How Web Strategists Think SGE Could Impact Search Pages [New Data]

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Maxwell Iskiev
Maxwell Iskiev

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If you're in content marketing, you likely know by now that generative AI's beginning to hit search platforms – and we're pretty certain that the world of SEO will never be the same.

person searches the web on a keyboard to get gen ai summary

And as Google SGE's been tested over the last few months, it's seen many variations – making it hard to know the impact it will have on future search experiences.

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a preview of Google SGE

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At this point, content marketers are asking a lot of questions, like:

  • "How will generative AI search features impact us?"
  • "What types of content will thrive?"
  • "Which could see traffic drops?

The truth is, nobody knows for certain. But our survey of over 400 web analysts and SEO professionals gives us clues to how experts are thinking about this change, and the steps they’re taking to prepare.

The Impact of AI on Search

Right now, web analysts and SEOs are optimistic about generative AI in search, confident that it will result in a better user experience and offer more relevant results faster than ever before.

70% believe the new and improved AI search will incentivize people to use search engines more than they did before.

respondents see search engines being used more often with Gen ai

Similarly, 68% of web analysts think their blog will get more traffic than before with AI in search, while just 9% predict a drop in traffic.

This all sounds great, but certain websites risk getting overlooked. As one anonymous survey respondent put it:

“If it [AI] was put into search engines, my blog wouldn’t be as useful because people can find information or blog-like stories from AI itself.”

web strategist worrying about Gen ai quote

So, what can you do? Let’s take a look at which type of content experts say will take the biggest hit, and then a few ideas for content that will thrive.

What Types of Web Content Will Be Negatively Impacted by AI-Powered Search?

Depending on the layout Google ultimately releases, you might see a drop in traffic from content that can be answered easily by AI.

For example, searches like "How to Take a Screenshot" could bring in reduced traffic, since AI would be able to summarize the answer for readers, giving them less motivation to actually visit your site.

Many SEO strategies are centered around answering these types of straightforward questions, so this may seem scary, but there are some things AI isn’t great at that you can use to your advantage.

What Types of Content Could Thrive in AI-Fueled Search?

Let’s start by thinking about what AI can’t do well -- it doesn’t do a great job of writing opinion pieces with a strong point of view or reflecting on personal experiences. Frankly, it doesn’t have much of a personality, despite being able to mimic brand voice.

Karla Cook, Director of Content Marketing at HubSpot, predicts that:

“AI could start to replace a lot of the standard definitional/basic how-to keywords, but that will put an increased emphasis on content where there's clearly a human evaluating or sharing their opinion.” 

What does this look like? Here are a few examples:

1. Blog content expressing a strong point of view or opinion

If Karla were to write a blog post expressing her expert thoughts on the future of SEO, that would be an example of an opinion piece that AI couldn’t compete with.

Karla leverages her expertise, experience, and ability to form an opinion on a developing topic, adding value to readers beyond simply answering a question.

Before AI in search, a blog post about how many users Lemon8, a new social media platform, gained since being launched might bring in loads of traffic.

Moving forward, a post with a personal angle, like “I Tried Lemon8 for a Week, Here’s What I learned” will have greater potential to get people to go from SERPs to your website.

2. Blog content centered around personality

A lot of times, we aren’t just seeking out information for information’s sake. We watch longer videos full of facts we could find online in seconds, just because we enjoy spending time with our favorite creators and hearing them break things down in their unique way.

AI can do a lot of things, but having a great personality isn’t one of them. Centering your blog posts around a person, whether it be an engaging guest writer or an interview with a popular subject matter expert can help generate extra excitement and make your content stand out.

3. Content featuring original data and insights.

One last type of content that could thrive with AI-powered search engines is content that features original data and insights, like the ones in this blog post.

Of course, generative AI can summarize data from our survey of SEOs, but readers are incentivized to click on the full article for more context, additional data, and to establish credibility and gather sources.

Especially as it can be difficult to know when generative AI is giving you wrong information, a.k.a “hallucinating,” students, consumers, or company decision-makers leveraging data will likely want to get information from the source and ensure legitimacy by visiting your site.

Not only is original data trendy, clickable, and effective in building credibility, it’s considered a major link-building magnet as other blogs cite you as the source of the data you publish.

When other sites link to your own, it will help you rise in the ranks of most web search engines. So, if your content isn’t in the generative summary space of Google, it could be one of the links shown shortly after it.

To learn more about how to leverage this type of content, check out this piece from my colleague, Caroline Forsey.

And, What About Google’s 2023 Algorithm Updates?

One major change to Google’s new algorithm is that they added another “E” to their “E-A-T” (expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness) framework that is used to determine search rankings.

This additional “E” stands for experience, and according to Google’s official post, it measures whether content “was produced with some degree of experience, such as with actual use of a product, having actually visited a place or communicating what a person experienced.”

That’s Google telling us that they’re prioritizing the types of content discussed above!

Since this update was rolled out in March 2023, followed by fall's helpful content updates, SEOs have been taken for quite the ride with traffic volatility.

While we'll keep monitoring how SEOs are doing as the next few months progress, you can learn more about EEAT and the best types of content to lean into for optimal search traffic here.

What’s Next for AI?

Adapting your blog to AI in search is important, but it's also just as valuable to start leveraging AI in your content strategy and incorporating it into your workflow.

Right now, about half of bloggers use AI to create content. 74% of them say it makes their content perform better, and 65% say it ranks higher on SERPs.

On top of that, 58% of web analysts say their website is working on implementing AI in their workflow.

To avoid falling behind, check out our fuller Web Strategy & Trends Report, as well as our State of AI in Marketing below.

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Topics: SEO Strategy

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