Changes to SEO: predictions for 2024

The Introduction of Google SGE

2023 saw Google announce their next generation of search engine – the AI lead Google SGE (Search Generative Experience).

This put a few of us SEO nerds into a bit of worry, however, we no longer think SGE is going to destroy the need for SEO. 

Image: https://blog.google/products/search/generative-ai-search/

What is Google SGE?

Normally, when a user of Google searches a question, query or keyword, Google will list relevant adverts and websites on search results pages (SERPS).

SGE will introduce an AI generated section to the top of those SERPs. This pushes down adverts and website links and instead, their AI engine collects information from websites it believes to be the most authoritative and creates its own answer.

This sounds pretty bad for SEO, right? Let’s explore why we, and many other SEOs, don’t think this will be a problem.

Why Google SGE won’t effect SEO efforts

SGE is slow

SGE takes about 7-10 seconds to build up an answer from websites. Realistically, this will probably improve in time, but we aren’t worried about this yet.

Search engine users want their answers fast. This is becoming evident in a lot of data and in general how humans now interact with technology. Most people searching for something won’t want to sit around for that long.

If we think about loading speeds and bounce rates of web pages, this will support our theory.

Bounce rate is when a user visits your website and immediately leaves. When your site loads slowly, people leave very quickly.  According to Pingdom, pages that load inside of two seconds have an average bounce rate of 9%. Pages that load in five seconds see bounce rates increase dramatically to 38%.

This shows us that people don’t want to hang around to find an answer!

Image: Pingdom

People want human opinions

Do you really want to trust an AI to tell you the best restaurants when you go on holiday? Do you really want to trust an AI for when you Google your latest ailment – probably not!

We don’t think this attitude will change – not until our Doctors are replaced by robots!

We’ll touch on this later, but having real-life experience in a subject and documenting it is excellent content for EEAT.

Advertising

In 2022, 58.1% of Google’s revenue came from Google Search Ads. That’s $165.45 billion for those interested.
Google is not going to do anything that will damage their profits.

As we mentioned above, the generative search section pushes Ads and results down the SERPs but it does appear that they are currently addressing this. 

It would seem they are experimenting with an “SGE light” version, where the section takes up less space.

Authoritative websites are still needed

Google still needs authoritative, well-written websites to create its AI piece of information. It will only collect this from websites it deems as authoritative. Create helpful content with real-life examples and Google will love you.

AI will become even more present for content creation…and that’s okay

This is an easy prediction to make, as we’ve been seeing the use of AI increase dramatically over 2023 already.

Creating AI content is really easy to do, but 95% of AI users, don’t know how to use it properly.
You shouldn’t be asking ChatGPT to “write me a blog on how to take the perfect picture of a dog”, and then just copy and paste that onto your website. This is not helpful content.

Helpful content update 2023

In September 2023, Google released its “helpful content update” which saw many websites being punished for not having useful content. Even if you had written many blogs, if Google saw them as not helpful, you were pushed down the rankings.

Every time you go to write an article, you need to think “how can I make this the most helpful piece of content out there?”. You can’t just string a few sentences together or ask AI to write you a paragraph.

That being said, Google has made it clear that just because you used AI, DOES NOT mean you will get penalised. As long as you look through the content, humanise it, and make sure it’s helpful, you’ll be okay. 

Many anti-AI people will tell you that you shouldn’t use it and AI detectors will catch you. ChatGPT creators, OpenAI, have come out to say that detectors are rubbish and can’t detect it. Take this with a pinch of salt, but I’m inclined to agree.

I’ve written bespoke sentences into detectors and been flagged as AI. I’ve also put AI into them and been flagged as human…

The point is, you can use AI, just make your content helpful! 

Backlinks to become more relevant

Backlinks are really important for SEO already. They provide signals to your website from other sites that tell Google your content is trustworthy and worth linking to.

There are a number of ways to get backlinks. You can guest post on other people’s websites, link insertion, using HARO (help a reporter out), and digital PR.

We think backlinks will be more prominent because of the increase in the use of AI. Google is going to want more proof that your content is worth ranking higher. One of the few metrics of proof is through backlinks. Other websites linking to your content prove to Google that you know your stuff!

For photographers, we find the best way is through guest posting, especially if you’re looking for local leads. 
If you’re a dog photographer, reach out to your local groomers, dog walkers, and vets. Try to build a relationship with them and gain their trust. Once you’ve done this, you can ask about how you can collaborate. One of those ways could be guest posting.

Write an article for their website that would benefit their customers. Make sure you link through to your website though!

Human Authorship

Again, due to the increase in AI generated content, we believe that it’s going to be more important than ever to prove a human has had involvement in a piece of content. 

You can do this in a few ways:

  • Link through to an author page about you
  • Write about real-world examples and experiences that you have actively been involved with
  • Write original research articles
  • Rewrite any AI content you have created. Give your content a voice and style.
 
Human-created content will always give a better user experience than straight-up AI content. We know it’s more effort, but the effort is worth it when you’re sitting at the top of Google getting regular traffic and a consistent stream of leads.