Prompted: AI Ushers in SEO 2.0

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Prompted, our biweekly blog series, brings you relevant updates and insights on how to strategically add AI-driven solutions into your marketing toolkit.

AI-powered search is ushering in a new age of SEO. While more and more users turn to AI over traditional search engines, and traditional search engines go all-in on AI, tried-and-true SEO best practices no longer apply. To ensure your brand remains visible and relevant in the AI-driven search landscape, marketers must adapt.

SERP Summaries

Over the past month, Google has been slowly adding AI overviews that summarize search results at the top of its SERP, giving users all the information they need without ever leaving the search engine. As a result, publishers and content marketers are already noticing a decline in web traffic. For SEO marketers, this means your keyword-laden blog posts aren’t the reliable source of website leads they once were.

It also means brands now have less control over what a user might see when they search for your company.

Google’s AI search overviews made a splash upon their release, though not necessarily for the right reasons. Immediately after the AI overviews went public, social media became a screenshot playground for comically incorrect results and bizarre responses. Google’s recent deal with Reddit means its AI is fueled by content from the forum-based platform. Some answers pulled information from Reddit posts and other internet sources that were clearly jokes in context — but it turns out AI doesn’t have much of a sense of humor. 

Though Google has scaled back the roll out in response to backlash, it’s clear these summaries are the future of traditional search. Until Google can combat these missteps, AI overviews will be concerning to marketers when it comes to brand safety.

Search Goes Multimodal

While Google’s AI overviews have been commanding headlines recently, the effects of AI search go beyond just traditional search engines — and methods. The release of GPT-4o and other multimodal AI tools has given voice search a boost, making it easier to interact with your phone and smart devices using natural language. Voice search gives consumers an entirely new way to access information, in addition to the other ways search behavior is currently changing, whether that’s turning to social media over a search engine, a chatbot over Google, or AI-powered summaries over link clicks. 

This transformation means that the typical SEO methods — keyword research to optimize for typed search queries, backlink building to boost your spot on the SERP — won’t have the same effect on your content’s performance anymore. 

Enter the New World of Search

As search evolves, your content strategy must evolve with it. Focusing on quality content, diversifying your content channels, and keeping an eye on how AI portrays your brand are the first steps to adapting to the new world of search.

While it might not seem like it at first, given the loss of search traffic, strong content is more important than ever. AI still needs to access its information from somewhere — and that somewhere is your content. You can optimize your content for AI with clear, easy-to-comprehend information (think: bullets, lists, and properly used H1s and H2s) and top-notch technical SEO to make it easy for the AI to read

But it’s not only about optimizing for AI. As searchers seek out other sources of information, marketers have the opportunity to lean into other channels. Prioritizing social media content could be an effective strategy to engage both social-savvy and AI-averse users. Promoted and sponsored content will also have its place in the new search world, as Google is experimenting with ads and paid content in its AI overviews. 

When it comes to misinformation, marketers have been left in the dark. Google has been individually pulling down incorrect answers when flagged by social media users, but for the most part, brands lack any line of defense against AI hallucinations for now. Still, it’s important to monitor AI search engines for any potential PR disasters, though addressing misinformation may require external methods.

Embracing Change

AI is transforming tried-and-true business strategies across industries, and SEO is no expectation. Instead of fighting against its progress, it’s now up to marketers to adapt. Focusing on your target audience is key to staying agile — as your audience evolves in how they communicate with your brand and gather information, you can evolve right there with them. 

Not sure how to start adapting your content to the changing world of search and SEO? Our Content Studio’s team of strategists, storytellers, wordsmiths, and designers can help.

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