2024 in Digital

Last year, global digital advertising spending hit over £325 billion – accounting for nearly 60% of all marketing spend.

The question is no longer ‘will digital dominate marketing?’, but ‘what will future growth for the digital world look like’?

With new technologies, approaches and opportunities constantly emerging, there’s never been a more exciting time to be in digital. But this excitement comes with challenges.

As 2024 begins, we asked our most senior experts to take a look at the main trends of last year and what you can expect from this one. From Google’s Search Generative Experience to first-party data , it is set to be a crucial year in the development of the digital world.

As always with our industry, we expect the only constant to be change.

In 2024 in Digital we’ll look at:

Let’s begin…

with Ben Foster, Chief Executive Officer

2023 will be remembered as a watershed moment for AI. The release of ChatGPT allowed your average citizen to experiment with AI and see what it was (and wasn’t) capable of. It quickly spurred tech giants into action, with Google releasing their own version called Bard, and Microsoft investing into OpenAI.

Though basic forms of AI have been around for ages, it feels the technology has advanced at lightning speed recently. The idea of an ultra-intelligent algorithm with the potential to take over the world is no longer fiction; it has become a serious topic of discussion among tech and government officials as they seek to create policy that aligns global outlook.

2024 will see the field of generative AI evolve further. GPT-5 could be released in 2024, and OpenAI has already released “GPTs” that can be created by users. GPTs are customisable apps that can use ChatGPT for specific tasks, effectively creating a marketplace for use cases.

At The SEO Works, we’ve found it helpful in some areas, but not so in others. The technology has helped us in many ways such as creating scripts to improve internal linking, brainstorm ideas, and helping form outline structures for articles. 

For those that haven’t yet used it, 2024 should be the year where you start to dip your toe in the water or be left behind. But be mindful: whilst this technology can make things faster or more efficient, it also demands more thoughtfulness and focus on quality. The last thing we want as consumers is for the internet to become a sea of low quality, anodyne, personality-free content. The brands that get it right won’t lose their core voice or creativity amongst the tech.

In terms of the economy it seems we may be set for further uncertainty, but with potential light at the end of the tunnel. Although 2023 was a tough year for many we’ve still had another record year. We’ve helped our clients reach new heights online and welcomed lots of lovely and talented people into our growing team. Growth will still be a key focus for brands in 2024 and our mission to continue to deliver that remains. Those that are able to invest in darker periods will emerge into the light even stronger.

with Paul Friend, Head of SEO

Two things have dominated SEO in 2023  – the rollout of Google Analytics 4 (and subsequent sunsetting of UA) and the industry-wide proliferation of ChatGPT/AI tools. 

Like most big changes within the SEO industry, it felt like the trepidation in the lead-up to the GA4 switchover was far worse than the reality. Once the dust had settled and clients’ websites had been transferred across to the new platform, we found that the insights and data we could pull from GA4 helped us to understand user behaviour in a clearer way. And in those early days, by carefully planning in platform migrations in collaboration with our clients, we minimised any data discrepancies and ensured the flow of data was continuous and relevant.   

Similarly, for all the early bluster and warnings of AI making SEOs redundant and invading every facet of our working lives, we’ve actually used the tools sparingly. We’ve successfully augmented our human-led approach with some smaller, but no-less helpful, time-saving activities using AI-tools. This has helped free up our experienced team to do more of what they do best, whilst providing an even better value service to clients. 

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Looking to the future, Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) rollout should usher in a sea-change in the industry next year. And like most major changes to the search landscape, there’s no time like the present to start gauging the likely impact of SGE on your clients’ organic traffic and developing tactics accordingly.

If your SEO strategy already focuses on creating Subject Matter Expert (SME) content and displaying E-E-A-T (experience, expertise, authority and trust) with your users, you’re potentially in good shape for the full-scale SGE rollout in 2024.

with Kathryn Pearson, Head of PPC

As predicted, 2023 saw automation and AI grow. We saw the increased popularity and use of ChatGPT, performance max campaign usage increased and the use of first-party data to target audiences grew.

First-party data will continue to dominate during 2024, as online privacy concerns continue. This will stay at the forefront of both consumer and advertiser minds during 2024, with first-party data collection being a priority. 

AI and automation will continue to evolve during 2024, with the sunsetting of Google Chrome cookies still on track for quarter 4 of 2024. This means advertisers will need to adapt and work together with AI and automation to ensure continued success.

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Google began to phase out similar audiences during the spring of 2023, due to the new data privacy regulations and the eventual removal of third-party cookies. Another reason for advertisers to shift their focus towards first-party data during 2024. 

June 2023 saw Google attribution models, first click, linear, time decay and position-based removed from Google Ads. Making data-driven attribution the default model in both Google Ads and Google Analytics 4.

This leads us to the biggest change we have seen in the digital marketing space for years – the switch from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4. GA4 was built with privacy at its core, another move by Google to increase privacy online for consumers, as we enter into a cookieless world.

YouTube and connected TV advertising grew during 2023, with Google introducing voiceover characteristics for video Ads, audio advertisements for YouTube and new video view campaigns. This will continue into 2024 with Google continually pushing YouTube and connected TV advertising – introducing new audio, video and voice search features to increase demand across their video network.

We will also see other Ad services such as TikTok and Amazon challenging the Ad giants Google and Meta a lot more during 2024, as their popularity grows and consumer intent increases. Streaming services, such as Disney+, Hulu and Netflix will embrace their share of the advertising marketplace this year, increasing their efforts, improving Ad relevance and reaching more and more consumers each month.

with Graham Jones, Head of Web

This year, there was an emphasis on responsive design, serverless architecture, optimised voice search, motion UI, and continued focus on cybersecurity. Additionally, WordPress development continued to evolve.

This year’s release of WordPress versions 6.2 and 6.4 have reimagined the platform content management experience, introducing more ways to style your site, and offering new ‘distraction-free’ ways to write and publish content. WordPress continues to position itself as a creative tool, professing that its improvements ‘…give you more control and freedom to express your creative vision’ than ever before.’

Other trends that have grown in popularity over the last year include the growth of Progressive Web Apps (PWA), use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, and a lean towards headless CMS’s for speed and flexibility. All these trends are a result of a push to improve the user experience, performance, and accessibility of web applications, making them more efficient, engaging, and secure.

AI and ML continued to play a significant role in web development. Developers are starting to use these technologies to personalise user experiences, predict user behaviour, and automate various tasks. AI Chatbots have also become more sophisticated, providing users with instant and intelligent interactions.

As we step into 2024, the web development landscape promises to be dynamic and innovative. Things to keep an eye out for include:

1. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) Integration   

We hopefully will start to see further integration with AR and VR technologies, creating immersive web experiences that go beyond traditional 2D interfaces and providing users with engaging interactive content.

2. Edge Computing Integration

Edge computing, which involves processing data closer to the source of input rather than relying on centralised cloud servers, will become more prevalent.

3. Blockchain in Web Development

Enhanced security, transparency, and decentralisation, all of these are crucial for enterprise-level systems. This is where Blockchain technology comes in. ‘Smart contracts’ and ‘decentralised applications’ will become more common, enabling developers to create trustless and tamper-proof web solutions.

4. Continued resonance AI and ML

The impact of AI and ML on web development and the technology sector as a whole is sure to deepen. We can expect to see increases in efficiency, productivity and accuracy where it matters, in key areas such as Healthcare (for diagnosis and personalisation), Finance (analysis and risk assessment), and Manufacturing (service, quality control). As AI technology advances, it should become easier for developers to deploy AI-powered software, creating platforms that adapt and perform new functions to solve different problems.

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Developers who are able to adapt to the emerging trends and technologies will be equipped to create digital experiences that captivate users and drive the industry forward. Keeping a keen eye on the evolving needs of users and the ever-expanding possibilities of technology will be crucial for staying at the forefront of web development in the coming year.

with Alex Hill, Sales Director

2023 has been a year of numerous learnings and evolution in the sales, business development and solution planning areas of the agency. With the COVID-19 restrictions now firmly in the past, it’s the economic outlook that has applied more direct pressure on us, and although we’ve continued to grow and flourish in 2023, it hasn’t been without new challenges for our team. 

We’ve secured a number of exciting new projects and clients this year across many different sectors, and have retained many longer-standing clients due to a successful initial term, and we’ve also seen a real appetite for new SEO focussed website design and development projects.

With the economic turbulence experienced this past 12 months, our business development and solutions team has had to work hard to emphasise credibility in the importance of our client’s need to stay confident in their marketing investment, as many look shorter term to reduce it. 

We have not only sustained but increased our own marketing spend to generate new business opportunities in 2023. The demand for digital marketing services remains high, and is imperative for a high proportion of businesses in today’s economy. 

We’ve welcomed back a far higher number of in-person pitches and business discussions this year, something I’ve always been a huge advocate of and look to encourage further as we head into the new year. I believe there’s no substitute for how to build initial rapport than from an in-person meeting, and to welcome prospective clients to our headquarters in Sheffield to meet a mixture of our department heads and campaign account managers. 

So what will 2024 have in store for us regarding new business and further opportunities for growth? I feel it’ll be much the same as 2023, with prospective new clients really wanting to maximise the full value and ROI they receive for their digital spend, and rightly so.

I feel a lot of businesses will be exploring CRO enhancements to their websites, again aiming to drive a better UX and conversion rate. Combined with SEO-focussed new website builds, we’re really expecting our SEO “phase zero” approach to web design and builds will continue to prosper and we’re all hugely looking forward to seeing what 2024 will bring.

Year in Search 2023

And finally, here’s Google’s yearly roundup – this year, looking back at 25 years of search!

Be part of the growth

With so many exciting developments on the horizon, there’s never been a more important time to partner with an agency that can help you take advantage of them.

Our team of digital growth experts are among the leading practitioners in the UK – winning multiple awards for their cutting-edge creativity and technical know-how…

Whether that’s in SEO, PPC or Web!

Get in touch with our team today, and set your business up to have the best year yet in 2024.