.

But just how much? Let’s explore.

There is no short answer to this. If you ask whether keywords in queries are essential to provide a list of relevant files to satisfy an informational need, then the answer is no.

But if you ask if keywords matter to Google’s indexing and retrieval system, the answer is absolutely yes.

Let’s take a closer look.

Why Keywords Matter In SEO

Keywords are the key phrases commonly used by consumers to find what they are looking for online.

They use the search bar in their browser to type in the terms, which are usually made of one or more words that describe what they want.

There are many types of keywords, including:

  • Branded.
  • Non-Branded.
  • Local and Global.
  • Brand + Geography.
  • Brand + Product, etc.

Here are four ways keywords continue to help brands.

1. Keywords Help Indicate User Intent

Keywords are directional. They give very good clues that “point” to the kind of content the searcher is trying to retrieve.

However, there is still a vocabulary problem between the index system and end users, who have many different ways to ask for the same thing or something similar.

This is why Google and other search engines have extremely advanced query expansion technologies.

For example, an end user typing “solar energy” as a query may well see the first result for solar power, which may be more relevant and useful to satisfy the informational need than another page that only has a direct match to the words “solar” + “energy” to qualify it.

Plus, timestamps appended to keywords in the index for temporal analysis give a clue to freshness to help detect trends, and then there has to be event detection for news results.

And so much more.

So, yes, the closer a user can get the query to match the relevant content, the better.

However, users tend not to know what they’re looking for (if they did, they wouldn’t need a search engine), so search engines must be sophisticated with definition and association discovery.

2. Keywords Help Find Quick Wins

Finding quick wins or striking distance opportunities, especially for keywords that bring in conversions for other channels, should be your quickest path to improving organic visibility.

For example, if you’re a large-scale retailer like Walmart and you’re ranking in position 13 for Nintendo Switch, which has millions of searches per month, that would be on my priority list to optimize.

I would examine and optimize the landing page, internal and external links, etc., to see what you need to do to get this term on the first page of Google to drive more sales and revenue.

search volumes for Nintendo SwitchScreenshot from author, December 2023

3. Keywords Help Identify The Right Target Audience

When we perform competitive analysis and look at keyword visibility for a prospect or current client versus the competitive set, we can uncover a content gap.

We could find they don’t have content related to that topic or that the content they have is not ranking or optimized.

For example, I previously had a financial client who wanted to rank for “Tesla Loans.”

After looking at competitor visibility, we noticed competitors ranked for “Tesla Financing,” and my client did not have “Tesla Financing” in their page title, headings, body content, etc., and therefore did not rank for the term.

But loans and financing are not synonymous.

Once we developed content for “Tesla Financing” instead and optimized it, marked it up with schema, built content around it, did some internal linking, promoted the content, etc., conversion rates increased by 15% YOY.

The keyword “Tesla Financing” helped us identify the proper target audience that had a much higher search volume than Tesla Loans.

bulk keyword analysisScreenshot from author, December 2023

4. Keywords Help Drive Traffic

Most traffic occurs on page one of Google. In fact, the top result alone takes 28.5% of the clicks.

If you increase visibility into the first page, your site can drive a considerable amount of incremental traffic, which can potentially lift sales on keywords that have high volume.

Having a top position on a low-volume keyword is not meaningful.

Instead, focus your efforts on keywords that drive business value and have some volume and holistic content that answers questions end users will find useful.

Far too many clients and articles focus on counting keyword success stories instead of measuring the impact of those successes (or not).

Should We Still Track Keywords?

The answer here is an overwhelming yes. Keywords still provide value by delivering traffic, conversions, visibility, and sales in prime positions.

For enterprise-level brands with a lot of products and services, it can be expensive to track keywords because there can be thousands or millions of keywords to monitor across desktop and mobile.

It’s a great idea to keep a golden keyword list of terms that deliver the most business value to your brand, i.e., traffic, revenue, and conversions, and a mixture of non-brand, brand, and product keywords that are vital to your first-page visibility.

A brand wants to know what its highest volume terms are doing and get as much traffic as possible from those keywords.

It makes sense to track a few hundred keywords per core business line and region for enterprise-level brands.

Tips For Finding The Right Keywords

Before you start using a wide variety of keyword research tools, always think like a customer and ask, “What is the purpose of my website and what problem am I going to help end users solve and satisfy their information need?”

If you can answer that question, you are on the right path to defining your audience and your content and keyword strategy.

One of the keyword research data sources I like to use is paid search data if it is available. If you have historical paid search data, you can see which keywords resulted in conversions and sales, which can help define what content you should create.

Additionally, you can use tools like Google Keyword Planner, KW Finder, Moz Keyword Explorer, Semrush, Ahrefs, and Long Tail Pro, offering diverse functionalities to aid in finding the right keywords.

At the end of the day, SEO is all about delivering qualified traffic that converts into customers. If your site is receiving a lot of traffic and no one converts, what is the point?

(Unless, of course, you have a site that depends on ad revenue, affiliate traffic, or any other advertising model.)

When Keywords Are Actually Useless

Some SEO pros are still focusing on keyword density. News flash: Keyword density does not matter.

Stop trying to stuff keywords into content – it won’t help you get higher rankings if you have your primary keyword at 10% KD, etc.

Focus on writing content that will satisfy the informational need and give users what they want.

I also still see sites using the keyword meta tags. Google devalued that a long time ago, and it has no ranking value and won’t move the needle.

Lastly, using exact match anchor text for all your links is not a good idea. Anchor text should be a mixture of brand and non-brand with different keyword variations.

Google is sophisticated, and if you have too many keywords with exact match anchor text links, you can send off an alarm, and your site can potentially get penalized.

Wrapping Up

While the landscape of SEO and the role of keywords have undergone significant changes, especially with the advent of AI and NLP technologies, keywords remain a crucial element of SEO strategies.

Their proper usage and understanding are integral to connecting with the target audience, understanding market needs, and ultimately driving traffic and conversions.

Always focus on the user experience and E-E-A-T as Google’s focus on providing valuable, relevant content to users has led to the emergence of E-E-A-T (Expertise, Experience, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) as a key ranking signal.

Creating content that genuinely addresses user queries and demonstrates first-hand experience is crucial.

The evolution of SEO practices towards a more holistic, user-centric approach underscores the need to stay updated with the latest trends and tools to maintain effective online visibility.

More resources:

Featured Image: Red Deer/Shutterstock

Top tips to create a flexible & effective SEO strategy in 2024.
In partnership with Rundown

SGE and generative AI are here. Craft your SEO strategy around these new developments using these curated tips from 24 experts.

  • The shifts in the SEO landscape as we continue through 2024.
  • Ways to validate your current strategies with shareholders.
  • How to better incorporate AI into your organic strategies.
  • Guidance on how to pivot as SGE continues to take center stage on SERPs.

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Search Engine Journal uses the information you provide to contact you about our relevant content and promotions. Search Engine Journal will share the information you provide with the following sponsors, who will use your information for similar purposes: Conductor. You can unsubscribe from communications from Search Engine Journal at any time.