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min read
November 2, 2023

What Does Google's I/O Announcement Mean for the Future of SEO?

Parthi Loganathan
CEO of Letterdrop, former Product Manager on Google Search

So, Google's I/O event happened yesterday — and it's all anyone involved in the SEO community can think about.

As a Content Marketer, you waited with bated breath as Google revealed its new Search Generative Experience (SGE). Google's AI can answer longer and more complex questions, providing users with a more helpful search experience through a single snapshot of information.

One thing is certain: the world of search is about to change. And a worrying question nags in your ear: what does this mean for content and SEO?

I used to work on the Google Search team, and at Letterdrop we help hundreds of marketers think about SEO. Hopefully, I can shed some light on how you should think about the latest on Google Search.

What's New to Google Search?

1. Generative AI For Search

When you search for something, Google's AI will generate an original answer to your question at the top of the SERP, where you'd previously see the feature snippet. There are still knowledge cards and links sprinkled throughout. All of this is above the standard SERP with blue links.

Google's Generative AI creates a snapshot of all relevant information | Source: Google

When it comes to searching for products, Google can extract relevant reviews and summarize them for you, making shopping easier.

You can expand on your search with the generative AI | Source: Google
You can expand on your search with the generative AI | Source: Google

Implication‎ for SEO

Expect certain types of queries to be answered in the SERP, meaning fewer visitors to your site if you're targeting them. These include:

  • easy-to-answer factual queries.
  • simple product comparisons.

2. Google Can Answer Longer and More Complex Questions

"What's better for a family with kids under 3 and a dog, Bryce Canyon or Arches?" is quite the mouthful. It's a long-long-tail keyword.

Google's new Search provided a pretty precise answer with no issues. This indicates a better understanding of semantic and contextual search.

Instead of people searching for five separate queries and forming an opinion from independent research, they can combine them into one search.

Implications for SEO

Right now, 15% of all searches every day are seen for the first time — no one has ever searched them before. There will be even more long-tail keywords. You simply can't predict all of them. This means SEO's focus will be less so on exact keywords and more so on topics moving forward.

3. Search Will Corroborate and Show Sources

This is why content marketers and SEO teams can rest easy.

Sources are still pretty visible — and the best part is that the AI will corroborate reliable sources to provide well-rounded answers. Unlike ChatGPT, Google's AI doesn't make up answers but cites its sources and shows you what it's using as context for its answers.

Implications for SEO

Your content isn't doomed to be totally drowned out by the AI. Cue a collective sigh of relief.

Sharing original research, opinions, and customer stories is more important than ever. Create net-new knowledge that AI can learn and then cite. If you're rehashing the same information as everyone else, the AI doesn't need to cite you.

4. The AI Can Carry Conversations

The "Ask a follow-up" feature beneath the AI snapshot mimics the functionality of ChatGPT.

It opens a conversational mode where you can ask Google more about what you're searching for more naturally. It also provides links for further reading.

5. The Generative AI Won't Always Appear

That's right — Google will only generate answers if it feels confident in its sources and if the search results abide by its safety policies.

It will avoid providing answers to:

  • Sensitive financial or medical questions, such as when it comes to prescribing pain medication. (This is an extension of Google's YMYL, or "Your Money, Your Life.")
  • Topics where it may have information gaps.
  • Harmful or explicit content.

On this, Google says:

“Just as our ranking systems are designed not to unexpectedly shock or offend people with potentially harmful, hateful, or explicit content, SGE is designed not to show such content [civic information] in its responses.” — Google.

Implications for SEO

This just means things are still going to stay the same for a whole lot of verticals. If you're in healthcare, you might not be impacted as much since Google doesn't want to take the risk of using AI to generate answers that aren't 100% verifiable by a medical professional.

6. Search Results Are Pushed Below the Fold

This is different from before, where the most relevant paid and organic content was displayed first. It's been happening for a while now with featured snippets, people also ask, and knowledge cards, but the new UI is a more extreme version of it.

The generated result, sources corroborated by the AI and relevant Google properties are shown above other results.

Implications for SEO

Similar to how people vie for a spot on a featured snippet today, it's going to be important to be able to have the AI corroborate your answers and cite you in order to get visibility.

7. No Ads for Now

In the demos Google showed at Google I/O, there were no ads in the AI-generated SERPs. Google still has to figure out what monetization for these queries will look like.

Implications for SEO

For now, that means organic content is more important so that you can influence AI-generated responses. We're sure an ads model will come in the future, so this will be short-lived.

‎8. Google Is Pulling in More Rich Media Sources Like Tiktoks and Podcasts

Google is focusing more on putting creators front and center. Expert opinions from real people are going to be surfaced in the SERP from different sources like TikTok and YouTube shorts.

Implications for SEO

Marketers will need to extend the evergreen content on your site with links to YouTube videos, podcasts, TikToks, etc. Say the same message in different formats.

What Should You Do When It Comes to SEO Now?

With the new AI-generated SERP, content marketers and SEOs need to adjust their strategy.

In some ways, nothing has changed — you're still just trying to create helpful content.

Here are some practices to follow to stay competitive in the face of AI-generated search:

1. Stop Creating Low-Value Content

Stop creating low-value content or going after keywords for the sake of traffic. Instead, focus on content that gives users the information they need that hasn't been beaten to death already.

2. Avoid Completely AI-Generated Articles

Avoid creating completely AI-generated articles unless you have proprietary data sources. If AI can generate it, Google can answer it. They don't need your rehashed content. There's still value in programmatic SEO that uses data you've collected, similar to housing data on Zillow.

3. Focus on Sharing New Ideas

Ranking becomes less important in the new generative AI search landscape. Instead, focus on sharing new ideas, opinions, case studies, customer stories, and original research. This will help Google cite your content and provide more value to users. Google is looking for new information that other pages aren't telling.

4. Diversify Distribution Channels

Your website is important, but you also need to consider other channels. As Google starts surfacing more snackable content from creators, you're going to need to be a creator yourself. Share the message on your blogs on social media. It's also important to turn your employees into creators and to practice employee advocacy.

5. Follow EEAT

Focus on creating helpful content that provides value to users by following EEAT guidelines (Expertise - Experience - Authority - Trustworthiness). Expertise matters more than ever. Make sure you're following the best practices as outlined in search rater guidelines.

AI Search Will Push Content to Be Better

It's more urgent than ever to create no-BS content that actually helps customers.

With its SGE, Google aims to become unbiased and direct traffic to valuable content sources. If anything, this is an opportunity for content marketers to engage customers by answering pain points better than ever before and leading them to products that will solve their top problems.

I'm optimistic about the future of content and SEO — hope you are too

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