The SEO landscape continues to evolve at an unprecedented pace. To stay ahead in this dynamic environment in 2024, we need to understand and adapt to the latest trends.
In this article, I’ll cover some of the trends in SEO and content marketing, such as generative artificial intelligence (AI), zero-click searches, and AI-enabled search, among others. Let’s discuss how these trends are reshaping the world of digital marketing.
According to Semrush, SEO is trending towards a more user-centric and ethical approach because of the following factors:
- The increasing ubiquity of AI and machine learning in search engines, which enables them to serve better, more relevant results to users
- Google’s focus on E-E-A-T (i.e., Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness), which rewards sites that offer genuine value to users
- The adoption of AI-enabled tools in creating more conversational content for SEO
In addition to these, there’s also a growing emphasis on UX and accessibility, which could urge content publishers to build websites that are not just designed to rank well, but also deliver real value to users.
Generative AI in SEO
What is Generative AI?
Generative AI refers to deep-learning models that are capable of generating text, images, video, or audio clips. This type of AI learns patterns from its training data and generates new output with similar properties. (Techopedia)
Love it or hate it, generative AI has upended the way we create content in the past year. For SEO, it meant an enhanced ability to produce high-quality, optimized content at scale.
Though genAI has changed content creation forever, it doesn’t change the fact that search engines will still prioritize high-quality, relevant content. At the moment, Google does not penalize AI-generated content, provided it adheres to E-E-A-T guidelines.
On a personal note, I would say I haven’t seen much difference in my output, because I tend to be a perfectionist, so the scaling part has yet to happen for me. But I’ve seen many agencies pumping out content generated by AI writing tools – yes, I can clock that from a mile away – but I haven’t heard of any astonishingly good results.
(Not counting the sitemap-scraping heist that caused a commotion on Twitter last month, which I still feel iffy about.)
What Are Zero-Click Searches?
A zero-click search occurs when the user doesn’t click on any results after a search query. Typically, the information displayed at the top of the SERP already answers the user’s query, so the user ends up not clicking on any of the results that will take them away from the SERP.
According to a study by Semrush back in May 2022, 57% of mobile users and 25.6% of desktop users don’t click on any results after typing in a query. The study found that:
- The majority of searches are short (3-4 words)
- Users make quick decisions on SERPs often within 15 seconds
- There’s a significant amount of keyword refinement, with almost 30% of users refining their searches
There are many possible reasons why users don’t click on an organic or paid result.
For example, a search for “how tall is 5’2″ in cm” will return the following result:
Another search for “Seulgi”, a South Korean celebrity, will also return a Featured Snippet:
To leverage zero-click searches, here are some recommendations:
- Focus on answering questions directly
- Use structured data to enhance your content’s visibility in SERPs, and
- Aim for clarity and conciseness in your answers
Although zero-click searches may reduce direct traffic, securing a featured snippet can boost brand recognition, which can in turn position you as an authority. It also increases the likelihood that users will click on your link in future searches.
AI-Enabled Search Engines
AI-enabled search engines like Microsoft Bing and Google Bard are redefining how searches are conducted and processed. These engines use AI to understand user intent more deeply, which helps provide better and more relevant results.
How should SEOs and content marketers respond to this?
One important strategy is what SEOs call Answer Engine Optimization (AEO). This involves having a thorough understanding of user intent and creating content perfectly aligned with that.
What Is Answer Engine Optimization (AEO)?
Answer Engine Optimization (AEO) is an approach to SEO that focuses on providing precise answers to questions directly within SERPs. It aims to optimize content to appear as the top featured snippet or answer box, which is increasingly vital for voice search and virtual assistants like Alexa or Siri.
In this approach, it’s important to create content that answers specific queries and offers value beyond mere keyword matching.
AI-enabled search engines are better at interpreting the nuances of human language, so it’s more important than ever to produce natural, engaging content that users will find helpful.
AI and User Experience
The integration of AI in search engines significantly enhances the user experience. Features like voice search and predictive searches are becoming more accurate and sophisticated, thanks to AI.
Voice Search Optimization – With the rise of smart speakers and voice assistants, optimizing content for natural language and long-tail keywords has become more important. Voice search also emphasizes the need for local SEO optimization.
Predictive Searches – AI’s ability to anticipate user needs leads to more personalized search experiences. Websites that cater to these predictive queries, by offering relevant and anticipatory content, will gain a competitive advantage.
Google Search Generative Experience (SGE)
What Is Google Search Generative Experience (SGE)?
Google SGE is an experimental search function that incorporates artificial intelligence to provide more contextual and detailed answers to user queries directly in the search results.
It enhances the search experience by offering features like AI snapshot, which generates unique summaries for complex queries, a conversational mode for follow-up questions while retaining the context of the original search, and vertical experiences that offer detailed product features in commercial searches.
SGE allows users to engage in a more interactive experience by suggesting related questions and logical follow-up queries. This new feature aims to provide highly relevant and in-depth information quickly and directly, without the need for navigating through multiple websites.
Here are a few key aspects to consider with SGE:
- With SGE, it’s important to target relevant long-tail keywords in your content. These keywords mimic how users ask questions in search, leading to more specific queries with typically higher conversion rates for the ranking sites.
- As with traditional search, SGE prioritizes relevant and helpful content that aligns with search intent. It’s crucial that your content is of high quality, uses reputable sources, and accurately addresses user intent.
- As SGE enhances conversational search capabilities, content should be optimized to appear for conversational and long-tailed search queries, taking advantage of the AI’s ability to understand and retain context.
The introduction of SGE signals a shift in how users interact with search engines. Staying adaptable and open to experimenting with SEO strategies can help us identify new opportunities to increase our website’s visibility and stay ahead of competitors.
While SGE might reduce organic traffic, it could also help generate leads who are more likely to convert. The traffic that does click through might already be well-informed and ready to engage or make a purchase.
Future-Proofing Your SEO Strategy
As we look beyond 2024, it’s clear that the SEO landscape will continue to evolve. Embracing current trends is just the start; staying informed and adaptable is crucial for long-term success.
Looking ahead, we can expect further advancements in AI, even more personalized search experiences, and possibly new, disruptive technologies that will reshape SEO as we know it.