Navigating SEO Disruption According To Experts

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Extracted from SEJ’s SEO Trends 2024 ebook, an annual compilation of expert insights forecasting the upcoming year’s developments.

Anticipating challenges ahead can evoke apprehension, yet it also presents an opportunity for growth.

Despite the anticipated disruptions in 2024, prematurely declaring the demise of SEO would be hasty.

The fundamental need for people to discover information remains unchanged. From the inception of search engines, the patterns of information retrieval have displayed resilience to redirection.

While the strategies employed to achieve business objectives through SEO may undergo alterations, their essence remains intact.

Certain queries have always been fulfilled without requiring users to click through to external websites. This is the segment that will be most affected by the evolution of in-platform search experiences.

Queries that once yielded easy results will lose their effectiveness, and straightforward informational searches will diminish in performance.

However, if you weren’t aligning with the genuine user intent from the outset, these changes would have surfaced eventually regardless.

Adaptation is necessary, but there’s a window of opportunity to execute it effectively.

The crucial step lies in educating your clients or internal stakeholders and readying them to navigate through the impending disruptions.

You might encounter unconventional performance fluctuations as you pivot towards fresh strategies. It may be necessary to reevaluate which metrics hold significance for you and the outcomes you anticipate from SEO.

Keep in mind: The foundation of a solid strategy lies not in the hype but in comprehending your audience and their journey dynamics.

In essence, this article emphasizes three key points: Prioritize understanding user intent to steer clear of spam and shallow results; maintain focus on technical SEO to maintain a clean site and shield against impactful core updates; employ AI strategically to free up time for broader strategic planning.

AI Will Change The Types Of Content We Invest In

Aleyda Solis, Founder & International SEO Consultant at Orainti, shares insights on navigating SEO disruption according to experts.

Anticipated Key SEO Trends in 2024:

Trend 1: Streamlining Time-Consuming SEO Tasks
Expect increased automation of critical SEO tasks facilitated by AI, chatbots, and generative search.

Tasks such as internal linking and structured data implementation, traditionally labor-intensive, will become more manageable with enhanced automation tools.

Trend 2: Emphasis on Expert-Driven Content
In response to the impact of AI-generated content, online businesses are expected to prioritize expert-led content creation. This approach aims to set them apart, enhance credibility, and establish authority within their respective industries.

Furthermore, adopting an expert-centric strategy can serve as a safeguard against potential Google quality updates.

Trend 3: Evolution of Click Behavior and Content Diversity
The introduction of Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) has the potential to reshape users’ click behavior in search results.

For instance, users may increasingly bypass reviews, articles, or product landing pages, opting instead to access product description pages directly via SGE snapshots.

This shift underscores the need for diversification in content investment to optimize visibility and enhance user experience throughout the search journey.

Don’t Overlook Update Impacts On Technical SEO

Dan Taylor, Partner & Head of Technical SEO at, provides insights into navigating SEO disruption according to experts.

Crawling & Indexing Disruption:
Amidst the spotlight on AI and the aftermath of recent Google updates, particularly the impactful content update, attention has gravitated towards its implications on rankings.

It’s acknowledged that the concept of quality influences all aspects of Google’s SEO processes.

Google reaffirmed this stance at Search Central Live in Zurich in October 2023. Presently, while the SEO community emphasizes “quality content,” equal emphasis should be placed on maintaining desired crawling and indexing rates. I anticipate a shift towards this trend gaining momentum in 2024.

Many of Google’s systems rely on URL patterns to assess all URLs following said patterns.

This approach allows Google to conserve resources and make assessments without needing to crawl through hundreds or thousands of URLs within a single large website. It applies this method for both evaluating quality and enforcing SafeSearch protocols.

Crawling and indexing represent significant expenditures for Google’s organic search operations.

The recent trend towards more stringent updates suggests a potential shift in Google’s approach, indicating a move away from the need to crawl and archive every piece of online content. There were also hints of “index pruning” observed in the August 2022 core update.

Effective analysis of log files and a thorough understanding of the Google Search Console (GSC) crawl stats report will be crucial.

It’s imperative to prepare clients for these changes and ensure team members are well-educated on the matter. Failure to do so may lead to brands being caught off guard by declines in performance and rankings, with potential indicators of crawling and indexing slowdowns occurring beforehand.

Chrome’s Third-Party Cookie Breakages

In addition to assessing the impact on reporting and demonstrating the value of SEO to the broader business, it’s imperative to recognize the evolving landscape of browser technologies, particularly with Chrome’s progression towards the “deprecation” of third-party cookies. As advocates and stewards for our clients, it’s essential to educate them on the potential implications and site disruptions for Chrome users.

While this may not fall directly within the realm of SEO, it’s futile to drive organic search traffic to a website that fails to function properly, leading to a poor user experience and diminished conversion rates.

Commencing from Q1 2024, Chrome will conduct tests on 1% of its users, with full rollout expected by year-end. It’s prudent to proactively assess client websites, identifying any potential issues, and remain vigilant throughout 2024.

Moreover, assisting clients in setting up analytics tools to effectively report and demonstrate value to their stakeholders will be instrumental in navigating these changes.

Specialized AI Tools Can Free Significant Time For Strategy

Kevin Indig, Growth Advisor to Fast-Growing Startups, shares insights on navigating SEO disruption according to experts.

The primary trend anticipated for 2024 involves leveraging AI to significantly expedite workflows such as data analysis, keyword research, content creation, and communication. Despite facing increased AI integration in search, we also have access to more robust tools to counteract these changes.

While general large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT, Bard, or Claude play a role, we’ll witness the emergence of specialized tools tailored to specific workflows.

The second major trend revolves around the anticipated launch of the Search Generative Experience (SGE) out of beta, expected by the end of 2023. As of October 2023, the full implications of SGE remain unclear, but understanding and reverse engineering it will be a significant focus in 2024.

SEO Is Not Dead – SEO Got Better

Ryan Jones, Senior Vice President of SEO at Razorfish, provides insights on navigating SEO disruption according to experts.

Prepare for SEO to face declarations of its demise multiple times, only to be succeeded by something resembling SEO.

As generative AI advances, search engines will increasingly shift towards a model resembling a Star Trek computer, providing answers on demand rather than merely listing websites.

Many may struggle to grasp that users often seek answers rather than websites for certain queries.

While on-demand answers may pose challenges for affiliate or niche sites, there will continue to be significant search demand for problem-solving, product discovery, advice-seeking, and general actionable information.

Marketers will persist in shaping the emerging “search experiences,” akin to how we influence search results presently. While we might rebrand it, the essence of SEO will remain unchanged.

We’ll gradually distance ourselves from old metrics and adopt a more traditional marketing approach towards SEO. 2024 is poised to mark a significant advancement for the entire industry.

SEO practitioners versed in coding, AI, Information Retrieval, and traditional marketing will evolve further. I’m eager to witness the innovative ideas and tools that emerge as a result.

Don’t Get Lost In Panic Or Hype, Stay Focused On What Matters

Motoko Hunt, President/International SEO at AJPR, shares insights on navigating SEO disruption according to experts.

Have search engine updates and changes become more frequent and drastic lately, or is it just me?

Alongside the adoption of AI by search engines, AI tools like ChatGPT have become accessible to the general public.

The future impact of these developments on search remains uncertain, leading to mixed information and frustration, regardless of a company’s size.

These rapid changes will likely result in a significant divide among competing websites, depending on their ability to adapt and leverage these changes effectively.

In 2024, here are three key points to keep in mind for business growth:

Know The Facts

It’s crucial to stay informed about current events, as things can shift rapidly. However, it’s equally important not to overreact, particularly when influenced by misinformation or individual opinions.

Rely on reputable search engines and trusted industry news sources for accurate information, rather than getting caught up in every social media comment or rumor.

Allocate adequate budget for the continual education of your SEO team, whether through seminars, webinars, conferences, or certification courses. Sharing knowledge through internal training programs for in-house teams or clients is also highly beneficial.

Understanding how search results appear to your target audience is essential, especially considering the frequent and significant changes in search engine result page layouts and content.

Examine the search results using highly relevant queries related to your business to assess the impact of any changes.

While analytics data provides insights into site performance, analyzing search results can also reveal valuable information about user behavior and why they choose to click on certain links while ignoring others.

Developing an understanding of how these systems collect and display information empowers you to adapt your strategies in response to ongoing changes as they are implemented.

Benefit From New Technology

Conduct an internal audit to identify tasks that consume significant time and could be streamlined through automation.

For instance, leverage AI tools, such as AI-powered software services and ChatGPT, to detect irregularities within your ecommerce database that supplies data to your website. Additionally, automate the process of auditing your site for duplicate and similar content.

These tools have the capability to streamline coding and tagging tasks, thereby reducing manual workload substantially.

It’s encouraging to observe that some agencies are already leveraging AI technology to develop tools for clients. These tools need not comprise a comprehensive suite; even a niche tool addressing a specific challenge can make a substantial difference for many websites.

Stay Focused

As an in-house SEO professional, your deep understanding of your business and its target audience is invaluable, alongside your established relationships.

Enhance your content by showcasing your products and services effectively, while remaining focused on your business objectives and avoiding knee-jerk reactions to every Google update.

Agencies prioritize both client satisfaction and financial performance. Integrate AI tools to streamline SEO tasks and associated processes, aiming to boost efficiency and reduce operational costs while driving greater success for clients.

To garner support from clients, collaborate closely with them and provide education on the evolving landscape of SEO. Building trust and demonstrating your ability to navigate and adapt to these changes will be essential for acquiring and retaining their business.

SEO Will Become More Expensive, Increasing The Risk Of Low-Quality Activities

Roger Montti, a News Writer at Search Engine Journal, discusses the escalating expenses associated with SEO and Software as a Service (SaaS) tools, as well as strategies for managing the disruption in the SEO landscape, as suggested by experts.

Anticipating a surge in tool costs, Montti foresees a potential rise in the number of shared plan users losing access to these resources.

A recent announcement by Ahrefs revealed a 15% reduction in access for legacy users due to excessive usage, signaling a trend towards tighter restrictions.

The utilization of AI technology, which demands significant resources, could prompt providers to hike prices. Notably, Microsoft’s water consumption increased by 34% from 2021 to 2022, while Google experienced a 20% rise, both attributed to AI-related activities.

The demand for data centers has reached unprecedented levels, with certain regions witnessing a staggering 300% growth in their data center infrastructure.

Google’s substantial investment of $3 billion in tensor processing units (chips designed for AI applications) in 2023 underscores the company’s commitment to advancing AI technology.

Sequoia Capital, renowned for its backing of tech giants such as Apple and Airbnb, has recently posited that 2024 marks the onset of what it terms “Act Two” for artificial intelligence (AI).

In this new phase, AI is poised to extend its revenue-generating capabilities beyond content and image creation to encompass more critical sectors such as healthcare. Act Two represents a shift beyond the current applications of AI, which primarily revolve around text and image generation.

OpenAI, in a recent move, has pledged to introduce lower-priced plans tailored for developers, with a focus on technologies applicable to the medical and entertainment domains. These forthcoming offerings reflect OpenAI’s ambition to diversify its reach beyond its current user base, including those utilizing ChatGPT.

Estimates suggest that OpenAI’s daily expenditure exceeds $700,000, although this figure is likely conservative given that the initial projections were based on the capabilities of GPT-3 alone.

OpenAI is contemplating raising prices for its paid ChatGPT tiers as its operational costs continue to rise, compounded by the absence of direct competitors in the market.

While this adjustment seems inevitable, the timing remains uncertain. While some foresee it occurring as early as 2024, others argue that it might be delayed by another two years.

The tightening of pricing in the SEO tool sector is already underway and is expected to intensify further in the future.

Problems With Link Building

Advancements in natural language processing, neural networks, and AI have diminished Google’s dependence on traditional link signals for determining content relevance.

By 2024, the understanding that links hold less significance in Google’s ranking algorithm will become increasingly widespread. This realization has already gained traction among mainstream SEO practitioners.

While newer individuals in the field may not be familiar with long-standing spammy link tactics, such as purchasing expired domains, Google has effectively addressed these issues over the years.

However, there remains a subset of individuals who cling to outdated beliefs despite evidence suggesting otherwise. As discussions within the SEO community underscore the diminishing importance of links, this reality will become more evident.

It’s important to note that link building still holds value, albeit in a changing landscape. Many practitioners will come to acknowledge that certain link building tactics are no longer effective in achieving desired results.

Google Becomes More Precise

Google has dedicated significant efforts over the years to enhance the precision of its search algorithm.

The introduction of the Hummingbird update in 2013 marked a pivotal moment, representing a comprehensive rewrite aimed at improving the speed and accuracy of the core algorithm.

This commitment to precision has remained steadfast, as evidenced by subsequent updates like the Medic Update, which focused on refining the criteria for determining website relevance to specific query topics.

BERT, another notable advancement, has played a crucial role in enhancing Google’s comprehension of language nuances, leading to more precise search results.

In tandem, tools such as SpamBrain and the Helpful Content System have been instrumental in bolstering Google’s ability to differentiate between low-quality and high-quality content, thereby elevating the visibility of the latter.

The adoption of TW-Bert further underscores Google’s pursuit of precision, particularly in understanding search queries with greater accuracy. Consequently, publishers with subpar content may face heightened challenges in gaining visibility within search results.

While Google’s algorithms may not be flawless, the overarching trend towards increasing precision is expected to persist throughout 2024 and beyond.

In summary, precision remains paramount in Google’s quest to deliver relevant and high-quality search results.

SEO Pros Must Be Insightful & Flexible To Adapt To Groundbreaking AI Innovation

Vahan Petrosyan, as the Director of Technology at Search Engine Journal, emphasizes the strategic use of AI: leverage its strengths and counter its weaknesses to navigate the evolving landscape of SEO disruption, as outlined by experts.

The year 2023 marked significant breakthroughs in AI innovations, particularly highlighting its increasingly pivotal role in SEO.

AI’s expanding presence in personalized search functionalities promises to revolutionize the comprehension of user intent, context, and the analysis of past search interactions. This evolution empowers search engines to decipher subtle nuances within search queries and user behaviors with greater precision.

Consequently, the optimization of SEO strategies demands a more targeted approach, harnessing AI tools like Copilot in Clarity to effectively analyze and comprehend these intricate user behaviors.

Nevertheless, maintaining a delicate equilibrium between efficiency and fidelity to accuracy and ethical principles is paramount. It’s imperative that all content produced through AI undergoes rigorous fact-checking procedures to mitigate the potential hazards of misinformation and biases inherent in AI-generated content. Such measures align with search engines’ guidelines concerning AI-generated content.

Google, for instance, strives to strike a balance between AI advancements and authentic human experiences by emphasizing E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness), implementing “perspectives” filters, adjusting rankings to prioritize content showcasing firsthand knowledge, and incorporating user notes in search results.

Machines lack the capacity to replicate the personalized insights and emotional nuances derived from real-world encounters, such as product reviews. For individuals seeking information on topics like “the best laptops for graphic designers,” the genuine working experiences shared by design professionals regarding specific products hold far more significance than a generic list of potential laptop choices.

Nevertheless, it’s undeniable that AI chatbots are reshaping user interactions with the internet and content consumption patterns. Therefore, it’s incumbent upon publishers and SEO professionals to continually innovate to remain competitive in this evolving landscape.

Websites maintain an advantage over large language model chatbots due to the additional effort required from users to obtain high-quality outputs. Users must generate a thoughtful prompt and verify the response, thereby increasing the time and effort, or “cost,” of acquiring information.

Acknowledging this reality underscores the importance of strategizing ways to surpass chatbots when crafting content and optimizing UI/UX. Content that prioritizes ease of consumption, human engagement, and the cultivation of trust with users will ultimately prevail.

Here are a few examples of content strategies that effectively achieve these objectives:

  1. Provide expert opinions and meticulously researched content to alleviate the user’s need for cross-checking information.
  2. Enhance user engagement by integrating multimedia elements, data visualizations, interactive modules, quizzes, and real-time problem-solving exercises.
  3. Incorporate human-centric elements into content strategies where AI chatbots may falter. This could involve hosting live Q&A sessions or webinars where experts address user inquiries in real-time, fostering a sense of connection and trust.

User Experience & Speed

Google excels in deciphering user intent thanks to its access to vast user data, enabling the delivery of swift and highly pertinent search results. Nonetheless, the efficacy of rapid SERP (Search Engine Results Page) generation diminishes when websites suffer from sluggish loading speeds, leading users to potentially abandon slow-loading pages.

Hence, the significance of technical SEO in both ranking and user retention is heightened.

Google’s rollout of the new Core Web Vitals (CWV) metric, particularly the Introduction of Interaction to Next Paint (INP), slated to replace First Input Delay (FID) in March 2024, underscores this reality.

SEO Isn’t Going Anywhere

Despite claims suggesting the demise of SEO and technical SEO, such assertions are far from accurate, and SEO will continue to be a crucial component of digital marketing strategies.

The emergence of AI does not signify the obsolescence of SEO but rather a transformation in its strategies and methodologies. Similar shifts have occurred in the past with the introduction of SERP features like featured snippets, People Also Ask (PAA) boxes, and others by Google.

This evolution necessitates a more profound and nuanced comprehension of user intent and the mechanics behind search engine operations.

Trends To Watch From The SEJ Newsroom

Matt G. Southern, Senior News Writer at Search Engine Journal, Explores SEO Disruption Through Expert Insights

The landscape of SEO is in constant flux, and as we move into 2024, the paradigm is expected to shift even further.

Drawing from my extensive experience covering the SEO industry, I’m keen to impart some crucial perspectives to stay ahead of the curve.

Prioritize Enhancing Current Rankings

Let’s begin by underlining the significance of enhancing the rankings of existing keywords rather than solely focusing on acquiring new ones.

In many cases, websites possess untapped potential within keywords ranking on the second or third page of search results.

Even if your website already ranks on the first page, climbing just one position can lead to a significant surge in traffic, as the click-through rate substantially increases for the top-ranking positions.

Perform Intent-Driven Keyword Research

When delving into keyword research, it’s imperative to focus on user intent and relevance.

Prioritizing transactional and commercial keywords over generic informational ones can be beneficial. Ensure that the chosen keywords align closely with your core offerings, be it products, services, or solutions.

Avoid being sidetracked by high-volume keywords that may not translate into conversions or revenue generation.

Develop Linkable Content Assets

The creation of link-worthy assets is pivotal for sustained SEO success. Seek opportunities to elevate your content’s linkability by conducting original research, product testing, compiling data studies, and the like.

Given that authoritative, high-quality backlinks remain integral ranking factors, concentrate on crafting content that naturally attracts references and links from other sources.

Strategically Harness Trends

Remain vigilant regarding emerging trends and seize timely opportunities when they align with your objectives. For instance, crafting evergreen content on trending topics can enable you to secure rankings ahead of competitors.

Exercise moderation when capitalizing on trends; aim for no more than 20% of your content mix to avoid overreliance on trend-jacking.

Create Content Aligned with Your Passion

Develop content that resonates with your genuine interests and passions. This approach facilitates a smoother content creation process in the long run. Adopt a holistic perspective, focusing on building your website as a reputable brand rather than a mere source of quick income.

Recognize that achieving SEO success demands expertise, experience, and the gradual establishment of trust, all of which require time to cultivate.

Emphasize Quality

As Google’s algorithms evolve, their ability to distinguish between genuinely beneficial, expert-level content and content aimed solely at keyword targeting will improve. Therefore, prioritize the creation of content that genuinely adds value for users.

Harness Structured Data

Utilize structured data, such as schema markup, to enhance search engine comprehension of your content. This is particularly beneficial for various content types like reviews, FAQs, recipes, and events, potentially boosting your indexing and rich snippet visibility.

Establish an Authoritative Brand

Strive to position your brand as a trusted authority that users rely on as their primary source of information. Deliver consistent value, actively engage with your audience, and endeavor to establish thought leadership within your niche.

Utilize Video and Live Streaming

In 2024, the influence of video content and live streaming is anticipated to grow significantly. Platforms like YouTube maintain their dominance in search, while live video platforms such as TikTok are reshaping content discovery. Therefore, prioritize the creation of captivating video content that effectively engages with your target audience.

Monitor AI Developments

As advancements in AI, including chatbots like ChatGPT, continue to evolve, they have the potential to disrupt search behaviors and content creation processes. Stay abreast of how users interact with AI technologies to address their needs effectively.

Emphasize Quality and User-Centric Content

In the coming years, doubling down on producing high-quality, user-focused content and reinforcing your branding efforts will prove advantageous for SEO. Adapting to evolving search trends requires flexibility and an open-minded approach to innovation.

In Summary

Here are the essential strategies for achieving SEO success in 2024:

  1. Capitalize on Untapped Opportunities: Target keywords ranking on pages two and three for quick wins.
  2. Prioritize Intent-Driven Keyword Research: Focus on understanding user intent to tailor your content effectively.
  3. Develop Authoritative Content Assets: Create high-quality, link-worthy content to bolster your website’s authority.
  4. Balance Trend Monitoring with Evergreen Content: Stay informed about search trends while maintaining a strong focus on producing evergreen, top-notch content.
  5. Emphasize User Value Over Keyword Targeting: Shift your focus towards providing genuine value to users rather than solely targeting keywords.
  6. Establish Brand Authority and Thought Leadership: Position your brand as a trusted industry leader by consistently delivering valuable insights and engaging content.
  7. Adapt to Emerging Technologies, Especially AI: Stay flexible and agile to leverage emerging technologies like AI for enhancing user experiences and search visibility.
  8. Harness Structured Data for Enhanced Search Visibility: Utilize schema markup and structured data to help search engines better understand and index your content.
  9. Embrace Video Content: Recognize the increasing influence of video and prioritize its integration into your content strategy for improved engagement and visibility.

Original news from SearchEngineJournal