Artificial intelligence and search: how generative AI is reshaping SEO

Nothing keeps digital marketers on their toes like search engine optimisation (SEO) and the effect of Google’s ever-evolving algorithm on visibility and traffic. Well, you better put on comfy shoes, because artificial intelligence (AI) is now entering the scene.

To make sense of the changes and to learn more about how AI will change SEO, we spoke to our in-house SEO savant Brook Chalmers. Brook is a Marketing and PR Officer, ACL at Essex County Council and here are his insights.

Business person using AI search on a laptop

How will generative AI change SEO?

Generative AI is a type of AI that can create new content, like text and images, without human intervention. Generative AI helps search engines understand the meaning and context behind a search query.

With generative AI, we’re entering the age of instant answers. So, Google’s answers to a user’s query can be pulled straight into the search results and not necessarily lead the user to visit your site. The way users interact with AI-based search engines will be more conversational. The search engine results will also provide detailed and intelligent answers to the user’s query.

AI has made online search much more efficient and productive than before. But it has changed the rules of how search engine rankings work. This in turn means we need to change how we optimise our websites for search engines and adapt our search engine optimisation (SEO) strategies.

What factors will determine AI-based search engine rankings?

With new AI-powered search, AI algorithms determine the best search result to a query. The algorithms evaluate potential search results by considering factors like:

  • website engagement metrics
  • website structure
  • overall content quality
  • website trustworthiness and popularity
  • context behind a search query

How can you adapt your SEO strategy to improve your search rankings?

Keywords with context

Simple keywords alone will no longer suffice. Your keywords must be strongly associated with your product or organisation and take into account the meaning, intent and context of what users look for from a product like yours. Your content should be able to answer user queries about your product or service. For example, if a search query says “summer cricket coaching for kids under nine in Chelmsford, Essex” the algorithm will only consider pages that address this specific search (instead of pages that say “junior cricket in Essex.”)

Create content to suit the question-and-answer format of AI-based search engines.

AI uses phrases that align with how people ask questions about your product or service. Incorporate answers to user queries within your content.

Structure your content for AI

Well-structured content helps generative AI search engines better understand and categorise the content. Make sure to structure your content with a headlines, headings, subheadings, and categories.

Provide high-quality content and user experience

Since AI algorithms seek to provide the most accurate and relevant answers to user queries, you should too. Create high-quality content that is relevant to your users. Make sure your website navigation is seamless and intuitive. Website performance and user engagement play a role in determining the relevance and usefulness of a website.

Optimise for consistency across devices

More users access websites through mobile devices so make sure your pages adapt to various devices, operating systems and screen sizes. Your navigation, structure and content should be consistent and of high quality across all devices.

Focus on E-E-A-T

E-E-A-T is part of the Google Quality Raters Guidelines. It stands for Experience-Expertise-Authority-Trust. When a Google employee manually evaluates a piece of content, they use these quality guidelines for their assessment. Read about E-E-A-T on page 25 on the Google Quality Raters Guidelines.

If Google are instantly delivering answers to a query, they will want to make sure they are giving the best answer possible.. As technology gets better at understanding the different between trusted articles and fake knowledge and news, an emphasis on E-E-A-T will be hugely important.

What is one fundamental SEO principle that will never change?

AI or no AI, the key to successful SEO is still understanding your audience. Always create your content for the end user and not for the search engines. This ensures your content is always relevant and optimised for your ultimate audience.

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