Welcome to our final SEO Brief of 2023! For Q4, we’ll cover some notes and updates since Q3 and leave you with some predictions for 2024. As always, if you like what you see, be sure to subscribe by adding your name and email to that handy form to the right, or head over to our YouTube channel to watch more episodes! Let’s get started with some news and notes.
The Google Core Updates Keep Rolling Out
Google recently rolled out a Core Update to their algorithm in November, just a few weeks ago. This was on the heels of another Core Update that rolled out in October, since our last SEO Brief.
With other Core Updates that rolled out in March and August, that totals four Core Updates to Google in 2023 alone, the first time there’s ever been so many in a single year. Prior to 2023, it was far more common for a single Core Update in a year, if any. So to see 4 updates in a year is unprecedented.
We’ll have to see if 2024 continues the pace set in 2023, but if you haven’t checked your keyword rankings in a while, now is the time to do so. We covered the topic of what to do if your website was impacted by a Core Update in our very first SEO Brief last year, and that advice still holds true.
Google Chrome To Deprecate 3rd Party Cookies for 1% of Chrome Users
The Google Chrome team recently announced that in early 2024, it will deprecate 3rd party cookies for 1% of Chrome users, to begin acclimating advertisers, ad tech companies, and digital agencies to a future without 3rd party cookies.
With Google Chrome’s Privacy Sandbox initiative, 1% of Chrome Users will have their browsers deprecate 3rd party cookies in early 2024. As the year progresses, Google will allow developers and advertisers to simulate increased percentages of deprecated cookies to further test their readiness at higher traffic levels. Google plans to fully deprecate 3rd party cookies for ALL Chrome Users by the end of 2024, but given Google’s history of revising their initial timelines, full deprecation might extend into 2025 or beyond.
But be certain, 3rd party cookies are going away entirely probably sooner than later for Chrome. As the world’s most widely used web browser, that means big changes for advertisers, who will have to pivot to 1st and Zero-Party cookies to personalize experiences for website visitors. We’ll keep you updated on the Privacy Sandbox initiative as Google announces more.
SEO Predictions for 2024
And speaking of 2024, we want to leave you with a prediction. Last year, we predicted that 2023 would be the year AI went mainstream, and if anything, we undersold that prediction. For 2024, we’ll get a bit bolder, predicting large, nearly seismic shifts in Google Search. Some of those changes are going to come from within Google itself and some of them are going to come from outside parties, particularly regulators and Attorney Generals.
Let’s start with the internal changes. As we just discussed, Google rolled out 4 different Core Algorithm updates in 2023 alone. At a recent conference, Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan teased that we should expect more of the same in 2024. He later clarified on Twitter/X, writing:
“…there’s so much coming that I don’t want to say buckle up, because those who are making good, people-first content should be fine. But that said, there’s a lot of improvements on the way.” Based on the pace of changes in 2023 and Sullivan’s hints, we can expect more algorithmic updates and changes in 2024.
As for changes from the outside, if you haven’t heard, Google is the defendant in an antitrust trial prosecuted by the federal Justice Department. It’s probably the most important antitrust case since the United States took Microsoft to court over its bundling of Internet Explorer with its Windows Operating System in the late 90s. In addition, Google’s also being sued by two different groups of State Attorney Generals, who may or may not choose to consolidate their cases into the Justice Department’s case.
At the core of their antitrust arguments are the large payments Google made to Apple, Verizon, and other companies to ensure Google was the default search engine on mobile devices. The Justice Department argued that these payments helped Google lock out competition in the search engine space, where Google holds over 90% of the market share, granting them a de facto monopoly on search. Closing arguments for this case will resume in a few weeks, and we’ll have to wait to see how Judge Amit Mehta will rule.
But that’s just ONE federal antitrust suit Google is facing. In early 2024, an entirely different antitrust suit brought forth by the Justice Department will examine Google’s place specifically within digital ad markets. As one of the top providers to both buyers and sellers of digital ads, Google has an outsized share of the total annual digital ad revenue.
And don’t forget: Google also owns the world’s largest web browser in Chrome, the largest video content platform in YouTube, one of the largest email and productivity suites in GMail, the most used Maps product, and the most widely used Analytics platform. Google cross-leverages and bundles all of these products seamlessly together and there’s hardly a corner of the digital landscape it doesn’t have its hands in.
…But what if it didn’t?
- What if Google had to sell off YouTube or couldn’t give it preference in its search results?
- What if Google Map Pack results went away?
- What if Google couldn’t double dip into ad buyer and seller markets and had to choose one?
- What if Google Chrome data couldn’t be used by their search team?
- What if Google wasn’t allowed to offer digital analytics?
- What if Google’s parent company Alphabet was entirely reorganized from top to bottom?
I’m posing these “What Ifs” not to scare you, but to prepare you. Organic search traffic can greatly help an organization attain its digital goals, but I caution you to not get TOO reliant on search. Diversify your traffic sources and never become too reliant on any one of them, because that Golden Goose might one day go away. As my colleague Lisa Barone likes to point out, the only audience you ever will truly own is one that’s explicitly opted into your content with their emails, their subscriptions, and their follows. Everything else is effectively digital sharecropping.
We don’t know exactly how these trials will pan out in 2024, but at Overit we’re expecting large, meaningful changes for everyone, particularly those who monetize search engine traffic. Be prepared, and diversify your traffic sources NOW. We’ll continue to update you on these critical Google trials in 2024, as we learn more.
And that’s it for this episode of the SEO Brief. We hope that helped, and we’ll see you in 2024!