Is the era of traditional Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) coming to an end? Let’s take a look at the current state of SEO now that AI (Artificial Intelligence) has come into play.
How is AI impacting Search Results?
AI is transforming search results by directly providing answers to queries right there in the search results. This reduces the need for users to click through to one or more websites to get an answer to their question.
This dilutes the impact of optimised meta-descriptions and SEO optimised titles on your website pages. The search engines will bypass all of that and simply show one or more answers to the users question. This enhances efficiency and user experience, making information access quicker and more intuitive.
The biggest fear for SEO and Paid Ads
Potentially, AI results will encourage users to bypass paid ads and costly efforts by websites to improve their organic SEO ranking. This threatens entire industries of Google ad professionals, SEO experts and digital marketing professionals.
Essentially it means that humans will lose a significant ability to influence search engines and will be at the mercy of AI algorithms. But don’t worry, there are many out there trying to figure out how to ‘game’ every new change that comes into play!
Bing is taking the lead with AI
Microsoft Bing has been the first search engine to roll out AI integration to change how search results are displayed. While Google has used AI technology in their algorithms to analyse and understand the content of webpages, but this has not translated into changing the format of search results in the way that Bing has. You can expect this to change very soon.
Now all eyes are on Microsoft as they release Copilot which promises to provide AI Assistance across its integrated software platforms such as WORD, Excel, Outlook, Teams etc… This is an exciting development – and will be HUGE – but slightly off topic for this article.
Back to the current Bing search results. Despite being a leader in AI integration with search results, Bing has been unable to make a dent in the search engine domination of Google. But, and it Is a huge but, Copilot has an opportunity to make stronger inroads into this market. 2024 will see some exciting announcements and software rollouts.
What is Google doing to keep up with advances in AI?
Google currently has their Search Generative Experience (SGE) in Beta with user feedback providing input to optimising the new approach.
Essentially it is expected that the changes to the search results will be similar to what Bing has delivered. That is, Google will deliver best answers as determined by AI as the top results.
Users will have the choice to accept this answer or to dig into the search results to find out more. They will also have the choice to click thru on ads. Up to now, organic results have always had higher click-thru than ads. It remains to be seen whether AI results will be trusted as the correct answer or whether users choose to do their own research. The prevailing school of thought is that most websites will experience a decrease in organic traffic. In addition, those not ranking in the top three in search results already, may struggle to get any real estate on the page with so much going on – AI content, Google ads, map pack, People also ask, etc…
Watch this space. This is the biggest change coming to Google since its inception.
What does this mean for SEO? Is SEO dead or dying?
All the smart SEO experts around the world are staunchly defending the ongoing need for SEO. However, and it is a big however, there is no doubt the landscape is changing, and at a rapid pace.
I have gone to the market and read a tonne of articles and watched endless Youtube videos to see what some of the major players in the SEO industry have to say. Yes, I know I am a nerd, but I love it. I have done the legwork, and you get to enjoy my take on what is going on. Thank me later.
Let’s learn what they are doing about the rapidly changing online world of AI and SEO.
The AI Revolution in SEO
Firstly, let’s start with Neil Patel. In the early days of SEO, Neil Patel was a dominant player (still is!) and a key influencer with many in the industry learning from him. Neil is a leading figure in digital marketing and is known for breaking down complex digital strategies into simply bite-sized pieces.
In his recent articles and Youtube videos, Patel discusses how AI is reshaping the way content is created and ranked. He emphasises that while organic traffic may decrease due to AI’s efficiency in content creation, the fundamentals of SEO, such as high-quality content, remain crucial.
Will Google let go of their market share? Not likely.
In addition, he also argues that Google has a significant stake in ensuring that SEO remains relevant, and that Google remains a dominate search engine (Google’s market share is estimated at a whopping 91.55% of search traffic, Bing is just 3.11% as at late 2023).
Patel makes a very strong point that Google will not let go of their dominant position in the market without a fight. They earn billions in ad revenue and will not let that go easily.
In fact, Google confirms this “we believe that ads are a vital piece of how the web works, and help people find relevant products and services. Search ads will continue to appear in dedicated ad slots throughout the page.”
SEO Experts Worldwide
Matt Diggity, SEO expert and CEO of Diggity Marketing, recognises the seismic shift brought about by AI in SEO. Diggity hosts the annual SEO conference in Thailand where the world’s leading SEO professionals gather to discuss all things SEO.
He notes that AI has changed SEO forever. BUT. He also asserts that SEO is NOT going anywhere anytime soon. He highlights the efficiency gains in content creation through AI tools, suggesting a transformation rather than an extinction of SEO practices.
Google Algorithm Updates and Quality Content
At the recent SEO Conference in Chang Mai, SEO experts were interviewed about their take on SEO moving forward and their comments published on YouTube. Some voiced concerns about the Google algorithm updates (that is a whole other topic) and how that had impacted traffic and this generated a lot of discussion.
When it came to AI, the overwhelming school of thought was that ‘content is king’. That is, if you are providing good quality content that matches the search intent of users, then you will continue to get traffic.
This strategy is the dominant approach with all SEO professionals who continue to chase the concept of ‘topical authority’ as their primary SEO strategy. In layman’s terms, topical authority essentially means providing a strong body of content on your website related to your subject matter. In doing so, search engines will have no choice but to see you as an expert in your field and rank your content.
They all agree that quality content is key. They issue a warning to those publishing a large quantity of AI generated content. Your site will not do well if the content is not providing value for users. Quality will always win out over quantity.
The Role of AI in Modern SEO
HubSpot’s blog provides valuable insights into how AI content is being used in SEO. They list various AI tools that assist in paraphrasing, content creation and improving search rankings.
However, they also caution about the potential risks of AI-generated content in search rankings, suggesting a need for a balanced approach and again mention the need for quality content.
What does the Biggest SEO Tool on the Planet have to say?
Ahrefs, arguably with world’s leading SEO tool, discusses the implications of AI on content quality and cost. They argue that AI lowers the cost of content creation but also raise concerns about the potential decrease in content quality, emphasizing the need for a strategic blend of AI and human input.
Retain a Quality Focus and Avoid old techniques such as Keyword Stuffing
With a plethora of content being spewed out of AI tools, the increase in poor quality content is currently experiencing exponential growth.
Google releases algorithm updates regularly throughout the year and are focusing more and more on rewarding HELPFUL and QUALITY content.
Playing a ‘keyword stuffing’ game on your website – which was a popular SEO technique in the past – has led many websites to be hit by recent Google updates and their traffic has tanked as a result. Let this be a warning. While AI helps you produce content FAST, it is still your responsibility to ensure that the quality of the content is helping potential users and not just contributing to the volume of rubbish content online.
My take on the future of SEO?
SEO in a traditional sense will still be essential. In fact, websites without SEO will fade away into oblivion. Ranking in search results in the future will be much more complex and much more competitive. Traditional SEO will not be enough to guarantee results. Quality content will be required.
Search engines are already devaluing websites and content that has been created with the sole purpose of ranking and instead is valuing content that is helpful and satisfying the users search intent. Leveraging the power of AI, poor quality sites already are getting punished with significantly less traffic than they once enjoyed. Quality content is the key to maintaining web traffic.
The Human Element
While AI brings efficiency and new capabilities, the human element in SEO remains irreplaceable. Creativity, empathy and ethical judgment are aspects where humans still outperform AI.
Balancing AI’s analytical ability with human creativity and ethical considerations will be the hallmark of successful SEO strategies in the future. When reviewing any piece of content, personalise it with your own experiences and ideas.
One technique championed by many SEO professionals, is to look for the highest-ranking piece of content in your niche, then engineer your next piece of content based on that. I think this is bad advice. Have you ever searched for an answer to something on Google, only to find the top 10 search results all say pretty much say the same thing? This is why. They are all cloning each other. Hopefully as search engines and AI integration matures, original thought will be better rewarded. As such, my advice is to start now. Create original, human content with thoughts, ideas and real-world examples.
SEO will remain important but will be different
AI has not killed SEO; rather, it has transformed it. The future of SEO in the AI era is not about choosing between AI and traditional methods but about integrating them to create more dynamic, efficient and effective strategies.
In the financial world they say ‘Cash is King’. In the digital world ‘Content is King’. Quality content is essential, and it is clear that quality content will drive the future of SEO. With AI enabling the faster production of content, it remains to be seen whether sites with a large volume of AI content will thrive or dive in search results. There will be winners and losers and it is clear that the winners will be those that have ensured their content is genuinely trying to help customers.
Diversify your marketing
With so much volatility in the online world, it is a good idea to ensure your marketing has an omnichannel approach to that you are not reliant on a single source of new work/customers. For local businesses, traditional methods of marketing such as offline marketing (flyers, sponsoring community events, networking, etc..) may become important.
What is the future for Small Business Online?
One of my key concerns is that AI and search engine algorithms will squash out the small websites. Large companies and big brands will thrive as they have the resources to consistently create new content to feed the search engine beasts.
Smaller businesses and niche websites may struggle to compete. In fact, many bloggers world-wide and currently bemoaning the significant loss in traffic from the latest Google updates. This could be just the start. Once SGE is rolled out in 2024 it will be interesting to see who wins and who loses.
At Mrs. Bloggs, we specialise in elevating your online presence through tailor-made SEO services, comprehensive content strategies, and personalised digital coaching. We understand the unique challenges faced by tradies in the digital landscape and are here to guide you through, ensuring you harness the full potential of online marketing to drive business growth.
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