Image says SEO on a computer chip or mother board.

Back-to-back Google algorithm updates changed the search landscape in late 2023, leading into 2024.

Change is the only constant for Google, but its recent updates were particularly dramatic.

This summary covers key changes and how you can capitalize on them.

For context, Google intentionally reveals little about its algorithms and updates, so these are observations and suggestions from a wide range of search queries and what we’re seeing at Studio 3 Marketing among several hundred clients.

Search still matters, maybe more so than ever.

Search engine optimization (SEO) and search results matter because while social media is important and entertaining, most clients eventually hit Google for recommendations, and before booking or buying.

You want your company dominating at least as much of page one of Google as possible, for as many relevant keywords as possible.

Here’s where search stands today and how you can capitalize on it:

1. Produce and publish for people, not for search engines.

  • Old: Quantity (sometimes) over quality, and a search-engine-first focus on content creation.
  • New: Helpful, high-quality, human content written for real readers.
  • What to do: Update your best practices to favor organic content creation, written by specialists or those with experience, and covering topics within your wheelhouse.

Google today announced another major update. It’s the search giant’s latest reiteration on what should prove to be your best strategy going forward: Produce and publish high-quality, brand-relevant content for real readers, not for search engines. Today’s “core update” again confirms Google wants to surface the most helpful organically-created content it can, as opposed to content created for search engines—or even with search engines in mind.

Hyper-optimized content might be sending spam signals to Google. Yes, Google once needed a bit of guidance to navigate and “translate” your website, but it seems that time has passed and the best bet is almost to pretend search engines don’t exist.

2. Short form specialist content ranks better now.

  • Old: Websites that wrote the longest articles often ranked highly, even if authors were irrelevant or non-expert.
  • New: Even short-form content from specialists and service providers is ranking above longer or “better-written” content.
  • What to do: Have your specialists write content that answers your client’s most frequently-asked questions. Write for real readers (who are incredibly time-constrained). If a rough word count is helpful, aim for 300-500 words per topic, but end off when you’ve covered what matters most.

Earlier Google updates heavily favored long-form content: Content that not only answered the initial query, but that seemed to predict a user’s next question (and answered it, too); included embedded videos, FAQs, variables, lists, etc.

Recent search results now suggest that even short-form content by authors with expertise and experience typically ranks higher a) than it did previously, and b) than longer and “more complete” content by non-experts or amateur authors.

This shouldn’t discourage you from covering a topic thoroughly, but should encourage you to continue writing and publishing high-quality content of whatever length, by your staff and specialists.

3. Single social media posts rank well in search results.

  • Old: Social media posts rarely appeared in most search results (or on page one for many queries).
  • New: Single social media posts (Instagram, X, and TikTok specifically) often appear on page one of Google.
  • What to do: Produce and publish original social content, and/or repurpose your blog articles, company updates, and videos as social media posts, and vice versa. Use the same or similar titles, and include related keywords, terminology, and hashtags.

Social media content can work well not only on the app or platform it was created for and shared on, but it now appears to work well even in Google search results—ranking more often and higher than it did before. For many search queries, individual posts on Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), and TikTok specifically are ranking higher in search results than they previously did. Further, when content is republished or repurposed across social media platforms, Google’s search engine specifically often shows both iterations of the content—helping you dominate more of page one or SERPs in general.

4. Video is a better investment than ever.

  • Old: Video is helpful but optional.
  • New: Video is a better investment than ever, for both search and social.
  • What to do: Produce and publish videos as a priority.

Video has never not been a great idea in search, social, and marketing. But it’s now a more worthwhile and necessary part of marketing than ever. From a search perspective, video not only ranks well, but users often prefer to watch and listen rather than read. With the internet driving more client interactions than ever, clients also want to see and get to know who they’re about to hire. Video also ranks extremely well on the world’s largest and second-largest search engines: Google and YouTube. Better yet, you don’t have to limit your video to one platform, but can turn long-form content into 15, 30, or 60-second spots for social media.

5. Service providers and sellers are ranking higher.

  • Old: “Bloggers” and other authors once ranked well for reviews, and service/product recommendations.
  • New: Companies that actually provide a service or sell a product rank better and more broadly.
  • What to do: If you don’t have a blog or article library on your website, add one. If you do, publish helpful content often. If you’re an e-commerce brand, ensure your products are properly listed using schema and markup.

Google’s search interface now responds more dynamically to buyer-intent keywords. Rather than listing the top 10 organic search results like it used to (for product-type keywords), users are instead now served a new page layout from Google, which prominently features products and providers. E-commerce brands that list their products with schema and other markup languages can pretty easily appear on page one of Google. Articles, pages, and other helpful search results are also served on these product-rich pages, so publishing blogs about your products is another way to reach potential buyers.

6. AI isn’t there yet.

  • Old: AI was going to revolutionize online marketing.
  • New: Early indications say AI isn’t ready to write your blogs, or do most of your online marketing.
  • What to do: Keep doing what’s worked in your marketing—and let AI lend a hand if it helps. 

While the world of artificial intelligence is incredibly promising, Google and other outlets have suffered some setbacks. AI isn’t ready to replace your in-house marketing team, but it can save you or your team some time on a few of the simpler tasks. At this early stage, AI content should be human-reviewed and edited at least. Overall, it’s worth keeping tabs on, but objectively not ready to rank your website higher, or replace the careful and time-consuming work of producing helpful content that converts, especially in verticals such as legal and medical.

7. Content isn’t just king, it’s all Google can rank you for.

  • Old: Content was king.
  • New: Content is king.
  • What to do: Build out service pages and other structured content around your core services and offerings.

Content is “king” from an SEO perspective because it’s the only thing Google and other search engines can rank your website for. While that sounds almost too obvious, it’s hard to count the number of clients who come to us hoping to rank for certain keywords whose websites don’t offer Google anything to rank in response to those keywords. If you’d like to show up when users search for “best nyc truck accident attorney,” first and foremost, you’ll have to give Google something it can rank you for. Offering Botox in the Bronx? The same applies: Give Google something to rank—specifically for that key search term and city. Build out service pages or publish blog posts on the core services and keywords you want to rank for.

8. A rising domain rating lifts all search rankings.

  • Old: Google once said it ranked individual pages, not entire websites.
  • New: Google serves up stronger domains even if their answers are less than perfect.
  • What to do: Build the strength and authority of your domain through proven, non-spammy SEO practices.

The strength of your domain is measured on a scale of 0-100. At “0,” you rank for few keywords if any, and you fall fairly low in SERPs. That’s because your website is an unknown entity, with no “authority.” As the strength and authority of your domain (website name) grows, you’ll start ranking higher and more broadly for even distantly-related keywords. Google wants to give its users the most helpful and accurate information on a subject, and in the world of websites, the strength of your domain reflects its authority. 

Ask a medical question of Google and it’s more likely to show you a “possibly helpful” page from the Mayo Clinic over a “definitely helpful” page from, say, a stay-at-home mom. That’s “domain authority” at work. 

9. User-generated content (UGC) can either help or harm rankings.

  • Old: User-generated content (UGC) mostly flew under the radar.
  • New: Site owners should stick to their wheelhouse and better monitor UGC.
  • What to do: Publish helpful, human-written content that’s specifically relevant to your product offerings and services.

While most SMB websites don’t have much to worry about with UGC specifically, service providers should stick to their areas of expertise. Content Google deems was created to game its algorithms can lower rankings not only of the content in question, but of an entire site. To cite a specific example, a client that served several cities published 20 or so pages on area attractions—parks, landmarks, libraries. While this may once have seemed logical on the theory that it helped search engines understand what cities the company served, it had the opposite effect. Stick to your wheelhouse is great advice for search in 2024: Publish content on your services and specialties. UGC caveats extend to third-party content hosted on websites, though few SMBs do so, excessive comment spam, and AI-generated low quality content. Product descriptions and reviews are another specific area where AI-assisted content is likely to harm your search rankings

10. Timeworn and proven ranking factors are still alive and well.

  • Old: Proven and proper search engine optimization works.
  • New: Search engine optimization still works well when done right, but is admittedly harder now.
  • What to do: Perfect your search engine optimization technique, or outsource to someone who does so already.

Search engine optimization is a long-term play with proven profits and benefits: clients, conversions, sales and upsells are easier—and often only possible—with an authoritative brand and website. The vast majority of our own clients for instance have weathered very well through recent search storms. 


Search is evolving: always has, always will.

We’re bound to see further dramatic shifts as Google and other major players continue to roll out AI and SGE (the Search Generative Experience, essentially AI-assisted search).

The best response to these shifts is more of the standard same, though better-managed and monitored:

  • Strong, stand-out branding.
  • Messaging that clearly conveys value propositions.
  • An end-user-above-all approach to content creation: Helpful, attractive, and intriguing—to real people.
  • More outreach, tailored to and in tune with expanding channels, from an evolving search landscape to newly popular social media platforms.

“Focusing on maximizing all channels—direct, organic, paid, social, referral, and email—is always the response to a tightening market,” Ken Bosan, Chief Strategy Officer at Studio 3 Marketing says.

The long-term play is what Studio 3 Marketing has specialized in since its start. Should you need any assistance, please reach out to your Digital Marketing Manager.

Background & Footnotes

1. Short form specialist content, brands, and service providers rank better than mere “blogs” now: Google updated and expanded on its longstanding ranking criteria in December 2022. “EAT,” (for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness,” in use since March 2014) became “E-E-A-T,” when Google added an “E,” for “experience.” Google’s Search Central Blog says, “Google's ranking systems aim to reward original, high-quality content that demonstrates qualities of what we call E-E-A-T: expertise, experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.” (February 8, 2023)

2. Single social media posts rank well now: This may have something to do with an antitrust lawsuit Google wrapped up in November 2023 over “monopolist” practices. Then again, it may not. But the above advice is generally helpful and currently accurate for many accounts. Most social content (and video on YouTube) also attaches real names and faces to a brand or company, further helping it convey authenticity. Videos are also often given their own sub-section on search engine results pages (SERPs.)

3. AI isn’t ready yet: AI has never quite been able to put out publish-ready long-form content, but it does well with short excerpts and blurbs. Google’s “Gemini,” an Ai image generator, had a tough launch to say the least. Nevermind that a wacky Willy Wonka event in Scotland last month taught the world a lighthearted lesson in AI-generated ads. If you’re using AI in your marketing or content creation, avoid professional faux pas by always having a human review it and check all key facts for accuracy. One of AI’s biggest unsolved issues is that it invents “facts,” so a fact check is the least that users should do before publishing. Do not publish long-form AI content; use it to write captions, alt tags, or ad copy at most.

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