May 17, 2024

SEO in a Changing World: What AI Means for Your Marketing Strategies

AI is on the lips of everyone these days, and it has caused many of us to question how it is going to affect our future. Seemingly overnight, everyone is using tools like ChatGPT to answer questions, compose content, have philosophical conversations, solve difficult math equations, and even code video games.

Not surprisingly, this has people asking questions like, will AI affect my work? Will it change the way we interact with each other? Will this affect our kid’s education? Will we end up like the Axiom Humans in Wall-E?

One of the areas where this question has become most prevalent is how it will affect our ability to attract people to our businesses online.

Our world has become so reliant on online technologies like websites, social media, digital advertising, and search engines to help the people who need our products and services find us.

With the advent of AI—or more accurately Large Language Models (LLMs)—all these techniques will likely be affected and have become a major focus in the marketing industry.

Looking Back: The History of AI

People have been considering how to use computers to interact with us on a personal level for much longer than you might think. The foundations of AI, as we know it today, go back as far as the 1950s when researchers began considering how computers could be used to naturally process language.

In the 60s, a researcher at MIT floated the idea that this could be accomplished if we had enough data. Skip forward 50 years, and after many companies attempted to refine this process, a company called OpenAI launched a product called ChatGPT to the public.

ChatGPT was able to use nearly 200 billion parameters (i.e. input data) to engage in human-like conversation and automate simple tasks. As ChatGPT has evolved, it can now interpret visual data, decipher human emotion, adapt to certain roles, follow instructions, and write in different styles, voices, and tones. It’s amazing to think that this has all happened in the course of just a few years. ChatGPT and similar tools have grown so fast since those initial experiments, it’s hard to imagine the possibilities AI will have in our lives over the next few years. One thing we can say for certain is that it’s not going anywhere, anytime soon.

What Is 0-Click Search?

It’s worth stepping away from the AI conversation for a moment to understand the way search engines, like Google or Bing, have been adapting their software to focus on providing results to our search queries without a user ever having to click on a website—which has been the standard decades. This is nothing new. For several years, Google has been experimenting with this type of search.

In other words, search engines like Google aim to provide the most accurate and timely information to their users with the least effort possible (without them ever needing to leave the search engine itself).

Examples of 0-Click Search

Have you ever noticed when you search for something that your search engine often provides answers or the information you need, without you having to visit a website or access a second page? This is a 0-click search. A few examples of 0-click search in action are as follows.

Direct Answers

Featured Snippets

Knowledge Panels

Voice Search Answers

Meet Search Generative Experience (SGE)

With search engines already investing so much energy into making sure that information is as accessible as possible, AI seems like the perfect marriage. Bing’s Co-pilot search function is a great example of this. Search for a long tail keyword like “What is the best way to advertise my small business?” in Bing, click on the Co-pilot button (which is conveniently located in the previous search button location), and ChatGPT will provide a detailed answer using AI, within its current parameters. This is called Search Generative Experience or SGE.

AI has been running “under the hood” for a while now. All the experiences listed above would not be possible without the help of an AI engine. SGE takes this to the next level. Imagine taking all the 0-click options listed above and combining them to create a search engine that you can communicate with directly, that accurately answers your questions, provides suggestions, and even helps you with your job.

As of three months ago, according to Google, with the help of generative AI in search, people can:

Make progress easily, by asking conversational follow-ups or trying suggested next steps.
Since this initial white paper, AI can now do far more than this. If you haven’t explored ChatGPT, Google Gemini, or any of the other AI-powered resources we have at our disposal, you really should.

With current AI programs, you can create music, art, software code, and a host of other things that would’ve taken hours, days, or even months to create two years ago. The author recently created a song about “monkey socks in the style of Bruno Mars” as a joke for his wife, and, honestly, it’s incredibly well made. It created lyrics and background music in a matter of minutes. That’s a silly example, but the author used AI to help fix his son’s bicycle the other day by asking it diagnostic questions until he had figured out and addressed the problem. I had a debate with it about a divisive topic by asking it to take one side while I took the other—it wasn’t as nuanced as debating another person, but it was surprisingly illuminating.

I know at this point, you’re thinking, “Well, that’s great. It can make monkey songs and fix bikes, but what will this mean for my business?”

What Does AI + 0-Click Mean for My Website?

There are many pros and cons when we think about what SGE might mean for our business’s digital presence, especially when it comes to your website. As with 0-click search results, AI will (likely) have to cite its sources. For instance, if you search for a specific query and the information is provided in a knowledge panel, Google is required to tell you where the information came from. This means that the more authoritative and trustworthy your website is, the more likely it is to use your data in its search engine.

Here are a few pros and cons to consider as our digital world changes.

Future Pros

Increased Visibility

Appearing in 0-click search features like knowledge panels, featured snippets, or voice search answers can get your brand in front of users even if they don’t click through to your website.

Branding and Trust

Being highlighted in search engine features such as knowledge panels or AI chat builds trust and establishes you as a thought leader. As mentioned above, search engines only highlight the info they consider the most trustworthy and applicable to the user’s search. Being cited as a source amplifies your brand’s credibility.

Off-Page Engagement

As search engines evolve, so do other digital platforms. Things like social media and digital advertising will likely become more important for getting in front of people who wish to engage with your business’s products or services. With the advent of AI tools, these platforms will be able to better serve the people you are looking to attract to your website and filter out those who aren’t.

Improved User Experience

While this may not impact your business’s marketing efforts directly, it’s important to understand that providing quick, accurate answers in search engines can satisfy user intent and improve their overall experience. This is a step in the right direction, and we all need to understand that these tools will provide future value that impacts us all. It’s important to stay on the cutting edge of new technologies like AI to better understand how you can use them to improve your business and its offerings.

Future Cons

Several fears are associated with 0-click SEO and AI, stemming from the potential decrease in website traffic and the challenges it presents for measuring success. Here are a few key concerns:

Traffic Loss

Measurement and Attribution

Control and Dependence

Future Uncertainty

While these fears are valid, it’s important to remember that these changes also present seemingly unlimited opportunities. By adapting your approach and focusing on providing valuable content that aligns with user intent, you can still benefit from search engine visibility and brand awareness, helping to future-proof your business.

Stick to the Fundamentals for Your Website’s SEO

One of the great things about search engine optimization is that the basic premises and goals of search engines have changed little over the past years, and while it may look different in the coming years, it’s unlikely that providing the best experience for their users is going to change in the future.

The fundamentals of SEO remain just that. Here are the recommendations for your company’s SEO, as we adapt to the changing landscape of digital technologies.

Target Appropriate Keywords

A focus on keywords with high informational intent and potential for 0-click or AI features. Search engines are driven by search queries. Ensuring your keywords match those queries is key to enhancing your website’s SEO, and to do that, you need to know what your users are searching for. Using top-of-the-line software tools and analytics can help identify these keywords and get your business in front of the right audience.

Optimize Content for Clarity and Conciseness

Provide clear, concise answers in your content that directly address user queries. When Google is looking for an answer to include in its knowledge panel or Bing is looking for an answer to provide in its chatbot, this will help your business’s content to be at the top of the list.

Use Structured Data Markup

Implementing schema markup to help search engines understand your content will increase your chances of appearing in features like rich snippets or frequently asked question sections.

Create High-Quality Visuals

Eye-catching images and videos can grab attention and make your content stand out in updated search engine features like shopping panels or maps. In addition to this, using quality images in recommended formats can help ensure that your images are on the top of the pile.

Optimize for Voice Search

As voice search grows, ensure your content is optimized for natural language questions and conversational tone. This will also help AI determine the voice and tone of your business and use it in the correct scenarios.

Promote Brand Awareness

Build a strong brand presence across multiple channels to encourage users to seek you out directly, even if they don’t find you in a search engine.

Ensure that Your Website is Technically Sound

As search engines tend to prefer websites that provide a good user experience, it’s important to make sure your website is fast and smooth, contains important information like meta-descriptions and alt-text, and complies with accessibility guidelines.

Remember, SEO is a dynamic landscape. Adapt your approach based on the latest trends and stay focused on providing valuable content that meets user needs, whether they click on your business or not.

While following fundamental digital marketing practices for the future—like creating great content focused on keywords related to the search intent you wish to address, investing in ads, staying active in social media and networking communities, and ensuring you are operating a technically sound website—there are currently still many ways that this could change in the future.

This is why it’s important to have a partner that ensures you show up at the top of the fold for your audience’s specific queries, regardless of the way technology is being used.

Trust PHOS with the Future of Your Business

Many of the items listed above might seem a little daunting, especially as rapidly as our digital world is changing. Most owners don’t have the time to address every part of their business, and marketing is one of the areas that tend to get overlooked. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back.

PHOS is an award-winning agency that focuses on strategic consulting, branding, web design, digital marketing, photography, and videography. We’re committed to a long-term partnership with you that focuses on authentic, future-proof growth, accountability, and a lot of fun. We stay up-to-date on all the latest trends in search engines and AI and ensure our partners are on the cutting edge of their industry. Ready to grow your business in this changing world? Contact us today!

Chad Wolcott

Chad utilizes his diverse background in sales and marketing to help our customers win. As a Search Marketing Specialist, Chad marries his love for telling incredible digital stories and his strong focus on results to help clients increase the metrics that matter. As the son of a successful small business owner, one of his greatest passions is serving the local business community.

When not in the office you’ll find Chad spending time with his family, volunteering at church, or in the “woods and water” around Gainesville with a fishing pole, kayak paddle, shovel, or maybe even chainsaw in hand. Chad has a love for the outdoors and would love to talk your ear off about subjects like horticulture and agroforestry, if prompted.