AI is the big conversation in SEO and digital marketing at the moment, fuelled by Google’s impending new Search Generative Experience. However, as with most of these big tech innovations, there’s a lot of excitement, some mystery and quite a lot of anxiety around the topic as well. 

Ever the knowledge enthusiasts, from our perspective we think this is going to be a really positive evolution for us and our clients. Part of that mindset is because we ourselves have been early adopters of AI, and part of that is because, as pretty practical people, we know that Google’s modus operandi is to improve the search experience for all, so any updates are all about making things better. 

Let us explain our thinking.



Use it or lose it: early adopters of AI

It might interest you to know that within Verkeer we have been getting to know AI for some time. We are all about building great relationships with our customers, and most importantly maximising the use of their time and budget. AI allows us to optimise the use of all our resources, freeing up human skill to spend as much time as possible on high level tasks while the robots look after the rest – so to speak. 

For that reason, we have an AI assistant that takes transcripts and summaries of our calls so we can pay attention to the conversation rather than making notes. That tool also includes a Sentiment Score that taps into how everyone’s feeling and makes sure nothing is left unsaid or unasked. We want to make sure every one of our clients feels like they’re fully informed and in the loop – AI helps us deliver on that.


How is generative AI going to change search?

The question that everyone wants an answer to right now, is how AI is changing search and how different integrations on the likes of Google and Bing will affect what shows on page one of search engines.

We already have some clients testing the waters with generative AI, using it to assist with content creation and content outlines with Google’s impending updates in mind, generating schema markup, and even answers to complex excel formulas to help speed up reporting, forecasting, and general day-to-day tasks. There’s a certain amount of debate about whether Google will alter their entire chemical make-up and where brands should focus their energies. 

For example, will Google answer boxes provide full reference links to source information? To date, Bing has been doing that nicely while Google has had some challenges. The biggest fear seems to be that Google might plagiarise content to populate its answer boxes. However, while in its early stages that looks to be a challenge for them to overcome, it seems highly unlikely given the history of the brand that they won’t start including references to every part of the generative experience. They’re not in the business of cannibalising themselves – everything brands currently do is for Google already and they’re going to want to build on that, not bin it.

In our opinion (and it’s one based on adapting to thousands of Google updates as well as what we know of planned changes), everything online has always moved forward, and ultimately that’s a good thing.


What can you do to prepare for Google’s next update?

In typical Google style, there’s a lot of testing going on right now, with minimal visibility, so to some extent we’ve got to watch this space. That can be tough to hear when your business depends upon the performance of your website, but it doesn’t mean doing nothing or being out of control.

We know what works in search as it is today, and there’s every reason to believe that those principles will be used to help you appear in generative AI searches as well. What you can do as a business is make sure that your website has what we refer to as the ‘brilliant basics’ covered, so that you’re best placed to take advantage of and adapt to updates as they roll out.


Four of the key areas we always recommend tapping into are:  


  • Schema: This is about making sure Google knows who you are and what you do by structuring the data and information on your website to make it as easy and accurate as possible for Google to understand.
  • E-E-A-T principles: This is the set of principles that is used to evaluate the quality of your website and web pages. It stands for: experience, expertise, authority and trust, and it’s been big for Google, especially in sectors such as law, healthcare and finance – spaces that can have a significant impact on a person’s wellbeing. This speaks to the quality of your content and proving that there’s a reason your opinion matters – you have more expertise, for example, than someone else. 
  • Platform diversity: This is about establishing a presence across other platforms like YouTube, TikTok, podcasts, and so forth, moving away from just general search to broader sub search options to spread your access to the market.
  • Format diversity: This involves the variety of content types on your website, so it’s not just written information, but videos, interviews, podcasts and so forth – things that can’t be copied by Google quite so easily. 
  • Authenticity: One of the things that can easily be forgotten when you’re down in the details of digital marketing is that this is still about people, and it’s still about your brand. While Google is important, you have to focus on your purpose, your expertise and your authenticity to really make the most of it. If you focus on Google alone, you will get lost along the way. Every algorithm update has been designed around what is best for the user. So, if you can give your users what they need then there’s no reason for them to go elsewhere. People will shop around because humans are inherently inquisitive, so whatever Google does, you still need to be able to meet your customers at different stages of their journey.


So much of this pulls back to what it is you are trying to do with Search – just like any other change to the system or feature integration, if you try to game it, you’ll lose in the end. The focus needs to be on providing helpful, expert-led information on your site to demonstrate your expertise in an area. As Gary Illyes said in a recent Google podcast, “unless you are publishing something utterly unique and something that people are actually interested in, it’s pretty hard to get stuff indexed.” The more ways you can demonstrate your expertise, and value to your audience, the more chance you have of success within search. AI and new search generative experiences won’t take away from that, they’ll enhance it.



A great opportunity for businesses

We think that the move into AI is a big opportunity for clients to explore new horizons and capabilities in search. However, as with all things, it’s all pretty terrifying until you know what’s going on. That’s why our emphasis always comes back to education – making sure you have everything you need to protect the traffic you have and to grow it in the future. 

If you’re not a bit afraid of change then you’re probably not thinking enough about it, and you probably can’t see the possibilities either. So, it’s ok to be a bit tentative. However, more intelligent updates are a huge opportunity for SEO, because it feeds the Internet and there’s no reason that logic and what you’re already doing won’t be used in these AI experiments. If you’ve got the fundamentals in place now, then you’re in a great position to benefit from the next stage of digital marketing.


Do you need help getting your website in the best position possible to take advantage of future updates? Contact our team and we would be happy to help.

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