AI-Powered Search: How to future-proof your SEO strategy

9 August 2023
7 minutes

In short

Digital marketing has always been a rapidly changing, trend-driven industry, and marketers are often among the first professionals to embrace new technologies. But for many of us, the rise of generative AI feels like more than just a new trend. We’re now working with technology that has the power to completely reshape the digital marketing landscape – especially when it comes to content marketing and SEO strategy.

As algorithms become smarter and language processing capabilities reach unprecedented heights, now’s the time for digital marketers to ask themselves a crucial question: is your SEO strategy still relevant in the age of AI-powered search?

In this blog post, we’ll explore how AI is – and isn’t – impacting SEO, and which of your current strategies may need to be overhauled to help your content stay competitive in the future.

Key takeaways:

  • Generative AI like Google SGE will change the way people access information online, requiring new approaches to SEO.
  • While some SEO tactics will need to change, Google will still prioritise content that is helpful and user-focused.
  • Generative AI presents some new challenges for SEO, but it will also help streamline and modernise many content marketing and SEO activities.
  • The key to futureproofing your content and SEO strategy is to take a content “co-creation” approach, combining the best of AI technology with your brand’s unique knowledge and experience.
Image of maginiying glass with seo ranking written in wooden blocks

Will AI-generated content harm your SEO performance?

Within days of ChatGPT going live in late 2022, digital marketers were already making far-reaching predictions for how this new technology would change our industry. Some were quick to predict the end of marketing as we know it. Others were more sceptical, arguing that bots will never replace human creativity. Maybe the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

In any case, the rise of generative AI has raised a lot of questions about the future of online search. Now that the dust has settled and we’re all getting used to living and working in the world of generative AI, we start to have a clearer view of how this new technology will actually impact SERP rankings and SEO.

AI-generated content will not necessarily rank lower on SERPs

Google has stated on Twitter that AI-generated content will not be treated differently than human-created content. According to a tweet by Google SearchLiaison: “As said before when asked about AI, content created primarily for search engine rankings, however it is done, is against our guidance. If content is helpful & created for people first, that’s not an issue.”

Google’s priority will still be helpfulness and user focus – not SEO

The search giant has always maintained that they are against SEO content in general and that their algorithms are designed to showcase valuable, original, user-focused content. As a digital marketer, you know that your SEO activities still influence how well your content performs on Google.

So, what does this all mean? In short, it doesn’t matter if you’re using generative AI or a team of human copywriters to create your content. The only thing that matters is whether the content is “helpful & created for people first”.

Will chatbots replace Google search as we know it?

Another cause for concern among digital marketers has been Google’s rush to roll out its search chatbot, Bard, in response to ChatGPT’s launch. This left many of us wondering whether SEO would even matter in the near future: if Google’s chatbot starts curating internet content, will there even be such a thing as a SERP?

Google’s recent announcement of the test launch of Search Generative Experience (SGE) has given us all a little more clarity about what the near future of search is going to look like.

Google searches will become more curated – which may cost you some organic traffic

Let’s start with the bad news for digital marketers: SGE will provide a curated “snapshot” whenever a user performs a search. This snapshot is an interactive, AI-generated cluster of information related to the search topic. Within the snapshot, the searcher can ask follow-up questions and interact with Google’s chatbot much in the same way as we are now used to prompting responses from ChatGPT.

What this means is that users can gather much more information about a topic without ever leaving the Google SERP. They can ask for further information and explore the topic in depth without even having to click a link. This means Google SGE could act as a kind of “dam”, blocking the flow of precious organic traffic that would have otherwise flowed onto your website.

There are still ample opportunities to optimise for AI-powered search

Ok, so now the good news: even though SGE might absorb some organic traffic, you still have a chance to increase visibility on Google. For one thing, the test version of SGE that Google has unveiled reveals that the classic SERP will still appear – at least for now. That means many of your existing SEO tactics will still apply.

However, SGE’s snapshot seems likely to replace the featured snippet/ “position zero” portion of the SERP. If you want your content to be featured in this coveted position, you’ll need to start future-proofing your SEO strategy.

Fighting fire with fire

Generative AI like Google’s SGE poses some new SEO challenges for digital marketers. But at the same time: digital marketers can leverage the power of generative AI to overcome many of those challenges.

With the right approach, you can use AI to “fight fire with fire”: to help your content perform even better in the age of AI-powered search.

Here are some approaches that can help you future-proof your SEO strategy:

The right tools for every stage of your content pipeline

In the near future, AI will be able to help you streamline and enhance your SEO content at every stage of your production pipeline. Here are just a few examples:

  • Brainstorming & content ideas: Instead of organising brainstorms with your marketing and product teams, you can use the same tool as your target audiences use to find the answers to their questions: an AI chatbot like Google SGE. Want to know which topics are really relevant? Ask an AI chatbot. Their knowledge is based entirely on the crowd knowledge that is fed into their large language models, so they can provide a surprisingly accurate reflection of what’s on your audience’s mind.
  • Content co-creation: We all know that generative AI tools like ChatGPT can provide a solid first draft based on your prompt. So, feed a detailed outline and briefing into your preferred generative AI tool, and say goodbye to writer’s block. This helps speed up your content creation process and keep things moving. However, in the age of AI search, it will be crucial to take a content “co-creation” approach when using AI to write text (more on this below).
  • Editing and optimisation: Many digital marketers are already used to applying AI-powered tools like Grammarly to edit content and SEMrush, Ahrefs and Google Keyword Planner for keyword research and SEO. These tools will only become better and more valuable to your SEO activities in the future.
People brainstorming about AI-powered search and the impact on SEO strategy

Futureproof SEO strategy: Content co-creation

Using generative AI to get started on a new piece of content only makes sense: it instantly accelerates the process, enabling you to produce more content, faster than ever, even with a small team. But as generative AI tools make it easier for literally anyone to create a reasonably well-written text, the future of SEO will belong to those who still know how to stand out from the crowd. That’s why we advocate a content co-creation approach. Here’s what we mean by that:

AI-generated text is “average by nature”

Since AI chatbots are only capable of replicating text that already exists, the results they produce are based on a statistical overview of what seems to be relevant for any given topic. If you’ve ever used a generative AI chatbot to write an email or blog post, you probably know exactly what we’re talking about: the text is never “terrible” but it’s also never really “fantastic”. It avoids these extremes and tends to the middle: it is generic, superficial, unoriginal and thoroughly “average.”

But as a digital marketer, you know that “average” content does not win the SEO game. And Google has made it clear that they will always prioritise content that is helpful and user-focused. So, to elevate average AI-generated content to a valuable, SEO-friendly asset, it’s going to be more important than ever to showcase your brand’s unique knowledge, human experience and creativity.

Google’s algorithms still prioritise unique, human insights

Despite its abrupt shift towards generative AI as a way of providing information, Google has made clear that it will still prioritise content that demonstrates expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T). It has recently updated that classic formula to include another e: “experience”.

Love it or hate it, Google is doing everything it can to raise the quality of online content. It’s not necessarily filtering out AI content, but it is looking for the kind of content that AI alone cannot create: content based on unique human insights and experiences. This is another reason why content co-creation is the smart approach.

Infographic on how to employ AI to entice content production

Use AI to amplify your unique knowledge

While AI is a powerful digital marketing tool, it’s not a replacement for your own knowledge and experience. In the future, the most visible brands on Google will be ones who use AI to amplify their unique knowledge. Generative AI will speed up your content production and make it easier to repurpose and refresh your existing content. Just remember to use AI-generated content as a platform for showcasing what makes your brand unique and special. You’ll only be able to achieve that with a content co-creation approach.

Adapting to the new age of SEO

As you’ve seen, generative AI has already changed the way digital marketers produce content. It is also changing the way people access information via online search. New platforms like Google’s SGE snapshot will require an all-new approach to SEO.

At the same time, there is no replacement for original, knowledgeable, experience-based content. This type of content will continue to dominate the internet, even in the age of AI. To achieve the best results, leverage the power of AI, but take a content co-creation approach that puts your brand’s uniqueness in the spotlight.

The digital marketing world is changing faster than ever, don’t embark on this transformative journey unguided! We are happy to help, reach out to our content advisors for tailored advice!

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