The Paradigm Shift in SEO: How Marketers Can Prepare

Hear what these two leaders have to say about the exciting (and sometimes scary) new era of SEO.

Published on Feb 12, 2024

SEO is forever changed now that Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP) is infused with the AI-driven Search Generative Experience (SGE). Both of those elements sit alongside the new Perspectives filter to show more community–based content — further evolving the content that users see from the search giant. 

It’s a new playing field and with any new landscape comes a shift in mindset and tactics necessary to tame it (as well as some anxiety and unanswered questions.) So we sat down two very experienced marketing leaders — Jasper’s Marketing VP Meghan Keaney Anderson and Demandwell’s Co-founder and CTO Sam Smith — to get their take on what this changing landscape looks like and how marketers should adapt. They dispel fears, give advice, and offer a lot of great insight to think about.

Check out the full conversation below! We also outlined some of the biggest insights below if you can’t watch the full convo. 

Will Google penalize AI content? 

No. Google doesn’t penalize AI specifically. Google will, however, penalize shallow, repetitive, and unhelpful content designed to game SEO regardless of how it’s written.

This is a great question that many marketers the world over are asking. Anderson and Smith took time early in the webinar to address it. Smith referenced Google’s actual language on the matter, highlighting the company’s push to make content helpful for humans regardless of how it was made. 

“However content is produced, those seeking success in Google Search should be looking to produce original, high-quality, people-first content demonstrating qualities E-E-A-T [expertise, experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness,]” read the Google Search Central Blog. ”Evaluating your content in this way, whether you're using AI-generated content or not, will help you stay on course with what our systems seek to reward.”

Anderson doubled down on Google’s language and said, “They [Google devs] hate content that is designed to trick search engines and doesn't really serve the end reader or customer. So use AI, but use it in combination with an editor. Use it with a creator who has a point of view, who has done research, who has added substance to that [content]. Use AI as an accelerant. Don't use AI to automate a bunch of content that you publish without checking.” 

[.blog-window]Can you influence what AI says in the SGE?Not at the moment. Maybe that will change over time, but it’s a black box for now. So the question is how do you boost SERP now? How do you create more appearances in Perspectives and create more word-of-mouth awareness?[.blog-window]

Using AI for SEO

Anderson touched on a wide variety of ways that AI can be used for SEO.

“There's a scope of work around strategy and planning: getting keyword lists, figuring out where the opportunities are, figuring out how to take a pillar piece of content and build a cluster of content around that. There are strategic ways that AI can help. Then there's the actual content creation: getting those [assets] to market faster and structuring it well for search.”

She said that there’s also the post-production optimization side to AI for SEO. For example, it allows you to cover ground that you may have previously missed due to time or headcount constraints, like updating meta descriptions or markup schema for snippets.

Anderson then demonstrated live how Jasper can build a blog quickly, then the Surfer SEO integration will offer suggestions on how to improve its SEO viability.

She also cited an instance where an employee from Amplitude utilized AI SEO. He had a clear goal in mind — to create a substantial directory of terms associated with his product and analytics. These terms were meant to live on the website, acting as a magnet to attract people. The project consisted of 20 individual term landing pages, each packed with 600 to 800 words. With over 15,000 words in total, it was a hefty task. However, the content was objective, straightforward, and substantiated because the employee had more time to edit and fact-check since content was produced so quickly. And within weeks, the content started appearing on page one of Google.  

“Everything was AI-assisted but human-edited and -reviewed for accuracy to make sure that they were putting good content out and not stuff that was just designed to fill up space,” said Anderson. 

A graphic showing a recap of the how AI will impact SEO.

What scares marketers around AI and SEO?

Smith believes that marketers right now are most afraid of the unknowns around how Google’s AI-enabled search will impact SEO. 

“Will it be broad reaching?” he asked. “Will it affect certain types of searches? Will it affect certain industries?”

“My guess is that as you get lower in a marketing funnel, to search queries that are a little more transactional, more indicative of someone looking to make a purchase decision. That's probably not going to be the first place where there are search results impacted,” said Smith. “That is a whole lot more specific to a vendor and a specific transaction as opposed to just providing some general information about a given topic.”

Anderson agreed and said that AI-enabled search will have a bigger impact at the top of the funnel — touching organic search in particular — with more exploratory searches where an AI-based conversation can be useful. This could create some anxiety around “zero click searches, where you don't have to click through to a website,” Anderson said. “But it's not like it is happening in a monolith across all [search] terms and all industries.”

Gartner estimates that by 2028, we'll see certain industries decline around 50% in overall organic traffic,” she continued. “Now that's daunting. But when you think about the traffic that is coming into your site, if it follows that model we've been talking about, that is going to be much more high-intent traffic. The conversion rate of that traffic might be stronger.”

So fear not!

[.blog-window]What is Google’s Search Generative Experience?It uses generative AI to streamline users’ search experience. Following certain queries, SGE activates via an overview at the top of search results, giving key insights to users quickly without clicking on multiple web pages. Users can ask complex questions, get quick topic summaries, discover overviews, find how-to instructions, and make progress with conversational follow-ups or suggested next steps. The platform also customizes search experiences based on user preferences and behaviors, incorporating elements like customer reviews. Additionally, search ads will still appear in dedicated slots while SGE is activated.[.blog-window]

How can marketers adapt to changes in SEO?

Everything discussed so far boils down to the idea that search, and SEO, are diversifying. And Anderson offered some advice for all her fellow marketing leaders on how they can prepare.

“Educate your company on what's happening here,” she said. “Get them focused on: What's the most important thing that we can do through SEO now? What are some of the ways that we need to diversify our marketing strategies to compensate for some of the changes that we've seen in SEO?”

Both leaders agree that rather than abandoning SEO, marketers must elevate their SEO skills and get back to offering content written for humans, not for Google’s mysterious algorithms, that serves helpful insights quickly. Get more intentional with targeting keywords and at the same time, identify individuals with influence in relevant domains to speak in thought leadership pieces. 

Using AI can speed these processes up, especially when AI generations are paired with real world performance data and the personalized context of your goals. Use the technology to also quickly repurpose content between different formats. Just make sure there’s always a human reviewing the work on the backend. 

Capturing existing demand and creating new demand are essential for marketing growth in this stage. Anderson discussed the importance of creating that demand and growing an audience by experimenting with community-based branding, like Hubspot is for example. It recognized this shift and appointed someone to lead their non-organic traffic strategy, focusing on diversifying traffic sources and monetizing their community. 

Final thoughts 

Organic reach for a lot of companies is going to change. Period. Businesses and the marketers within them need to adapt. It’s understandable to feel a little anxious but Anderson has some encouraging words. 

“I know this is a lot of change,” she said. “If you're feeling stressed about this, I get that. I'm feeling a little stressed about this. But marketers are really good at change. We flow where the market goes. Everything changed when the internet came around, everything changed with mobile, everything changed with social. It feels like every few years something changes and we need to adapt our strategies. And every single time we figure it out and buckle down. We change too. This is going to be no different. It's certainly a bigger one, but we will get through it, especially through discourse and dialogue like this.”

Smith reinforced that idea with some positive words of his own.

“Success in marketing is always based on the ability to experiment, learn from it and improve. Then do that cycle over and over again,” he said.

AI now affords marketers more freedom to experiment in a wide variety of ways, “so I think there's a lot of possibilities, certainly a lot of unknowns that come with that,” he continued. “But I think we're in for a lot of really good surprises about how this is going to change our day to day.”

Learn more about how AI can boost your SEO efforts by booking a demo today.

[.blog-demo-button]Book a demo[.blog-demo-button]

Meet The Author:

Alton Zenon III

Alton Zenon III

Jasper Content Marketing Manager
All Things AI
Marketing Strategy

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