Sometimes innovation is paradigm-changing. When that sort of change hits the horizon, you want to be ready to shift along with the landscape. As AI-augmented search engines surge in popularity, it’s time to embrace the learning curve, because it’s clear that tools like ChatGPT are here to stay. And having to enter a query with a keyboard—the method that’s been dominant for the past 30 years—is beginning to lose relevance.Vocal search queries, image-based product queries, and video-first traffic are claiming a greater share of the economy of interest channel through systems like Google Search. It’s all because AI-powered systems are a uniquely efficient alternative that offer a vocal and visual interface with digital systems.
How quickly this change will progress is still unknown, but from an SEO perspective, now is the time to future-proof your web strategy. To get started, it’s important to first understand the similarities and differences between a traditional web crawler and an AI-driven model.
How AI-Augmented Search Engines Discover Content
Having a clear picture of how AI-augmented search engines discover and judge content is a key step toward success in this new era. There are two ways to look at this, and the first is straightforward: AI-augmented search engines index web-based content, and judge its quality, using the same tools and standards as a search engine like Google. We can see this clearly through how Google guides their own search quality ratings teams and public postings. Google’s Search Quality guidelines support existing standards of what constitutes a great site—meaning, it ensures that a user query always receives the most relevant response.
Essentially, the reality is that any AI-augmented search engine’s success or failure is determined by its accuracy. No one wants to use a search engine that spits out a recipe for cheese sauce when you ask it a question about the Roman Empire.
Are AI-Augmented Search Engines Dependent on SEO?
The second way to answer the question of content discovery has to do with SEO. This is where things get interesting, because AI-augmented search engines do rely on SEO to a degree. If your website’s technical elements were already compliant with SEO best practices before Bard and ChatGPT were introduced, then you don’t have much to worry about in that regard. Instead, you should focus your attention on content-based concerns.
Your website’s content should be optimized for vocal, image, and video search, and use proper tagging, strong transcription, and natural-sounding language. It’s also crucial to have correct meta tags, structured data markup (schema), and alt tags that make it possible to index non-text content. These are the elements that are used to populate an AI’s database.
Consulting an AI-Augmented Search Engine
Let’s have a look at ChatGPT’s answer to a prompt around this topic—it offers a few powerful insights:
“Here’s a generalized approach to ensuring your web content is optimized for indexation:
Create High-Quality Content: Ensure your content is valuable, unique, and relevant. High-quality content is more likely to be linked to, shared, and referenced, increasing its visibility to crawlers.
Use SEO Best Practices:
- Sitemap: Create and submit a sitemap to major search engines like Google and Bing. This informs them about the pages on your website.
- Robots.txt: Ensure your robots.txt file isn’t blocking important pages from being crawled.
- Meta tags: Use appropriate meta tags, like the title, meta description, and canonical tags.
- Internal Linking: Have a clear site structure with internal links. This helps search engines discover new pages through existing ones.
- Mobile-friendly: Ensure your site is mobile-friendly, as search engines, particularly Google, prioritize mobile indexing.
- Get Backlinks: Backlinks (links from other websites to yours) are a significant ranking factor for most search engines. They can help in getting your content crawled and indexed faster.
- Update Content Regularly: Fresh content is more likely to be crawled regularly. If your website is regularly updated, search engines are likely to crawl it more frequently.
- Speed Up Your Site: A faster loading website is not only better for user experience but also for search engines. Google, for example, considers site speed as one of its ranking factors.
- Use Social Media: Sharing content on social media platforms can increase its visibility. Although there’s debate about the direct impact of social shares on rankings, there’s no doubt that they can lead to more visibility, traffic, and links.
- Use Structured Data: Structured data (like Schema.org) can help search engines better understand the context of your content. This might not directly influence crawling, but it can help with the display of your content in search results.
- Register with Search Console & Bing Webmaster Tools: These tools can give insights into how search engines view your site and can be used to request indexing for specific URLs.
- Avoid Duplicate Content: Duplicate content can confuse search engines. Use canonical tags to specify which version of a page should be considered the ‘main’ version if duplication is unavoidable.”- ChatGPT Prompt Response Aug 28th, 2023
In other words, making sure your site’s multimedia elements are indexable is the most important step you can take to prepare for these coming changes. For years, it’s been possible to do this by adding images, reviews, and other key data points around a site to the Google search index, but site owners often do not take the time to do it correctly. So don’t follow their lead: remember that the fundamental purpose of AI’s interface is to be just as human-focused as search engines like Google, and act accordingly. In the long run, you’ll see the results.
AI-Augmented Search: a Natural Next Step
It’s best to view AI-augmented search pages for what they are: the next iteration of structured data markup driven results. This is just the next logical step in that path as Google and Bing seek to better curate them against the inferred intent of a user’s search prompt.
So don’t get caught up in the hype. Use common sense, lean on the knowledge you have, and keep to your three cardinal SEO rules:
- Write relevant, unique, and engaging content built for your users.
- Use internal linking to build the best onsite experience possible, with clear journeys, metadata and schema; quick page speed times; and functional SSL.
- Publish content that will drive social media posting and interactions, and ultimately build a community of expertise around your website.
These simple rules should be your foundation for using AI-augmented search engine marketing. That way, you can move forward with utmost confidence that you’re more than ready for the changing landscape.