In the past few months, the world of digital marketing has been shaken up with the arrival of artificial intelligence into search engines. There have been rapid changes to Google and Bing, and digital marketers like us are scrambling to reformulate services to ensure our customers are protected.
To this end, we have been doing some in depth research on the changes and it appears that there are significant threats coming, but also significant opportunities.
Threats – AI chatbots in search
Search engine optimisation has never been a walk in the park, but now we have the added challenge from what is seen as not only the biggest shake up of search engines but possibly the biggest leap forward since the invention of the smartphone, or even the computer. Some predictors are even more extreme than that (and gloomy). Artificial Intelligence.
When ChatGPT landed, it was clear pretty quickly that there was the potential for it to severely impact online search behaviour. In fact, coincidentally, Google’s share price dropped significantly around that time.
Google responded to this challenge with its own AI beastie, Google Bard, and digital marketers could see that massive percentages of search traffic could potentially be stolen by these bots.
However, since then, things have developed even further still. That’s not to say chatbots wont steal your traffic but Google has been working to incorporate AI into its main search results and somehow find a compromise. On the face of it, a silver lining. But not for everyone.
Hot on the heels of Bing’s new layout, Google announced a brand new search results page layout and it involves a bit of AI, some ads, even some social content. There will be continued incorporation of new technologies too eg 3D graphics too. Let’s face it, it’s going to be pretty cool and and quantum leap from what we have now. You just need to embrace it!
SGE and Microsoft Bing
Bing was the first to incorporate AI directly into its search engine results pages (SERPS). This was only a couple of months ago. Already, it’s now made it an integral part of its browser Microsoft Edge, which ships with and is the default browser for Windows. That is a massive potential audience.
It is absolutely vital to get into this space as only a small percentage are going to keep searching beyond this question.
Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) uses artificial intelligence to generate summaries of search results. SGE is currently in beta and is only available to a limited number of users.
When you search for something using SGE, Google will generate a summary of the top results and display it at the top of the search results page. The summary will include a brief overview of the topic, as well as links to the original sources.
With both Bing and SGE, it seems to imply that AI won’t steal ALL the glory, but there is still a threat based on the sources that Google and Bing chooses.
The featured websites are going to get pulled into prime search ‘real estate’ and others will be left in a wasteland.
Initial research seems to show that these ‘featured source’ sites are the ones with the highest domain authority or pages with the highest page authority. Domain authority is calculated by a number of factors, but a big part is the website’s link profile, and this is reliant on the quality and usefulness of the content on the site.
Big companies tend to have huge content resources and lots of high-quality links to them, so inevitably they could gain an advantage.
This theory is also reinforced by how Google’s other new, AI powered search tool, Google Bard, works.
Opportunities in an AI-lien landscape
Great content has always done the business when it comes to SEO. It may not immediately lead to a sale but, in most cases, it’s a great introduction to the top of the sales funnel. The importance of this type of content has exponentially increased with the arrival of AI. Useful, well constructed content attracts traffic and is more likely to be linked to, have a growing page authority and therefore likely to be ‘chosen’ by AI and featured as a reference point in the new SGE / AI driven search world.
In short, to win this new space, the content has to be that bit better than your average blog post.
How good does content have to be to win the AI battle?
One of the first consequences of AI assistants was the rise in quick content, predominantly created by overseas spammers of content – those who make private blog networks (PBNs) etc – and this has led to even more pages competing for page 1.
Just writing a few hundred words is not going to cut it anymore – anyone can do it. Why should someone link to it or share it on social, or discuss and share it on a forum?
If you start to add in additional media, it becomes more interesting, engaging and informative. Graphs and other forms of data-driven media help reinforce the factual side of these articles and are an improvement to just text and stock images, but they really need to look great and ideally be branded so, if they are shared or plagiarised, your brand is all over it.
The next step up is video. Obviously, it is already massive as an additional form of media and its going to keep growing. But, for the B2B space, it has to be excellently made and look TV standard these days, in order to get the big visit numbers.
Because of this, it is highly competitive. Still well worth doing but the effort that needs to go into it could be prohibitive.
Google search perspectives
So, to stand out in the new Google and Bing, content needs to be really useful, great to look at and engage with. But, not only will you attract more links and shares, the content will get discussed more on forums and social media. This is going to be more important than ever with the new Google as it brings in something called Perspectives. https://blog.google/products/search/google-search-perspectives/
This will pull in user comments, short videos, people’s comments about your brand etc right INTO the search results. The more we can get people talking about your content and products (positively), the more exposure you will have on the Google results page.
New forms of media – XR
Integrating XR (Extended Reality) technologies into your website can enhance your content by providing more interactive and immersive experiences for your users. The 3D and 360-degree tech has been gradually getting bigger since 2020 but, based on Google’s new marketing tools, its set to be vital this year and going into 2024.
What if I’m looking to buy an expensive piece of machinery? I want to know as much about the product as I can, if I’m planning to buy it online. I’d like as near to a physical purchasing experience as possible.
If there was an option to see the product more thoroughly, and I could control the viewing angle, even ‘pull the cover off’ to see how it works, do you think this would increase the likelihood of a purchase? Google and other major players are betting it would – some reports range between 19% and 250% increase in conversion.
For an example, look at the engine towards the top of this XR agency page. It can be controlled by the visitor, looked at in detail at all angles, test different colour schemes and even ‘exploded’ to see how its put together.
The 3D element is going to be a feature in Google’s search results (its already started) and the more of this content there is on your website, the more you will stand out from the competition. Have a look at https://support.google.com/displayvideo/answer/9309834?hl=en.
Using XR to give a more real experience of products is great but what about creating the shareable, linkable, reference content we discussed earlier? More engaging and informative content can be created that encourages users to interact with the imagery and even recommend related products. For this EV supplier, we found an interesting way of displaying their products and how they fit in the workings of an EV car.
The AI Universe is nothing to be scared of…..yet!
Who knows what AI will be capable of 5, 10, 20 years time? But in the short term, AI powered search engines are nothing to be afraid of. They will still reward hard work and creativity, just as they always have. The sea of AI generated content will wither on the vine – Google has no interest in rewarding mediocrity – so to win the new search landscape, all you need do is boldly go that one step further.