Navigating the New Frontiers of Marketing and SEO in 2024

Programming - Apr 19, 2024

In our latest Cloud Four Spotlight, I had the pleasure of diving into the ever-evolving world of marketing and SEO in 2024 with three distinguished guests: Sara Mannix from Mannix Marketing, Sonya Palmer from Rankings.io, and Laura Norup-Boyer from BlackBean Marketing. The conversation discussed the significant shifts in the digital marketing landscape, especially with the advent of Google’s SGE tool and other AI-powered solutions.

One of the focal points of our discussion was the anticipated transformative role of SGE in reshaping search results. Our guests emphasized how this development is nudging marketers to rethink and realign their strategies.

The conversation naturally turned to the challenge of standing out with AI-generated content becoming more prevalent. The key, we all agreed, lies in maintaining originality and a commitment to quality. It’s about creating content that resonates, adds real value, and promotes your expertise.

This discussion offered a ton of insights into the current state and future of digital marketing and SEO. Staying informed and adaptable in this fast-evolving landscape is key, and conversations like these are invaluable for that journey. A huge thank you to Sara, Sonya, and Laura for sharing their time and expertise.

A little hiccup – we lost Sara’s feed mid-chat due to some pesky tech issues (sorry, Sara!). Big thanks to everyone for your patience with the edited version. I’m definitely leveling-up my editing stack of pancakes with this one and all the tech problems we had!

Megan Notarte
Welcome everyone. I’m Megan and I am here today with a fun journey into the world of marketing and SEO. Today, we’re going to dive deep into the ever-evolving landscape of digital marketing and search engine optimization, particularly with an eye on exciting trends shaping up in 2024. I’ve been diving a lot into this field this year. We’ve been working on clear positioning for Cloud Four and having spent some time on marketing and trying to understand what the heck is going on in search engine optimization. I have a zillion questions. And so I found three of the smartest people that I know who are joining me today to bring their knowledge and insight and help me, and also now you, unravel the complexities of marketing strategy and what the heck is going on in SEO in 2024. So I have got Laura Norup-Boyer. She is the founder and director of BlackBean, a B2B marketing agency, focusing on the industrial sector of North America. Sonya Palmer, VP of Operations at Rankings.io. They specialize in digital marketing for law firms. Sara Mannix, CEO of Mannix Marketing. They’re an SEO firm headquartered in New York. Thank you all so much for being so generous with your time, not just right now, but also ever since I’ve known you, um, I’ve peppered you with marketing and search questions.

I want to start talking about changes with Google, especially the SGE tool that’s going to replace, I understand it’s going to replace all of their search results, and has started to do so as I understand it. When I look at the demos, I can see how as a user, this would be really useful, like it’d be much easier for me as a user to find what I want to find. But I imagine for marketers and businesses, your strategies need to be adjusted.

So, Sonya, let’s start with you. What do you see happening? What is going on and what do you think the changes are gonna be necessary in order to work with the new search results? Yeah,

Sonya Palmer
So, traditionally organic number one was the bullseye, right? That’s where, that was every SEO person’s dream. Google is now providing a lot of opportunities to rank or pay for visibility on the front page. We’ve seen that roll out over the last few years, organic, now map pack for local businesses. You see it with paid ads, which has been there forever. And then we saw it also with like the rich snippets, sort of like the click list searches, knowledge panels, carousels. Google’s been adjusting and changing the front page of the SERP a long time.

And the most recent addition is SGE, which is Google’s sort of answer to ChatGPT. I see it treating it just like any other sort of adjustment to Google and how we do search. Um, I think it’s a lot of risk, um, pulling AI into search and how we work with users, but there’s a lot of opportunity there as well. I see it largely affecting informational blogs, how to’s things like that.

I don’t think it will disrupt service industries the way that small businesses might think. I don’t think it’s going to affect dentists, lawyers, manufacturing, like people who serve a specific location. I don’t think it’s going to be gloom and doom at all. So yeah, that’s kind of an overview of sort of what SGE is. I think it’s just Google trying to answer the user’s query using AI instead of, you know, blue links. Yeah, Sara?

Sara Mannix
Yeah, so I agree 100%. It’s gonna go a lot more towards paid search for those knowledge-based questions, because if AI can answer it, you’re not gonna be there. And I think the people who answer with knowledge-based content are gonna move a lot of that to social, to get their word out, to get their brand, and to get those zero clicks, and really promote themselves as. experts and expertise in different ways, if that is expertise can be answered by AI, collecting their data and their information and answering it for them. So as a user, it’s so convenient and it makes sense that you ask Google a question, why should I have to pile through 10 search results to find out what that answer is when Google can…AI can look at it and go, well, this is really the answer. And it’s very accurate and it’s quality information. So I think that knowledge-based or expertise marketing is gonna move a little bit to more direct-to-consumer marketing forums. You’ll still have your blogs, you’ll still have that content. It’ll be so important for that on-page experience. It’ll still count towards your rankings and your traffic and everything else.

So it’s still really mission critical to keep that going and to be the author of real relevant new content, but the cheap, cheesy content, but if AI can answer it, then you probably shouldn’t have been writing about it anyway, if you’re not getting credit. So that’s what I-

Megan Notarte
Yeah, the credit thing is interesting because – so if I had written something really good, Google would just link to me if it’s like really high quality and then I get those eyeballs myself, but now it’s just going to take that content and wrap it up and make it, and I get no attribution for that anymore. So that is why, oh, hello. That is why, Kitty likes to come to recording, it happens. So that is why you’re saying paid search like is going to be, because they’re going to display those alongside the content or the AI rolled up content.

Sara Mannix
Yeah, I think paid search is going, you know, it continues to become increasingly important. And in, you know, in the past, we could say SEO was always a much better value for the client. And now every once in a while, I’m like, I think paid search is a better value for you. You know, it’s, and I think we’re going to see that where you’re gonna have to work with an expert that knows where your better value is. It could be combination of both, which currently it’s usually a combination of both. But in the future, things are gonna change and we’ll just have to keep our eye out for what’s gonna give the best return on ad dollar.

Megan Notarte
Laura, you mentioned when we’ve spoken before that paid search has become a bigger part of the pie that you’ve been working on for your own business. Is that true for clients too? Have you already made that move?

Laura Norup-Boyer
It’s not so much a big part of the pie. It’s, well, the pie has stayed the same, but there are more people wanting the pie now. What we’ve really seen starting in late spring, early summer is a sharp ramp up of the competition. So, you know, I agree with Sara that paid search is gonna become more important but as that message gets spread around, mostly by us agency people, there’s just going to be more and more people. So the competition on keywords is going to be more expensive, like the clicks. And this is where all of the research on which are the right keywords to target and how we’re going to go after them. That’s where it’s going to be really crucial for businesses.

Megan Notarte
It feels like, go ahead.

Laura Norup-Boyer
I just had a different, so at Black Bean, we focus.on the industrial sector. That means that we are helping people sell CNC machines that sell for let’s say half a million dollar a pop. This is not done on a Google search. This is not done in the ads, it’s a longer process of confirmation. So if we can move a little bit like what happens after SGE or like beyond SGE as people get their results or they get their paid search, the paid search, depending on what you’re trying to sell, will start transitioning towards brand awareness and pushing those conversions and offering value. So let’s say I’m trying to sell a CNC machine, I’m not gonna sell it off of one click on an ad, I am going to try and demonstrate expertise. And then as people land on my landing page, I’m gonna offer them something of value that’ll make them come back to me again and push them further along their buying journey.

Megan Notarte
That makes sense. I struggle so much with this whole awareness thing, because it seems like I, as a business, have a really hard time tracking whether it’s effective, right? And it’s almost kind of a joke in my own mind when I’m like, well, that thing, I don’t know if that thing I did work but it’s helping with my awareness. And then I feel like better about myself instead of feeling like I’m just screaming into the void which I have felt that way a lot this year. Is awareness elusive to measure like you all, I’m sure this is your business. Like, what do you tell someone like me who’s like, is that a thing I can tell if it’s effective or not?

Sara Mannix
I would say it’s not. I mean, you can track, I mean, as we, awareness is going to, can I go back a minute though?

Megan Notarte
Yeah

Sara Mannix
SGEs are search generated experience. And I don’t know if everybody understands that. And what that means is that the way Google search results are going to show, are going to show very differently with AI answers. And as Sonya said, there’s a lot more paid search in the things they’re testing right now. And if you want to see more of where it’s going, sign up and get into the Google Labs. So I just want to back up there for people who might not be aware of it.

And then to talk about going back, circling back to your question, is awareness elusive and how important is awareness? And this is where the, you know, the brand continually grows. It’s being more and more and more important to get, build awareness and have people do those direct type ins. And you can see, and you can track brand searches and direct traffic, right? So if you are really focused on awareness campaigns, you should be able to see where your inbound links are coming from those awareness articles. And you can also see your direct traffic and your brand name searches go up as well. And those are all measurable things people should be looking for.

Sonya Palmer
Enough to know where to put money, right? Enough to be able to say, that’s not working or enough to be able to say this is working, we should give it more money. I don’t know that it will ever be perfectly dialed in, but we use lawyers to have billboards, right? And this is a staple for law firms. And it’s sort of like, they spend a ton of money on billboards. We have no way to track that outside of maybe like a call rail pool number. Um, but there’s a vanity metric there. There’s a brand metric there.

So I think it’s, and they all compound as well, especially when you actually are promoting your brand, what you’re doing on TikTok can influence what’s going to happen in paid search. And what you’re putting on YouTube can also help show up in Google search results, SGE and organic. So they all influence each other. And I think you have to keep that in mind when you’re looking at very specific metrics.

Megan Notarte
Let’s talk about TikTok. The social, I feel like with,Twitter, X, sort of imploding over the last, I don’t know how long, a year or two. It feels like the social landscape is incredibly fractured. It feels like for me to like start making posts in multiple places, like I have like a list and I have to remember every, you know, write a bespoke post for every single thing. And I wonder, how much does someone have to be everywhere to be successful? Do I have to have a TikTok?

Does Cloud Four, I should say, I may personally have a TikTok, I think I do, but does Cloud Four need a TikTok?

Laura Norup-Boyer
I think it depends on how you’re gonna perform on each metric. Sonya was just saying, decide where to put money. This is working, this is not working. We have a very clear, depending on our clients and for ourselves as well, if you’re B2B. You have to be on LinkedIn, but again, don’t just be on LinkedIn to share the random posts or the, “I am so honored to” [insert a word here]. So it’s all a matter of differentiating yourself and what do people come to you for. So there are a lot of industrial marketing agencies. We differentiate ourselves by I guess, being a little bit more out of the box, a little bit more creative. We don’t have necessarily the expertise, none of us come from the industrial world. But because of that, I think we’re a little bit more fun to work with. And we try things a little bit more daring. Hence we are on TikTok, but our tech talk is not talking about marketing. You have a TikTok That’s my gen Z social media manager called “unhinged”. And that’s the vibe. Um, because we want people to be attracted by the way we think. So this goes back to brand awareness. Um, so we’ll have different metrics for each social media platform, but I’m not on Facebook because I’ve decided that the demographic on Facebook is not interesting for us and I don’t believe in the platform personally. So I’m not going to do it because it’s not going to feel authentic.

Sonya Palmer
I think that’s an interesting point that instead of maybe for at least for like agencies, instead of having a TikTok strategy, a X strategy, a LinkedIn strategy, a Facebook strategy, have a video marketing strategy because that then pivots across all of those.

And going back to SGE, I actually think that that’s how Google’s going to start evaluating human content. I don’t think Google can tell the difference between AI-generated content and human-generated content, whoever it says by, right? But they definitely know a video was made by a human. And I think you’re gonna start seeing that preferential treatment. So having that in place, that a social media person can be like, oh, you know, TikTok is this and marketing director, oh, LinkedIn’s where it’s at this week, that you can, like, I think the video aspect of that is almost more important than which platform.

Sara Mannix
I agree, video is gonna be more and more important. My point of view is more, it really depends on your budget and where your audience is. If you have under $5,000 a month to spend, you’re probably better off focusing on just a couple of channels that you can do really, really well and knowing what those channels are that are going to perform for you. If you have, you know, $10,000 budget, yeah, then you can look at more channels. But I think spreading yourself too thin and not doing it really well is a problem and trying to feel like, oh, I have to be everywhere.

Yeah, if you’re in beauty and you’re in travel, you pretty much should be on social and be on TikTok. You can’t launch a new lipstick without using influencer marketing. You’d be stupid, stupid not to, right? You’re not just going to automatically get out there with some brand new brand, new brand. Um, but when it really is so industry-specific that you need to learn, think about where your clients are and really focus your funds so that they are doing the best they can in that area. And I don’t think there’s just one path to success. You might have just as much success on TikTok as you could on Facebook.

Megan Notarte
Laura, I love that like you’re doing TikTok, even though I feel like your decision makers are probably not on TikTok, but I know it’s not about that, right?

Laura Norup-Boyer
They might be. And if they’re not, you’re always going to have some younger employee who’s working apps in manufacturing company, and who’s going to find us funny and then bring us up to their decision makers. So if anything, I’m influencing the influencers.

Megan Notarte
Love it.

Sonya Palmer
Oh, it’s a trust signal to an outlet.

Laura Norup-Boyer
Yeah, it’s a trust signal to it’s also a fun outlet for us just as an agency to you fun unhinged things that are that are very much our brand but that we don’t get to showcase every day. Do you don’t know where the decision makers are?

Megan Notarte
Do you do you aggregate that in any place? Like if someone goes to your website? Is there like
a view of your TikTok there? Or is it just sort of a whole separate thing? Like if you’re on TikTok, you will find Black Bean there.

Laura Norup-Boyer
I link TikTok with LinkedIn. Because I think LinkedIn has become really boring. It’s a great place. I thought leadership, I think it’s great. I think it’s becoming a little saturated with AI generated posts for what I love, the “Make Up a Kid Monday” where you’re having such an insightful discussion with your five-year-old about core values and performance. If anyone wants a good laugh, there’s an Instagram account called Best of LinkedIn. They always hide the person’s name and the person’s company and it’s hilarious, they have the hashtag #makeupakidmonday. So we actually use our LinkedIn to push some of our unhinged TikTok content simply because it’s more entertaining than your average LinkedIn post. And video, video. Video,

Megan Notarte
Ueah. I have not seen that Instagram, but I will go look at it. One of the things I’ve noticed that I think people are also making up is like, “the other day somebody asked me and then they used that to like make a post.” And I-

Laura Norup-Boyer
No one asked you, Bob. No one asked you. You work from home, okay? (laughing)

Megan Notarte
Oh, for the longest time I was like, oh, people must ask them questions. And then I was like, Megan, nobody’s asking them anything.

Sonya Palmer
You are being marketed to. Yes.

Megan Notarte
And I was like, Oh, okay. Oh my gosh. Um, let’s talk about, uh, AI, it’s come up. I mean, we have, we have not not been talking about AI, which I think is remarkable because it’s sort of coming up in everything that we’re doing. But I’m curious about AI tools and the way you are leveraging AI in your day-to-day jobs. Not necessarily like what you’re telling clients, but like, you know, how are you finding it useful? Laura, you mentioned that you can totally tell the AI-generated posts, there is a definite ChatGPT way of writing a LinkedIn post that has become just like everywhere. You know, how are you combating that? What tools are you using? And maybe we’ll start with Sonya.

Sonya Palmer
Yeah, so we produce a ton of content for law firms, which is a ton of legal ethics around that, there’s a bunch of advertising ethics that surround that, but we have to embrace AI. Our competitors are going to do it. It’s the only way for us to be able to leverage and, I think like, just perform for our clients.

But I wanted to go a different direction than having ChatGPT write blog articles. That seemed not a fantastic idea. So we sort of reverse-engineered it. And instead of having them write articles, we’re having them edit it. So we created sort of our own tool that we can say, here’s an article that a writer wrote, feed it into a ChatGPT that’s going to make sure that all of our legal ethics and advertising rules are being followed.

It’s checking all the top 10 SERP results. What is, is this in line with what we’re seeing as the top results? We’re having it read the client’s website, get the tone correct, get the attorneys correct, get the contact information correct. And then we have an entire like legal style guide just about all of the laws, things like statute of limitations, which is different in every single state. And an AI would get that wrong every single time, but it can check against that parameter, what’s the statute of limitations in South Carolina? Check. Now. So that has allowed us to speed up the content process, but make it better instead of compromising quality there. So I think that AI can definitely be used to produce content or help in the production of content and not sacrifice quality.

Megan Notarte
Yeah, that makes sense.

Sonya Palmer
Job Descriptions

Megan Notarte
Yeah. Laura, how about you?

Laura Norup-Boyer
We use AI to remove a lot of the busy work. I think that’s really where AI is going to help us the most. Much like Sara, we use it like Pie AI, which is a very conversational based AI use that for brainstorming and testing ideas. Long shots AI, are we plugging tools? I’m not paid, but if Longshot CEO is listening to this, I will take a cut. We use Longshot to help us generate ACRP-based topics. I find that really helpful if I just put in what I want to talk about, it’ll fit out the latest or projections or numbers. So that’s great. And yeah, image generation has been a huge help. We use all of the Adobe tools. So they just release their Firefly, which still completely messes up faces and fingers.

Megan Notarte
Hands are impossible.

Laura Norup-Boyer
But usually I can combine these and I find that you know, Photoshop has their generative so if you an image, it will fill the rest of the image, which I find fantastic. So we’ve definitely been using it for image generation a lot. For a lot of our clients that have social media, we just feed their excavators into it and then we can produce just endless images for their social media.

Megan Notarte
My impression is, there’s a lot fear of like, AI taking over our jobs. But the reality, especially right now is that it’s like, gives you the opportunity to superpower what you do, right? You may have needed to hire some image, an image person, and it would take two weeks to like get that image that you needed. And now you’re able to do that. And you could do that much quicker. So that’s has been my experience as well. It doesn’t do great with generating content. Although probably if you look back at some of my old posts, you can tell that I was using it as I was learning because you’re just kind of learning that like, oh, that’s the same thing every time maybe we don’t need an emoji at the end of every sentence, ChatGPT.

I wanted to know, for people like me, and I’m looking towards the wonderful future of 2024. And actually, I think this will probably post in 2024. So we will be there. And what advice do you have? Like if there are quick takeaways for things to consider as being like really important in your marketing and SEO strategy for the next year?

Laura Norup-Boyer
Yes, really use your analytics, but also give yourself more than one source of analytics. It’s interesting when you compare different platforms like Matomo or GA4 or any other just, they’re varied. They’re like, oh wait, on this platform, it says this page is performing, but on this one, we’re actually performing on the other one. So have a bit more of a non, um, approach to your analytics. Uh, what I would say in 2024 is originality is going to matter then when all of the content is becoming more and more AI, it always ends with, “in conclusion” or uses words that I would never use like “points to.” So really be different and announce your difference and use AI as a crutch but not as the main driver.

Sonya Palmer
Yeah, I completely agree with both. I do think traffic is going to drop, but I think the traffic that will be there will be hyper-relevant. So I’m actually curious to see what the impacts will be on leads. I’m not sure it’s gonna be dire. That’s sort of what I’m waiting to see in 2024. I would be prepared to pivot. There’s a lot up in the air right now. ChatGPT has sort of been the, it’s become a household name in less than two years, but Google is Google. And I do think that they will come out and come out strong. So yeah, be prepared to visit or be prepared to pivot.

And I’m gonna go back to at least like developing a marketing plan or a video marketing plan. Definitely start with a marketing plan. Ah, ask ChatGPT, they’ll give you a really good one. All of this stuff is AI, right? I really do think Google’s gonna, they’re not even gonna try with copy. They’re gonna write it off and they’re gonna go straight to, there’s a video podcast, you’re seeing it with discussion forums already. Reddit is showing up in the SERPs. So we’ve, we’ve wondered like, should we go in there and to Reddit? Should we be influencing these discussions? So yeah, that originality and content, but also in the way that it is delivered. Um, I think also is going to have to change and pivot, but I’m really excited about the changes. Um, I think the first few months of 2024 are going to tell us a lot.

Megan Notarte
It’s remarkable. I know everybody says this. So I’m going to say this cliche thing, but the speed at which things are changing is remarkable. I mean, I think we all saw the internet revolution probably at some point in our lives. And that moved quickly. But like, this is like it’s been a year since ChatGPT, ish a little more than a year. And it’s become like, like a household name, like you said,

The term AI is diluted. It’s a brand, not an actual, like, things that have AI might just be really good search algorithms or something.

Laura Norup-Boyer
We’ve actually seen we’ve actually seen a demand from a few clients of like, oh, for your next project, how can we leverage AI and like, no, but it’s starting to become a bit of a buzzword where every single platform out there is claiming to leverage AI and we’ve been asked to like, leverage the power of AI in search. And I was like, it’s an algorithm. Not AI, but sure. I’ll put that in the proposal if it makes you feel innovative.

Megan Notarte
It’s the hype cycle, right? Like I think we’re at the like the big part of the hype cycle where it’s like, everything you’re right, it’s gold, it’s gold rush. And it will settle out.

Sonya Palmer
We’ve seen it before, right? I feel like all of us have already witnessed the biggest transformation in the tech industry with cell phones. It can, I think it changed and impacted the industry even more than AI did. We all came through it.

Megan Notarte
Yeah. Yeah, I agree. I think it’s just important to like, it can be easy to be so overwhelmed because like, like the tools you mentioned, I don’t know, I like hadn’t heard of those ones because I think I could spend every day all day trying out new tools that use AI and figuring out whether they use them well or not. So it’s good to talk to people who are using them so they can say this one actually works for me and this is and this is the way I use ChatGPT to get helpful stuff instead of just the same LinkedIn posts that everybody is posting. Um, cool.

Thank you all so very much for being again for so generous with your time today, but also over the years when I send you DMs like I don’t understand something and you always help me out So, thank you so very much!

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