A year is a long time in digital marketing. It feels even longer when gamechangers like ChatGPT or GA4 come along and disrupt everything. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably still trying to catch your breath from it all. But let’s take stock and reflect on the last 12 months, exploring the predictions we made way back at the start of 2023 and checking which ones we got right, and which ones weren’t quite so on the money.
In this article, I’ve cherry-picked five predictions we made about what to expect in 2023. How did we fare? Let’s find out.
Five predictions we made for 2023
1. 2023 will be a good year for travel
What we said:
‘Data looks good overall with a few places for optimism in 2023 with conversion rates and booking values staying strong and holding up well to 2019/2020 levels. As with our review of the Sunshine Saturday of 2023, there is cause for optimism this year within the travel sector.’
A report issued earlier this month by AITA revealed that 2023 saw air travel reach 99% of 2019 levels while according to the first UNWTO World Tourism Barometer of the year, global tourism ended 2023 at 88% of pre-pandemic levels, with an estimated 1.3 billion international arrivals.
This rebound can be partially attributed to a hangover of post-lockdown pent-up wanderlust, with travellers keen to spend pennies saved through the pandemic, to the point where a full recovery is expected by the end of 2024.
Despite record-breaking, unbearable temperatures making southern Europe a no-go for many last summer, the continent still performed well overall, as did Africa and the Middle East. In fact, the latter is the only region to surpass pre-lockdown levels with arrivals up 22% on 2019.
While the news in the media was great for most of the year, our own stats and clients did start to see a drop off towards the end of 2023 as a variety of factors (cost of living, global conflict, post covid norms) all started to play a part in dampening the mood somewhat, leading to the closure of some well established names in the market.
That said, 2024 is shaping up to be a great year for travel, with homeworking travel agency Travel Counsellors reporting two consecutive record sales days this month (Tuesday 9th and Wednesday 10th January). Forget Sunshine Saturday – it’s all about Tan-topping Tuesday and World-is-your-oyster Wednesday!
2. 2023 will be a bad year for Twitter
What we said:
‘My view is this will be a dive year. I don’t see how advertisers, or users, will cough up enough to make the money needed or give him enough rope to turn things around. Twitter has always been a small player really and to make it big, big change was needed. Whilst Musk has proved himself to be hugely successful in other areas, I feel his ego has got way too big for him this time and this craziness will only clip the blue bird's wings rather than let it soar to new heights.’
Well, the little blue bird is no more. Elon Musk not only clipped its wings but killed it in cold blood, replacing it with the oh-so inspired new brand name ‘X’. A savvy move? Nope. Value of the-artist-formally-known-as-Twitter plunged 71% since Musk’s takeover and rebranding, seeing monthly users down 15% and ad revenue slumping by 54% (ouch!). This comes amidst concerns over a rise in hate speech on the platform, with Musk himself facing a backlash recently for endorsing anti-semitic conspiracy theories.
Musk may have thought he could claw black lost ad revenue through his premium subscription scheme, but that bird never really learned to fly, as many high-profile names exited the platform in their droves. Those who stayed found their verification removed, leaving Twitter – sorry X - further susceptible to fake news, disinformation and right-wing conspiracy theories.
However, there are still an estimated 415 million X users worldwide and the mass exodus to the likes of Mastodon or Threads never really happened to any great extent, so while 2023 was most definitely an annus horribilis for the platform, it’s still here…for now.
3. The future is bright for AI in digital marketing
What we said:
‘The future is very bright for AI in all forms of marketing, not just digital. It's already being used in many places and impacting your digital marketing efforts, it's just not THAT noticeable yet.
But let's be clear - just because it's AI, it's not going to solve all your problems. Like any machine or piece of software, it can only work from the commands or prompts that we give it. Bad idea or data in, bad ideas or data out. To really get the best from these AI tools, you need to be patient, learn over time and check the outputs for quality and credibility, in the same way you should with any piece of work. Only then will AI be a help rather than a hinderance.’
2023 wasn’t just bright for AI, it was blinding. After a bumpy start, the likes of Bard, Copilot and good old ChatGPT have come on leaps and bounds, the latter being integrated into some huge brands such as Expedia, Coca Cola and Morgan Stanley. But AI is not a one-size-fits-all solution for every business. Talking to business owners last year, I got the impression many of them felt they *should* be using AI for the simple reason everyone else was. As I said in the quote above – it won’t solve all your problems and if you don’t have a problem to solve, then why fix what isn’t broken?
But if you are using AI, the importance of feeding it high quality, well-refined inputs is as important as ever. One nifty trick you can do to avoid the generic churn of AI content is train your preferred chatbot to recognise your tone and style of writing. Writesonic is great for this, allowing you to upload samples of your content which can enable the platform to emulate your style for future content.
That said, it’s still absolutely crucial to check and amend any content prior to publishing. AI tools are still prone to providing duff information and you’re not doing yourself, your reader or your E-E-A-T credentials any favours by prioritising the words of a robot over your own knowledge and insights.
4. Not switching to Google Analytics 4 may be the right decision for some clients
What we said:
‘For some clients, *not* switching to GA4 may be the right decision due to its complexity and the time and effort involved in setting things up. Simpler to use tools are out there and can do what needs to be done just as effectively.’
Google Analytics 4 may have been around for a few years now, but when Universal Analytics was officially put to bed and ceased processing new hits for most websites on 1st July 2023 (although some mysteriously made it all the way to October!), the fall out was still pretty dramatic. Many of the clients we work with are still baffled by the data provided by GA4 and we’re getting just as many leads asking for help and training now as we did months ago!
So, with all this chaos and confusion, why is GA4 still the go-to analytics platform when other perfectly good ones, such as Matomo or one of our favourites, Piwik Pro, might be better suited? Firstly, I think there’s still a notion that because Google is the biggest and most widely used, it must be the best. Secondly, many businesses may not even realise they have other options. Finally, the stark reality is the still not enough marketers view data analytics accuracy and insights as a priority as it’s simply not easy enough to get the answer you need or want.
Take a look at our article GA4 and other web analytics alternatives to discover what other platforms are out there.
5. AI won’t replace SEOs
What we said:
‘The announcement of any new AI technology is always likely to send ripples of concern among the SEO community but the golden rule is this: nothing, and I repeat, nothing can compete with high quality, original content written by humans. AI tools like this have the ability to disrupt SEO, but in a positive way; they'll encourage SEO professionals to strive for a higher standard of expertise and output. And rather than being a threat, it may actually enhance and augment the work of SEO professionals rather than actually replace them, providing useful insights and valuable data which aid optimisation strategies.’
Search is undoubtedly changing but nothing that happened in 2023 would suggest AI will ever trump human content – at least not from an E-E-A-T perspective. Any SEO worth his or her salt would have taken steps to adapt to these changes and learn ways to use it to their advantage. For example, if SGE ever does get rolled out (and that’s a big ‘if’ right now), we have already discovered that pages which rank well organically may not automatically rank well in SGE results. Therefore, the more proactive, savvy SEOs will already be exploring different strategies and tactics, ensuring they are match fit for when Google presses the button and changes search forever.
I appreciate this article might have a bit of a self-congratulatory feel to it (heck, it’s nice to blow our own trumpets once in a while), but in all honesty, all of these examples are still very much live situations, and the goalposts could be moved at any time. Digital marketing in general is constantly in flux, requiring adaptability, innovation and insight to stay competitive in the evolving landscape.
At the end of the day, predictions are easy to make. The real challenge is being able to adapt to curveballs and developments that weren’t necessarily on your bingo card. What will 2024 throw at us? I for one can’t wait to find out. But we’ll be sharing some thoughts very soon, so watch this space for our ideas for the year ahead!