SEO vs. AI: The Future of Search Dominance Unveiled In 5 Facts
“I’m a savage.”
“… A killer.”
“… A warrior poet able to dominate Google rankings ”
If you’re weird like me, maybe you psych yourself for growing your business with such random phrases crossing your mind.
But psyching yourself up for work, is wasted energy if you’re building your marketing machine on quicksand—in the age of AI is SEO a quicksand situation?
Many marketers and founders are guessing at the answer right now — is SEO dead, for real this time? Perhaps you’re probably doing the same, fellow AutoGrower.
To answer this, I went hunting for data-driven facts and expert (in the trenches) credible opinions on the future of SEO. Here’s how I structured this article for you today:
- The Current State of SEO
- The Future of SEO Data-Driven Fact #1 — Is search engine use actually dropping?
- The Future of SEO Data-Driven Fact #2 — Are SEO results for “research keywords” declining?
- The Future of SEO Data-Driven Fact #3 — What is AI’s impact on transactional keywords?
- The Future of SEO Data-Driven Fact #4 — Will organic search shrink across search engines with AI growth?
- The Future of SEO Data -Driven Fact #5 — Are people ever going to trust just one (AI) opinion?
- Emerging Opportunities — What are the evergreen opportunities for growth that will endure (and are worth investing in), and what new growth strategies are recommended?
Lez go, my fellow warrior poets — all of you growth-savages of SEO.
The Current State of SEO
If you’ve read anything about tech in the last few months, you have undoubtedly heard of ChatGPT and the rise of AI. Basically, ChatGPT (or Bard, or Bing’s AI, etc.) can give you answers instantly without having to click on and read a website.
As an SEO marketer, you may be freaking out a little bit…
“Are we, like, never going to use search engines (aka SEO) again?”
“Will people stop visiting websites?”
“Are people really going to just believe whatever ChatGPT tells them?”
For many of us in the industry, these are important (and maybe scary) questions we must ask ourselves. But don’t fret; we at AutoGrow have done some digging and found 5 data-verified facts about why you shouldn’t worry about the future of SEO (thank goodness!).
But before we dive into the future of SEO, let’s make sure we know where SEO sits right now.
Companies Aren’t Buying That AI Is Taking Over SEO
First of all, the big players in the SEO game still use SEO. A lot. The graph below shows that 90% of companies are not yet turning their backs on SEO.
Second, Google is still the dominant player in the SEO and search engine market (by a country mile).
This is important to remember because Google controls much of what we SEO folks say and do. Google and SEO are intertwined, and Google isn’t going anywhere (as I’ll show below).
So how does AI fit in today? Right now, AI may seem like it’s taking over, but it’s actually just making SEO marketers’ lives easier. Here’s how:
- AI significantly influences keyword research and content optimization.
- AI helps identify long-tail keywords for more specific, targeted content.
- AI tools can find related keywords and topics based on search data and user behavior.
- AI aids keyword analysis, providing insights into competition and search volume.
- AI tools can track search volume trends, optimizing timing for content publication.
OK, great. So SEO is still here, and AI is now here. But should you continue investing in SEO or shift to a strategy incorporating AI? What’s the future of SEO?
It’s always a tough call trying to predict the future. And as with any new technology, the doomsday-sayers come out of the woodwork to make it even tougher.
But instead of listening to the hype, let’s look logically at whether SEO is still a good investment with facts (not AI-generated facts, by the way).
The Future of SEO Data Driven Fact #1 — Is Search Engine Usage Dropping with AI? No, It’s Actually The Opposite
Google is the unquestioned king of search engines (as seen from the chart above). But if we believe the hype and AI really is disrupting everything in the SEO world, then it must be taking searches away from Searchzilla, right?
But is it, actually?
According to Oberlo, Google did 8.5 billion searches per day last year, and in 2021, they processed about 5.6 billion daily searches — which means they had a 51% increase into 2022 — a monster number.
I Think Google’s Gonna Be All Right
(^ me asking Google’s AI (Bard) a question related to the impact of AI on… Itself)
It’s worth noting that eMarketer had a different stat for daily number of searches, but the trend, even now with ChatGPT and other similar tools in the market, is still up.
Will Google see a drop in searches because people ask ChatGPT to write a recipe for Instant Pot chicken stew instead of Googling a recipe? Probably.
But to the tune of anything close to denting its 8.5 billion searches per day? Unlikely.
As long as people continue to need search engines in addition to the new AI answer engines, SEO investment is still worth it by this measure.
The Future of SEO Data Driven Fact #2 — Are SEO Results Declining for “Research Keywords”? It’ll Be Impacted, but…
Sure, ChatGPT is great for some things. I can’t deny that.
And “research keywords” (think, “how far away is the moon?”) are one area where ChatGPT actually excels — if only for speed alone.
For example, if you need the answer to a question that doesn’t need to be super exact, you could throw it into ChatGPT. Remember the Instant Pot recipe example above? That’s the type of thing ChatGPT is good for — when you don’t really care where the information comes from, just as long as it sounds right.
Researching on Google Takes Longer Than “Researching” on ChatGPT
Here’s another example of using research keywords.
Let’s say I really want to know how fast an ostrich runs. Using Google, I’d need to type the question into the search bar, click on the Smithsonian Institute page (if you trust the Smithsonian Institute), and read half the article to find the answer.
ChatGPT spits out the answer in two seconds.
BUT… it turns out that doesn’t matter anyways. For simple research questions like these, Google has already started providing quick answers (much to the chagrin of content writers and SEO pros everywhere).
In fact, according to Neil Patel and Dejan SEO, sites that rely on research keyword SEO have already seen a dramatic drop in their traffic.
So there isn’t going to be a massive dip in SEO research keyword results because of AI… It’s already happened.
Now, I would definitely say ChatGPT is good for finding answers to questions I want to know (and that aren’t a matter of life or death if the answer is not entirely accurate). But would I use it for something I need to know, like transactional keyword questions…?
The Future of SEO Data Driven Fact #3 — What’s the Impact on Transactional Keywords? Little to None, Here’s Why…
ChatGPT is not perfect (don’t believe the hype, remember), far from it, in fact. And one area where AI falls well short of human SEO writers is transactional keywords.
For instance, ChatGPT cannot look up things online or give you real-time information. Which, if you think about it, is a big deal.
Actually, ChatGPT cannot give you any information after September 2021. If you want to know sports scores, prices, news, reviews, facts, statistics, or anything else that has fluctuating information or that happened last week or last year in anything, ChatGPT is useless.
That’s a lot of valuable information SEO experts can profit from that ChatGPT and AI can’t touch.
What’s even worse with AI is that it “hallucinates” when it doesn’t know the answer. Yes, sometimes it will straight up tell you that it can’t give you the correct information, as seen below.
But other times, it will just make up the answer to finish its thought (or maybe it doesn’t want to look bad like the rest of us — sentient!). Plus, it will convincingly tell you it is right when it is clearly wrong. Check it out:
So Who Can You Trust? Not AI…
How can you (or customers who need answers) trust or know when AI is giving the correct information? The simple answer is you can’t.
If you’ve been a ChatGPT user for a while (there are about 300 million of us, I think), then you’ve probably come across some bad information at least once. After that, have you found yourself back on Google searching for information (correct information) just like always? I have.
If I want to know the price of something, I am sure not gonna trust ChatGPT to tell me the exact price. I am going straight to Google to find accurate, relevant information. This brings me to my next point…
The Future of SEO Data Driven Fact #4 — Will Organic Reach Shrink Continuously Across Search Engines (and Social) with AI Growth? Demand is Growing, but Expectations for Quality Content Are Also Growing Higher.
Quality is everything these days, and ChatGPT (and all the other AI platforms out there) is comparatively low quality compared to human-written content.
Google, the titan of search engines, says that quality wins on the internet every time. To prove this, Google’s latest update, EEAT, is now the gold standard by which content is ranked (and let’s be honest, everything comes down to your position on Google’s pages).
Here’s a quick rundown of EEAT:
- It stands for Experience, Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness
- “Experience” was added to the old EAT formula recently
- “Experience” means that Google will prioritize content from people that have first-hand experience with the product or service they’re writing about (aka not AI)
- Google also says that “Trust” is the “most important member of the EEAT family”
Experience and trust are critical factors (and a genius move by Google) when considering if SEO is losing out to AI because AI cannot provide these human qualities.
Therefore, AI cannot provide in-depth, insightful answers to the questions that we humans are asking (hence why most of us are back Googling for what we need).
Real SEO Outdoes AI In Terms Of EEAT Every Time
So is the future of SEO in trouble? I say no way. Look again at the criteria on which Google bases quality content (the keyword is quality, not quantity — just because you have 1000 AI-written articles in your niche doesn’t mean you’ll rank number one).
Does ChatGPT or AI have experience? It’s only a few months old.
Expertise? It can’t give first-hand opinions.
Authority? It writes about anything and everything (sometimes without knowing the answer).
Trustworthiness? It hallucinates (lies) when it doesn’t have the answer.
A well-written, researched, thoughtful, and opinionated article will beat the generic data that AI “creates” for Google’s search results rankings any day of the week. Future of SEO = safe.
The Future of SEO Data Driven Fact #5 — Are People Ever Going to Trust Just One (AI) Opinion? People Want Multiple Reviews and Ideas For Information.
One way to think of the difference between AI and Google is that AI is akin to one person’s opinion, while Google is like having a whole library.
If you want to learn about something, do you ask one person and implicitly trust that answer? No way!
A Library Gives Better Answers Than the Librarian
If you want to learn about physics, would you want to talk just with Albert Einstein? Or would you rather have access to a whole library of information on the subject to get all the facts (I know Einstein was one smart cookie, but he didn’t know everything… and I’m quite sure there have been a few advances since his time).
People Want Other People’s Opinions
Say you want to buy a new pickleball paddle (if you haven’t tried pickleball yet, do. It’s fun!). What’s the first thing you do? You go onto Google and read the reviews and prices for pickleball paddles. These are real reviews from real people, and you trust them.
Also, most people don’t trust only one other person’s opinion when they look for online answers (do you ever read just one review before buying?). If you asked ChatGPT for a review, you get ONE review (and from 2020).
According to a 2021 report by PowerReviews, over 99.9% of customers read multiple reviews when they shop online, and another 96% of customers specifically look for negative reviews. This figure was 85% back in 2018.
What does this tell us? The power of human-written SEO content is stronger than ever.
As Google said, trust is everything in the SEO game, and you just can’t trust ChatGPT for some things. And that’s why the future of SEO is safe.
Emerging Opportunities — Ensure Your SEO Success In the Future By Looking In Unlikely Places
Yes, AI tools make SEO writing easier. But since when is easier better? Success comes to those who work harder or smarter than the competition.
If you want to succeed in SEO in the AI world (aka the future of SEO), you need to find opportunities that people either can’t see or don’t want to do.
First and foremost, you can’t let ChatGPT completely write your SEO articles or pages. I think that much is obvious to everyone by now. The quality just isn’t there.
But let’s go a bit deeper…
Opportunity #1: Branded “Answer” Bots
First idea: Why not fully embrace AI and get a branded “answer” bot on your site?
This way, people use your chatbot to get their answers right from you instead of going off-site.
Plus, you can use ChatGPT or other AI to help you code it (you’re using AI against itself — winning!).
This is actually something I am working on — an AutoGrow chatbot. This will make delegating your marketing tasks even easier and faster. AutoGrow is still plenty fast right now (so sign up for $7 for 7 days if you haven’t already), but now we’re talking light speed.
Opportunity #2: Get Quoted or Sourced In Chat Answers
You could also try tailoring your content to get quoted on Google’s Bard AI. Google is testing sourcing the information that Bard creates, but only if it directly quotes long portions of an article.
Plus, as Google needs those search clicks ($$$), they offer a “Google It” button at the bottom of their Bard chat (they probably hate AI more than anyone, but they have to adapt just like the rest of us…).
Google wasn’t born yesterday. They know they still need those clicks. And remember, what’s good for Google, is good for SEO.
So how do you get quoted on Google’s Bard (and, ultimately, Googled)?
High-quality, well-researched SEO content that people want to read. You might have to put a bit more effort in than a 30-minute date with ChatGPT when creating your SEO articles, but it means Google will recognize the end results.
Opportunity #3: Make More Videos
Guess what AI can’t do? Make videos.
If you want an unreachable-from-AI medium, put your business on YouTube. According to Global Reach, YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world, with 2.1 billion monthly active users watching 5 billion videos daily.
Those numbers are nothing to sneeze at.
If you haven’t already, optimize your company for SEO on YouTube and get more traffic that way.
Bonus Opportunity — Give Out Free Stuff
Free always sells. Give your customers lead magnets for free and grow your business that way. I’ll show you what I mean…
Neil Patel has given away his UberSuggest app as a free lead magnet for years, and his SEO company is number one worldwide because of it. He even made UberSuggest a Chrome extension, making it even more visible.
MailChimp redesigned its email plans to give users up to 2,000 free emails rather than making restrictive pricing options. Intuit just bought them for $12 billion because they had such a large customer base.
Tawk.to is a bootstrap company that is now the number one live-chat company in the world. Their tagline is “100% free live-chat software for your website!” So how do they make money? They get free promotion because their advertising is on the app, and they control it. So they get paid every time someone uses it or clicks on their link.
The future of SEO might just be free, white-label apps that companies give away as promos. Then your company’s logo is front and center whenever people use it.
SEO investment is still an excellent idea for the foreseeable future. In fact, now might be the most important time to invest in it. AI chats use the information we put out — giving it away for free to chat users (infuriating, right?), so sooner or later, people will be clamoring for high-quality, TRUE content.
To recap this blog and the future of SEO:
- Search engine usage isn’t dropping with AI usage — it’s only getting bigger.
- Inconsequential “research” keywords might get hit, but they were already down anyways.
- Transactional keywords are where the money is at.
- If you want to keep growing, spend more time on quality and less on quantity (AI-written).
- People always want opinions, something that AI can’t offer (along with a host of other things), so focus on what we humans do best and let AI do what it does best (quick Instant Pot recipes).
- There’s gold in them thar SEO hills… if you know where the opportunities are and are willing to put in some effort.
If you found this article useful, don’t hesitate to download a copy to keep by your side. Share it with your SEO team members or other marketers and entrepreneurs who might benefit from knowing how to better navigate SEO in an AI world.
Plus, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
What do you think of the future of SEO? Will people eventually stop clicking on websites and implicitly trust AI for answers?
Let me know in the comments below.
Keep AutoGrowin’, stay focused.