Will AI Tools Make SEO Obsolete?

Written by Reece Dyer

7 September 2023


In the ever-evolving digital world, technological advancements continuously shape our online interactions. Here at Berkeley Communications, we pride ourselves at keeping ahead of new technology and tools. One of the most interesting recent developments stirring up waves is the emergence of new AI tools in search, notably Google’s Bard AI. With such powerful tools on the horizon, a pertinent question arises: Will these innovations make traditional Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) obsolete? After decades of marketing budgets being allocated to Google Ad Words in a bid to appear at the top of Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), is it now time for a new strategy? Let’s delve deeper.


The Dawn of a New Search Era: Google’s Bard AI

Since the inception of search engines, brands have jostled for the top spot in search results, deploying a wide range of SEO strategies. However, Google’s Bard AI presents a paradigm shift. Unlike traditional search results that lead users to websites, Bard AI proposes to offer complete answers directly, eliminating the need to visit any site. This AI generated response to your query will be above all of the traditional search results and even their own ads. I’m sure Google will find a way to put ads into this too.

With the onus now on AI to provide instant answers, one wonders: will the hard-fought positions in SERPs become redundant? The ripple effect is profound as this might translate to decreased website traffic and potentially alter user behaviour. The way we perceive the value of ‘clicks’ and ‘visits’ could be turned on its head.


Redefining SEO in the Age of AI

So, if SEO isn’t about getting to the top of search results anymore, what does it become? Brands might need to shift focus from traditional keyword optimisation to structuring data in a way that’s easily ‘read’ and ‘interpreted’ by AI. Instead of keyword-stuffed content, more emphasis might be on context, relevance, and precision.

Additionally, elements like Calls to Action (CTAs) could undergo transformation. If a user doesn’t land on your site, how do you incite them to take action? Perhaps the future lies in optimising content for ‘mentions’ by AI or crafting responses that prompt further AI-driven queries.

On the other hand, will this enable sites currently with poor SEO to get more traffic and interactions? This could be a huge boost for smaller or local businesses who lack the knowledge or time to effectively rank for Key terms, or will Google’s AI never get past the first two pages of results like the average user?


What are the Pitfalls of AI-Powered Search

This brave new world isn’t without its challenges. A key concern is the potential over-reliance on AI. When AI tools can facilitate end-to-end tasks – from research to purchase – there’s an impending risk that web design, primarily geared towards human interaction, might be sidelined. If your website’s traffic is now mostly AI then why do you need a designed website? Surely just a white page with text would be enough to provide information. This would be a sad day for the internet!

There is an interesting dilemma of AI comprehending nuanced queries. Consider a question like, “What is the best email marketing tool for medium-sized businesses?” While a human might understand the implied requirements and challenges associated with ‘medium-sized businesses’ or even “Best”, will AI? Or would it merely latch onto websites that parrot those keywords, potentially relaying biased or unsuitable recommendations? I’m sure you have already experienced product “review” websites that have no product knowledge or actual reviews but just provide referral links for their own gain.

Furthermore, inherent trust in AI tools could lead to misinformation. If the AI search engine gravitates towards biased sources, users might receive skewed data. AI hallucinations are already a problem with tools like ChatGPT being confidently wrong.  The age-old wisdom of “Don’t believe everything you read online” becomes all the more crucial.


Embracing Change While Staying Grounded

There’s no denying that AI is revolutionising how we search and consume information. From voice-activated searches to AI-driven results, the landscape is shifting dramatically.

However, in this evolving narrative, it’s essential not to lose sight of the fundamentals. While AI brings efficiency and immediacy, human interaction and authentic content should not be overshadowed. One hopes that tools like Google’s Search AI strike a balance. Instead of offering answers in isolation, these tools should be a helpful adviser to direct users to credible websites, ensuring a holistic learning experience and respecting the symbiotic relationship between users, content creators, and search platforms.

In essence, while AI will undeniably shape the future of search, it shouldn’t obliterate the rich tapestry of human experience and knowledge that thrives in the world wide web.


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