• 14 Feb 2024
  • 7 Min read

Glass Digital Wrapped: 2023 in review  

2023 was an eventful year in ecommerce. Online businesses have had to contend with increasing competition, rising ad prices, and a lot of volatility in search rankings. There’s also been the ongoing squeeze on consumer spending leading to a drop in demand in many sectors, with 6 in 10 UK adults cutting back on non-essential shopping over the past year (ONS).

But 2023 wasn’t all bad news. For one thing, consumer price inflation finally started to drop, falling from the double-digit peak we experienced in 2022 down to 3.9% in November 2023 (ONS). The overall market share of ecommerce has also continued to grow, and many retailers enjoyed excellent Black Friday and holiday sales periods. And, for every headache (we’re looking at you, GA4) there’s been an ingenious new AI tool to help make our lives that little bit easier.

As we dive headlong into another busy year, we thought we’d take a moment to reflect on some of our biggest and best achievements in 2023. So, read on to find out what we did for our Organic Search, Affiliate, and Paid Search clients over the past year — and what we could do for you in 2024. Cheers to that!

Organic Search

What happened in SEO in 2023?

2023 will go down as the year of the Google update, with a whopping four confirmed updates — twice as many as in 2022. To add to the turbulence, three of those updates rolled out between August and November. With so little breathing room, it’s no surprise that there’s been sustained rankings volatility this year — much of it concentrated in the crucial Q3 and Q4 periods. It’s certainly been a bumpy ride, for some industries more than others.

So, why were there so many updates last year? Our Head of Technical SEO, Marcus McConkey, suspects that the barrage of updates may have been Google’s attempt to crack down on poor-quality AI-generated content. “The flurry of updates from August to November has shown Google’s intention to crack down on content it deems unhelpful, although not automatically generated content exclusively,” he says.

Despite the ups and downs, many of our clients have still benefitted from substantial search visibility improvements. Even sites which were initially hit hard by the updates have been able to quickly re-stabilise, partly thanks to our SEO work before, during, and after the update.

So, just how did we do it? Our three-pillar Organic Search strategy — consisting of technical SEO, onsite content development, and link-building activity — has once again proven to be an effective formula for growing search visibility.

What we achieved for our Organic Search clients in 2023

Since last January, we’ve helped our clients gain nearly 100,000 new keyword rankings. That’s a 36% overall increase in ranking keywords.

Top 10

The first page of Google receives at least 71% of web traffic (Wordstream).

Since January 2023, nearly 88% of our clients have gained new front-page rankings, with nearly 10,000 more keywords in the top 10 positions. That’s equivalent to a 29% overall increase.

Top 3 keyword growth

The top three organic results on Google get 54.4% of all clicks (Backlinko).

Since January 2023, we’ve helped 80% of our clients gain new top-three rankings, with a 65% increase in keywords. That’s nearly 5,000 more keywords in the top three.


What happened in the affiliate space in 2023?

For affiliate marketing professionals, 2023 was all about shifting away from cookie tracking. With Google stating that it plans to phase out third-party cookies completely in the second half of 2024 (TheVerge), many marketers have already started future-proofing their strategies to prepare for this new normal.

“Upgrading tracking was by far the biggest challenge faced in 2023,” says Sarah-Jayne, Head of Affiliate. “With cookieless tracking becoming more and more of a priority, ensuring all clients had upgraded to server-to-server integrations meant a lot of time was put into supporting clients from a technical perspective.”

On top of this, affiliate marketers also had to grapple with another challenge: the end of Universal Analytics and the final switchover to Google Analytics 4.

“Last year, the affiliate channel had to adapt further, as the e-commerce world moved from Universal Analytics to GA4,” says Sarah-Jayne. “That meant setting up reports, learning new ways to find which sales were being attributed to the channel, and advising clients on how to navigate GA4 and reconcile the old and new reports.

“GA4 has certainly been a curveball this year. But we’ve found new solutions that are working really well, if not better than before, which I think you can see reflected in the results. To name just one example, our long-term client Ramsdens Jewellery saw revenue increase by 80% year on year, showcasing substantial growth on a well-rounded program.”

What we’ve achieved for our Affiliate clients in 2023

In 2023, we’ve increased affiliate revenue by 83% YoY across our client portfolio.

One client, a fashion retailer, experienced a 266% YoY revenue increase. Four clients surpassed £1 million in revenue in 2023, and one client even hit £10 million in revenue!

Black Friday 

On Black Friday 2023, our client portfolio achieved 7.3% more revenue, 146% more sales, 138% more tracked conversions and 298.6% more traffic from partner sites on average versus 2022.

Across the 2-week Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales period, our clients achieved 54% more revenue, 158% more tracked conversions, and 175% more traffic from partner sites versus 2022.

Paid Search

What happened in Paid Search in 2023?

Over the last year, the Paid Search landscape has faced challenges in the form of increased competition, rising ad prices, and stricter user privacy rules. As a result, PPC marketers have had to work hard to find novel solutions and mitigate increasing costs.

 “The rising tide of privacy concerns has made it progressively challenging to employ a targeted approach in Google Ads,” says Jessica Freer, Head of Paid Search. “While the broader reach remains advantageous for many advertisers, it has also heightened the competition for the same ad space, resulting in escalating costs. Consequently, advertising on Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP) has become more expensive, reflecting the broader trend in the industry.

“To address this challenge for clients who could not afford to expand their budgets and leverage the broader reach, we proactively adapted in tandem with Google. We embraced every new tool and feature they integrated, notably incorporating account-level negatives.

“Our strategy involved optimising the quality score for each keyword, implementing detailed custom audiences for audience signals, and incorporating search category signals. Essentially, we aimed to provide Google with an extensive set of data, maximising our efforts to mitigate any potential cost increases.”

What have we done for our Paid Search clients in 2023?

Ecommerce highlights

Our team increased PPC revenue by +143% YoY for automotive accessory retailer Roofrack and boosted return-on-ad-spend (ROAS) by +114%. Our client Burleigh Pottery’s PPC revenue increased by +84% YoY and their ROAS grew by +47%.

Lead generation highlights

For businesses in the professional services or media sectors, lead generation is crucial for growth. 

In 2023, we generated +326% more conversions for legal firm DMH Stallard, and reduced their average cost-per-acquisition by 69%. 

Our client Horse & Country, a media brand, operates on a subscription model. Our lead generation service increased conversions +80% and halved the average cost per acquisition!  

Visibility and impressions

Every brand wants to get noticed by as many potential customers as possible.

We made it happen for Denby, Burleigh Pottery, and Horse & Country, improving their search impression share by +77%, +49%, and +280%, respectively!

Paid Social

Paid social ads can help you reach new audiences and grow revenue.

In 2023, our team grew Burleigh Pottery’s purchases via social by +507% YoY and boosted return-on-ad-spend by +79% YoY. We also increased revenue from social by a whopping +783% YoY!

What’s coming in 2024?

Crystal balls at the ready… What opportunities, challenges, and game-changing tools are on the horizon for 2024? Our departmental Heads share their predictions for what the new year will bring.


Our Head of Affiliate Marketing, Sarah-Jayne, thinks that investment in affiliate marketing will continue to grow in 2024.

I think we could well see affiliate budgets rise across the board in 2024,” says Sarah-Jayne. “Businesses are having to tighten their purse strings in response to tough trading conditions, and as affiliate offers a cost-effective channel with strong ROI, I think it will only gain more recognition from budget-conscious brands next year.”

Sarah-Jayne also predicts that AI will revolutionise many affiliate programs, and that eco-friendly partners will enjoy renewed popularity.

“There was a lot of buzz around AI in 2023, but this year I think we’ll start seeing it in action at scale, with AI being used to make more data-led decisions in the affiliate space,” she said. “AI can quickly surface large volumes of data to surface meaningful patterns, which can inform and elevate your strategy. Predictive modelling can forecast trends, improve attribution, and finesse anomaly detection. It’s opening up a lot of exciting opportunities.

“Sustainable, eco-friendly partners will also become a force to be reckoned with. A consumer shift to more sustainable and eco-friendly living has opened a diverse range of partners within the affiliate industry. Early onboarding of these partners will allow programs to capture a newly engaged audience who are investing in reducing their own carbon footprint and consumption habits.”

Paid Search

Our Head of Paid Search, Jessica, predicts that AI tools and conversational search will boom in 2024.

 “As Google continues to integrate advanced AI tools and capabilities into its Search platform, my anticipation for 2024 is that ads will increasingly mirror this trend,” Jessica says.

“Traditional sales-y ad copy may be surpassed by a more informal and conversational style of ad copy. I think we could see the tone of voice used in ads shift to one that makes the audience feel spoken with, rather than spoken to, with the hopes of yielding better performance and engagement. 

Jessica also thinks that immersive or interactive ads will become more widespread: “A trend already gaining momentum on websites is the integration of 360-degree immersive product images. Looking ahead, it’s conceivable that this immersive experience could extend to Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), allowing users to fully twist and turn products for a more informed and engaging click.”

Jessica also predicts that the decline of the cookie will trigger a rise in CPCs, caused by reduced targeting capabilities.

“As Google takes significant strides to enhance user privacy, the once-accessible data and targeting capabilities of Google Ads advertisers are now constrained. This will result in collateral limitations.

“Notably, features like Similar Audiences are now a thing of the past, and Chrome has defaulted to restricting third-party cookies for 1% of users. Anticipating the ongoing reduction in targeting capabilities, it’s foreseeable that Cost-Per-Clicks (CPCs) will increase again in 2024. When it comes to navigating this evolving landscape, making full use of Google’s comprehensive suite of marketing channels will be imperative.”


If 2023 was all about AI, then 2024 will be about adding a human touch to produce better results, according to our Head of Technical SEO Marcus McConkey.

“I think 2024 will be the year that SEOs start to really fine-tune their processes with AI tools,” Marcus says. “Google’s statement that they aim to reward high-quality content ‘however it is produced’ is a pretty clear indication that they know attempting to unmask all automatically generated content is an impossible and very expensive task.

“The bar for what constitutes ‘high-quality content’ is ever-rising, and relying solely on AI to create your content can have drastic effects, as we’ve seen with the fallout from the notorious SEO heist and the impact of the spam updates on scraper sites.

“AI tools can provide a huge helping hand for content ideation, but the creation still needs to be handled, at least to some extent, by an experienced writer who can add value to the piece. To this end, I think we’ll also start to see more companies invest in expert-driven content creation for their blogs to help build a sense of trust, experience, and expertise that AI just can’t replicate.”

Want to make 2024 your year? As an experienced SEO agency and provider of affiliate marketing and PPC management services, we’ve helped businesses of all shapes and sizes get incredible results. Get in touch to arrange a free site audit or no-obligation consultation and discover what Glass Digital can achieve for your business today.

Lydia Carroll

Head of Content

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