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google ranking algorithm updates and trends for 2024

General SEO information
5 minutes reading time
The SEO trends in 2024
Google’s algorithm is becoming increasingly sophisticated, and dozens of Google algorithm updates are rolled out every year. With these updates, Google aims to achieve a single goal: to create a better experience for its users. For 2024, we expect various SEO trends based on customer data and statements that Google regularly makes via the Search Central Twitter account, among others.

SEO is becoming increasingly important
Even in 2024, many companies underestimate SEO. There are still countless companies for whom SEO is unknown or who have not yet considered SEO as a marketing channel. This while advertising costs continue to rise [1].

Many companies deploy risk diversification in their operations in many ways. For example, companies often avoid dependence on just one or a few customers or a single product. This is precisely why it is notable that many companies are still largely dependent on Google Ads.

Within your marketing strategy, SEO provides risk diversification, with SEO going hand-in-hand with channels such as Google Ads. SEO contributes to a lower cost per conversion and regularly results in more valuable conversions. SEO is therefore indispensable so that a good and sustainable mix of different marketing channels is present.

The benefit of algorithm updates
The advantage of contemporary SEO is that search engine algorithms are becoming smarter and more sophisticated. For example, Google judges content better and better and the algorithm better understands which search terms your content should be findable on. Google also understands the UX of websites better and better, so the algorithm is nowadays good at estimating whether a page is really helpful.

Employing black-hat SEO strategies is therefore outdated and may even work against you. The important thing is to focus within your SEO strategy on adding value for your target audience.

Do you really want to go next-level with your SEO strategy? Then it makes sense to hire an SEO expert (freelancer or SEO agency). SEO is an extensive field and technical SEO, among other things, quickly becomes complex.

The SEO trends for 2024
The SEO trends we expect boil down to Google’s goal of creating a better experience for its users. The most relevant and reliable website should rank well in a search. In doing so, the website must be well-designed based on users’ needs and contain the right content.

It is essential to have a good (and fast) website with valuable content on it. Moreover, Google is constantly working to make SEO less influential; link building is one example of a method to manipulate positions in Google.

The SEO trends we expect to see in 2024 are the following:

A good UX is becoming more important
Link building has less impact
Showing your expertise is critical
AI is going to play a bigger role
The importance of local SEO continues to grow
Large platforms are gaining ground
Content will become even more important
Structured data is being used more and more
Load speed weighs more heavily in your ranking
Image packs are displayed more often and generate traffic
The authority of the author becomes more important
The SERP is being supplemented more with ‘other’ search results
More search queries are used
Voice search is still not breaking through
There will be an overload of useless content
Search Generative Experience is breaking through
SEO trend 1: good UX
A well-designed website that matches user expectations is important. Google increasingly understands, based in part on user signals [2], whether a website helps the user. For example, Google more often shows category pages of web shops with good filter options when a user is looking for a product, but does not yet know exactly which product.

A good UX includes a design where content is clearly readable and scannable, the page’s layout matches the search intent, and everything is good to use on a mobile device. Our expectation is that UX, in addition to good content, is going to become crucial in the coming years.

SEO trend 2: link building is becoming less important
Every year Google says that “content is king” and that most link-building methods are no longer useful. This became completely clear in December 2022, when Google rolled out the link spam update. In our client data, we see a clear trend that websites with poor quality link profiles, after several updates, have lost market share over the past year.

This is not unexpected either, because link building is the way to influence positions in search results without adding anything for your users. When the algorithm detects unnatural links, they are neutralized. So the links, both negative and positive, no longer have any impact.

Although you may not realize it right away, this trend is visible. In practice, we see that many companies rank well even though on paper they do not have the highest authority. Google’s algorithm is not only getting better at recognizing good content, it is also getting better at recognizing qualitative and less qualitative backlinks. If you obtain bad, irrelevant or illogical backlinks with link building, Google will realize this and thus the backlinks will no longer be effective.

Our expectation is that link building will become less important in 2024, but many online marketing agencies will still offer it. Still, most links add little to your findability, and you are better off investing the budget in work like content or UX optimizations.

One of the ways of link building that Google encourages is PR [3]. With PR, you obtain links in a completely natural way because of your expertise or a newsworthy item. Despite link building becoming less important, we expect PR to actually become more important within the link building world.

SEO trend 3: show expertise
Google shows in many places in its documentation that expertise is important. This is mentioned in SEO fundamentals, Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines and search results information, among others.

Important parts of Google E-E-A-T are “Experience” (showing that you have experience) and “Expertise” (showing that you have the right knowledge). So it’s important that content is created by someone who really knows what it’s about.

As an example, Google gives the search for information about filling out a tax return. When searching for information about that, as a user you want to read information from someone who has a lot of experience with this. So in 2024, clearly show users that you know what you’re talking about.

SEO trend 4: AI is going to play a bigger role
In everyday life, whether unconsciously or not, you often come into contact with artificial intelligence. As you probably know, Google’s algorithm runs on AI. We expect AI to be used more, especially for SEO tools. With AI, you get better insight into how to optimize your landing pages and add value for your users.

In addition, AI models like ChatGPT (based on GPT 4.0) help with content writing, rewriting, analyzing content and automating tasks. The development of these AI models is fast, and numerous applications will be created on them. Moreover, since February 2023, Google also allows content to be created with AI, as long as it adds value for users.

SEO trend 5: local SEO continues to grow
More and more Internet users are using a phone to look something up and make purchases [4]. About 20% of search results pages now display a Google Local Pack.

With the continued growth of making purchases via a phone and easily looking up nearby stores, we expect local SEO to become more important in 2024 as well. So think carefully about optimizing Google My Business or claiming your profile if you haven’t already.

SEO trend 6: large platforms are gaining ground
Although it can be tedious, we expect large platforms such as Amazon, Etsy and Bol.com to gain more and more ground. These big tech companies have hefty budgets to experiment what the best UX is, how content better suits user needs and what products are needed.

One bright spot: for niche websites, we expect that there will still be market space. Especially as a niche website, it is possible to stand out well and help users more broadly because large platforms can never explain everything around a topic to users. Small platforms will struggle and eventually lose out.

SEO trend 7: content becomes even more important
Quality content remains important, and good content becomes even more important. Google strives to answer its visitors’ search queries in the best way possible. Google is constantly optimizing its algorithm to better understand websites and content. It is therefore crucial that you fully commit to quality content, with which you add value for your target audience.

Show through your content that you are the expert in your field. Answer your visitors’ questions in your content and look carefully at the data from Google Analytics, Google Search Console and Keyword Planners to discover which search queries you are not yet answering.

In addition to quality texts, the appearance of your content also counts. Provide your content with call-to-actions, images, videos, illustrations, infographics, and other relevant visuals. Structure your content with HTML headings and internal links. Your visitors want clear content that is easy to scan.

SEO trend 8: structured data
Structured data will continue to become more important in 2024. With structured data, also called Schema markup, important information on a Web page is provided with a format (annotation). These annotations help search engines better understand elements on your Web site and display additional data in search results. Several websites that have implemented structured data have benefited substantially with higher CTRs and more visitors [5].

SEO trend 9: website speed
An essential part of a good user experience on your website is loading speed. Not for nothing does Google clearly show the Core Web Vitals in Google Search Console.

The Core Web Vitals were launched in May 2021 as a ranking factor on mobile devices [6] and thus affect your findability. SEO specialists disagree on the actual impact. We expect them to have an increasing impact.

As of March 2024, the FID will be replaced as a metric by the INP. Importantly, your website’s Largest Contentful Paint will be a maximum of 2.5 seconds, the Cumulative Layout Shift a maximum of 0.1 and the First Input Delay a maximum of 200 ms.

The loading speed of your website is definitively an important part of your findability and impacts your rankings. Optimize your loading speed by using caching, lazy loading, GZIP compression, image compression and a good server, among other things.

SEO trend 10: image packs and SEO for images
Between 2020 and 2024, a clear trend can be seen where more and more image packs were shown in search results. For example, it is visible that the percentage of image packs in the SERP increased from 40% in November 2021 to 45% in December 2021, and from 46.86% in October 2023 to 47.78% in November 2023 [7].

We expect this trend to continue, just as we predicted last year. In particular, more and more image packs are being displayed on mobile devices. These image packs cost the “normal” search results clicks and thus traffic.

Make sure you provide your website with high-quality images and optimize the images. You do this by taking into account:

A good image name.
A descriptive image alt tag.
Unique images created by you.
SEO trend 11: author authority
Google not only looks at the quality of content, but also at the person who wrote the content. Google’s algorithm identifies whether you have actual knowledge and are an authority. To increase your “author authority,” it helps if you become an active guest blogger and share good content through your social media channels.

In addition, provide your blogs with an author profile, make sure you have a good about us page and link to your social media channels. Radiate through those social media profiles that you are an authority, for example, by clearly presenting your knowledge and education on your LinkedIn profile.

SEO trend 12: the SERP is complemented by other results
Google’s SERP has not been what it once was for quite some time. Whereas the search results page used to consist of simple search results with a meta title and meta description, today you increasingly see additional results. These include videos, images, local packs, relevant search queries and questions with answers.

We expect this trend to continue and for SEO to increasingly become a “winner takes all game.” Want to fully commit to SEO? Then start creating and publishing videos on YouTube as well and take care of YouTube SEO.

SEO trend 13: more and more search queries
Another clear trend that was also visible last year is the use of more and more and different search queries. Where previously users only searched on, for example, “clothing labels” there is now an increasingly broader search, for example:

white clothing labels for on a shirt
having a clothing label printed for a store
sewing a clothing label into a garment
clothing label design for a garment
Users notice that Google’s algorithm has greatly improved and that Google understands more searches correctly. The result? Users are searching more broadly to find the answer to their question faster and easier.

Capitalize on this with your content. Keep a close eye on Google Search Console and other keyword tools. For example, do you see search terms that are not in your keyword research and for which you do not yet have content on your landing page? Then supplement your landing page with relevant content about the search query to better help your users.

SEO trend 14: voice search is (still) not breaking through
For years, people have been shouting that voice search is going to make its breakthrough. In practice, it is disappointing, depending on your target audience. We do not expect voice search to break through. For turning on a lamp via Google Home, voice search is very useful, but we do not expect a further breakthrough in 2024.

However, voice search is a trend not to be overlooked. Particularly among the younger generation(s), voice search is used so that one does not have to type anymore. So it may take a few more years before voice search makes its final breakthrough.

SEO trend 15: there will be an overload of useless content
Through AI tools like ChatGPT, getting content written is a piece of cake. Much of this content adds nothing or is of very poor quality. Because it is still often thought by marketers that you have to publish a lot of content, we expect AI to be widely used for content creation in 2024.

Unfortunately, this has a downside; much of the content is useless. Our expectation is that Google’s algorithm will be more responsive to this and judge the added value of content even more strictly. This with the goal of keeping the overload of useless content from entering the index.

SEO trend 16: Search Generative Experience
In 2023, Google started testing the Search Generative Experience (SGE) in more than 120 countries. Due to European legislation, it has not yet been rolled out in the EU [8]. Nevertheless, we expect the SGE to be further rolled out globally and eventually shown to every user.

Conclusion
By now it is clear that user experience, exuding expertise and good content are paramount to Google and are increasingly important trends. Therefore, think about the user in everything you do with your website and put him or her first. These 16 trends are the most important ones for 2024, which you can use to further improve your findability.

SmartRanking – SEO agency
This article is written by Jarik Oosting
Jarik, an accomplished SEO consultant and founder of SmartRanking, brings over 12 years of SEO experience to the table. With his team of SEO specialists, he assists companies of all sizes in enhancing their online visibility. His areas of expertise include strategy development, analysis, technical SEO, and migrations.

His extensive experience spans B2B SEO, enterprise SEO, programmatic SEO, and e-commerce SEO. He holds a degree in Informational Science from the University of Groningen, where he focused on Natural Language Processing. His goal is to provide insights and knowledge to guide businesses toward success in the ever-evolving world of SEO.

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