Google may soon expand its use of artificial intelligence (AI) to power its search results, according to a recent article from Social Media Today. This development could render traditional search engine optimization (SEO) techniques obsolete. At the same time, it will dramatically increase the importance of strategic content marketing.
The move toward behavior-based search
Traditional SEO has been based upon optimizing your web pages for specific attributes, such as making sure that page titles, headlines and headings contain the keywords and phrases you want to rank for on Google.
The incorporation of artificial intelligence (AI) into Google Search, already used in about 15% of all searches, enables it to make intelligent inferences based upon searcher behavior. It may consider factors such as:
- How long did they spend on a web page?
- Where did they come to it from?
- Where did they go next?
- How does the page they visited compare with their search history?
What is artificial intelligence (AI)?
Artificial intelligence can discern patterns within massive amounts of data and make inferences about it, without human intervention. The most amazing aspect of this technology as that AI systems can “learn,” adjusting their algorithms to deliver more accurate results.
Google has been developing its own AI technology since 2011. Since then, it has been incorporated into a variety of Google products, including speech recognition, image recognition, street view and self-driving cars. It is currently used in about 15% of Google searches.
Based on our analysis of the Social Media Today article and several other recent reports (here, here and here), it’s clear that AI will soon completely transform Google Search. The most significant development is a recent change at the head of Google’s search operations. Amit Singhal, who ran it for the 15 years, has retired. He was replaced by John Giannandrea, who oversees the company’s work in artificial intelligence. This move clearly signals Google’s deep commitment to this new technology.
What does this mean to marketers?
As the Social Media Today article points out, “SEO-friendly” is giving way to “user-friendly.” To translate that into plain English, publishing high-quality content that’s focused on the needs of your audience is more important than ever. Why? Follow this logical progression:
- The more compelling and targeted your content is, the more your audience will engage with it (e.g., invest more time reading it, share it, and click on links within it).
- Engagement is nothing more than a set of desirable behaviors – which Google is already measuring and using to rank pages in search results.
- As Google Search analyzes your audience’s behavior, it should reward your valuable content with better positioning in search results. Not because it’s properly tagged and “stuffed” with the right words and phrases. But because your audience considers it to be valuable, based upon their actions.
What should you do now?
- Develop detailed personas for each of your target audiences and an accurate picture of your typical prospect’s buyer’s journey. Understand their informational needs at each step, and develop a strategic content plan that is focused on meeting their needs.
- Consistently produce high-quality content that is focused on the audience needs you have identified. Measure their engagement with your content to determine which topics resonate with them. Then, produce more of that.
- Build your email list, which will help you communicate directly with more prospects and build trust with them, nurturing them with the information they need at each step of their journey – before, during and after the sale.
SEO and Content Marketing: The Dynamic Duo
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- How Google has changed, and why you need to consider more than just on-page SEO.
- The semantic elements Google is now considering when ranking content.
- Action steps you can use to improve your content’s performance in search results.
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