Aug 11, 2023
When voice-enabled search features were first introduced, many thought this new way of using search engines would become the next digital frontier for search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search (PPC). However, that didn’t come to pass.
With voice search, one glaring limitation would prevent it from meaningfully competing against text-based searches: privacy. Speaking into your phone requires you to audibly enter your query into the search engine. If you want to ask Google or Bing something confidentially, you are not always able to with voice features.
Sure, voice searches are fine for asking where to find a nearby restaurant. However, they could easily prove the less-preferred option for questions of a more sensitive nature like seeking medical, financial, or legal information.
This year, Microsoft’s Bing transformed the search engine landscape by introducing Bing AI. Instead of entering a query and letting an algorithm compile its best guess, a sophisticated artificial intelligence model actively searches the internet for the most up-to-date information that answers your questions, all while compressing the information into a concise response with links to websites for the users to read further.
The craziest part? Microsoft released Bing AI for free to anyone with a Microsoft account and the latest Edge browser. All you need to do is create an account to start using it in your searches.
While Bing AI is fully rolled out and available to everyone, Google is not far behind. The undisputed search engine leader has worked diligently behind the digital curtain to introduce new AI-based features to enhance the user experience. Some new Google AI features on the horizon include:
Immerse View for Google Maps where the app allows you to see the actual streets you’ll be driving on rather than a 2D graphic of the roadways.
Magic Editor for Google Photos where AI will automatically enhance your favorite photos that you want modified to enhance visual elements, remove visual elements, and many other features without you needing to know tools like Adobe Photoshop.
PaLM 2: An advanced model based on logical reasoning that could be used for complex tasks like debugging code and providing advanced medical insights in over 100 different languages.
Bard: Google’s generative AI model intended to compete with tools like ChatGPT, will only grow more intelligent and capable with the vast amounts of first-party data the platform has at its disposal.
The one that stands out the most in regards to SEO, however, is the new Search Generative Experience (SGE). Google’s SGE will operate almost exactly like Bing AI, with its ability to provide conversational search results that synthesize information from more than one source online, all presented in a tidy format at the top of the page that is easy to read.
So, where does SEO go from here? Is SEO another profession that will be eaten alive by the machine overlords? No, and today we’re going to cover why AI-based search is not only the future of SEO, but why SEO matters more than ever.
First, let’s explore why AI-based search really is the wave of the future, compared to voice search. For purposes of convenience, any screenshots we share here are done using Bing AI, as it is already a fully developed and widely available tool. We’ll be updating this later once Google SGE becomes a universally accessible asset for more users.
Why Will AI-Based Search Do What Voice Couldn’t?
AI-based searches not only provide the convenience of voice search, but they can also maintain users’ much-valued privacy.
You can type in a phrase or question as you would with a standard text-based search and receive a more tailored response. The results also contain resources from other sites that are pre-selected by an AI model that has done the heavy lifting and scoured billions of web pages for you in seconds to find the most credible information possible.
Obviously, for any agency incorporating paid and/or organic search into their service offerings, this presents a seismic shift in the industry. Instead of relying solely on established best practices to rank highly for traditional text-based searches, strategies now need to incorporate positioning a client’s website to be viewed as highly credible and trustworthy by an AI model that is more selective and places a heavier emphasis on the quality of information.
How AI-Based Search Results Differ from Traditional SERPs
Answers Are Specific and Personalized
Because most of these AI-assisted search engines are using a more conversational approach to curating results for you, users can expect a more tailored experience. Beyond initial results, you can also continue the conversation to dive deeper into certain topics or refine your results over multiple iterations.
Along with this change, it can be reasonably expected that a more personalized organic search experience will be expected by users in the future. AI chatbots are designed in a way to act as if they are conversing with you like they’re your own personal assistant.
You Will Only See a Few Results at a Time
When tools like Bing AI’s Chat feature or Google SGE compile search results, they condense the information into a single body of concise text along with links to sources if the user wants to dive further.
For instance, if you want to learn about white label digital ad operations, you might receive a response like this with a familiar domain in the Learn More section:
As you can see above, Bing AI condensed the information into a single paragraph with some additional bullet points for specificity. Then, it curated its top-four external resources to provide you with more information if you want to dive deeper into your search. If you are content with the information you are given, then you can count the AI-generated response as sufficient and continue with your day.
Greater Potential for a Multimedia Experience
AI-powered search engines like Bing AI can not only provide text-based answers, but they can also generate images you might request. As an example, we asked it to create pictures of a coffee cup containing fancy latte art. Below, you can see that it was able to do this within seconds and with minimal effort.
With AI powering your searches, the results will have a greater potential for a more visual multimedia experience. To position your client’s ranking potential, optimizing images, including alt text, file names, and descriptions will be a necessity and not just an extra finishing touch.
How AI Search will Transform Your SEO Strategy
Domain Credibility and Authority Matters More Than Ever
Compared to traditional SERPs, AI-based searches focus on curating the most authoritative and credible sources possible for their responses. As part of that, these programs heavily consider the domain authority and credibility of a website.
Providing credible, authoritative information on your website that strays from self-promotion will be the dominant strategy here. Couple this with Google’s increased emphasis on content that is objectively helpful, and the brands that emphasize helpful information over promoting their exact brand and business model will dominate the SERPs.
Many clients tend to want to produce content for their website that aligns exactly with their business model and product or service offerings while also promoting themselves somewhere within the content. This is not considered “helpful” by Google’s standards. Instead, information that could be applied to a topic or industry at large is considered preferable, regardless of whether or not it mirrors a business’s exact way of operating.
Quality Backlinking Will Be Essential
As AI-powered search engines compile their results for users, part of their methodology for assessing a domain’s authority will be its backlink portfolio. If you’re new to SEO, essentially a backlink is created on your client’s website whenever another domain links to its content. For example, a blogger in the same industry might link to a blog on your client’s site as a source for their own writing.
A desirable backlink is one from a credible domain with relevance to your industry or the topic your content is centered on. Links from spammy, irrelevant, or oddly structured sites are considered “toxic” and can negatively impact your domain authority if not dealt with properly.
In essence, if your client’s website is swarmed with toxic backlinks, search engines will likely also view your site as a low-authority domain. Keeping on top of toxic backlinks and acquiring ones from quality sources will continue to remain a priority for organic search.
Great Content Will Matter More Than Ever
Since the dawn of SEO, various thought leaders, reporters, and influencers in the profession have proposed new strategies to leverage content to dominate organic search. These tactics and best practices have evolved as search engine algorithms have grown more sophisticated, but one thing remains the same: Content is a competitive world.
What is one of generative AI’s current most-useful tools? Content writing. With the power of tools like ChatGPT in SEO professionals’ digital toolkits, maximizing content production will turn into something of a virtual arms race to try to cover as many topics and keywords as possible.
Beyond the production of content, though, its quality will matter more than ever. As AI models compile results for search users, they will rely on the well-written, authoritative, and helpful content that your clients provide on their websites. For example, if a local search user is looking for great camping spots in Upstate New York, and your client is a camping equipment store in the area, you have an immense opportunity to leverage their brand to provide credible information to that audience member!
Optimize Your Media Assets!
As AI-based search engines are able to retrieve media files from the web that match a user’s prompts, having your images and videos properly optimized will be non-negotiable. This could include essentials like:
Using keyword-optimized ALT text for your images
Choosing descriptive file names for images and videos
Making sure that your YouTube channel’s video information is optimized for organic search
Local SEO Strategies Need to be Airtight
Tools like BingAI are currently able to leverage your device’s location to provide you with a list of locations in your area that are relevant to your searches. Within the response, it can also supply the actual business listing with directions and phone numbers to call.
With this in mind, managing directory listings for your clients and ensuring their business information is as accurate as possible will both be necessities for competitive performance. When people are able to interact with their business directly from an AI chatbot’s response, this level of convenience has immense potential to spur significantly more interaction.
Long-Tail Keywords Take Center Stage
AI-assisted search engines like BingAI distill the most essential part of your search into a long-tail keyword. Looking at the example below, you can see how it transformed a question into a highly specific keyword search:
From an SEO perspective, this long-tail keyword would be a low-volume keyword (not many people are searching this on a regular basis), but also likely one where competition is not high. As new SEO strategies are built with AI in mind, dedicating equal time to focus keywords (high volume) and granular long-tail terms that are immensely relevant to your client’s business model will become the new norm when building keyword lists.
Similarly, incorporating multiple variations of keywords and long-tail phrases will need to be kept in mind. Giving AI-based search engines the ability to align their long-tail surveys with your content will highly increase the chances of your pages being recommended in chat responses.
Double Down on Mobile-First
The earliest viral generative AI programs, like ChatGPT and Jasper, were first developed as browser applications meant to be viewed via a desktop or laptop. Now, most generative AI programs are starting to offer mobile apps to best align with the majority of users who conduct most of their online activity via smartphones and tablets.
For example, these are just some of the notable generative AI apps that are available via iOS and/or Android:
Snapchat’s My AI
We can reasonably expect that AI-based search engines will also determine a page’s quality in a similar way to traditional algorithms based on various user experience features like quick site speed. With that in mind, continue to optimize toward the most seamless mobile experience possible for your client’s website.
Be Ready for an AI-Based Search Engine Optimization Future
So, with everything above, what can we take away? Here’s a few key points that stand out:
AI will only become a more prominent search engine tool in the future
Currently, AI tools have incredible features that enhance the user’s search experience
Over time, SEO campaigns will have to factor in how AI tools use search engines to serve users as a key component of the strategy
At Conduit Digital, we are the white label digital marketing partner for established and successful ad agencies in North America. We equip your agency with the ability to say “yes” to any new client opportunity by extending your in-house ad operations with 17 digital marketing channels operated by expert U.S.-based analysts.
To learn more about how you can leverage us as your white label SEO partner for an AI-driven landscape, let’s talk.