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Understanding the Implications of Google's AI-Driven Search Engine Update on SEO and Advertising

Understanding the Implications of Google’s AI-Driven Search Engine Update on SEO and Advertising

It’s been several weeks since Google revealed its plans to roll out an AI-powered search engine upgrade.

Subsequently, Google’s Marketing Live event took place.

I held off discussing the potential effects of Google’s new modifications on marketers until a comprehensive picture emerged.

For those who missed the events, Google now integrates AI-driven responses into its search results when specific queries are made. For instance, if you posed a question to Google like, “Which is more suitable for a family with toddlers and a pet dog, Bryce Canyon or Arches?” you’d now receive a response similar to the one below.

But the AI-driven updates continue beyond there. Transactional searches are also impacted. For instance, asking Google for a “reliable bicycle for a hilly 5-mile daily commute” will yield results akin to this.

One exciting feature of the result above is the capability to ask Google the following question and have it filter the results. For instance, if I desired a bike fitting the above criteria but wanted it to be red and electric, Google would refine the results to match my preferences.

The best part is refining your search without restarting from scratch, similar to filtering results on an e-commerce website.

So, What's the Implication for SEO?

Many SEO professionals I’ve engaged with are in a panic, primarily fearing that Google might siphon off their traffic.

While some traffic may be lost, the overall user experience will improve, potentially driving more traffic to Google and, in turn, offering more opportunities for your content to be seen and potentially increasing your traffic volume.

Danny Sullivan, the Public Liaison for Search at Google, revealed that Google Search drives more traffic to the open web each year.

Truthfully, Google Search sends billions of clicks to websites every day, and we’ve driven more traffic to the open web every year since Google’s inception.

This trend has persisted despite numerous alterations over the years.

Remember when you used to inquire about the weather in a city, and Google would offer many websites? Now, they display the weather forecast.

Whether you’re seeking a stock quote, a definition, or a solution to a mathematical problem, Google delivers the answer. This pattern of improvements will continue for years to come.
But why?

It’s not about retaining users on Google but enhancing the user experience.
Each time they implemented changes, people panicked, fearing the end of SEO. However, SEO remains alive and well.

I can attest to this as I’ve managed to grow one of the fastest companies in the United States, according to Inc Magazine, primarily through SEO. Upon our first appearance on the list, we ranked as the 21st fastest-growing company.

Still, trying to convince? Consider this: Do you know why Google won’t completely cut off the traffic they channel to websites and why you should be okay with losing all your traffic (though some might be lost)?
Here’s a clue, take a look at this chart from Oberlo.

Google rakes in an astounding $32.78 billion per year from ads on network sites, which are large sites using AdSense.

What do you think would happen if Google stopped directing SEO traffic to a majority of these publishers?

Their revenue, along with their stock price, would plummet.

While they might find a way to recover, it’s highly unlikely they’d gamble $32.78 billion without substantial data.

In most instances, these network sites don’t purchase traffic through ads since the cost outweighs the ad-generated revenue.

So, what’s their strategy? They focus on organic traffic through SEO and social media.
If Google eliminated its organic results and ceased to direct traffic to websites, it would stand to lose billions in income.

However, these changes will positively impact some publishers. For instance, if you operate an affiliate marketing site that evaluates the top six toaster ovens, your affiliate revenue could take a hit in the long term.

Google providing the correct answer through AI improves the user experience for the searcher.
The same applies to finding inexpensive flights. Why would anyone want to search Google for “cheap flights” only to be redirected to another search results page like Kayak to view flight options?

That’s not an ideal user experience. It would be more useful for Google to directly present the best flight option.

While this may negatively impact some publishers (and sites), it already enhances the user experience. The better the user experience, the more popular Google becomes. While the generated organic traffic may fluctuate depending on the industry, it should still be substantial.

Why? Because Google won’t forfeit its $32.78 billion revenue source.

Looking at transactional keywords like “reliable bicycle for a hilly 5-mile daily commute,” demonstrated in the Gif earlier, organic results are highlighted. This should aid you in driving more sales too. This is a victory since a specific use case is addressed and your product is featured, suggesting potentially higher conversion rates than general queries like “red bike.”

What About Paid Ads?

The AI-driven changes should enhance paid advertising.

Most affected queries are non-transactional.

Returning to the “reliable bicycle for a hilly 5-mile daily commute” example, paid ads are expected to be incorporated into these areas to boost revenue.

Though this may affect organic results, the initial introduction of paid results did.
Yet, we’ve coexisted with paid and SEO results on search result pages.

Remember, Google accrues over $162 billion annually from ads on Google.

That’s a significant amount of revenue to risk. They would avoid anything that might compromise this income.

Hence, they’re experimenting with integrating search and shopping ads into AI-based snapshot and conversational modes. Take a look.

They’re also trialing new ad formats that intertwine directly with the search generative experience (the AI-focused initiatives).
Below, you can see how their ads correlate directly to the AI response provided by Google.
So, as an advertiser, you have little to worry about.

Best of all, as people become more specific with their search queries in anticipation of more accurate results from the updated Google, the conversion rate for paid ads should improve.
This is the reason marketers target longtail phrases.

To further ease marketers’ jobs, Google, akin to Facebook, is launching tools to help create more effective ads with higher conversion rates.

Suppose you want to create an ad for “cat food.”

You could use Google’s AI features instead of hiring designers to produce image variations or a photographer. Clicking the “generate images” button now yields usable images.

You can also provide specific requests to Google’s AI for the type of images you want. As illustrated in the screenshot above, the AI-generated images of ingredients.

Read Next: 5 Ways To Integrate PPC and SEO

Conclusion

AI is disrupting more longtail keyword searches as opposed to head terms.
While we don’t have access to Google’s dataset, our Ubersuggest data reveals that less than 11.6% of queries involve extremely longtail phrases (8 plus words).

Again, this isn’t Google’s data but ours (which is still a large sample). Because these terms have lower search volumes, they shouldn’t significantly impact traffic as much as some people fear.
Reviewing that 11.6% of search queries, 72% were non-transactional.

Overall, this is a major win. Google’s enhanced AI-driven search engine will generate better results for longtail phrases. This should encourage more people to search using longtail phrases.

This implies that sites ranking organically or through paid ads should yield more conversions.
In a nutshell, take your time with these changes. They’re beneficial for users, which means they’re better for you as a marketer.

You need to evolve. And even if Google eventually employs AI responses for broad terms (which is possible), marketers will adjust. The most successful companies thrive by creating quality products and services and establishing a brand.

For instance, our agency’s brand recall studies show that SEO results within the knowledge graph, even those not leading to clicks, still aid sales. We anticipate a similar outcome with these AI modifications.

This is also why we recommend that our clients adopt an omnichannel approach (SEO, paid ads, social media, email marketing, CRO, content marketing, etc.). Essentially, they leverage all channels to facilitate growth, not just one.

See also: Is SEO Worth The Investment? This Blog Answers That Question.

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