December 12 2023


Navigating Digital Marketing in 2024 Part 3: Platform and Algorithm Updates 

A Big Year in Changes 

For digital marketers, 2023 was an abnormally volatile year in terms of both platform and algorithm updates. The year saw the full rollout of Google Analytics 4, the addition of AI directly into the search landscape, and five Google Core Updates. How will these changes affect digital marketing strategies going forward, and what platform updates are due in 2024?  

TopSpot looks to provide news and information to marketers and businesses that can aid in next year’s digital marketing planning in this blog series, Navigating Digital Marketing in 2024. Posted earlier, Part 1 covered artificial intelligence updates while Part 2 focused on the content trends impacting the search landscape and user experience. Now we wrap the series with Part 3, platform and algorithm updates to keep in mind for the coming year. 

By being prepared for platform updates that are impacting UX and paid search, plus by making sense of this year’s algorithm updates affecting SEO, your team can make strategic decisions that help differentiate your business online. We’ll additionally take a look at changes to SMTP, and how that will potentially affect your business’ website. 

Google Optimize Sunsets 

September saw the sunset of Google Optimize and Optimize 360, which the TopSpot Team traditionally utilized for A/B testing and personalization. A/B testing allows us to present and test two different versions of a landing page to see which performs better in order to make data-driven decisions. A/B testing and personalization are important strategies for marketers looking to improve their website experiences, and by extension, their SEO and PPC performance. 

This means the tool and its data are no longer a part of its analytics suite, and Google stated its plans to provide full integration materials for alternative third-party platforms in Google Analytics 4. TopSpot is evaluating and implementing an alternative platform for A/B testing and will provide more information soon. 

The old Google Ads platform to the left and the new experience on the right. 

Google Ads Platform Update 

Google Ads will be getting a new look in the new year as the current beta experience will become the default in early 2024. Visually, you’ll see a change in the main menu on the left of the screen in terms of look and organization, with high-level categories meant to make navigation easier. These categories include campaigns, goals, tools, billing, and admin. Google has provided a guide for users to find data in the new layout.  

Functionality and features will remain the same, but more updates are expected including changes to Search Ads 360, Google Ad Data Manager, and AI/machine learning tools. More information to come as announcements are made. 

Meet Google Merchant Center Next  

Announced at Google Marketing Live 2023, Google Merchant Center is getting an update next year and users will be getting a new platform experience called Google Merchant Center Next. This tool is used only for e-commerce clients and populates Google Shopping Ads by automatically pulling products, pricing, imagery, and more from your website into a simplified home for product feeds.  

Merchant Center Next looks to give users control over how their products appear on Google without the additional steps of manually uploading a feed. Data and insights will also be included, for instance top-selling products and brands in the landscapes you look to populate, and guidance on improvements. Merchant Center Next has already started rolling out for new users and will be the default soon.  

SMTP Updates  

SMTP stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol. It’s a set of commands that helps servers talk to each other to send emails. It starts with sending emails and email responses for forms, purchases, or other notifications to the correct server. Then the receiving server uses the protocol to ensure the message is delivered. While we won’t get too high-tech here, an upcoming change to this protocol will be important to those looking to make updates to their website where SMTP is required.  

The change stems from SMTP not being inherently secure, so the authentication method for SMTP is moving from “basic authentication” to “modern authentication”. Basic authentication includes a username and password, while modern authentication adds a third layer of security. Think of some of the apps you use now that ask for a text code or additional piece of information at login. Gmail and Office365 have already stopped basic authentication setups, however, any set-ups already in place can continue with basic authentication for now.  

Timeline of Google Core Updates this year.

Google Algorithm Updates 

While hundreds of updates occur behind the scenes to different systems, Google releases core updates every year to improve search quality. These updates can impact a SERP’s visibility and website rankings as the updates look to reward websites with high-quality content and user experiences. 

These updates typically take two weeks to roll out, and Google gives very little notice on when these will happen or what is specifically tackled. This year saw five core updates, four in the last half of the year in back-to-back months, which is busier than usual for the tech giant.  

Most of the updates were “broad core”, meaning various systems were affected. We saw changes to featured snippets and other SERP features, an update for the helpful content qualification system, and an additional update for the content evaluation systems. The volatility caused by these updates increased from very little in March to significant shifts by November. 

The culprit for all these updates could be AI as Google introduces it into the search landscape while making sure human-generated content continues to be rewarded. It’s an interesting balance going into the new year. To stay on top of it, sticking to the B-SMART Method® will continue to fulfill not only users’ intent but the content requirements for both algorithm updates and AI results. 

What’s Your Takeaway 

Digital marketing and the tech companies powering it can move incredibly fast and with little warning. While we can’t be certain of the impact of these changes and updates, we look to educate our Team and Client Partners on what we do know and what we’ve learned from the past year.  

To learn more about the new platforms affecting websites and PPC, plus how to keep your SEO strong to withstand algorithm updates, contact your account team, or check out the webinar this blog series is based on. If you are not a TopSpot partner, contact the TopSpot Team.     

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