State of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in 2024

online marketing

The good folks over at Search Engine Journal (SEJ) have published their 2024 State of SEO Survey results. Let’s take a look.

The SEJ report opens with a couple of helpful reminders for those not yet singing from our SEO hymnbook:

“In the hyper-competitive digital space, SEO remains one of the most effective ways to increase visibility among target audiences, organic website traffic, and overall business growth.”

“On average, organic search produced nearly 40% of website traffic across six key industries in 2023. 93% of respondents reported SEO positively impacted website performance and marketing goals in 2023 …”

Phew! Sounds like our content and SEO skills aren’t going to be retired by AI for at least a little while longer.

SEO Survey Methodology

Curious as to how SEJ reaches its conclusions? Fairly rigorously, it turns out. They surveyed 400 digital marketing, SEO, and content marketing experts in North America, all of whom are tasked with managing digital presences for their companies. Job titles are broken down as follows:

  • C-suite: 18%
  • Practitioner: 27%
  • Manager: 30%
  • Director/VP: 25%

One quibble here: they say that the surveyed companies ranged from mid-market to enterprise, which they categorized as 1-999 and above 1000 employees, respectively. I’m used to thinking of anything under 1000 employees as small, under 10,000 as medium, and above 10,000 as large/global/enterprise. In any case, it seems like they’ve got a solid focus group for their findings.

They even profiled the respondents by SEO Maturity:

  • Low SEO Maturity: 5%
  • Medium SEO Maturity: 27%
  • High SEO Maturity: 68%

… which I actually quite like. It’s not just the highly mature that have meaningful perspectives on where our discipline is headed.

SEO Survey Results

93% of respondents reported SEO positively impacted website performance and marketing goals in 2023, with an even split between those who reported a “Large Positive Impact” (46%) and a “Slight Positive Impact” (93%). The COVID doldrums appear to have been replaced with a nice breeze toward normalcy.

Interestingly, content marketers were twice as likely to report SEO as having no impact at all, when compared to other job functions. That’s a bummer! We have to find ways of communicating the value of SEO to the people best positioned to help.

When respondents were lumped into three main categories (Practitioners, Managers, Leaders) the consistent SEO priority was “Increasing brand awareness”. Clearly, all types of respondents see the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) as an opportunity to build brand awareness and trust.

Biggest SEO Challenges in 2023

Respondents reported the following top three challenges this year:

  1. Adapting to AI advancements
  2. SEO governance
  3. Focusing on the wrong SEO efforts

You know we’re keen on discussing anything related to AI here, so let’s look at the first item in the space we have.

Google hustled to the AI marketplace in 2023 with Bard, their conversational assistant. They also rolled out Search Generative Experience (SGE), where SERP results are powered by AI.

What’s the impact, you say? Increasingly, searchers can answer their questions without having to leave Google. Not surprisingly, 71% of survey respondents indicated that SGE will result in some type of disruption to their SEO strategies.

What should I do, you ask? Respondents indicated their top 4 responses to SGE:

  1. UX enhancement: prioritize seamless user experiences and engaging content.
  2. Long-tail targeting: Continue our shift towards long-tail keywords and phrases that align with the conversational nature of SGE.
  3. Schema markup enhancement: SEJ had this one bundled with #2, but I’m not sure why. Still critical though! If you’ve done your keyword research, made your corresponding content updates, and feel good about your technical SEO but still aren’t seeing the result you want, schema is a great next step.
  4. Image, visual, and rich media enhancement: Visually appealing/impactful content will stand out in SGE.

There’s more! Lots of good information for SEOs, content specialists, and digital marketers of all stripes. Suggest you register for the survey report today.


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