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    06/18/2024 |

    AI Is Killing Traditional Organic Search Engine Optimization for Your Company

    We’ve all heard that artificial intelligence is coming to take our jobs. It’s already here helping us write speeches, send emails and optimize our websites.

    When it comes to search engine optimization, AI has already changed our browsing experience, and you should be changing how you think about using traditional SEO to help your business get found. AI listings and sponsored ads mean it’s almost impossible to be on the first page of Google.

    You’re going to have to change your entire approach to SEO to stay ahead.

    The team at SEG Square 2 has been doing extensive research into AI and how it’s affecting search engine optimization, rankings, visible listings and results on Google. This is impacting how we’re recommending clients shift their expectations and budgets.

    The following is a positioning statement from Bob McCarthy, VP of Creative and Campaigns at SEG Square 2:

    The traditional marketing tactic of search engine optimization – the age-old effort to get on the first page of Google, Yahoo and Bing so that people searching for your company find you, click on your listing and visit your website – has already changed.

    Our position is that on-page SEO no longer produces results to justify the investment of time, effort and money that we previously recommended clients invest in it. Therefore, it should no longer be a significant part of our client offering. 

    But let’s dig into this a bit more to provide some explanation and context.

    AI Has Amplified Mounting Questions About SEO

    It’s become increasingly difficult to drive organic traffic using SEO tactics that produced results just five years ago. Consistent and ongoing changes in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) have pushed organic content further down the page.

    Searchers must scroll past several paid ads and knowledge panels before hitting the top organic listing. Furthermore, features like “People Also Ask” provide quick answers to popular questions, eliminating the need for searchers to click on the content. As a result, ranking well for a valuable keyword today produces a far lower return than it did in the past.

    AI overview on Google screenshot

    A top 10 ranking previously assured you of significant organic traffic, but that’s no longer the case. Depending on the keyword, you may not realize any organic traffic.

    While Google’s prioritization of paid ads and SERP features has altered how companies view the ROI of SEO, Google’s introduction of AI summaries (like the one pictured above) has changed the calculus entirely. It’s still early and the experience is sure to evolve, but the AI summaries feature aims to answer questions at the top of SERPs.

    Depending on the topic, the summary can be long, pushing paid and organic content further down the page. Summaries typically include one to three recommended pieces of supporting content.

    In most cases, all but the most trusted of brands will struggle to earn one of those links. Most searchers will never have to leave the top of the SERPs page to get their answer.  

    Our Position on SEO (for Now)

    Summaries are primarily being used to address topics and answer questions in the earlier stages of the buyer journey. These topics have traditionally been home to high-volume keywords used in targeted blog posts, pillar pages, etc. AI summaries are far less prevalent in the middle stages of the buyer journey, where searchers look for services and solutions.

    Using blogs to drive meaningful keyword-targeted organic traffic is likely a poor investment of time and money. Those questions will be answered by AI summaries and the few select links provided within summaries. While searchers used to scroll through to the second page of SERPs, they likely won’t make it past the top three listings on page one. 

    Blogs will still have value as platforms for thought leadership (like this article) and to answer foundational questions prospects have. However, it’s not 2010. You can’t publish a blog and wait for the traffic to come via search. Blogs will need to be promoted across several channels, including social media and email.

    On-page SEO will still have some value. For example, people will still search for “digital marketing agency,” and AI summaries aren’t likely to add value to this type of search. As such, core website pages should still use optimized page titles, meta descriptions and headings to help search engines understand what they are about and make it easier for prospects to find them.

    There will be instances where sites already rank well for valuable keywords. Depending on the term, its difficulty and the nature of the SERPs, it may be worth investing effort into improving or maintaining rankings.

    Technical SEO will remain important, primarily because it’s intimately tied to user experience. Google has prioritized sites that have a great mobile experience, load quickly and give users a pain-free experience. The value in optimizing for Google’s Page Experience metrics isn’t necessarily to improve ranking (which is not guaranteed) but to deliver a great experience to visitors that reflects well on your brand. 

    SEO audits have value in uncovering insights into technical performance, organic traffic trends, website optimization recommendations and keyword opportunities that represent low-hanging fruit. While it’s hard to suddenly drive organic results if you have poor results, you may be able to improve on successes.

    Rather than focusing on SEO, you should be exploring all the ways to increase awareness of your brand and services across multiple channels. 

    Everything Is Changing Quickly and Will Continue to Change

    Summaries are still in their infancy. They will evolve and change quickly. What’s stated here is our position today. You should be ready and willing to evolve with the changing landscape, whether it’s next week or next year.

    However, what has been true for some time is that SEO no longer produces the results it did several years ago. While there’s no definitive answer about how AI will impact SEO, its emergence in SERPs is unlikely to make it easier for businesses to realize meaningful ROI.

    If you want to talk about your company’s organic search engine optimization strategy, how to shift this to consider AI and how organic social might be a bigger part of your plans going forward, just click here to schedule a 30-minute call with us and we’ll help you sort this all out.

    Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist headshot
    CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

    Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

    Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.

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