Since the launch of ChatGPT, it’s been clear to everyone working in the SEO world that search is on the precipice of change driven by AI-generated content.
Think Grand Canyon, Mt. Everest-sized change.
Bing led the way incorporating AI-generated content into search, and Google has been scrambling to pivot as well – introducing their grand ambitions for Project Magi and their near-term rollout of the generative AI search experience.
There are a lot of details yet to be determined, but at the end of the day the new model will feature more of a single point of contact (the “voice” of AI Google) and less of a buffet of content results. But with all that change on the horizon comes an important question:
What can your company actually do to prepare for all this change? How can you protect the income that currently relies on your search traffic?
Even if we don’t know the specifics of what search with AI-generated content will look like, here are steps you can take to protect your business against change and optimize your opportunity in a new reality.
Step 1: Diversify your traffic
It is likely that there will be fewer click throughs from the search engine result pages (SERPs), because more searchers will get the information they need directly on the SERPs. So it’s important to diversify your traffic. That way it will remain more resilient as search engines change their format and algorithms.
How can you do this? Here are two ideas to get started:
Emphasize your brand. If you’re relying on practical information (without a lot of personality) to bring traffic your way, it’s worth exploring how to ensure current and potential customers can recognize who you are. Once they’re familiar with you (and have a positive experience), they’ll be more likely to seek you out again.
Even as search engines prioritize AI generated content responses, it’s likely humans may still skim search results to see if there are trusted voices to read. By strengthening your brand, you make it more likely that those searchers will opt to click on your trusted voice even after reading the AI-generated direct response.
Provide excellent products, services and customer service. At the end of the day, AI-generated content isn’t delivering a product or service. Your company is. By continuing to invest in developing high quality products and services (as well as good customer service to support it), you’ll get repeat business that will share about their experience with others.
Customer loyalty will increase repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals that boost your business’s bottom line.
Step 2: Focus on your customers’ urgent questions and needs
When you take a step back from creating content to please all the algorithms and formats of search engines and take time to focus on what information actually helps your customers, you are protecting your content’s effectiveness into the future.
Ultimately search engines benefit by helping people answer their questions. If your content is tightly focused on answering the questions and meeting the needs of your clients, it will inevitably behoove search engines to lead searchers to that information.
It can be so easy to get swept up in trying to create content to please a system, but the best way to connect with your customers over the long haul is to focus on those customers’ needs.
Step 3: Capture and nurture current leads
Rather than solely relying on search engines to connect you with current and potential clients, try capturing and nurturing your leads through an email list or social media audience. This means you don’t have to wait for a search engine to connect you to an audience. You can proactively reach back out to contacts over time.
Capturing and nurturing this group can help you continue to engage with people, even if changes in search engines means your traffic comes in from multiple channels. Like diversifying your traffic, using increased social signals and share of voice can enhance your website traffic sources.
Step 4: Create human-centered content
There is content AI can’t write: It can’t write from personal experience. AI content on high interest topics such as: “When my 2-month-old cried at 3am, here is the strategy that helped me” or “Here is a list of the best pizza I have ever eaten” would fall a little flat.
It would even raise skepticism to hear AI vouch for a website building tool that is intuitive and effective for a solo entrepreneur or a consulting group that got to the heart of a company’s challenges.
That means product reviews, emotion-centered content, advice and perspective are all going to be even more valuable in the future. In fact, Google is even planning a “Perspectives” filter to help searchers connect with human generated content.
So consider what type of human-centered content is relevant in your industry, and begin to expand it. Even content that is informational in nature can be given a human twist – whether from humor, the addition of anecdotes or advice. Whenever possible, feature this human side, because it will help your content hold up as AI-generated content continues to expand into search.
Step 5: Embrace niche audiences
Because AI-generated responses are designed to answer more specific and multipart questions, the information they deliver will vary a lot more than the current SERPs. So if you embrace creating more focused content for some of your top priority niche audiences, you are positioned to benefit from AI responses searching for some of that more nuanced information.
Here’s an example: Perhaps you work at a real estate management agency, and instead of providing general guidance for owners who need their properties managed, you narrow in on an audience that’s important to your business model. Say, for example, property owners of small units in New England. Suddenly, you’re able to produce content that gets into the specifics of New England weather considerations, local legislation parameters for smaller dwellings and neighborhood scenes – all of which will likely come up in your target audience’s more specific searches (but all of which is less likely to be covered by competitors’ content).
Step 6: Use AI for what it’s good at right now
In the meantime, harness the value AI can aid you right now. That may be for generating ideas, overcoming writer’s block, or filling in lists of data. But if you do use AI, proceed carefully. You shouldn’t use AI-generated content to replace writers, or you risk duplicating content (which has copyright and SEO implications), providing nonsensical information, or giving inaccurate information.
At the end of the day, there are big changes coming to search engines. But it is possible to prepare and stay ahead of those changes by implementing some intentional content best practices.