What's in store for news on Google in 2024? Experts weigh in
For our final newsletter of 2023, we asked news SEO experts to tell us what they think will happen in 2024. What’s next for SGE? Will Google take up more space in SERPs?
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Hello, and welcome back. Jessie and Shelby here, with our final issue of 2023! Jessie spent the weekend grading assignments (the final stretch!), and floating between holiday parties and yoga classes. Shelby watched happily as the Baltimore Ravens clinched a playoff spot against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Ravens are winning the Super Bowl. It’s our year.
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This week: For our final newsletter of 2023, we asked news SEO experts to tell us what they think will happen in 2024. What’s next for SGE? Will Google take up more space in SERPs? What about the personalization — or socialization — of search? Will AI wreck the industry?
Thanks to the 14 SEOs who contributed! And review our 2023 predictions to see if any of us were right about this year.
Join our community of almost 1,600 news SEOs on Slack to chat any time.
Let’s get it.
Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.
We’re already seeing changes and I expect to see it more in 2024. First, a bigger need to highlight real human experience and expertise with unique insights and angles to ensure quality of results in an era of content commoditization due to AI. Second, the socialization of search, with more SERP features, filters and functionality that fulfill the need that many are going to TikTok or Instagram for at the moment.
There are so many changes coming to Google in 2024.
As SGE rolls out and Google figures out how to wade through all the (bad) AI-generated content that will flood the landscape, many news publishers are going to see some declines in SERP visibility. News publishers should work on building their brand awareness and loyalty, so that when they do show up in SERPs, users will want to click on their story even if it ranks below an SGE or an AI-generated page.
E.E.A.T can help with building this necessary brand awareness and will be even more valued by users in 2024. Although E.E.A.T originated from Google and is (and will remain) necessary for competing in search, I've found the guidelines to be super helpful for reasons beyond search. It is a way to define and strengthen a site's identity, from the page level to the site level. Tactics like optimizing author bios, demonstrating first-hand experience with subject matter and having a clear, easy-to-follow taxonomy (having a well-organized site structure) are how news publishers can illustrate their unique value in an increasingly crowded landscape. This will help publishers cultivate meaningful, loyal relationships.
— Alexia LaFata is the senior manager, SEO for Vox Media
2023 was a tough year for many publishers, especially the latter half of the year where algorithm updates piled on top of one another to create a period of total unpredictability. I expect we will see more of the same in 2024.
A key trend for publishers in 2024 will be simplification. Many publishers are trying to do many things at once — not necessarily a recipe for long-term success. For example, Google has announced they are going to crack down on third-party commercial content hosted on publishers' websites. It may be prudent to get ahead of those upcoming changes and decrease your reliance on such content (think: voucher codes, affiliate content, sports betting, travel deals, etc. — basically everything that is commercially incentivized and not a part of your core editorial journalism).
Long-term success on the web relies on publishers building a strong brand on a narrow set of journalistic pillars. Focus your efforts on your strengths rather than transform into a jack-of-all-trades. Here, I see paywalls becoming more common. In fact, in another five years, I suspect paywalled news will be the norm rather than the exception.
Another aspect of the simplification trend relates to the tech stack publishers run their website on. Publishers can benefit from keeping things simple in this area and using good third-party systems that are using the latest technologies and adhere to SEO best practices.
Lastly, we can't talk about predictions without mentioning AI. I think AI-assisted journalism will become the norm, but the LLMs that power the current generation of AI systems need to mature a lot before they can become reliable assistants. Perhaps it will take one or two more generations of LLMs before we're at the stage where these systems can provide reliable, accurate assistance to proper journalism.
I don't expect AI to become an existential threat to journalism (yet). News is still a human endeavour, and I don't see that changing any time soon.
As Google crams more generative AI features into the SERPs, expect publishers who target simple queries to be squeezed out. At the same time, advances in natural language processing mean Google is getting better at understanding long-tail queries. It will be more important than ever for commissioning editors to think about search intent (and not just keywords). Shout from the rooftops about the human expertise of your newsroom for an extra leg up!
— Ben Dilks is a homepage editor at The Times and The Sunday Times
Here's the thing. We're all sort of waiting to see what happens with Google's SGE. But while they've kept quiet about the full rollout, they have been making related tweaks to their developer documentation.
I've found little gems that give me a sense of Google's thinking in the space. One example: The
nosnippet meta tag going from an exclusive control for Featured Snippets to a control for SGE. Google didn't make an official announcement about it, but it's right there in the documentation for all to see. In 2024, publishers will need to be vigilant about their reading — and re-reading — of Google's specs and guidelines. It's possible more changes will fly under the radar.
— Christine Liang is the senior director of SEO at The New York Times
Google continues leaning into E.E.A.T, but how good are they about it?
Over the last year, we’ve seen Google introduce sections around the news carousel such as Highly Cited and Perspectives. I expect Google to add more of these E.E.A.T signals into the carousels to showcase publishers’ expertise and authority. And I also expect these to translate into carousels on bigger storylines that have national viewpoints. I also anticipate local storyline SERPs to have more inclusion of local brands who are authoritative, blending in different perspectives for readers.
But as Google leans further into E.E.A.T and these new features, I wonder how much they’ll be able to accurately police them.
I’ve seen numerous examples of Perspectives pulling in news sources and video content that I would say generously falls short of the word “credible.” As Google leans into newer carousels, it will be our responsibility to alert the search engine to the holes in them — and how the content surfaced may not meet any of the E.E.A.T letters Google is so big on. While Google will never be perfect, we hope that as they move to include a variety of sources, that they pick the right ones.
— Claudio Cabrera is the vice-president of newsroom strategy and audience at The Athletic
For 2024, more than ever, SEO editors in newsrooms need to better understand their core audience and connect with them. Google has made it clear that it wants publishers to find their niche. Publishers can’t continue to be all things to everyone forever. With SGE and other generative AI experiences on the horizon, it’s more important than ever to build relationships with your audience, even as SEO editors who reach out to new readers.
– Edward Hyatt is the director of newsroom SEO at The Wall Street Journal
All of the experimentation, fluctuation, algorithm updates and new features we've seen on Google this year are the foundation for what is to come in 2024. With the introduction of SGE, we should expect a lot more content to appear directly on search results, driving an increase in zero-click searches, but we should also anticipate even more of an emphasis on high-quality, people-first content from experts across verticals, as well as new Google features that support it. Publishers should lean into their areas of expertise, highlight what makes them unique in that field, and continue to produce original, valuable and helpful content.
— Erin Seims is the SEO director at The New York Times
SGE will not be a traffic killer as everyone expects. However, for some types of content, it will have a really negative impact, but in most cases, it will be a shrunk feature or collapsed. SGE will appear for news where Google has strong confidence in their understanding of the events within hours.
Google Discover traffic fluctuations for publishers will continue to be a roller coaster. Publishers need to understand the nature of Discover by understanding entities and tracking Discover feeds.
As user consumption grows, short videos will become more and more visible in SERPs.
With Perspectives, publishers must have a stronger presence on X (Twitter), YouTube, Reddit and Quora through their brands and writers.
I expect the high SERP volatility we've seen in 2023 to continue in 2024, including significant fluctuations in visibility rankings and Google's continued testing of new SERP features. In what form Google rolls out its AI-powered Search Generative Experience to the public and if SGE performance data will be made available in Google Search Console are critical questions to be answered.
Now is the time to prepare. Brainstorm how your newsroom can evaluate SGE visibility. The response box can take up more SERP space than traditional news boxes or carousels, yet also contain fewer ranking opportunities. Document your site's current Google visibility strengths and be vigilant in monitoring for impact once SGE is released publicly. Prepare leadership and your newsroom for disruption and for the potential need to revamp search visibility indicators. Remain flexible in iterating your visibility rank tracking systems as Google refines SGE.
– Joy Johnston is a news SEO strategist for Trisolute News Dashboard
In 2024, the only guarantee is volatility.
The uncertainty and volatility in SERPs experienced in 2023 will be outpaced by Google by the coming year.
Publishers should, as always, focus on the areas where they are in control: creating high-impact content that satisfies a user need and answers real, pressing questions from readers. Double down on E.E.A.T and topic authority. Implement a well-rounded authorship strategy. Don’t get hooked on Discover (or any single source of) traffic.
Content that targets basic, simple queries will no longer be enough. The diminishing returns of articles like “when is the Super Bowl” might prompt publishers to get really clear about their value proposition in a crowded market. Have a clear voice and focus on doing less with less (but being more targeted). Experiment with content formats to carry you through choppy waters.
Finally, as Barry Adams says: The best buffer against an algorithm update is a loyal audience on platforms you own and operate.
A focus on providing a dynamic, interesting homepage, along with other audience work — like newsletters, push alerts and helpful content from expert voices — can create real, meaningful relationships with readers. Those are relationships Google, AI and other platforms can't diminish.
Something we're seeing a ton of in the travel/cards space is a surge in user-generated content. This is evidenced by the dedicated "Discussions and forums'' module appearing in SERPs. To me, that's a clear nod to the "experience" factor of E.E.A.T. I think SEOs will need to consider how they can integrate more perspectives into their content, be it user reviews, some form of comments or leveraging more open forums like Quora and Reddit.
– Kyle Sutton is the SEO director for The Points Guy (Red Ventures)
When I think of SEO in 2024, Google's Search Generative Experience is top of mind. Though the public rollout plan for SGE is still up in the air, there are some things we can work on now to prepare newsrooms for the potential shift in SERPs. One of my main objectives is pushing for more simple guides, stat lists and FAQ pieces that relate to the breaking news cycle.
Testing out SGE since its introduction in May 2023, I've found that the platform rewards utility content that answers user queries in a straightforward fashion. It's important to be regularly zoned in on rising/top queries in Google Trends to find search-friendly nuggets to target in articles. This will be crucial for short-term and long-term traffic opportunities. The People Also Ask feature is another fantastic resource to find evergreen search questions that can connect with a wide audience. Next year, I want to spotlight simple queries like "What is the NBA in-season tournament?" in more corresponding headlines and content, to consistently connect with our audience on a human level. Since SGE was created to be a conversational model, publishers should adjust their content strategies accordingly.
Another related factor to remember with SGE is E.E.A.T. In the sports world, this translates to pushing out rankings, previews, predictions, etc., with in-house experts on a regular basis. This also relates to creating and maintaining robust author pages and topic hub pages that make it easy for readers to find expert coverage on topics of interest from writers they respect. Timelines are another great method for consolidating related coverage in a user-friendly way. Next year, I’d like to amplify our E.E.A.T signals further by exploring more explainers that can combine our brand knowledge with additional outside expertise (i.e., Bronny James and what to know about heart health, COVID-19, and vaccines). Since SGE compiles its summaries from multiple sources, it’s important to optimize your range of expertise and make your content as discoverable as possible.
I don’t feel it’s necessary to overhaul your current editorial roadmap to satisfy SGE. Adhering to standard SEO best practices will help us work through whatever shift will come. If and when SGE does roll out to the public, it will decrease the amount of space that publishers have to shine in the top fold of SERPs. We’ve seen that trend growing with Google’s knowledge panels over the years. With SGE in the mix, it will be crucial to stay dialed in to the needs of your audience and target specific reader queries regularly in your content. User intent needs to be a top newsroom priority in 2024 and beyond.
– Louisa Frahm is the SEO director for ESPN
It’s going to be critical to open up channels of communication and streamline the collaboration between newsroom editors, journalists, audience and SEO teams, with the ecosystem that historically exists between leadership, stakeholders, product managers, business analysts, project leads and developers.
Getting this ecosystem set up at the heart of your organization with clear guidelines on how to engage effectively will become the fabric of success in a faster-paced version of the classic newsrooms and SEOs via leadership buy-in, and product-to-tech sign-off models. With AI entering every facet of most organization’s strategic thinking, we need to move quickly.
Newsrooms must also stick to the core competencies of newsroom SEO such as:
Topical relevance, where you win and where can you expand;
Live Content (LiveBlogPosting) is critical to get right for breaking and fresh news;
Don’t neglect your sitemaps, even though they aren’t sexy (I mean I like them, but…);
If content is in the sitemap and renders then link to it from your site somewhere. Don’t create orphan content for no reason.
Make a start on your Evergreen strategy. Don’t let topical/content authority fall through the cracks;
Link to your archive content and fix errors where possible. Run an audit on it; you might be surprised.
Does that content no longer render or cause an error — if yes, why keep it?
Does it get any traffic or has it ever? As John Mueller has said, maybe you don’t need it if nothing has changed.
Think about your video content. Make a strategy, and advocate for it;
Does that key traffic-driving content need to be on a subdomain? Or better as a folder/section on the main site?
Author pages ARE important, but don’t over-obsess about them. Your content is much more important, but try not to omit crediting the author(s).
– Richard Nazarewicz is the global SEO and discovery lead for BBC Studios
I think we’ll see further importance placed on the connection between authors, their bylines and the stories populating news boxes in 2024. With the rise of AI content and the various ways people have already tried to use it to game Google’s algorithm, my guess is that search engines will — and already have begun to — find ways to weed out this type of content going forward.
Part of that may come through further rollout of the Search Generative Experience with Google drawing from its most trusted sites to answer easy user queries (show times, game scores, etc.). But I think the other part of it is likely to be seen in further importance placed on the depth and history of an author or site’s coverage on a topic.
— Ryan Mayer is the newsroom SEO editor at The Athletic
Change will be the only constant in 2024. Google will continue to iterate, even if/when SGE is rolled out publicly. SERPs will provide more hyperlocal content, giving more visibility to publications that signal they are on the ground. Contextual coverage that answers the deeper questions readers have — and fact-check misinformation around major news moments, especially in a U.S. election year — will become even more important. Google Trends and real-time tools will become more vital to the newsroom SEO role.
With so many volatile algorithm updates in the recent months, I suspect Google will have to change some of its signals to reflect what it believes to be “good” sources. It will try to find a way to vet publications that don't provide credible information. Because of this, I envision local publications will see an increase in visibility on queries where it’s crucial to have a local perspective, like politics or breaking news. Outlets will need to showcase deep expertise and hands-on experience on a niche range of topics — it will no longer just be best practice.
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Google news and updates:
🤖 The Google Trends team released Year in Search 2023, a look at the most Googled people, news stories, books, topics in need of explanation (and more).
The Washington Post: The most-Googled recipes of 2023 are a mix of old, new ... and purple.
🤖 Google Search Console: Three tips for debugging technical problems in Google Search Console.
🤖 Search Engine Roundtable: Google Groups search ranking is now on the decline
🤖 Engadget: Google will begin to restrict third-party cookies in Chrome beginning on January 4, 2024.
More news and updates:
💰 Sean Hollister: Three years after Fortnite-maker Epic Games sued Apple and Google, a jury has decided Google has illegal monopoly.
⚡ Casey Newton’s Platformer newsletter: An Epic win jolts Google
👍SEO Testing: Good news if you were hit by a core update: There are strategies for navigating Google’s algorithm changes. Here’s how to analyze impacts — and how to recover if you’re negatively affected.
😨 WTF is SEO?: Help! I was affected by Google’s core algorithm update!
🤔 Garrett Sussman: Are news outlets going to get screwed by SGE?
🔗 Lily Ray on Twitter: “Interesting to see how many sites affected by the HCU were previously major, public case studies and success stories on niche/affiliate blogs and podcasts.”
📈 Zach Edelstein: How might Google’s Search Generative Experience affect your site’s traffic?
📰 Axios: Axel Springer and OpenAI reach a deal for ChatGPT. The deal “involves not just providing data to train ChatGPT’s models, but also using vetted journalism to bolster the accuracy of ChatGPT’s responses.”
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