AI-Assisted Search and Google Algos Are the Most Important Personas in 2024
By Adam Townsend, Founder and Chief Brand Advocate, Townsend Creative Imaging LLC
NO AI INVOLVED IN CREATION OF THIS WRITING
[Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes, 14 seconds] In 2024, AI assisted search threatens to upend the entire search-engine-based digital marketing industry. As marketers, we have to give the robots what they want, and avoid giving Google too much of what it wants (our cash!)
The answer is to treat AI as a persona in all your content strategy sessions – understand its motivations and needs to give yourself better odds of product or service mentions in AI query results.
To do this, marketers must stay focussed on the tenets of good writing, well-produced multimedia and efficient communication – this is what both humans and robots look for in compelling content.
But because of Google’s efforts to force content producers into a pay-for-play ad system, even organic strategies will probably need a boost from some small, surgical ad spends.
Don’t sacrifice quality for quantity by leaning on AI or ad spends as crutches, however. Use these tools to magnify your own creativity and vision.
First, in addition to your organic SEO efforts, you may have to advise clients to buy some Google Ads in the short term.
Until 2023, I told all clients to start with a pure organic strategy to build their digital presence. Now, I think any organic strategy probably needs to be paired with a bare minimum Google Ad spend – enough to at least signal acquiescence to the behemoth.
There isn’t a good way around Google’s bullying of content creators. You may just have to bid on a few search terms.
Be sparing and surgical in this. Hit terms that convert, not that serve vanity traffic metrics. Especially if you’re an SMB, go for more specific product terms with smaller volumes. You can compete here.
Do not give in to the temptation to skip SEO research for ad content.
Even though Google Ads algos are now clearly more heavily weighted to advertisers who pay more, the algorithms in the system that sense content quality are still rattling around somewhere. They are presumably still important in ad ranking decisions.
In the long term, it’s Google who will suffer by devaluing search results. Just keep SEOing ALL your content, even ad content. It’s the best way to communicate, and it primes content for later ranking once your ad spend expires.
Also, make sure you’re using YouTube to your best advantage. This is a Google property, and Google likes when you use their stuff.
Second, when you use AI in your process, outsource tasks, not your point of view.
Don’t make ChatGPT come up with your strategy. Make ChatGPT poke holes in your strategy and flesh out your research.
Don’t use AI to write your content. Use it to proofread and optimize for terms once you’ve written it in your voice.
Then, edit it again, line-by-line.
Third and most importantly, all marketers need to include AI/search algos as a persona in every strategy session.
AI is the first entity who reads your content. As the gatekeeper to your audience, AI and algos in aggregate are your most important users. As a result, we need to empathize with these entities to sell to them.
Search algorithms/AIs see the whole internet almost all at once as they simultaneously complete billions of tasks for millions of users. A little load delay or circular redirect doesn’t seem like a big deal in the context of your site.
In aggregate, however, these little inefficiencies cost Google and other engines hundreds of millions of dollars in processing power to index.
As a result, AI won’t send users your un-optimized content because it has to think harder about it.
Search algos serve results based on how closely your content conforms to how searchers are talking about it. If you alt-tag photos as “film exposures of hirsute juvenile felines,” the AI understands what you mean, but no one is looking for that.
Change the alt tag to “photos of fuzzy little kittens,” and there are already 1.2 million people every month searching EXACTLY that phrase.
The AI/Algorithms don’t have to translate in a neural net; the phrase is right there. It will massively out-perform the first alt tag, whether it’s in SERPs or AI-produced query responses.
Can’t the AI see it’s a kitty just by looking at the JPG?
Yes, but not without wasting a ton of compute power. It’s much easier to read the alt tag, so among similar images, the leanest file size with the clearest alt tagging will win every time.
Good Communication Is Good Communication – No Qualifiers.
None of the practices I’ve outlined here are any different now than they were before last November when the initial release of ChatGPT-3.5 stormed the world.
That doesn’t mean we must stay rigid – all kinds of ancillary practices fall in and out of favor with search algos. AI is trained on relational data using tables, for instance, so I’m starting to use more tables in my marketing content for clients.
Furthermore, Google is increasingly adulterating its results with less valuable ad content, coercing sites and businesses into ad spends of questionable value.
But clear, concise, accurate and useful information will be what’s left in SERPs as Google’s business strategy and the implications of generative AI-assisted search shake out.