AI Pulls the Content Sleigh in 2024: 4 Trends That Will Make Tracks

Like all major market disruptors, the advent of generative AI took some getting used to, especially for content marketing strategists. Although we’re still in the early stages, AI has undeniable value as a collaborative tool for content creation – when it’s used well.

Got a brand in need of extra horsepower? AI can provide the oomph to outrace competition by accelerating efficiency and boosting creativity. As this technology continues to act as a force for expansion in our industry, staying on top of its development is a must.

That’s why I was eager to hear what the experts had to say. So, last month, I attended the Content Marketing Institute’s (CMI) webinar about 2024 trends. We’re seeing many of the same developments, plus a few others.

A big takeaway: Not only has generative AI altered the way content is created, but it’s also changing how people search for that content. And this is just the beginning. This year, keep watch for these four AI-driven trends.

1. SEO Evolves into SGE.

For years, search engine optimization (SEO) has been at the core of successful content marketing. While it’s still a major driver, it’s also in flux. As writers, we’ve become attuned to thinking about keywords and phrases for content. But as AI takes hold – with an overall adoption rate of 55 percent already – SEO is morphing into SGE – search generative experience, as Zach Kadish, manager of customer success at Conductor discussed in his CMI talk.

The incorporation of generative AI allows for more complex questions and faster results. As people take advantage of these enhancements, search behaviors will continue to shift. As a result, so will the algorithms that govern ranking, traffic, and conversion rates. So what shape will they take?

  • Natural language queries: People are increasingly searching in full sentences for solutions to their problems. Rather than a keyword or phrase like, “best XYZ,” they’re more likely to frame questions around a range of related variables such as: “Which XYZ will fix ABC in the shortest amount of time for the lowest cost?” As a result of this trend of long-tailed queries, successful content will provide specific and detailed answers regarding how a given product or service will solve a searcher’s problem.
  • Real estate over rankings: Cross-platform coverage is another piece of SGE. To optimize traffic, content will have to live on multiple sites. Rather than focusing solely on rankings on one particular platform, content marketers must ensure their pieces are widely available across a range of online channels. Sites like Google, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn continue to be essential channels in the content marketing mix.

To capitalize on both trends, successful content will be delivered in multiple formats, from infographics to video clips to interactive tools. That way, posts will correspond with the format that best resonates on each particular platform, improving visibility and increasing engagement.

2. Native-to-Platform Content Becomes King.

Whether it’s geared towards social interaction or professional development, every platform wants to keep its users onsite for as long as possible. Consequentially, many platforms’ algorithms are penalizing content that takes users away and incentivizing content that retains them. The result? Clickless content is winning.

It’s all about stopping the scroll, said Amanda Natividad, VP of Marketing at SparkToro during her CMI session. Content that can be easily viewed right on the platform gets it done. Keeping users informed and entertained is still the name of the game, it’s just being played a bit differently. Going forward, each piece will have to multitask – that is, be available in succinct bursts, viewed in-place.

This shift may leave you wondering how engagement will be measured for zero-click content. Depending on the platform, there are a range of effectiveness metrics, including:

  • Dwell time (on the platform)
  • View time (of a given piece of content)
  • Likes/Comments/Reposts/Shares
  • Conversion (followers, purchases, subscriptions, signups for webinars, app downloads, etc.)

To make the most of the boom in clickless content marketing strategists will have to monitor channels used by target audiences and ask, “How can I encapsulate a solution that no other source is delivering?” and “Can I deliver a bite-sized differentiator?” In other words, allowing readers to find the information as effortlessly as possible will earn your brand a bigger piece of the action.

3. AI Adoption Will Ebb and Flow.

Because AI is developing so quickly, usage rates will naturally have ups and downs. The boom in 2023 could easily give way to a slump as consumers and businesses deal with frustrations in the learning curve. While initial missteps can and have caused disappointments – it can’t do everything after all – temporary reductions in use are to be expected.

As people figure out how best (and how not) to implement generative AI, usage will likely spike again. The real pattern will be ongoing evolution – of the technology itself and how we apply it. The better we become as users, the better AI’s responses will be.

At Version A, we’re always looking for new ways to use AI to improve efficiency in our processes and spark our own creativity. We’ve found some of the best to be:

  • Brainstorming for content/topic ideas around various subject matter
  • Providing starter options for headline, subheads and subject lines
  • Suggestions for improvements to existing pieces
  • Prompts when we need inspiration or an alternate angle

Currently, 72 percent of surveyed organizations reported using generative AI, but 61 percent say they don’t yet have guidelines. As we map out this new frontier in content creation, avoiding pitfalls and identifying advantages will require persistence and a commitment to transparency.

4. The Utmost in Ethics Will Be Expected.

Throughout 2023, a number of bad actors were exposed relative to their use of AI. Lack of fact-checking, failure to cite AI composition, and privacy mishaps were just a few of the headlines that caused angst over this burgeoning technology. Not surprisingly, authenticity has become a major buzzword for ethical content creation.

One rising trend is a focus on authorship. People want to know they’re reading content created by a real person with real credentials. The ability to provide genuine perspective is a true value-add for content creators. Emphasizing writers’ expertise on a given topic and in a particular industry is one way brands will foster loyalty in their audience in 2024.

Finally, while platforms don’t necessarily penalize AI-derived content, most stipulate that it can’t be solely relied upon, and its use has to be disclosed. In addition, content that aligns with a platform’s model of ethics tends to perform better in that platform’s algorithms. For example, Google’s model for evaluating content is EEAT: Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. Because these guidelines are used by their search raters to evaluate content, it stands to reason there’s a correlation between ethics and rankings. Relationships like these will continue to develop as consumers interact with AI on a growing basis.

Last year, we had several requests to help draft AI usage policies. We expect these ethical guidelines to evolve along with the technology over the coming year.

Leave Your Mark in the New Year

As we welcome 2024, content marketing strategists who embrace change will be the ones who lead in their field. They’ll adapt to SGE, craft native-to-platform content, leverage AI judiciously, and uphold ethical standards. It’s not just about staying at the top; it’s about defining the top. Will you let the story write itself, or will you craft your own narrative? Version A can help you define a unique brand signature.

AI Pulls the Content Sleigh in 2024: 4 Trends That Will Make Tracks
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Tara Coughlin

As a writer for Version A, I create content for several of our clients in the technology space. My combined background in liability insurance, military operations, and disaster relief gives me real-world insight into the importance of effective communication, particularly when it comes to logistics and crisis management. When I’m not writing, I play the clarinet. Just kidding! I’m an insatiable traveler and my big picture goal is to see as much of the world as possible. The list is extensive, but my favorite place so far has been the Whitsundays off the east coast of Australia.
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