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Is Google Doomed? And Other Top Digital Trends for 2024 (Thinks Out Loud Episode 408)

Photo of team collaborating to illustrate idea of top digital marketing trends in 2024

Happy New Year, Big Thinkers! It’s time once again to look at the top digital trends that will shape the year ahead. And, two questions that we keep hearing about are A.) Is Google doomed and B.) what the answer means for your business. But, those aren’t the only top trends you need to think about. In fact, despite their importance, they’re not even the number one trend you should focus on.

What are the top digital trends you need to think about for 2024? Why do they matter to your business? And, once you know what they are, what can you do about them? That’s what this episode of Thinks Out Loud is all about. Be sure to give a listen and then drop us a line letting us know what you think we got right, what we got wrong, and what we didn’t even talk about. We’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime, here are the show notes for you.

Is Google Doomed? And Other Top Digital Trends for 2024 (Thinks Out Loud Episode 408) Headlines and Show Notes

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You might also enjoy this webinar I recently participated in with Miles Partnership that looked at "The Power of Generative AI and ChatGPT: What It Means for Tourism & Hospitality" here:

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Transcript: Is It Time for Your Marketing Team to Use AI?

 Well, hello again, everyone, and welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital expertise your business needs. Happy New Year! This is episode 408 of The Big Show, and we are kicking off with one of my favorite topics, which is, what are the trends that are going to define marketing, especially digital marketing, this year?

And then, of course, how do you put these trends to work for your business? And we have a lot to talk about. Originally, I was going to call this episode, Is Google Doomed and Other Trends? But I decided I would focus more broadly than just on Google, though they’re going to come up a lot today. But I want to start with the biggest trend that I think that we’re going to see over the course of the year is related to artificial intelligence in some ways.

But it’s really related to the world at large more. We clearly face an improving but still uncertain economy. And I think there are two big takeaways from there that we can just take for granted this year. One, marketers are going to be expected to do more with less. I don’t think that’s a huge prediction.

I think we see that every day. You’re probably living that every single day. I don’t know very many marketing professionals who have the CEO come into their office on the daily and say, Ah, you know what, that budget that we talked about last year, what the hell with that, let’s double it. Right, that just doesn’t occur very often.

And we’re going to talk about how you can do that and ways in which you can do that in just a minute. In fact, there are four that I’m going to focus on. The other consequence of this uncertain economy is that marketers must expect that they’ll be held more accountable for results. I, I want to be really fair.

I think marketers have always been held accountable for results. You have probably, probably been held accountable for results for some time. But, anytime things get tough or anytime people are concerned about the economy, your leaders are concerned about the economy, they’re going to ask questions like, do we need to be spending this money?

Whatever this money happens to be, are we spending it in the right ways? Can we justify this expense? And that’s going to be particularly tough. In 2024, when we look at Google killing cookies in Chrome later this year, we’re already seeing Google run a test where they’re removing cookies third party cookies, I should say, for about 1 percent of traffic, and we’ll see that roll that out more in the second half of this year.

Their current roadmap says sometime around Q3 or mid Q3. Obviously, we’ll see if any of those dates shift. But it creates a reality where you’re going to have to make more decisions potentially with less data than you may have been accustomed to. Digital has always been one of the most easily tracked forms of marketing.

And it’s quickly going to become one that is much, much tougher to track. And any investments in MarTech are going to require greater justification, which is weird because if you’re going to have to do more with less, you’re going to require more automation. So, do be prepared for that reality of do more with less, but have to justify the tools that you need to get your work done.

Now, I started by saying I was going to call this episode, Is Google Doomed? And I would say that Google faces very real threats this year. And they face very real threats because of some underlying trends that are very important. The first and foremost is artificial intelligence. When you look at things like ChatGPT or Microsoft Copilot, Those undermine the core business model of Google.

Google makes money from ads. You’ve heard me talk about this a lot. I will link to the shows where I have talked about this before. But that’s going to create a problem for them. Because if they’re not, if consumers aren’t exposed to as many ads or Google has to put out results like Search Generative Experience with fewer ads in them or ads that are less frequently clicked, they’re going to make less money.

That’s a huge problem for them. Also, think about what I said just a moment ago. If fewer ads are clicked or click, ads are clicked less often, well who’s putting those ads up there? Many times it’s you. So if people aren’t clicking ads, you’re going to get less traffic, and that’s going to be a problem we’re going to talk about a lot in a minute.

The second big challenge to Google, of course, is the fact that they’re getting rid of cookies. One of the things we’re seeing in the early, early, early days of this, and again, we’re going off such limited data, I’m not heavily leaning into this at the moment. But there is likely to be less easily attributed revenue to advertising.

And as businesses see less certainty in tracking, that may cause them to shift away from Google’s ad solutions. I suspect we will see that, and that’s probably bad for their business. Again, that may be bad for you too, because the ads might be working, but you may be using them less because you can’t prove that they’re working, which means that you might actually be driving less business to your company than you intend to.

The third challenge that Google faces is the growth in the use of social among younger customers for search activity, which is compounded, of course, by companies like TikTok adding search ads and similar capabilities to their social platforms. We can see for sure that social commerce is growing, and if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.

If I’m an active user of these platforms, which tends to be true among Gen Z and Gen Alpha, why would I ever go to Google if I can simply find what I want in the same place that already offers me information and entertainment? Picture this scenario, if you will. I’m watching a creator whose content I enjoy and regularly seek out.

Like, I love going to whatever platform it happens to be. For me, it might be about guitar playing, for you it might be gaming, for someone else it might be gardening. And it occurs to us, while watching our favorite creator, that hey, I could use a new device or attend an event related to guitar playing or gaming or gardening.

Even better, I can search for that right here in the app I’m already using. I don’t need to go to Google. I’m here. I do the search, I find a product, I buy tickets to an experience, what have you, and boom, I go right back to the video I’m watching. I never left TikTok or Twitch or Pinterest or Instagram.

And Google never got a slice of that pie. That’s a massive, massive shift in customer behavior that we’re starting to see. Now, do I think this is going to kill them within this year? I don’t. Do I think it’s going to kill them in the next couple of years? I don’t think so. But if they take a hit of 5 10 percent of trillions of searches, that’s tons of money and tons of traffic to your business.

And of course the last big threat that they face, and I’m not going to spend much time on this, we’re all aware of it, but they’re in the middle of a major antitrust trial right now. So, when you talk about AI, when you talk about the loss of cookies, when you talk about the growth of social among younger customers for search, and when you talk about antitrust, those are a lot of threats, and all of those threats combined can have downstream impact on your business, which is actually the part you should care about.

Now, of course, the last big trend after we talk about the fact that you, you know, we’re facing an uncertain economy and the fact that Google’s facing some very real threats is that customers are going to want places they can trust, companies they can trust, businesses they can trust. There are a lot of things that are going to happen this year that are going to drive this trend.

One is, we’re in an election year, there’s going to be a lot of disinformation, lots of misinformation, lots of stuff out there that’s going to inundate your customers with all kinds of mixed and confusing messages. Sometimes deliberately, sometimes innocently, just because people hold different positions on complex problems.

But they’re going to look for people who they can trust, who can make that simpler. We’re also going to see, somewhat related, somewhat related to AI, an immense amount of essentially free, decent quality content generated by or with artificial intelligence. We’re also seeing lots of activity around privacy and data protection.

Again, because it’s an election year, I, I Don’t think we’re going to see any motion at the federal level here in the United States around privacy or data protection I just can’t see a bill of that magnitude getting passed. I would be pleased to be wrong But we’ve got more than a dozen states already who have data protection and privacy laws on the books and at some point that needs to be rationalized at a federal level so Customers care about this stuff.

We need to see How we can help them with this, and we need to be a more trusted resource for our customers. And the thing that we have to watch is, you’re not going to accomplish that, you’re not going to become a more trusted resource, by offering more of the same boring or algorithmic corporate speak people have seen for years.

We need to be thinking about ways to be more authentic and more human. So those are the three major trends that I want to talk about. You know, we face an improving but uncertain economy which means marketers must expect to do more with less. And marketers must expect that they’ll be held more accountable for results.

We know that Google faces real threats and that might have downstream effects on your business. And customers expect to trust you. Customers are going to be looking for trusted resources. So if this is the case, what do you do about this? Well, I think there are a bunch of steps we need to take. I think there are basically five we’re going to talk through.

And the first, I’m going to start with the Google thing. And I realize that that might seem odd, but there’s a reason I want to start here. Because these all build on one another. So first, you must get traffic from more than just Google. As I said, they’re probably not doomed. Consumer behavior doesn’t tend to move that quickly.

But if a small set of customers, say 5 10%, use them less frequently, what does that do to your traffic? What does that do to your business? We need to think about how we can actually do a better job of reaching our customers using things beyond just Google. So, first, social needs to play a bigger role in your customer acquisition strategy.

Especially if you sell online. I’ve already explained the scenario as to why social commerce is growing. But you need to think more holistically about social and the role, the role it plays in driving traffic and revenue for your business. And there are three main legs of this stool that I would encourage you to think about.

The first are creators, the second is employee engagement, and the third is user generated content. So first, what is your creator strategy? Who speaks with the customers you want to reach? Remember, when we think about creators, it’s not the size of their audience that matters. It’s who is in it. Start building a relationship with these people.

Look for ways to participate and join their community in a really meaningful way. My good friend Mark Schaefer says that community is the future of marketing. And I’m not 100 percent sure that that’s completely the whole answer. It’s also a big part of the answer. It matters a lot. What I would encourage you to think about, though, is that you don’t have to build your own community right away.

Obviously, if you can, do. But if you can’t, you can become a real, value, trusted member of others communities. I want to be abundantly clear here, I do not mean to go and start spamming their safe space. That is so rude, it is so awful, and it’s why so many people can’t stand marketers. So please, I’m begging you, don’t do that, okay?

I Do mean, you should assign someone on your team or have someone on your team volunteer who’s, who’s got an affinity for this to participate as a genuine, active, valued, trusted member of that community. To participate in a real way. And participating in a real way, I always go back, when I think of social, I always go back to something my grandmother used to say.

Which is that you have two ears and one mouth, and you should use them in that proportion. Right? You should listen at least twice as much as you speak. Listen first. Talk second. You know, and when you talk, offer help. Participate in a real way, you know, actually join the conversation in a way that’s like, oh, that’s a really great point, or oh, I agree with you, or oh, that’s really cool, oh my gosh, I love hearing that.

Be a member of the community, be human. Don’t be something that you can farm out to a machine. Because if they can farm it out to a machine, then anybody else’s machine is potentially just as good, if not better than yours. But if you’re a real person, that’s harder to substitute. And only recommend in those communities your own products or services when the person you’re talking to invites that discussion.

You’re not there to sell. You’re there to be part of the community. And yes, have people become aware of who you are. Sure. But you’re not going in with the mindset of we’re selling from the word go. We’re going in with the mindset of we’re participating in this community. So think in terms of creators and how you can partner with those creators.

By the way, you can also do straight up partnerships with the creators. That’s a different thing than joining their community. But help creators tell a positive brand story on your behalf. Similarly, the second leg of the stool here is what is your employee engagement strategy? How do you get your team to tell a better story on your behalf?

Because your team already are members of various communities, some of whom might be appropriate as customer outreach. Now I want to be clear, just like I said a moment ago, it doesn’t mean spamming that space. It means that you do want to provide your team with the tools and the guidelines that help them participate in communities, A, as genuine, active, valued, and trusted members of those communities, and B, in ways that it’s appropriate to talk about your business or share stories when the people they are talking with invite that discussion.

You know, on some forums like LinkedIn. That’s a way more appropriate thing to do. On some Discord server, that may be a very, very difficult thing to do. But you want to help your team do a good job of doing whatever they choose to do there in such a way that they’re making your brand and your business look like a good one.

Of course, the third pillar is what is your UGC strategy? What is your User Generated Content strategy? I’ve talked about this a ton before, and I don’t want to take too long on this today because we’re already starting to run long. So I’ll put this in the show notes, but your customers are your secret sales force.

They’re probably already talking about your products and services today. What stories are they telling on your behalf? And how can you help them tell a better story on your behalf? What guidelines and tools and support can you offer them to ensure they’re actually doing something that’s beneficial to your business and making them feel good about you at the same time?

How do you help them look good? So don’t overlook your customers. Don’t overlook user generated content. It’s hugely, hugely important. And the reason that all of these matter is because they’re going to help people start to look for you by name, whether they search or whether they’re outside of search.

So the whole situation with Google, whether they do well or do poorly, becomes less important. So that’s a huge, huge issue there. You want to get customers to search for you by name, to seek you out by name. Another major response to all of this that very much relates to this, and it’s why I wanted to start with Google and end that bit with your user generated content strategy, is if you want people to search for you by name, if you want them to seek you out by name, you’ve got to improve your customer’s experience.

This goes back to trust. This goes back to being a trusted resource. It also gives your customers something positive to share on social. You’ve heard me say many, many times on this show that customer experience is queen. Well, treat the queen like the royalty she is. Customers who have a great experience are going to talk about you with their friends and family.

Not all of them, but some of them. And those people they’re talking to become new customer opportunities. They are also going to feel really good about you and come back to you the next time you’re a good answer to the problem or the problem that they need to solve. Repeat customers are less expensive, they’re more likely to seek you out by name, they’re more likely to search for you by name if they use search, and they’re easier to get data from, too.

They’re more willing to share what’s going on in their lives or tell you about other ways you can help them, which is going to be important when we talk about privacy and we talk about data protection and as data gets tougher to come by. So, customer experience is queen. Treat the queen like the queen she is so that you’re actually getting the information and insights that you need and also more business for your business.

The third thing I want to encourage you to do is evaluate your current tool set. Now I said at the beginning, we’re going to be asked to do more with less this year. You’re going to need greater automation to accomplish what you’re going to do. And obviously, artificial intelligence is going to play a role there.

But before you go out and buy a whole bunch of tools, look at what you already have. There’s research from a company called Zylo, I believe is how you pronounce it, that shows that most companies have tens or dozens of existing MarTech solutions in place. I mean, think about it. Even the smallest companies have Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Email Marketing Platform, probably a CRM or something similar.

Maybe they’re using LinkedIn Sales Navigator for their Salesforce. They’ve got some kind of ads platform, you know, using Google Ads or Facebook or Instagram or maybe LinkedIn. They’ve got a plug in or two on the CMS for SEO, email capture, things like that. Maybe a keyword research tool or two. I mean, that’s roughly nine or ten different pieces of technology related to sales and marketing.

And I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface. Like, that’s the most simple setup you tend to see. Each of these tools have both measurement and AI capabilities built in. If you check out the Martech map, there are over 13, 000 marketing technology tools out there. And 73 percent of the growth in that number between May and November of 2023 was based purely on AI based tools.

And that ignores the existing tools that added AI features. So if you want to automate, if you want to make better use of your toolset, Start with the tools you already have and ask what can they do that we’re not already using. If you’re like most people, there are probably capabilities of the tools you have today that you’re simply not making use of.

Research from Gartner has shown that most marketers use only about a third of their current capabilities tool sets capabilities. So there’s probably a lot you can be doing there with what you’ve already got that you don’t have to go make a business case for it to anybody. It’s already there. Look at how you’re using them today and how you can improve.

You know, can you start using existing unused features to drive more revenue and value for your business? Are there services they provide above what you’re already making use of that you can add in either easily or inexpensively? Or, in some cases, is there overlap among features of your existing tools?

Can you consolidate tools and reduce your costs and free up money for other things? Of course, while you’re evaluating your current tool set, I’d also encourage you to evaluate your current skill set. How can you get better at what you do? How can you learn more about Creator Strategies, about UGC, about community building, about the tools that you use, about artificial intelligence.

Because all of those are going to become important. If we’ve got to do more with less, we have to be smarter about how we do it. We have to be thinking more about what we’re doing, where we’re spending our time, where we’re spending our energies. Now, obviously, I’d encourage you to subscribe to, I don’t know, a podcast like this one.

But I’d also encourage you to talk to other people in the industry. Talk to other people you know, find out where they’re getting their best information. Who are they learning from? How are they growing? Are there classes that they’re taking? Are there sites that they’re spending time on? Are there communities that you can join to get better at what you do?

Because I’ve said before that, you know, AI won’t steal your job, but smart people who use AI will. You can make sure you’re actually one of those smart people who use AI as you build your skill set and make yourself more employable, more valuable to your organization or to whatever your next organization happens to be.

So make sure you’re taking a good, long look at your current skill set and saying, how am I making myself more adaptable and more valuable over the long run? And then the last thing that I would encourage you to do. I started by saying we’re facing an uncertain year. This is going to be an interesting year, I think.

I would encourage you to become more comfortable with uncertainty. I don’t think we’re entering a world anytime soon where things get more comfortable. Where things get more certain. I just don’t see that happening in the short term anyway. We’re going to have less data. We’re going to have to adapt to customers changing needs more rapidly.

We’re going to have to find new channels and new markets and new ways to talk to our customers that work for their reality. So you want to become more comfortable with that reality. Think in terms of scenario planning and I’ve got some podcasts about this, we’ll do more in the future. Think more in terms of thinking in bets, rather than being 100 percent sure that this is going to be the case.

How much would you be willing to bet that a certain thing is the case? You know, each of these things that I’ve told you about, I’m not 100 percent confident they’re going to come true. But I’d be willing to bet a fair amount that they’re all a big deal for this year. That’s why I made them the core of the trends that I think we need to watch for 2024.

So just to recap, what are those big trends? First, we face an improving but uncertain economy that requires marketers to do more with less and expect that they’ll be held more accountable for results regardless. We face a reality where I think Google is seeing some very real threats and that you want to be sure that those threats don’t have a downstream effect on your business.

I think we’re facing a world where trust returns to center stage and customers want to work with companies they trust. As a result, you have to get more traffic from more than just Google. You have to think about how you use AI. You have to think about how social plays a bigger role and that includes creators, employee engagement, and user generated content.

You have to improve your customers experience, again, so that you can be a trusted and valued partner to them. You should evaluate your current tool set, you must evaluate your current skill set, and you must become more comfortable with uncertainty. And that last one is the one that I’m most certain about.

And if you manage to do that last one, it won’t matter if I’m completely right or completely wrong about all the others. You’ll have set yourself up for success no matter what happens.

Show Wrap-Up and Credits

Now looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week. I want to remind you again that you can find the show notes for this episode, as well as an archive of all past episodes, by going to Again, that’s Just look for episode 408.

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Show Outro

Finally, and I know I say this a lot, I say this pretty much every week, I am just so thrilled that you keep listening to what we do here every week.

It means the world to me. You are the reason we do this. You’re the reason we make Thinks Out Loud happen. So please keep your messages coming on Twitter, on LinkedIn, on email. I love getting a chance to talk with you, to hear what’s going on in your world and to learn how we can do a better job building the types of content and insights and information and community that works for you and works for your business.

So with all that said, I hope you have a fantastic day. I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and I will look forward to speaking with you here on Thinks Out Loud next time. Until then, please be well, be safe, and as ever, take care, everybody.

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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