Does SEO have a future? The impact of AI

Key Takeaways

  • Data crucial for AI: AI-driven search engines rely on data. Therefore, the future of SEO is safe as content creation is essential.
  • AI search engine integration: AI snippets like Google’s AI Overviews alter search dynamics, potentially reducing click-through rates. This means SEOs will need to optimise for these AI tools.
  • AI content and detection: The rise in AI-generated content will continue. However, so will Google’s AI detection algorithms.
  • Visual search will drive SEO: Optimising images and videos for search engines will become crucial as users increasingly rely on visual search technology.
  • AI content will rise and be punished: AI-generated content will increase, but Google will continue to detect and penalise low-value content, emphasising the need for human insights and quality.
  • Intent and E-E-A-T will evolve: Understanding user intent and adhering to Google’s E-E-A-T guidelines will be critical as Google refines its algorithms to identify expertise and trustworthiness.

History of tech predictions suggests the future of SEO’s may not be so bleak

According to some experts, the future of SEO is bleak. This is because AI will replace traditional search engines. But before turning into Sinéad O’Connor and screaming “Nothing Compares 2U” while crying to ChatGPT for advice, let’s take a step back and gain some perspective.

In 2004, Bill Gates famously told world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, “Two years from now, spam will be solved.”

Amazing! Without Bill fixing spam, I may never have seen the email from the Prince of Denmark. He needs us to send £100 and Pinky swears he will pay it back with interest…

Moreover, in 1998, Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman said “By 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machines.” Oh yes. The famous fax machine that helped build behemoths like Facebook and Amazon. What would Jeff Bezos do without a fax?

Yet, predictions regarding the future of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) continue to emerge prophesying the end of search engines.

The future of SEO will change the digital landscape

SEO has a future because data is key to AI

The reason for these predictions is understandable. The rise of AI-powered search engines like ChatGPT allows users to find answers to their queries without sifting through numerous links and articles.

However, these predictions for the future of SEO all fail to acknowledge one universal truth. AI cannot function or evolve without new data and content. So, SEO will need to continue to exist.

To put it simply, AI requires vast quantities of data. Data gives AI the ability to provide accurate answers and analyse information.

Yet, if search engines like Google were to disappear in their current form, who would then create content? Most people create content to attract website visitors. So, it’s logical SEO will exist albeit it will need to adapt.

In this article, we examine the future of SEO, the emerging trends and the consequences for the search engine industry.

Will SEO exist in 5 years?

SEO will certainly continue to exist but there will be many changes. This will see SEO become more complex than ever.

Over the next five years, we will see the start of the AI revolution. This will see the following trends emerge impacting the future of SEO:

1. AI snippets like Google AI Overviews will impact traditional search results

Google doesn’t often get disrupted. Its entire existence has seen them pushing boundaries, causing others to react or go under. Yet the launch of ChatGPT changed everything. From that moment, Google knew it had to change. Faced with a bloody nose, they called in their founders and held a “code red” meeting. Their response? The release of Gemini, a ChatGPT alternative and the introduction of AI Overviews.

Google’s AI Overviews are an AI snippet. Situated at the top of search results, they use AI to answer a query by aggregating information from various websites. Consequently, many queries will be answered without a click.

So, the future of SEO will mean you must master AI Overviews. The introduction of AI Overviews means traditional search engines may lose 15% to 30% of traffic.

Therefore, you will need to understand how to optimise for it. This includes several factors like adding unique insights, enhancing structured data and understanding “information gain.”

For example, imagine you have a weight loss website that sells Ozempic. Since, many large, established websites sell Ozempic, AI Overviews will likely include standard information from high-authority websites. However, by including niche information you can get featured.

For instance, in the US, interest in Ozempic side effects is only 17% of the total volume of people interested in taking the jab. Articles, that include your data insights will help increase your visibility.

2. Answer Engine Optimisation will evolve and become a key part of the future of SEO

Tools like ChatGPT and Gemini are considered to be Answer Engines. You can use them to ask questions and get a detailed response. However, today they provide only a handful of website links. Moreover, they are typically given when you ask for them.

However, this is likely to change. In the future of SEO, you need to think beyond search engines. This may sound counterintuitive since most searches occur in search engines. However, what we define as a search engine will continue to evolve.

The first step is to understand how these new AI search engines impact the different types of traffic. For instance, tools like ChatGPT will likely be used for explorational searches. These are broad searches used by people looking to explore a subject.

For example, someone may ask “What are the best foods for blood pressure.” If you are in this niche, you must understand what results ChatGPT is returning and why.

While many of ChatGPT’s links and responses are wrong today, this will change. One of the key issues is that ChatGPT’s index is not updated in real-time. However, moving forward you will need to double down on building your authority to get featured. This will include social influence and reviews.

3. The future of SEO is visual: How images will drive SEO

Visual search will transform how users engage with search engines. For example, imagine you sell running apparel. One way of improving traffic to your website is optimising your images.

For instance, a user may see a running influencer wearing cool running tights. So, they capture an image of the tights using their phone’s camera. Using image recognition technology, they can pinpoint similar products, complete with details such as brand, price, and retailer websites.

This opens up exciting possibilities for SEO and content creators because people will be using images rather than text to search. Therefore, you will need to focus on creating:

  • High-quality relevant Images
  • Using descriptive alt-text, including relevant keywords
  • Submit image sitemaps to search engines
  • Implement schema markup to provide additional context

Moreover, this extends beyond images. Video search will also become more prominent. Therefore, you will need to consider:

  • Creating unique but descriptive titles and meta tags
  • Integrate closed captions for improved visibility

4. AI content will continue to rise and continue to be punished

Within 18 months of ChatGPT’s release, interest in AI content soared 256% globally, while concerns for its impact remained low. This is set to continue in the future of SEO, as the battle between Google and AI-generated content heats up.

This is despite, Google already punishing websites for using AI content. However, many SEOs will look to trick the AI content detectors, thinking with a few simple techniques, their AI-generated content will rank highly.

Yet, this will not be a sustainable strategy. Our research found that online AI detectors could identify AI-generated content only 55% of the time. However, Google’s AI detection is much more advanced. According to Google, SpamBrain, its AI detection algorithm, makes 99% of all searches spam-free. This will continue to improve.

So, we can expect an ongoing cat-and-mouse game, with online Blackhat SEO forums sharing how to circumvent Google’s AI detection. Yet, they will all miss one key point – no matter what loophole you find, Google will discover it and its AI detection algorithms will become more advanced.

However, like today, in the future of SEO, Google is unlikely to ban the use of AI tools. Instead, their focus will be on content that doesn’t add value. Therefore, it will be important to understand how to add insights and humanise AI content.

5. The SEO of the future will see the continued evolution of intent and E-E-A-T

Google’s algorithms are constantly evolving. In 2018 they released the BERT algorithm update that helped enhance the search engines’ understanding of user intent in search. Expect this to continue developing as a priority for the future of SEO.

For instance, ranking for “running shoes” won’t be enough. Understanding the “why” behind searches is key. Therefore, you must consider the specific purpose and develop content accordingly. For example, people may want “running shoes for marathon training.”

Moreover, the SEO of the future will need to develop a better understanding of Google’s content guidelines known as Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T). This is because Google will continue to evolve its understanding of which websites have the expertise to offer advice.

Therefore, if you sell at-home gut health tests, you should have evidence of your medical knowledge. This could include:

  • Partnering with clinicians and medical websites to create content
  • Providing scientific sources for your claims
  • Outlining your credentials and qualifications on your website

SEO in the next 10 years and beyond

With the advancements in AI, the future of SEO is rapidly changing. However, the changes we expect to see in the next 5 years are just the start of the transformation. Therefore, expect SEO in 10 years and beyond to continue accelerating quickly – making much of the skills and knowledge we have today obsolete and necessitating continuous learning and adaptation.

A big part of this change will be due to advancements in Google’s AI algorithms. For instance, we can expect backlinks to diminish further in importance because the AI will better understand content quality and social signals. MoreTop of Form

These changes will significantly impact your search rankings. Therefore, you must start planning how to adapt your SEO strategy. Failing to do so could render your current efforts wasted.

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