20 min read
Last Updated: December 24, 2023
As we step into a new year, the search marketing world continues to evolve at a breakneck pace, presenting both challenges and opportunities for businesses and marketers alike. And we’re pretty sure we’re going to see this continue into next year and beyond.
The changes we’ve seen this year are showing no signs of slowing down.
In this roundup, we share the SEO, content and digital PR predictions for 2024 of 17 of the team here at Digitaloft. Our team members’ expertise and insights have been instrumental in shaping the strategies of so many successful campaigns in 2023, and now, they share their predictions for the upcoming year.
The landscape of SEO, content creation, and digital PR is set to undergo more change than ever before, and if you ask us, the pace of change we’ve seen this year is nothing compared with what’s to come.
Keep reading to learn what our team think are going to be our industry’s biggest trends and changes in 2024…
James Brockbank, Managing Director & Founder:
If you truly want to enjoy SEO success in 2024, you’re going to need to leverage your brand’s subject matter experts.
Using your brand’s experts as part of your SEO strategy isn’t just about demonstrating E-E-A-T (although it’s a big part of it) but also gaining a competitive advantage.
There’s still so much experience and expertise within businesses that exists offline. And it’s time to take that online in 2024.
You’ll need to be using your experts to:
Take the time to build an in-house editorial board; a team of subject matter experts who can work alongside your marketing team to help you to go above and beyond your competitors.
Amy Irvine, Digital PR Director:
I’ve been saying it for a very long time, but it’s time everyone stops seeing digital PR as just a ‘link building’ tactic. Digital PR is so much more than ‘just links’.
Digital PR done right can have a huge impact on organic growth, increase brand awareness, build trust in consumers and search engines and increase referral traffic and, as a result of this, sales and revenue.
Digital PR also has a huge role to play in demonstrating E-E-A-T as we head into the new year. Pushing out expert comments and insight from your client’s experts positions them as authoritative figures in their field and builds topical authority.
This means reactive PR will continue to grow in popularity as it helps leverage the brand’s reputation, utilises fewer resources and can have amazing results.
As we head into 2024, relevancy will continue to be key for driving success for our clients.
It’s important for your digital PR ideas to…
One of my favourite things about the digital PR industry is that it never sits still; we’re always adapting and evolving and ensuring we’re delivering the best work for our clients. I’m excited to see what 2024 has in store for us!
Nina Edwards, Commercial Director:
As we look ahead to 2024, there is no doubt that the economy will continue to be a source of uncertainty.
However, I believe that this uncertainty will force brands and agencies to work together even more closely than ever before. With an increased focus on flexibility and shorter contract terms, partnerships between brands and agencies will have to become more collaborative and adaptable.
I am excited by the prospect of closer ties between brands and agencies, as I believe that this will lead to stronger relationships based on mutual understanding and flexibility. Of course, this will require agencies to adjust their strategies and focus on quick adaptations and inventive solutions to meet brands’ changing requirements within shorter timeframes.
While there will be continued pressure for the agency to consistently deliver the very highest standard of work within tighter deadlines, I am confident that this can be achieved through our continued investment in talent, innovation & technology, and streamlined processes.
Chloe Bennett, Head of Digital PR:
It is important to make sure as you head into 2024 you’re utilising those journalist relationships more than ever.
Make sure you and your team are only sending relevant pitches to the right journalists by checking what type of content they have covered in the past few weeks. Also, it will be more important than ever to make sure expert comments are at the forefront of your work; we’ve already seen this trend happening a lot in 2023 with journalists wanting more expert-led tips and advice, and this is going to continue into 2024 with the new Google updates.
Brand mentions and other metrics – as DPR becomes more and more saturated, we’ve seen clients looking to expand on their strategies to get the most from each campaign, for example, looking to do stunts, work with influencers, get campaigns noticed across socials – making those campaign assets work harder, beyond SEO value and links.
Emma Mortimer, Senior Digital PR Manager:
Not only will we be using AI to assist us with our subject lines/headlines, but I envision seeing more tailored headlines by location, topic and journalist.
Research on specific journalist topic areas will be more vital than ever before to allow us to be as relevant as possible for our contacts.
Trend research will be key to making sure you hook your story into the current pop focuses – whether this be a TikTok trend or a seasonal news hook. Relevancy is always necessary, but in 2024, as we see a continued inundation of news and PR stories, we need to hook to something more specific and tailored.
Gone are the days of generic headlines and stories. I predict we will see fewer and fewer of these types of stories being covered, and we will need to have a direct hook or ‘why now’ to the current news cycle to increase our chances of landing coverage and links.
Our headlines also need to show E-E-A-T and clearly and quickly inform the journalist of your expert’s insights.
If we have an expert comment, case study or extra useful tips or advice, we must tell the journalist from the get-go in our headlines. Let the journalist know that this is included in the bulk of our email, and we will reduce the rate of being either ignored or deleted!
This could be a simple addition of (+expert comment) or (+10 expert tips) to your subject line as a quick indicator of the E-E-A-T value.
Beth Crowe, Head of Business Development:
In 2024, we’ll increasingly see agencies who might previously have been ‘full service’ start to scale back and instead focus on areas where they can really shine.
The digital landscape is incredibly saturated by agencies, with many going into the market claiming to be able to ‘do it all’ when actually they might be really good at one or two digital channels and are just including other channels in an effort to maximise profit.
More and more brands will start to use a catalogue of agencies for their marketing rather than put all of their eggs in one basket, and I think that this will only further the need for agencies to reflect on what they can actually deliver for their clients, and what they can’t.
Bettie Moran, Digital PR Manager:
Equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) isn’t a new concept, but awareness around it has grown in recent years.
Brands and content creators have the responsibility to ensure their output is diverse and inclusive. In other words, it’s crucial for companies to make sure their campaigns are sensitive and relevant to all marginalised groups.
I learned about sensitivity reading through a former colleague of mine who specialises in sensitivity reading. Sensitivity reading is the practice of proofreading copy, checking for perceived offensive content, stereotypes and bias. Working closely with my colleague made me realise the immense value of this expertise in creating Digital PR campaigns, especially those with a focus on ED&I.
As awareness around diversity and inclusion increases, so does interest in this particular skill. In fact, Google searches for the term ‘sensitivity reading’ have almost tripled this month compared to this time last year. While there has been progress made when it comes to ED&I, sadly, the reality is there’s still a lot of work to do.
As a result, my prediction is that there’ll be more attention and bigger investment in this field. This could range from more stringent quality control measures in content production to an increased interest in PR professionals with sensitivity reading experience.
Andrew Frobisher, Head of SEO:
As we look back on 2023 and forward to 2024, we’ve seen some big Google updates over the last 12 months, with the helpful content update being arguably the most prominent Google core update since Penguin in 2012.
I believe this trend will continue, and we’re heading into another year of large-scale ranking system updates.
Why? Well, the rise of AI content means we’re going through another era of WebSpam. There’s more and more content on the web than ever. Google is having to crawl and index more pages of the www than ever before and figure out what’s worthy of being indexed. So Google has to keep up with the pace of AI to ensure that their search results remain the best results for users.
So clip in your seat belts, as it’s going to be a fun ride!
Liv Day, SEO Lead:
It’s no secret that E-E-A-T will continue to be one of the most central aspects of any SEO strategy, almost definitely growing in importance in 2024.
But it’s no longer going to be enough to tweak some on-page factors, add in some author bios and think you’re safe: website owners will have to work harder than ever in 2024 to prove that they’re a credible business and their site deserves to rank.
The off-page element of E-E-A-T will become more important to SEO in 2024 – think of it as whole-brand optimisation, not just your site.
Demonstrating E-E-A-T encompasses social media, brand mentions, backlinks, reviews, and so much more – in order to prove that you’re worthy of ranking, you need to look at each of these areas alongside your site’s content and your authors.
You can’t just say you’re an expert; you need to prove it by being quoted in the press, building a buzz on social media, using schema markup, and more.
The bar is being raised higher and higher.
This is what will separate brands in 2024 – those with forward-thinking strategies will get ahead, and those refreshing the same tired tactics over and over again will fall behind.
Francessca Reynoldson, Digital PR Strategist:
The digital landscape is continuously evolving. And, for businesses to succeed in their marketing efforts, it is becoming increasingly important to understand how you can harness the potential of evolving social platforms.
An understanding of social platforms will enable businesses to optimise their marketing strategies and capitalise on the opportunities presented, encouraging influential consumer reach. Similarly, by understanding consumers’ behaviour online and how different generations react to media, businesses will be equipped with the necessary information to satisfy customer expectations and influence buying behaviours.
With evidence to demonstrate that TikTok specifically is evolving to create a new media environment, there is an overwhelming need to understand how powerful the platform will be for practices including PR, SEO and content marketing.
Since launching in 2016, TikTok has acquired > 1 billion monthly active users, solidifying its position as one of the leading social media platforms. TikTok is known for its viral dance challenges and comedy skits. But for Gen Z, the app is evolving into a search engine, with 74% using the platform as their go-to place for information. But why is this?
Well, recent research has shown that through living in an ‘always connected world’, consumers’ attention spans are rapidly decreasing (from 12 to 8 seconds since 2000). This could provide a reason as to why TikTok has grown in popularity, with short-form, personalised videos designed to capture attention and engage consumers more quickly than a typical Google search.
TikTok’s rise as a discovery tool could be part of a broader transformation in digital search, too. Although I believe Google will remain at the forefront of search in 2024, as short-form content continues to develop, we could see Google adapt, rewarding short-form content, too.
Ellie Wraith, Content Lead:
Going forward, the SEO landscape will see those who come out as winners on the SERPs being those who lean into their humanity in the face of artificial intelligence, thinking and acting in ways that machines simply cannot.
If brands choose to rely on AI tools like ChatGPT, Bard, Jasper and MidJourney to create their content, they’re always going to be one step behind, and Google will grow ever-better at recognising this. Ultimately, these tools have no genuine creative capabilities; they can only reproduce what’s already out there, with varying degrees of success.
And if all we ever do is re-hash the same information without exploring new perspectives, how can we ever hope to make progress? We can’t.
To push the boundaries of existing knowledge further and publish innovative, game-changing information, we need to put genuine human thought into what we do. In practice, this means doing in-depth research, forming new conclusions, moving conversations forward, and sharing unique experiences and insights with our audiences.
Grace Burton, Digital PR Executive:
In 2024, there will be a shift in the mindset of Digital PR success indicators.
If you are just focusing on the number of links, then you are ignoring the wider impact of your DPR activity. In 2024, we need to look at the bigger picture to truly understand the impact of digital PR.
Digital PR can earn highly relevant links and coverage in top-tier and authoritative publications.
Digital PR also helps build brand awareness by earning coverage on high-authority publications, which can boost organic and referral traffic to a client’s site, contributing to the brand’s earned media.
Digital PR can spark cross-channel conversation, which can increase online reputation and boost social media engagement.
Digital PR can position a brand as an expert in their industry, improving brand authority and trust, not only with potential customers but also with journalists and search engines. Digital PR is also going to be important in demonstrating E-E-A-T, and it’s important to start reporting on whether your links and coverage include a spokesperson from your client.
Digital PR activity can help gain high-quality website enquiries, leads, email newsletter subscriptions, increase sales, and even sell out clients’ products.
In 2024, it’s really important to educate our clients on the wider impact of Digital PR beyond link numbers. By overhauling your reporting, you can start to show how Digital PR doesn’t just build links, but also helps build a brand.
Shannon Cummings, Digital PR Executive:
Strengthening relationships and rapport with journalists will be increasingly important, with more journalists reaching out to digital PRs for comments and data.
This ties into making the reactive and campaign work that we do for clients as relevant as possible.
This will help to position the people and the brands as the experts and go-to’s in their industry.
We’ve seen an example of this over the course of 2023 with our client, Christmas Tree World.
Although the retailer operates in a very specific (and seasonal) niche, producing relevant PR activity for them enabled us to position the brand as trustworthy experts to journalists, many of whom later reached out to us to ask for expert commentary to add value to their stories. In one case, we even had the same journalist reach out and ask for comments eight times throughout November and December.
Melissa Walling, Digital Designer:
We’re going to start to see a decline in the use of ready-made and DIY imagery created with graphic design platforms such as Canva.
On one hand, so many companies are ‘saving money’ by using Canva and cutting out a designer; but the templates on offer here are limited, and more and more brands are becoming clones of one another, with identical fonts, the same colour palettes, and repeated layouts, especially when it comes to blog imagery.
This only causes brands to look like everyone else, and the whole point of branding is to stand out.
Not only are companies getting lost in clones of others, but they’re also losing the personalisation that makes their’ unique stories stand out.
When it comes to digital PR, this is an opportunity to reach thousands of potential customers, and there’s never been a greater importance to investing in design that sets you apart from others and really helps to tell that story.
Jamie Dixon, Head of Data & Insights:
AI will continue to play a significant role in the production of digital PR campaigns, from sourcing and analysing data to proofing campaign copy.
However, with the rise of misinformation and “fake news,” we’ll see increased scrutiny of our methodologies and our campaigns, so it’s going to be more important than ever that PRs ensure that content is accurate and trustworthy at all costs.
Joss Woodend, SEO Manager:
It may seem like an obvious statement, but focusing on overall UX and website performance will be more important than ever.
With the growth of E-E-A-T and the expectation of a better experience from users, it will be crucial to ensure you have a website that works. Think about it from a user perspective – if you land on a website and the content shifts around, pop-ups appear, or the page is slow to load, you’re not likely to stick around.
UX is massively important to all aspects of SEO.
If the overall experience of being on your website is poor, people are less likely to stay and explore what you have to offer.
In an ever-increasing digital world, you need to have a website that is quick, easy to navigate and optimised for all devices.
There’s no point in building authoritative content and quality backlinks if your website doesn’t perform!
Faye Baxter, Head of Design:
At the beginning of 2023, the mention of AI for our design team was actually very scary! We had thoughts such as “All these skills we’ve learnt over the years can now be achieved with AI; our talents that we’ve taken years to perfect are wasted and no longer required” and “Will designers even be needed in the future?”.
By December 2023, we all see AI from a very different viewpoint. We’ve found ways to work with it, and we utilise it only to enhance and lift our design work.
We fully respect that AI, in some instances, is a game changer and work with it in these instances, but we also take a step back and showcase our designer’s talents where we see fit…to enable them to continue along their path of creativity and excel in their specialisms.
AI tools exist to be used as part of the creative process, not a replacement for it.
Our mindset in the team in 2024 is to make sure never to force this into our campaigns where it’s not needed or rely on it to become the norm; the opportunities will arise on their own.
Our predictions are that AI will be used too much over the next year and that people will become too reliant on it.
When it comes to imagery created using AI (are we looking at images of a real person or an AI image?!), we need to know when to use it and when not to use it. Let’s remember that nothing can replace the creativity of a human.
In digital PR, it can be easy to jump on the latest trends and use these time and time again. But resist that temptation to overuse AI images; soon they’ll become the norm, and you definitely won’t stand out.
2024 is set to be an exciting year, and if we all thought 2023 was a crazy one, with more Google algorithm updates in 12 months than we’ve ever seen before, a constantly changing news agenda and the shifting effectiveness of certain tactics, we’re pretty sure we’ve seen nothing yet…
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