SEO Agency NYC

Will AI Replace SEO?

Is AI the end of SEO: a Synopsis

No. I’m not afraid not. SEO has been dying forever – I wrote this answer in Quora over 7 years ago: What could potentially kill Google, which has had 180k views? I don’t believe Google needs to last forever but I’m cautious of the reasons as to why people keep claiming that SEO is dead. The root reason, in almost every case, is the same reason SEO myths live: A distrust or dislike of Google and its dominance. That’s fine – a lot of Marketing Experts (including one fractional CMO I had to work for for a while when an FTE at a tech company, which we built and sold on SEO – how awkward!) feel left out or feel let down that such a basic piece of technology is trusted by so many people. And that’s the thing: So many people use it. Like no other single utility provider. Since social media’s arrival, nothing has come close to Google. Even in the polarized mobile phone wars, Apple vs The World, Google is bigger than both sides. Even in the browser wars, and cloud wars, Google has been the 1 mainstay.

List of Reasons Why AI can’t Kill SEO

  1. SEO strategies ARE NOT published
    1. Yes, there are some basic tactical lists but these are not deep SEO strategies
  2. Google is Content Agnostic
  3. People prefer Human content over AI content

It’s the User, Not the Tech Evangelist

Even with the cloud wars – tech evangelists got it widely wrong. Firstly, the was the winner’s podium dominated by AWS – but that was never going to be an option for the Microsoft set – the 50% of Fortune 500’s who will NEVER leave the Microsoft stable. They will wait until SP3 before adopting – and they always do. As soon as Azure was more stable than a Wright Brothers Bi-plane, Microsoft resumed king of the cloud, king of the server, king of the OS.

And now, hybrid cloud is a hot topic again, as is repatriation. That subjective nuance of the “public” that keeps upending Tech Visionaries needs to have only 1 – in some kind of Lord of the Rings-style approach to predicting the future. With Microsoft’s $20bn investment into OpenAI, we didn’t see any bleed from Google to Bing…..

Google isn’t just about SEO though, it is about EVERY business

One of the reasons behind Google’s success is just how automated it is – and people forget quickly how many industries are connected by Google. Here’s why I think the people who predict the death of SEO just dislike SEO: They NEVER connect it to the death of WordPress, PPC, Webflow, Web design – because these are “actual” industries in their minds. Because they don’t know what SEO is, think that SEO is some magic black box of trickery – that is the only reason they need it.

But if there’s no Search engine – and searching for things is a natural way of life, every SINGLE app, device, and tool we have uses a search feature: vacations, documents libraries, libraries, slack, TV, Youtube, Twitter, TikTok – the list is endless – why would companies have Search Engines?

If Google “dies” – so does web design, so does PPC, so does…almost everything – but please read on

AI as a search Tool vs AI in search

A lot of the early first visionaries to get SEO’s death wrong again in early 2023 pointed to LLMs as if they create search and this is based on the many myths about how Google works. Google – like Youtube and TikTok – is content agnostic. It doesn’t care about content. Content doesnt rank because Google has some subjective template judging system. This myth is the same root as the backlink myth and is the formation of the “AI will kill SEO” myth – that somehow AI can determine which page is best. The problem is, as senior SEOs keep pointing out, Context (and not content) is king – and, just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, good content can only exist in the use case of the reader with a need. The same 2 readers with the same need case could find the same first-ranked pice of content good or bad, or one could prefer 1 and the other not.

That’s why content typically has a survival CTR (click-through-rate) of less than 2% – less than 2% of people need to be happy in order for that content to stay ranked.

Google doesn’t use AI to rank content because content doesnt rank itself

This is critical to note – and I’ve covered this in why EEAT doesn’t work.

SGE and AI co-pilot SEO will use the same Google Ranking model

As per Google’s SEO Starter guide, it will still have to be objective which means it still needs to be content agnostic. SGE isn’t a replacement search engine – it just uses a blend of the top results to make a story instead of giving the same blue links. It might not do a great job – hence why Bing hasn’t grown. But even if people do flock to co-pilot search, it will still use the same basic building blocks as standard SEO.

Even with AI, SEO is still the same game of content agnosticism.

The rise of LLMs in the Web industry

As LLMs came to the forefront since the launch of ChatGPT by OpenAI and then a very basic Bard, now Gemini by Google, many knowledge workers from IT to software engineers to content writing have been wondering what the impact will be on their industry. It should come as no surprise that many IT workers and then, oddly, copywriters turned quickly on SEO. SEO was first declared dead in 2008 – by social media supporters – something that never came close to happening. Today, Google is still the world’s lead generation king – sending 8x the web traffic of all social networks combined. 50% of all online purchases still originate with a Google Search.

AI’s disruptive impact on different industries

So far, LLMs have been deployed to content writing – that’s because LLMs can turn out bulk loads of content quickly and because languages have a (largely) defined structure and LLMs learn by recognizing/stealing patterns, the first AI tools targeted this area in droves. As many AI commentators speculate though, any industry that relies on repetitive, processesized tasks, lots of manual activities could be replaced. These have ranged from SIEM and SOC analysis in Cybersecurity to writing blog posts, creating videos, graphics, and even coding. Its pretty clear thought that coding is safe.

But lots and lots of tasks within industries are up for disruption – from IT to project management, and web design.

And so probably is SEO.

So what’s happening with AI and SEO?

Well, if the visionaries and anit-Google “Influences” are to be believed and people stop searching for some unknown sudden mass adoption event, then you can expect the death of the web design, web hosting, web support, and web marketing industries. If we are to lose the major glue and people are just going to trust an AI result set, then why do companies need websites? AI isn’t going to make LinkedIn and Quora better – and there’s no proof that people want to follow “AI influencers” or watch AI-generated videos or AI-generated content, why would companies waste time on sites.

It’s not about wether SEO is good or bad, its about what the user wants to do, and where the user will go to get research. And that remains to be seen.

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