The 4 Declining Trends in Digital Agency Services in 2024 

As a digital agency owner, it’s all too easy to get wrapped up in chasing the emerging trends of the day. 

That’s the nature of the business – you’re in a fast-evolving industry where failure to keep up can be a death knell. A quick journey to Google confirms as much. Type “Digital trends in 2024” into the search engine and you’ll be confronted with dozens of results all professing to tell you what’s new in the coming year. 

That’s valuable information. 

But far too often, the chase for what’s new results in agency owners taking their eyes away from what they already offer. That can present a clear danger in terms of undervaluing a service – either via cost or time invested – that’s still in demand. But the far less obvious danger lies in the chase toward the future resulting in your agency continuing to offer services that are outdated or no longer required. 

That’s where this article comes in. 

Let’s examine four of the declining trends in digital agency services that 2024 brings and – crucially – what you can do about them. But first, a question. 

Why Does Tracking a Declining Trend Matter? 

It’s all about chasing good money after bad. 

In other words, investing in services that no longer produce an adequate return for your digital agency means losing revenue you could dedicate to more profitable services. The result – a lack of growth. 

Not all agency owners experience this stunted growth. 

In fact, data from Agency Analytics says most don’t. About three-quarters – 74% of agencies – say they experienced revenue growth between 2022 and 2023. However, there are two aspects of this seemingly encouraging statistic that are worrying. 

The stat alone tells us that 26% of agencies didn’t experience revenue growth, meaning at least a quarter find themselves mired in offering services that fewer clients appear to want to buy. Plus, Agency Analytics doesn’t delve into how strong this revenue growth has been for the agencies it quizzed. Is this growth achieved by attracting new clients, or a simple increase achieved by raising prices to account for inflation? 

The answer likely lies somewhere in the middle – some agencies are growing in the way you wish your agency could grow, while others are just getting a little more revenue because of price increases rather than new customers. 

What does any of this have to do with declining trends? 

Everything, at least from a revenue perspective. The agencies that fail to see the declining trends also fail to see which areas of their business are costing them rather than driving revenue. Anybody in digital marketing will have said some variation of these words to their clients before: 

We need to track the data to see what doesn’t work, as well as what does. 

Take those words to heart, as it’s through understanding what isn’t working in your digital agency that you can pivot investments of time and money into what does work. 

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The Four Declining Trends (And What You Should Do About Them) 

By now, you understand why knowing about declining trends is so important. Without that knowledge, you don’t know what doesn’t work. And if you don’t know what doesn’t work, you’re doomed to keep doing more of that very thing – not ideal when you’re trying to grow revenue. 

With that in mind, these four declining trends in digital agency services could offer some insight into your next steps. 

Declining Trend 1 – Web Development Services 

Web design and development have long been pillar services for digital agencies. 

It’s a standard bearer that practically every agency offers, even if they only do so at the most basic level. And, when done well, a good web development service can generate a lot of revenue. And if you were to look at some general statistics, you’d be left with the impression that the web development and design sector is growing. 

Take the stats published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2021 as an example. 

It estimated that the number of web developers and designers in the United States would rocket up between 2021 and 2031, rising from 191,100 to 205,000. That’s a good sign for this service – more employed web developers means there’s clearly more demand from customers. Why would agencies be hiring if that wasn’t the case? 

The answer is that agency owners aren’t aware that the demand for web development is on a slow downswing. 

Despite projected growth in employment, the market size of web design services has declined by 2.7% between 2018 and 2023. There’s demand shrinkage occurring, with that trend likely to continue into 2024. Granted the decline isn’t enormous, but there are reasons behind it. More and more platforms are offering tools for prospective business owners to construct websites on their own, with no help required. Plus, larger businesses are increasingly building their own digital teams – 90% of organizations will be engaged in digital initiatives in 2024, and it’s not a stretch to say a sizeable portion will bring those initiatives in-house. 

What Should You Do? 

Does this decline in demand for web development mean you should stop offering the service? 

Absolutely not. 

Though the decline is there, it’s not so notable that it makes web development as a service defunct. Rather, this is an early warning sign that your agency will have to fight harder to attract clients as supply starts to outstrip demand. Differentiation is key – market web development services not based on what a website is, but on the reasons why it’s so important to have a custom site developed rather than building via an off-the-shelf package. 

Declining Trend 2 – The Importance of Social Media Engagement 

Engagement, engagement, engagement. 

Since the advent of social media as a marketing tool, engagement has been the holy grail for the agencies that offer marketing in this area. Every like, comment, follow, and the rest is quantifiable and easy to demonstrate to a client. 

“Look, we’re growing your social following. That will translate into business down the line.” 

Yet, what so many digital agencies ignore is that engagement rates are declining almost universally across the board. Search Engine Land revealed as much in February 2023 when it looked at three of the most popular social platforms – Instagram, Facebook, and X (formerly Twitter). 

For Instagram, its engagement rate benchmark has declined substantially from 2019 – when it was 1.22% – to the 2022 benchmark of 0.47%. Facebook and X have seen similar, though less marked, declines, with engagement lowering from 0.09% to 0.06% on Facebook and 0.045% to 0.035% on X in the same period. 

Note that these figures relate specifically to organic social. 

They’re also not surprising to anybody who understands the nature of the social media beast. New platforms replace the old, with engagement on longer-lasting platforms naturally declining over time. Nevertheless, this decline is something your agency needs to understand – selling digital services on any of these platforms based on engagement alone could lead to unhappy customers due to natural declines. 

What Should You Do? 

As with the decline in web development, this isn’t a signal to stop offering organic marketing services on these platforms. 

It’s a sign that you need to change your approach. 

That could be as simple as chasing engagement based on whatever the popular social platform of the day may be. For instance, Search Engine Land also points out that TikTok’s engagement rates have risen by 5.69% at the same time as the above declines have taken place – a sure sign that the platform should become a point of focus. Of course, this engagement-chasing approach means your digital agency needs to constantly keep up with what’s happening on all social platforms to invest resources appropriately. 

Then, there’s the going down the retention route. 

Rather than focusing on direct engagement, highlight retention across platforms. Ensure your clients are serving content that educates and entertains – in equal measure – so you can highlight that your agency retains followers across these declining platforms even as others lose them. 

Declining Trend 3 – Following Google’s Advice for PPC 

Who better than Google itself to tell you what’s going wrong with your pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns? 

That seems to be the logic Google has followed in recent years, as it’s taken to having human reps call the people overseeing ad campaigns to provide advice. How altruistic, you may think. Surely, Google wouldn’t have any ulterior motives for bombarding you (or your client) with calls about what you could do “better” with your ad campaigns. 

Of course, any digital agency owner or employee who’s received some of these calls can detect the sarcasm in the above statements. 

The problem is that so many of a Google rep’s recommendations come from the company’s own “best practices” list for the quarter. Worse yet, following that advice blindly will cost your agency – it often leads to automated changes to your ad budgets, audience targeting, and keyword choices. You may find yourself spending more on campaigns than you want or, worse yet, investing money into altered campaigns that are now reaching the wrong people. 

Here’s what you need to remember: 

Google gains around 80% of its revenue from its online advertising arm. 

That revenue doesn’t all come from successful and perfectly optimized campaigns. Much of what a Google rep might tell you in a PPC-related phone call is designed to pressure you into saying “yes” to changes your campaign doesn’t need. 

So, what is the declining trend here? 

Though the rate of calls you’re receiving may go up, your agency should trend toward ignoring what Google recommends when its reps get in touch. 

What Should You Do? 

It can be tough to ignore a Google rep, especially if you have clients who jointly own their PPC accounts with you. 

They’re probably getting the same calls, and they may assume that if Google’s saying it, then their campaigns need to change. 

Your task is straightforward – only make changes based on what the data tells you. 

Maintaining a healthy degree of skepticism is easier when you have data to back up your account choices. That’s not to say a Google recommendation is always wrong. Far from it. But if the data is telling you differently, move away from automatically making changes whenever you get the Google call. 

Declining Trend 4 – The Role of the Mid-Level SEO 

In an industry that’s changing constantly, there’s no aspect that’s as volatile in the digital agency space as search engine optimization (SEO). In 2023 alone, Google made nine core changes to its search algorithm, as well as introducing AI into the space – the Search Generative Experience is becoming a common feature on the front page of results. 

It’s that mention of AI that leads to the final declining trend: 

The importance of the role of mid-level SEOs in your agency. 

In May 2024, New Design Group shared data suggesting that the number of adverts for SEO positions declined by a staggering 37% during the first quarter of 2024 compared to the same period in 2023. 

Mid-level roles bore the brunt of that decline. 

AI automation shoulders some of the blame for this shift in demand, with many digital agencies now leveraging AI to complete routine tasks that a mid-level SEO may have done for clients in the past. There also appears to be a shift in what agency owners expect from their candidates – an entry-level SEO is often expected to have an understanding of search principles as deep as that of somebody with several years of experience. 

What Should You Do? 

It all comes down to your digital agency. 

The tendrils of AI are creeping into every business, with your task being to figure out how to use it to optimize without stripping away key components of your SEO offering. There’s a balance to strike here – particularly between the cost of AI and its uses versus the equivalent cost of an in-house professional – and your agency has to adapt. 

The odds are that it may mean either letting go of mid-level SEOs, such as those who report on campaigns, or replacing them with AI to lower costs while keeping reporting standards high. 

Ditch the Decline 

The upshot to understanding where decline is happening in the digital agency space is twofold: 

Not only can you adapt to declining trends to make your agency more effective, but you can optimize toward booming trends because you’ll have more resources. 

Optimization – as is so often the case in the digital space – is key. 

It’s through Function Point that you can optimize your digital agency’s internal operations as you adapt to these declining industry trends. Centralize workflows to find the single source of truth in your agency, analyze data and KPIs, and get real-time staff utilization statistics all through Function Point – the one app you need to grow and manage your agency

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