Adapting to Google’s AI: Predictions from a Seasoned SEO

In AI, Matt's Musings, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) by Matt Chiera1 Comment

In the constantly evolving world of online search, Google continues to push boundaries by leveraging the power of artificial intelligence (AI). In Google’s I/O 2023 presentation, they showcased the latest iteration of Google’s generative AI-enabled search (ahem, question-and-answer) engine. How will these changes impact SEO and the practitioners who use it to drive brand awareness, leads, and sales?

The SEO role will evolve to SEO + CRO + PR.

It’s likely that many websites will see a decrease in organic traffic, especially in the in-between time when Google’s AI chatbot becomes standard in Google, but before optimization strategies for AI become apparent. Therefore, I predict that SEOs will need to shift into more of a conversion-rate optimization (CRO) role in addition to SEO.

When faced with reduced organic traffic, it becomes paramount for marketers to make every visitor count. This is where the SEO + CRO role comes into play. SEOs will need to broaden their skill set and delve into areas such as web design, development, and testing. SEOs will need to become well-versed in user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design and evolve into well-rounded digital strategists who drive both traffic and conversions.

In terms of link building, the old ways are going the way of the dodo bird. There will be a significant shift away from mass link-building and towards digital PR – leveraging PR tactics such as media outreach, content partnerships, and thought leadership initiatives to build links and online brand visibility. Link quality will become even more important than quantity. Which leads me to my next point…

Brand building will be more important than ever.

Gone will be the days of someone searching for “chicago intellectual property lawyer” and then clicking a link from a firm that wrote a high-ranking “10 Ways to Find the Best Chicago Intellectual Property Lawyer” article on the search engine results page (SERP). Companies are going to have to rely more on feet-on-the-ground marketing tactics like attending events and networking as a means to drive people to their website via direct traffic, referrals, PR, paid campaigns, or branded search.

Offline website traffic drivers like QR codes are going to come roaring back into style. Now that they can’t rely as heavily on organic traffic from mid- and low-value content and backlinks, brands will need to do a better job than ever of connecting offline and online. 

The significance of Google Ads will increase.

Now that organic links will be buried even further down in the SERP, or simply as a source for the “AI snapshot,” it only makes sense that Google will give even more prominence to paid ads. In Google’s I/O 2023 tech demo, ads were one of the very few elements presented above the fold after a searcher’s query. Especially for informational content like resources and guides, which is info that a user will be able to view directly from the AI snapshot, I think there’s going to be a shift where companies are going to need to pay for the privilege of showing somewhere in the SERP, when before they might have shown organically.

Or, Google Ads may even roll out new features so that companies can try to gain greater visibility within the AI’s source of information for a query, or maybe as an alternative source of information for a query in lieu of the AI’s response. I could absolutely see Google requiring companies to pay even more for the privilege of appearing somewhere in SERP, especially because there will simply be fewer links to choose from.

The great culling of low-quality content (and low-value AI-generated content).

Organically, there will be a great culling of low-quality content, even more than there has been in previous algorithm updates like the Helpful Content Update in 2022. If Google’s AI is answering a question, it wants to pull information from the best possible source. Often, this will likely be large reputable publications and highly-credible sources like academic websites. However, I do think this presents an interesting opportunity (and challenge) for smaller organizations.

Example of the SERP for a Google Generative AI query. Image Source: Google

They will need to shift away from providing low and mid-grade quality content for SEO to truly providing the best information that exists anywhere on the Internet on their website, or else there isn’t even the slightest chance of Google’s AI pulling info from their website and crediting them as a source. Also, I think there will be a shift away from more general posts about high-level topics (which constitutes much of the AI-generated content you see nowadays) and towards answering very specific industry-related questions that users are asking right now. Which leads me to my thoughts on timeliness…

For on-site content, timeliness and accuracy will be crucial.

Up-to-date, accurate content will become more important than ever for SEO. Google is releasing a new feature called Search Generative Experience (SGE for short). The goal is to provide highly-accurate answers for precise multi-tiered Q&A-type searches. For example, if someone queries “What’s the best vacation destination for a family of four with a budget of $6000 in Europe and one of the children is celiac and one is just turning 2 years old?” Then, once Google answers the initial question, the user could follow up with “How about locations specifically in Italy, where we wouldn’t need to rent a car?” The information that Google provides for this type of multi-query string needs to come from somewhere.

Sample Google AI Q&A query. Image Source: Google.

It also needs to take into account what happening right now. For example, it might not want to recommend an area where service workers are currently on strike, but it would need to know up-to-date info in order to parse that information for the AI. Companies will need to be very detailed in their on-site content, and importantly, very timely. Stale content with more general or outdated information will see its visibility in Google plummet. 

New AI-focused website schema for technical SEO.

It only seems like a matter of time before Google releases a new set of structured data markups that SEOs will need to include in their website to cater to AI. Google’s AI will need to pull information from somewhere, and it seems only logical that they would provide a framework for SEOs and developers to mark up their website content so that the AI can easily parse the content and determine whether or not it’s appropriate for the AI to incorporate it into a response.

Example of new product listing in Google SERP. Image Source: Google.

This will present an interesting opportunity for technical SEOs. I could see a spike in demand for technical SEOs and developers with SEO experience to re-optimize websites to cater to the new rules of AI.

What do you think? Am I on the money? Totally off from what you’re expecting? Let me know in the comments below.

About the Author

Matt Chiera

Matt Chiera is Founder & Principal Consultant at Ice Nine Online. Since forming the company in 2014, he’s helped Ice Nine Online’s clients generate millions of dollars in revenue from digital marketing. Matt taught digital marketing strategy and tactics at the Tribeca School’s Digital Professional Institute. Matt’s book “Digital Marketers Sound Off” has been ranked as the #1 book in the Web Marketing category on Amazon.

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