2024 Digital Marketing Trends: Navigating AI, Ad Races, and the Cookie Farewell

Written by Explore Digital February 16, 2024

It may already be February, but 2024 has only just begun! There are some major shifts within the digital marketing landscape in store this year that we’re keeping our eyes on.

Of course, AI is the dominant talking point when it comes to the future of marketing – and it likely will be for years to come. However, it isn’t just AI that you have to watch out for.

2024 will see some enormous changes to how marketers position themselves, generate content to rank on search engine platforms, how data is obtained, how brands interact with their customers, and more. For example, the ability to gain user data for marketing purposes will undergo huge shifts this year, stemming from Google’s Tracking Protection feature that will phase out third-party cookies on websites.

This will be a landmark year for the digital marketing industry – and you may be asking yourself, “How the heck am I supposed to navigate all this?”

Luckily, Explore Digital is here to help. Let’s dive into a few things to watch out for:

The Brave New World of AI Marketing

Of course, we wouldn’t be talking marketing if we didn’t talk AI. Here are a few core AI tools that will shift the way you run your campaigns in 2024.

Google’s Search Generative Engine (SGE)

When Google rolled out SGE, it was an attempt to combat the growing competition it was facing from generative AI tools like ChatGPT. These AI tools provided a more conversational, fast, and direct way for users to get the information they wanted. There were rumors that ChatGPT could spell the downfall of Google Search because it made access to information much more specific and efficient. This is amid recent accusations that Google’s algorithm has been  providing less relevant search results in recent years.

To regain its position as one of the most popular sources of all human information, Google decided to fight fire with fire. Google’s Search Generative Engine (SGE) is an AI tool that provides Google users with a newfound ability to sift through the internet more quickly.

SGE generates content based on a user’s query and shows it at the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Now, much like the next evolution of snippets, users won’t have to click off the SERP to find the answer to their question. This allows users to find answers to questions, read summaries, and get answers faster than before.

For marketers, this creates a whole new category of considerations to make when creating content. SGE may make it far more difficult for you to generate a meaningful Click Through Rate, and industry experts recommend adopting a content strategy that leans into shared experiences and narratives—qualities that AI can’t replicate…as of yet.

To that end, 2024 will see a continuation of the trend towards EEAT content (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) with an emphasis on the human experience, which thus far, our AI tools struggle to create.

AI Automation: A Complicated Double-Edged Sword

AI has revolutionized our output. By some remarkable estimates, AI can improve our productivity by up to 40%.

2024 will see a continuation of the trend toward marketing strategy, content, research, and execution, all done by AI. This is a boon to marketers who can increase their impact exponentially. However, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. As with many things, a new benefit can come with unintended consequences.

Take AI ad targeting, for example.

It has allowed marketers to tackle smaller and more specific market segments that previously would have been too costly to pursue.

But in doing so, we could be entering an ad targeting arms race. If everyone is clamoring for the latest and greatest tech tools, then those who lag behind will be the biggest losers.

But wait, of course, there’s more.

It isn’t just as simple as keeping up with the latest tools.

Neil Patel says that 94% of the time, human-written content outranks content written by an AI. This is despite the fact that of the 7.5 million blog posts published every day, 65% of bloggers use AI tools.

So, what can you do?

Go back to basics. At the end of the day, search engines want to give their users value. Ask yourself if your content is more or less valuable to the user by using AI. You will have to navigate the pros and cons.

Bye-Bye Cookies: Google’s Behavior Tracking Shift in 2024

Cookies have been a staple of the internet since 1995. They have allowed you to track user behavior, generate meaningful data insights, and target market segments with remarkable accuracy. Cookies have become a seemingly indispensable tool for marketers.

And now they’re being phased out.

Google’s Removal of Third-Party Cookies

Google Chrome has announced that it will eliminate third-party cookies by the end of 2024. And it’s actually a huge deal.

Its decision comes as a response to consumer pushback against the collection of personal data. For many of us marketers, we have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, we like that our own personal data will be more protected. But on the other hand, when it comes to our work, we’re left to think … “Now what?”

Google will be migrating its user tracking onto Privacy Sandbox, which is designed to aggregate users into like cohorts (technically called, Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC)), therefore protecting the data of the individual. However, your targeting abilities will be hampered, and it will not allow you to have the same nuance you once had. There’s an argument to be made that this change is less for user security and more for Google to further extend its monopoly over all data.

The Post-Cookie Impact on PPC and Affiliate Marketing Professionals

The inability to track with such precision will obviously have a significant impact on PPC and Affiliate Marketing professionals.

Privacy Sandbox has already been criticized for not offering enough specificity for its paid ads, as well as for automatically introducing “random”

As for affiliates, marketers are discussing how the loss of cookies will make it more difficult to track commission and attribution and targeted advertising will also suffer.

To navigate these changes effectively, it’s crucial to take proactive measures. Start by meticulously tracking your metrics, ensuring a clear understanding of how every marketing dollar is allocated. Avoid the common pitfall of becoming overwhelmed by irrelevant data. If you’re involved in affiliate marketing, prioritize the use of first-party cookies, as they remain unaffected by the industry-wide shift, providing a reliable foundation for tracking and attributing conversions.

Key Takeaways for Marketing in 2024

The marketing industry is poised for significant changes in 2024, requiring careful consideration of various system and tool adjustments to stay ahead of the curve.

AI will continue to dominate much of our attention, but it isn’t without its shortcomings. While it certainly increases our output, you need to ensure you are still bringing your customers valuable and experiential content.

The elimination of third-party cookies will send shockwaves through the marketing space, the full effects of which we will have to wait until later in the year to see. In preparation, begin testing early and look to experts who are staying ahead of the latest changes.

The strategy you choose as you move forward can make the difference between success and failure. Working with an experienced team of professionals with a proven track record of success is essential to hitting your goals.

Bring your marketing goals to life with our strategies. We are dedicated to helping you grow your business. To have a conversation to discuss how we can help, contact us today.

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