Google’s and Bing’s embrace of generative AI will transform search engine optimization.
A May 10, 2023, announcement from Google featured the company’s new AI-powered search. The examples addressed shopping and buying intent queries, noting that Google would tap its shopping graph with over 35 billion product listings.
While this shopping-related announcement drew much attention from the ecommerce community, a second point is clear: search engine optimization is changing.
Googles search engine has focused on text since its inception in the late 1990s. You could certainly find videos, particularly from the company’s YouTube platform, but now with generative AI, search results might include “other experiences with more perspectives.”
“When you search for something that might benefit from the experiences of others, you may see a Perspectives filter appear at the top of search results,” wrote Google Search product manager Lauren Clack. “Tap the filter, and you’ll exclusively see long- and short-form videos, images, and written posts that people have shared on discussion boards, Q&A sites, and social media platforms.”
Put another way, “You can no longer put SEO in a silo,” stated Krista Doyle, the SEO manager for Jasper, the AI writing company.
SEO has to expand to include content beyond blogs and websites. The practice will need to extend to social, groups and forums, public relations, and perhaps word-of-mouth marketing since AI search engines will likely consider all of these sources.
Not Dead but Different
I suggested in February 2023 that AI would not kill SEO but change it. The recent announcement from Google seems to support that conclusion. Optimizing a web page for prominent search engine rankings is not dying; it is adapting.
It follows from what search optimizers have experienced for decades: Change is constant.
The generative AI evolution in search should impact strategies across ecommerce — retail, DTC, B2B. The main impact could be a shift from keyword-centric rankings to a more holistic approach that prioritizes relevance and user intent — i.e., answer engine optimization — combined with broad content strategies.
Answer Engine Optimization
AEO seeks to help a site rank on platforms that answer queries, such as voice-activated assistants, AI chats, virtual assistants, and now generative AI search.
This SEO variation is not new. It aligns with what many enterprises do already when pinpointing their prospects’ questions and providing responses in a format understandable to AI natural language processors.
For instance, ChatGPT communicates with users in a dialog. It’s popular owing to its ability to comprehend human questions. As such, websites that optimize for ChatGPT tend to focus on natural language queries instead of keywords or specific entities. It’s similar to optimizing for voice search.
Thus AEO isn’t new but a shift.
AEO tactics should be effective in the era of generative AI search, at least initially.
When it includes “new perspectives in search,” Google presumably embraces the massive creator community.
Content creators on YouTube, TikTok, and more have amassed large and loyal followers, which Google and other search engines have not indexed. But these sources appear in a video Googe included in its generative AI search announcement.
Hence SEO managers will likely collaborate with their influencer marketing colleagues to hire TikTokers and their ilk to produce “new perspective” content.
But SEO managers could eventually assert their own influence and create content on social platforms that drive AI search.
Regardless, creator-like social content could become key to content marketing and SEO.
A final AI-driven change to SEO could be traffic quality. Jasper’s Doyle wrote, “Low- or zero-click searches have been here for a while thanks to search-result features like featured snippets and ‘People also ask,’ but Bard could reduce click-through rates even more.”
“Reduced traffic doesn’t necessarily mean reduced returns if the traffic converts,” Doyle continued. “While traditional conversion rate optimization efforts focus more on big money pages and sign-up flows, we’ll see many SEOs and content marketers start to use CRO tactics to ensure their content is performing and readers are taking the intended action.”