A short while ago, there was a news story about how Google was panicking about ChatGPT, OpenAI’s “chatty” chatbot.
ChatGPT is an AI-powered tool which has access to information on the internet—all the way up till 2021. If you ask it a question, it will give you the answer.
Of course, the answer might not be completely accurate or original. It does rely on potentially old information and only what’s available online, after all.
However, what worried Google is the fact that it gives an answer and not a list of pages. A complete, coherent answer.
The Google “Code Red”
Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, declared a “code red” over the threat. And, the company’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who had not been involved in the running of the company, were now attending meetings with executives.
The goal was to push out the company’s own AI capabilities to combat the threat of the chatbot.
So, on the 7th of February 2023, Google launched Bard, an AI-powered chatbot that would compete against ChatGPT.
What’s more, Bard has a slight edge over ChatGPT. It can draw information from the internet whilst ChatGPT currently only has the information it was “fed”.
End of story, right?
The launch of Bard (and the ever-growing popularity of ChatGPT) leads to the question: Will AI kill SEO?
AI Chatbots and Digital Marketing
Digital marketing, currently, has been focused on search engine optimisation (SEO). This term encompasses all the activities you undertake to make your website and web pages rank high on search engines.
Whether by yourself (if you have the technical knowledge) or with the help of companies like Geeky Tech, you try to make your online presence attractive to both Google and users.
You need to appeal to search engines because they determine if—and where—your web page shows up when users search for a relevant query.
However, chatbots that look up your questions and distil an answer from various sources might change the way people search online.
The New Way of Searching
Instead of typing out their search queries and then looking for the answer in the hundreds and thousands of pages that show up, users would be able to use chatbots to give them the answer right off the bat, in natural language.
Suddenly, Google SERPs—Search Engine Result Pages—would no longer be relevant.
Why go through thousands of results when you could use AI to give you a complete answer? Which it would have found after scouring through all the web pages you were expected to scour? Which it could do in a fraction of the time it would have taken you?
Do you see my point?
My point is, chatbots might change the way we search for information online.
In fact, Google’s competitor, Bing, is already in the process of integrating ChatGPT into its search page, complete with the chat feature. So, you can have a conversation with the bot, complete with follow-up questions.
(Remember, Microsoft invested $10B in OpenAI recently? I touched upon it in the article where I discussed ChatGPT being used to write malware.)
With these AI-powered entities answering user queries like a person would, traditional SERPs might be on their way to becoming obsolete.
So, with no more SEO, what will digital marketers do?
No, they won’t lose their jobs. They’ll simply have to move from SEO to AEO.
What Is AEO?
AEO, or Answer Engine Optimisation, is actually a part of SEO which focuses on providing answers to search queries instead of, you know, just making the page optimised for search robots.
It’s not a new concept, either.
AEO became a part of SEO jargon when mobile voice search started becoming big. People would verbally ask the search engine on their phones a question. And, instead of giving a written answer, which one would need to read, the helpful Google lady would read out the answer.
Since voice search was growing rapidly, and was expected to be the primary way people would search in the near future, AEO became a hot topic.
At the same time, there was also position 0 on the SERPs—the much-coveted featured snippet. Ask a question and find the answer on the search page directly, right at the top.
Trying to “win” that spot required AEO.
Again, it is still a component of SEO, but AEO has a different focus. Instead of appealing to search robots, it aims to answer questions real people are asking.
SEO is all about taking a keyword and optimising a page for it. AEO looks at the whats and whys of the question—the search intent. Then, it tries to answer with that intent in mind, succinctly and knowledgeably.
People-Friendly Content for AEO
So, how does this come back to chatbots and search engines?
If people start using search differently, then, in order to keep up, marketers would need to make sure they are answering people’s questions. It will no longer be enough to satisfy crawlers—they would need to be people-friendly as well.
In conclusion, I think we are living in very interesting times. AI-powered chatbots will change the landscape of search and search engine optimisation. And, it is up to us—digital marketers and SEO specialists—to adapt to it.
I, for one, am very excited to see how content changes to keep up with AI.