SEO 2.0 & SGE: Tips to get your brand ready for the age of search AI

AI search
Image; Tara Winstead, Pexels

SEO is still essential for any brand but the goalposts are constantly changing. In this guest post, we look at what you need to know about SEO in 2024.

2023 marked a pivotal shift in the world of SEO for a few noteworthy reasons. For starters, 2023 was the year of ChatGPT, as well as automated topic generation and even content production. As a result, Google released a hodgepodge of statements that were simultaneously supportive of ChatGPT and also knuckling down on spammy content – a lot of which was blatantly AI-generated, funnily enough.

As Google continues to roll out its own AI offerings (including AI tools like Bard as well as Search Generative Experience or ‘SGE’, and its AI-driven search functionalities), it’s naturally prompted a lot of business owners to ask themselves if now is the time to invest in SEO services

The simple answer is yes and there is strong support for this.

Although SEO certainly is in a state of flux, Google’s algorithm updates over the past year as well as the information that we currently have on SGE have confirmed two things:

  1. There will be unique ranking opportunities for businesses who are eager to build up their SEO and content strategies so that they’re human-oriented, not robot-oriented.
  2. SEO 2.0 is well and truly here, and building up organic traffic rankings will be easier for domains that have built up their topical authority.

Let’s dive deeper into SEO 2.0, the rise of SGE, and how your business can maintain its digital visibility over 2024 and beyond.

Image: Caio, Pexels

What is SEO 2.0?

With the introduction of AI-generated search results on Google this year, it goes without saying that business owners looking to build up their organic traffic will have to contend with some competition when it comes to SERP real estate. For search phrases with a commercial intent (i.e. ‘video doorbells’, ‘smart fridges’, and other commercial keywords), you can expect to contend with:

  • Google Ads 
  • Products listed on Google Shopping
  • AI-generated search results

And all of that before you finally get to position #1, which is moving further and further down the 1st page on SERPs. This essentially means that going after just high-volume, short-tail keywords won’t provide you with an optimal ROI.

We are well and truly on the cusp of seeing SEO 2.0. Simply put, SEO 2.0 refers to the transition away from purely targeting high-traffic and high-competition keywords with all your marketing resources, to opting more for targeting conversational search phrases (i.e. ‘what are the benefits of video doorbells’, or ‘are smart fridges more eco-friendly’). 

Going after these conversational search phrases helps your domain build greater topical authority. In other words, Google crawlers will be able to see that your domain has published a diverse range of content that covers topics surrounding commercial keywords. The larger your network of informational content, the more likely you are to provide meaningful value to customers that are further up your sales funnel – and the faster you’ll be able to establish yourself as an authority on that topic or even on that product or service in general.

In the age of SEO 2.0, business owners who are genuinely committed to making sure that their domain and all of its content answers customer questions, will have a higher chance of ranking highly on SERPs because Google is making space for domains that hit a wide variety of short- and long-tail keywords. 

And how do we know Google’s making space for these domains? Because of the expansion of their E-A-T content guidelines.

The expansion of E-A-T to E-E-A-T

Google has a knack for releasing monolithic updates near the end of every year. At the end of 2022, Google’s original E-A-T algorithm was expanded to their new and improved E-E-A-T guidelines. Cut to twelve months later, and that extra ‘E’ (for ‘Experience’) has been far more impactful than even the most seasoned digital marketers could expect. 

There’s one thing that AI-generated content can’t provide, and that’s a human perspective. Natural language processing tools like ChatGPT can distil complex topics down into simpler terms, but what it can’t do is present unique real-world case studies to help contextualise those complex topics. This gap in GPT-generated content is what prompted Google to officially recognise the value of author experiences. 

With that extra ‘E’ for ‘Experience’, content that can’t be replicated is virtually worth its weight in gold. So if you haven’t started investing in good-quality content for your domain that’s been developed in collaboration with your staff (i.e. your resident industry experts), then now is the time to do so.

On that note, that extra ‘E’ for ‘Experience’ can be attained in a variety of different ways, including:

  • Developing detailed FAQ sections on your webpage and writing up detailed, authoritative answers to those questions
  • Including unique case studies and anecdotal evidence in your content
  • Publishing blog content with detailed author bios and author profile pictures
  • Sharing blog content on company and personal social media profiles to support blog information shareability
  • Seeking opportunities for your authors (experts) to be featured on other domains and publications as a leading authority within your industry

Our first piece of advice for your SEO efforts in 2024 is to start identifying any areas where you could be improving your topical authority. If you don’t have a blog on your website, there’s an easy place to start! Having a blog can help ensure that your domain can develop that network of informative content to provide greater context for your products and services, as well as present your staff and other figures within and surrounding your business as absolute authorities within your market niche.

Image: Mojahid Mottakin, Unsplash

What is SGE?

Now you have a solid understanding of E-E-A-T and how it relates to SEO 2.0, let’s look at the impetus for all this change: the rise of AI. 

It’s no secret that ChatGPT received substantial investments and support from Microsoft, a partnership that resulted in the rollout of Bing AI. Bing AI has proven itself to be incredibly valuable for web users across the globe, hitting 100 million monthly active users back in March of 2023. Since then, Bing AI has continued to reach newer and greater heights by releasing feedback-driven updates that consistently improve on its functionality.

But there was a period of time when everyone thought Google would make a bid for OpenAI and their ChatGPT technology. After all, many market analysts believed that the development of AI natural language tools would be the end of traditional search engines like Google – so it looked like it was in Google’s best interests to buy up the technology for themselves.

In a surprise move, Google decided to forego the opportunity to acquire OpenAI and instead, developed their own large language model. This led to the development of Bard, Google’s own AI chatbot. And following the success of Bard, Google got to work developing SGE, and a ‘new way to search’ with generative AI.

Generative AI essentially refers to any artificial intelligence that can produce new content. This includes not just text, but also imagery, audio, and even synthetic data sets. Both ChatGPT and SGE, and other image-based AI tools like Dall-E and Midjourney, are all examples of generative AI.

The benefits of Google developing their own generative AI-based search model is that Google SERPs can deliver answers directly to search users rather than having to redirect search users to other domains (or the pages that rank organically on those SERPs). This ensures that search users spend more time on Google, which is naturally going to be beneficial for Google and its bottom line. 

But there’s no denying that SGE does have the potential to improve Google’s informational output. The only concern of the rollout of SGE is that it may be more difficult for domains to attain organic rankings on SERPs, or for 1st position rankings to be as impactful as they once were. But this mindset all but ignores Google’s newly developed E-E-A-T content guidelines. More on that below!

Image: Steve Johnson, Unsplash

How can you stay ahead in the age of AI search?

SGE is likely to prevent search users from clicking through to your domain as much, but featured snippets and Google’s ‘People Also Ask’ questions section will still be there, as will YouTube, Google Images, Google Shopping, and other dynamic search results. In other words, there are still plenty of ranking opportunities there for the taking if you stay on top of all the channels that contribute to your organic rankings. 

To provide a little extra direction here, we’ve compiled a list of the top measures you can take to ensure that your domain can stay ahead in the age of SGE.

Don’t neglect your LSI keywords

As we mentioned, building your rankings for a large volume of conversational search phrases is going to yield higher results than putting all your resources towards going after short-tail keywords with the highest volume (and therefore the highest competition). With that, business owners are encouraged to build blogs that answer longer-tail search phrases and ensure that their on-site content includes a healthy amount of contextually relevant keywords that surround your head terms.

These contextually relevant keywords are referred to both as keyword entities as well as LSI keywords. LSI is an acronym for ‘latent semantic indexing’, which effectively refers to Google’s algorithmic approach to collating and categorising keywords into different ‘contexts’ or groups of context. Google’s algorithm scans content to find patterns of keywords. So long as your content uses the same vocabularies that are used by other high-authority content and domains within your industry niche, Google will see your domain as a similar authority.

Develop visually rich content

Content is about so much more than just words on a page. In fact, they say that 1 minute of video equates to about 1.8 million words nowadays. Video content is also more likely to get engagement for ‘how to’ and other tutorial-based search phrases. 

So if you suspect that your search users are looking for visually rich content rather than just words on a page, give them what they need. It’s all about fulfilling the intent behind every search phrase.

Amend your approach to link building

With Google becoming increasingly nitpicky about what constitutes spam, now is the time to start getting equally picky when it comes to curating your domain’s backlink profile. Go for quality over quantity wherever possible (that is, unless your current collection of backlinks is near zero).

You should also consider working with professional link building agencies or even PR agencies who would be able to feature your domain on a range of premium domains. The more digital publications you can work with, the better. 

Another facet of amending your approach to link building is building up your domain’s blog content and other highly informative or valuable content so that you can acquire organic backlinks. These are backlinks that you haven’t even had to organise yourself, but are acquired purely because your content is naturally shareable! This is yet another benefit of using LSI keywords as the focus for your blogs.

Invest in your website UX and technical optimisation

Of course, even with a decent amount of good quality backlinks, nobody’s going to want to click through to your site if it’s incredibly slow to load and even more of a headache to navigate. So you’ll want to stay on top of your site’s technical optimisation, making UX tweaks on a routine basis.

If you’re not super confident with your own technical SEO skills, then it’s definitely worth enlisting the services of an SEO agency. That way, you can have a technical account manager working on your domain and ensuring that all those technical SEO boxes (i.e. .txt files, schema markup, metatags, etc.) are taken care of for you.

Stay on top of your GMB optimisation

Setting up and optimising your Google My Business profile can help your domain maintain a lot of visibility on SERPs, even in the age of AI. It’s also pretty easy to see why too. If a search user is typing in a service-based keyword like ‘plumbers’, then Google is naturally going to want to direct them to plumbers in their vicinity, because that would likely be the most relevant results to suit that commercial keyword. 

So even if you don’t build backlinks to your service pages, your business may still be able to appear on SERPs under Google Maps results. Just keep in mind that your visibility in Google Maps is also contingent on ensuring that your GMB profile is fully optimised to rank. This means adding in your company’s address, website link, opening hours, contact information, and making sure that you address any bad reviews (or that you ideally don’t have any bad reviews to begin with!).

Optimise your TREE

Alongside optimising your website and ensuring that all your technical elements are accounted for, business owners are also advised to not neglect the other channels that contribute to your web visibility, and thus contribute to your organic rankings. These channels are best remembered by using this acronym:

  • T – Traditional search (i.e. SERPs and your organic rankings on SERPs)
  • R – Rented channels (i.e. social media)
  • E – Earned media (naturally acquired backlinks and mentions)
  • E – Emerging channels (i.e. voice search, SGE, AI search, etc.)

Final words

All in all, the arrival of SEO 2.0 and generative search will undoubtedly change the way we tackle search engine optimisation in 2024 and beyond. But as is the case with all of Google’s updates, these changes are designed to make the world’s information more accessible to human users. So the most important measure you can take is to make sure that your information is always of value to your target audience. This is best done by ensuring that your content targets LSI keywords, and includes real-world case studies, anecdotes, and other rich information that cannot be replicated by AI tools and thus, inherently provides value in the form of unique insights.

So long as you publish content that delivers on all the answers it sought to address, then Google will be prompted to rank your content over AI-generated answers, and you will be able to maintain your web visibility even in the age of AI.

This is a guest post from Digital Next.

Post a comment

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,