AI in Search means drastic change. 

AI in SEO means that how we search for products and services is on the cusp of dramatic change. If you’re planning to buy a shampoo to save your thinning hair  you are more likely to start your search on Amazon or a similar Ecommerce portal than on Google. Same with travel tickets or hotels where you tend to hunt for prices on your regular booking engine. We use search when we are either not sure of what we want to buy or what we’re buying is significant. Search in this case would also include asking your preferred sources of information on family whatsapp groups or apartment associations. Now the big change is that Google is offering an “AI overview” – a synthesis of search information culled from the whole internet. You might have also seen Reddit summaries of entire threads. Yes, yes, right now the accuracy is laughable, but this is a toddler learning to walk. Be nice – she will decide your nursing home 🙂

I am not joking – the summary gives a great deal of power to the search engine. Very few are going to drill down into the sources to find out the merit of the claim. When you buy stuff on Grab or Swiggy or Amazon rarely are you going to go to page 5 or 6 – you just assume the algorithm is right! So basically all the info on your website is going to be read only by a web crawler – no human is coming near your AI generated blah! Oh no!

So just as marketers were getting all excited about AI generated content, the engineers decided to create AI to read that content….The human eyeball doesn’t need to get involved. There are obviously exceptions – if the user can’t define their needs in a structured way, or if the product is too customised to be captured as structured information, then the buyer will need to dip in and research. If the product is a commodity, then your decision will depend on how “cool” it is and hence storytelling becomes key. In the Marketing Society conference, there was a slide on what Coca Cola would look like if it was a B2B product – bland and boring. But that’s because generally B2B products are NOT commodities with no functional benefits! Bottled water is another commodity category that relies on the shape of the bottle and the source to sell the functional benefit which could easily be achieved with tap water. The more undifferentiated the product, the bigger the marketing is the general thumbrule. If you want to understand this better please read the chapter on Core vs Surround Marketing in my book 🙂 (Ok, ok, there is an article on this topic on www.paulwriter.com)

AI in SEO: New era of product discovery

1. Rise of specialty buying engines:

Feature/Functional led buying will be driven by purchase engines. You’ll input your requirements and it will match them with availability. You may allow these commerce engines to auto-procure low involvement/repeat purchases.

Like if you’re a billionaire and need 10 black t-shirts or a politician in need of 365 white dhotis from Ramraj.

There are already procurement engines that rely on suppliers to feed in the relevant information – large companies have their own on a platform like Ariba. The Indian government has the GEM marketplace, and Udaan and ONDC are driving digital commerce. AI will help these become more intuitive. There are procurement consultants like Beroe and Gartner that also carry relevant information that is not in the public domain – AI can make these even more automated.

2. B2B purchases TLDR:

Large standardised B2B purchases will be researched within these purchase engines rather than websites. Like SEO today they will demand information to be provided in certain formats and will not rely on websites as we know them today.

In large IT services purchases already many buyers rely on Gartner “magic quadrants” and similar rather than the company’s website.

Trust will be built not by cute characters and familiar songs – but by hard data, and certified verification of claims.

Rethink your website content – it’s either Too Long Didn’t Read (TLDR) or AI meh.

3. If you’re not unique, AI in search will eat you alive

AI in SEO means that generic “useful” content will become fodder for the AI engines. The grand copyright thefts have already taken place – AI has digested whatever was available on your website. Future quality content should go behind a wall. Readers will value specific, timely content from trusted sources. It will be hard for new content providers to break into existing spaces. For example if you want to offer a recipe for say, baking bacon, an AI recipe is likely to be the top find. But “Snoop Dogg’s Billionaire Bacon” is a hook. And yes, my daughter and I’ve tried it before putting it in this newsletter!  He has an aptly named cookbook too – “From Crook to Cook”.

Content like CEO blogs and company generated product content have to be reconsidered. LinkedIn already incentivises its “Top Voices” like me to contribute to articles on topics generated by their algorithm. Effectively outsourcing the their content creation to multitudes of experts. Next they could easily summarise our views into a nice cohesive viewpoint. Unless your content is so unique that it cannot be rebadged, don’t bother 🙂 SEO content will be for the machines.

4. Rewire the AIDA for AI in SEO:

In the AIDA purchase cycle Awareness and Desire will be the areas where we can be creative and live off the AI grid. While the decision engines offer curated discovery, there will be value in breaking free of that. For example you might have used a product for 20 years and miss the news that there’s a fantastic new alternative – think Google vs Perplexity. Or medical innovations. Or Adobe vs Canvas.

For Interest and Acquisition you are more likely to use the engines. Creativity will be required to break the clutter. Interruption based advertising will decline and interest based product conversations will increase. Think influencers and product placements. And of course my favourite – events!

So. What happens to little ole me?

I’d like to believe that you’ll continue to read my newsletter because it entertains you and sparks new ideas in a way that AI is at least currently unable to. That you’ll visit my newly renovated website and reach out to me because you realise that a lot more could be done to nurture and build your Customer Community through outreach, or because you’d like a marketing strategy that is more logical than one from an AI engine prone to hallucinations. Or maybe you’d like help in hiring a nice new CMO with a methodology based not just on decades in the industry but by contemporary research done with real CEOs – you can take the survey here.

We humans have an illogical brain. That will be our salvation. The Adobe ad played at a Marketing Society meeting sent me to revisit the Rolling Stones of the 60s. Snoop Dogg’s bacon made me (finally) curious about Hip Hop and Rap. Luckily the Singapore Airlines flight last evening had a BBC show on the History of Hip Hop and a playlist of the best songs from Hip Hop.

Stay unique!

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