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.
Ask a question, get 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 a company undertakes to make its website and web pages rank high on search engines.
Whether by oneself (with the right technical knowledge) or with the help of companies like Geeky Tech, businesses try to make their online presence attractive to both Google and users.
Businesses need to appeal to search engines because they determine if—and where—their web page shows up when users search for a relevant query.
However, chatbots that look up 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 someone can use AI to get a complete answer, which takes a fraction of the time?
Google’s competitor, Bing, is already in the process of integrating ChatGPT into its search page, complete with the chat feature. So, a person can have a conversation with the bot, complete with follow-up questions.
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 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 gaining traction. 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, AI-powered chatbots will change the landscape of search and search engine optimisation.