Neil Patel

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What Google’s New AI Search Engine Mean for SEO and Paid Ads

It’s been a few weeks since Google announced that they are releasing a new version of their search that is powered by AI.

And now Google has had their Marketing Live event.

I didn’t want to talk about how Google’s new changes impact marketers until we could see the whole picture.

If you missed the events, Google is now releasing AI-generated answers within their search results when you ask Google specific questions. For example, if you asked Google “What’s better for a family with kids under 3 and a dog, Bryce canyon or Arches” you would now see something like the response below.

And it’s not stopping there. It’s also affecting transactional searches as well. For example, if you ask Google for a “good bike for a 5-mile commute with hills” you’ll now see results similar to this.

What’s cool about the result above is you can then go and ask a follow-up question and have Google filter the results. For example, if I prefer a bike that can meet the criteria above plus is also red in color, and an e-bike, Google will then filter the results and show me what I want.

The best part is you don’t have to start your search all over again. Filtering is just like how you can filter results on a typical e-commerce site when you are shopping.

So, what does this mean for SEO?

Most SEOs I have talked to are freaking out… the first thing that comes to people’s mind is Google is going to take away my traffic.

And yes, you can and probably will lose some traffic from this. But at the same time, it will create a better experience for people using Google, which will cause Google’s overall traffic and usage to go up, which should help you continue to get a lot of traffic from Google and potentially even more.

According to Danny Sullivan, the Public Liaison for Search at Google, Google Search sends more traffic to the open web every year.

In reality, Google Search sends billions of clicks to websites every day, and we’ve sent more traffic to the open web every year since Google was first created.

This is even after all the changes they’ve made over the years.

Do you remember the days when you used to ask Google the weather in any city and they would just list out tons of websites?

Now that’s not the case, they just show you the weather.

Whether you are looking up a stock quote, a definition, or asking Google about a math problem it just shows you the answer. They haven’t stopped there. They’ve continually made changes like this and many more will come over the years.

Why?

Well, it’s not that they want to keep people on Google. It’s that they want to provide the best experience for users.

And when they made all those changes, people freaked out and said SEO was dead. But it isn’t.

Heck, I built one of the fastest growing companies in the United States according to Inc Magazine mainly off of SEO. When we first hit the list, we were the 21st fastest growing company.

And if that doesn’t convince you, maybe this will… Do you want to take a guess on why Google won’t cut off 100% of the traffic they send to websites and why you shouldn’t worry about losing all of your traffic (you of course can lose some)?

I’ll give you a hint, check out this chart from Oberlo.

Google makes a whopping $32.78 billion a year in revenue from ads shown on network sites. These are largely sites running AdSense.

Now imagine if Google stopped sending traffic through SEO to a lot of these publishers. What do you think would happen?

Their revenue would tank, and so would their stock price.

Sure, maybe they could make it up somehow, but I doubt they are going to make a $32.78 billion gamble without having data first.

Those network sites in most cases are not buying traffic to their site through ads. The economics don’t work out in most cases… the cost of the traffic through ads would be more expensive than the revenue they generate through ads.

So, what do they do? They focus on organic traffic… SEO and social media.

Killing off their organic results and driving traffic to sites will hurt their income by billions of dollars.

Now it doesn’t mean these changes won’t hurt some publishers. For example, if you run an affiliate marketing site that breaks down the 6 best toaster ovens like this site, you’ll see your affiliate revenue get crushed in the long run.

It’s better for Google to use AI to give you the right answer. That creates a better user experience for you the searcher.

The same goes for finding cheap flights. Why would you want to do a search on a search engine like Google for “cheap flights” and then be taken to another search results page like one on Kayak to see the flight options?

It’s a terrible user experience. It would be more convenient for Google to just show you the best flight option.

Yes, this will hurt some publishers (and sites), but this already creates a better user experience. The better the user experience the more popular Google gets and you’ll continually see websites generating organic traffic (it could be more or less depending on the industry) but you should be able to generate substantial traffic still.

Why? Because again, Google isn’t going to kill off its $32.78 billion revenue stream.

And when you look at transactional keywords like “good bike for a 5-mile commute with hills” just like the Gif I showed earlier (and below in case you missed it)…

They are showcasing organic results. It should help you generate more sales as well. This would be a win because someone has a specific use case and they are showcasing your product, which means the conversion rates should be higher versus someone just typing in “red bike”.

Well, how about paid ads?

The changes they are making with AI should help paid ads.

A lot of the queries that are affected aren’t transactional keywords.

And if you go back to the example of “good bike for a 5-mile commute with hills” which is transactional, you can bet they will integrate paid ads into those areas to generate more income.

This will hurt the organic results, but when they first introduced paid results, it also hurt the organic results.

But we’ve learned to live with both paid and SEO results on search result pages.

Keep in mind Google generates over $162 billion a year from ads on Google.

That’s a lot of revenue for them to lose. They won’t want to do anything to jeopardize that income.

This is why they are experimenting with integrating search and shopping ads into AI-based snapshot and conversational mode. Check it out.

And they are experimenting with new ad formats that integrate directly with the search generative experience (the stuff they are doing with AI).

You can see in the image below how their ads directly related to the AI response that Google provided.

So you don’t have much to worry about as an advertiser.

Best of all, as people start getting more specific with their search queries as the new version of Google should in theory provide better responses and results, it should actually increase the conversion rate for paid ads.

It’s why marketers target long-tail phrases in the first place.

To also make lives easier for marketers, Google, similar to Facebook, is releasing tools to help you create better ads that have higher conversion rates.

So let’s say you want to create an ad for “cat food”.

Instead of having to pay designers to create image variations or hire a photographer, you can potentially just use Google’s AI features. When you click the “generate images” button, you’ll now be given images you can use.

Or you can get very targeted and specify to Google’s AI the kind of images you want. Just look at the above screenshot, it shows how the AI generated ingredient images.

Conclusion

We see AI disrupting more longtail keyword searches versus head terms.

We of course don’t have Google’s dataset. But when we look at our Ubersuggest data, of users typing in extremely longtail phrases (8 plus words), it’s less than 11.6% of the queries.

Again, this isn’t Google’s data… it’s ours (which is still a large sample). Because the search volume from these terms isn’t as high it shouldn’t impact traffic as much as most as people are thinking.

And when we look at those 11.6% of search queries, 72% were not transactional.

Overall I see it as a big win. Google’s improved search engine with AI will start creating better results for long tail phrases. This should cause more people to search for long-tail phrases.

This means the sites that rank organically or rank through paid ads, should generate more conversions.

In other words, don’t be worried about these changes. They are better for users, which means it’s better for you as a marketer.

You just have to adapt over time. And even if Google leverages AI responses for broad terms eventually (which could happen), marketers will adapt. If you look at the largest companies they win by creating good products and services and building a brand.

For example, when we do brand recall studies at our agency, SEO results within the knowledge graph that don’t cause clicks still help with sales. And we expect something similar to happen with these AI changes.

This is also why we advise our clients to focus on an omnichannel approach (SEO, paid ads, social media, email marketing, CRO, content marketing, etc.). In essence, they leverage all the channels that can help them grow instead of just one.

What do you think about the changes?

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