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SEO skills are even MORE in demand in an AI world
Many marketers are quietly panicked that if Google transforms their search results into a generative AI-first engine, there will be less demand for the SEO skillset as users stop clicking organic results. This is a valid concern for those that traffic in basic SEO tactics, but for the strategic SEO thinker, AI-based Google search makes SEO skills more valuable, here's why.
Retention of traffic
1. There is no doubt that generative AI responses will pull impressions and clicks away from the organic results we see today. It has not been revealed which queries will have generative AI, but regardless those that do have a changed UI will be impacted. This will inevitably lower the total amount of impressions that are available for organic clicks.
On some informational queries, it may lower clickthrough rates by close to 100% (when the responses are accurate) while on shopping queries it may only impact 10% of organic clicks.
Still, unless websites/companies are OK with losing even the organic traffic that's left, they will be even more inclined to optimize for search visibility. The old adage of you didn't appreciate what you had until you lost it will be true. The desire for SEO will increase with the pain of sudden traffic losses.
The first launch of AI in search will cause a general concern that whatever traffic loss websites experience immediately is just the start of the drop. They will want to quickly find a strategy to retain traffic.
2. The requirements for SEO could potentially change overnight and demand for skilled strategic SEO thinkers will soar. Generative AI results will upend the standard playbook of "write content on popular keywords" to create SEO visibility. Now SEO will require having a strategic vision of why, what, and how a company will achieve visibility and that skillset is not commoditized by people who read a book on SEO.
Other commoditized tactics such as guest posting for backlinks, keyword stuffing using TFIDF, and even mass-producing AI content will become less significant. The approach to SEO visibility will require the kind of strategic thinker who knows how to deploy all available tactics for the right growth and user.
Tools and reporting
3. The toolset for SEO visibility will become so much more dynamic. No longer can a business owner or executive just look at a weekly rankings report from a popular SEO tool and assume performance. Those rankings reports will be less representative in a keyword-less world and they will need skilled SEO specialists to help them understand their and their competitors' visibility.
SEO itself will be more complex as search broadens into millions of prompts instead of thousands of keywords. Inevitably there will be reporting models and tools that help quantify the SEO opportunities and growth, but before those are created you need a skilled operator who can incorporate snippets of information into the big picture.
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Communication and articulation
4. With the SEO landscape changing, potentially the biggest change ever, the need to communicate what is happening to clients, executives and the media is greater than ever. There will be a dearth of information that explains the precise details of how these changes are and will be impacting web traffic; therefore, into this void, the SEO experts can step in and both calm executives and clients while also charting a path forward.
To put an analogy to this, when banks were suddenly failing earlier this year it could have caused a sense of panic that would have had customers running to other banks to pull out their money. This would have of course caused the panic to spread and potentially a death spiral in our economy.
Instead, experts in the media and regulatory bodies stepped up to explain what was happening and why the overall banking system was safe. This stopped the contagion and limited the failures only to the weak banks. Something similar could happen in the search world and it is up to the people that understand what is happening to stop the panic. If that is you, embrace the challenge.
Change is scary and not always bad. There is a silver lining here even if search transforms overnight.
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