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Content Strategy
5 min

Content Expectations for the Rest of 2024

by Brendan O'Neill May 9, 2024

Content creation. Content development. Content management. Content marketing. Depending on the particular needs and capabilities of your organization, you may employ some or all of these activities on your company’s website. For the sake of brevity, let’s lump all those activities under one umbrella term: Content Strategy.

Over the past decade, Content Strategy has evolved as priorities shifted and technologies emerged. We’ve seen content efforts focus on social media, memes, listicles, infographics, keyword-stuffing, video, podcasts, long-form content, short-form content, AMP, mobile-first, personalization, and artificial intelligence-assisted efforts.

Today, you’ll find many articles and blog posts providing all sorts of predictions for how Content Strategy will grow as AI spreads throughout the marketing ecosystem. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a look-ahead prediction piece that didn’t prominently feature AI. To borrow a quote from Anchorman’s Ron Burgundy: “[It’s] kind of a big deal.” But what are the main areas marketers should focus on when it comes to marrying Content Strategy with AI?

Well, we looked at hundreds of predictions and opinions published by key industry players, compared them to our own observations, and distilled all of that down to a few key themes we expect to play major roles throughout the rest of 2024 and beyond.

Five Expectations for Content

1. High-Quality Content Requires a Human Touch

Despite differing opinions on exactly how AI tools should be used, there’s one thing we all can agree upon: using them can save time. The speed at which AI tools can analyze information, recognize patterns, and make predictions—all while considering a set of goals/rules—is simply difficult (or impossible) for human content marketers to replicate.

Knowing this, many marketing departments have already incorporated AI into content operations, allowing it to streamline time-consuming processes like writing search-optimized headlines, generating meta data, and repurposing articles for social posts and promotions. This approach can free up marketers to focus on refining tone of voice and maximizing the impact of messaging.

While that will continue throughout 2024, marketers are also keenly aware that AI-generated content requires human oversight that truly positions AI as a tool, not a turnkey solution.

AI tools will be used for predictive analytics, pattern recognition, research, and to increase the speed of first drafts. But content marketers will place more emphasis on editing, humanizing, and customizing content based on business needs, audience, tone of voice, and style. Providing a more distinct, human connection within content will set it apart from the uninspired, homogenous wave of AI-generated content with which we’ll soon be confronted.

2. Content Fundamentals Become (Even More) Critical

It’s often the case that when technology takes a significant leap forward, the fundamentals of a business become even more important than before. New technology can reveal new opportunities, but it needs the foundation of tried-and-true methods and processes. As AI-generated—or at least AI-assisted—content floods the market, two aspects of Content Strategy will remain critical to high-quality content:

  1. Knowing your audience
  2. Developing strong messaging

No one knows your audience as well as you, not even AI. Use that to your advantage by diving into your data and creating specific personas that identify important audience segments for your tailored content efforts to target. Once you know your personas, it will be easier to develop high-quality content that is relevant, useful, engaging, consistent, well-researched, and tailored to a particular audience segment.

Those two fundamentals will remain critical to creating successful content in 2024, but many behind-the-scenes efforts will also need to receive more attention, including:

  • Organization: Nail down workflows to maximize efficiency.
  • Mapping: Identify pain points and touchpoints to streamline customer journeys.
  • Measurement: Don’t lean too heavily on cookies. Bolster first-party data efforts.
3. Without Trust, What Do We Have?

One of the effects of AI taking a larger role in various parts of the content marketing ecosystem is that readers and customers will become more accustomed to AI-created content and, in time, be able to identify it. Many within the industry believe this could create a backlash of distrust and may lead to a desire for deeper, trust-based relationships.

This again points to the need for people to play an integral role in the care and feeding of AI content. Content marketers will need to more vigilantly edit the outputs of AI tools, checking for the common pitfalls of inaccuracy and bias that AI content has been known to fall into. Additionally, editors will need to inject authenticity into any messaging written by AI, aligning it with the brand’s vision and imbuing it with the proper tone of voice to help instill trust in its readers. Inauthentic content that feels generic runs the risk of falling into the “sea of sameness,” joining the uninspired AI-created content of dozens of other brands.

4. Search Evolves as Google Embraces AI

Google has been beta-testing its AI-powered search engine, called Search Generative Experience (SGE), through Google Search Labs for a while now, and it’s expected to fully deploy in mid-2024. Content marketers are looking at two main areas of difference in SGE compared to traditional search:

  • Clickthroughs: The answer to a query will often appear directly on the search results page—an overview answer “written” by the search engine from the information it collected around the Internet. Known as “zero-click content,” users may not have to click on a result and go to that webpage for the information they’re seeking. This could result in a decrease in traffic to those informational websites.
  • Ads and Competition: Top organic results are being pushed down the page, below SGE results, with ads appearing above or below the SGE results. SGE results for branded terms may include competitors’ websites alongside the brand’s own site, which leads to increased competition for brand visibility.

In short, this means that the way we search for information is changing, and users may start using alternative search engines if they find the Google SGE experience ineffective, annoying, or inconvenient. That means content marketers may have to tailor their efforts to perform in more places than just Google.

5. Experience Matters More Than Ever

Thought-leadership content that showcases your expertise will always be extremely valuable. But now that AI tools are in the mix, it’s never been easier for other sites, including your competitors, to find and compile that information and use it themselves, under the guise of “industry best practices.”

That’s why first-hand experience is increasingly important, and even Google knows it. Back in 2014, Google introduced E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) as a framework for evaluating the quality of search results.

Fast-forward to November 30, 2022, when OpenAI introduced ChatGPT. Google quickly realized that the quality of its search results could be impacted by such a tool, so just two weeks later, on December 15, 2022, Google added an ‘E’ to its evaluation formula to create its updated E-E-A-T framework. That ‘E’ stands for Experience, and its inclusion may limit the outsized impact that a tool like ChaptGPT could have on the ‘Expertise’ part of SEO success.

First-hand experiences will continue to be a critical factor in both search and site authority. That experience and expertise can be demonstrated through content citing primary research or utilizing first-party data. However, a site can also score points in the ‘Experience’ column from customer reviews that display a person’s actual interaction with a business and its products or services.

Content strategy, creation, and marketing will remain powerful tools for brands throughout 2024 and beyond. While AI is one of the most interesting and powerful advancements in this space in a long time, the excitement around its potential impact must be accompanied by realistic expectations informed by a holistic understanding of how and where to fold in this new tool. It will be fun to watch the industry learn and evolve in real time as different organizations develop their own rules and principles for exactly how AI can become a part of their Content Strategy processes.

Photo Credit: Markus Spiske | Unsplash

Brendan O'Neill
Content Strategy Lead

Brendan O’Neill is a Content Strategy Lead at One North. He helps clients evaluate and reimagine content structure, development, tactics, and strategy incorporating both industry best practices and innovative methodology. Brendan has an extensive background in journalism, editing, and managing content for everything from local newspapers and trade publications to national consumer magazines and Fortune 500 brands.