The Future of Organic Search

It's not just about AI

Read time: 4 minutes

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What's the future of organic search & SEO?

Ive been in the SEO/marketing game for over a decade. A lot has changed over that time - but this could be the era of the biggest changes to SEO yet.

The last time I remember anything even slightly like what is happening now is when voice search was going to take over search. and be the demise of SEO as we know it.

I remember attending the BrightonSEO conference in 2015-ish when voice search was at its peak. There was a lot of buzz about voice search taking over from traditional organic traffic, and it being the 'death of SEO' (again).

It turns out voice search was just a great addition to the ways in which people already search. Today, its mostly an incremental search mechanism.

That's the closest thing I remember to what is happening now with AI.

I do think AI will have more of an impact. The tech is already changing SEO. But while the focus has been on AIs output (ChatGPT, Mindjourney, etc.), I think the AI input is even more of a game-changer.

Generative AI search and others are likely to proliferate where people search, how people are searching, and more important, how people get their results / answers.

Even if it isnt a total game-changer or the next death of SEO, I think itll be far more than the incremental.

Like all big changes, its very likely well see opportunity as well as threats to the status quo.

That being said, there is nervousness in the industry of what these changes might mean for levels of organic traffic, will we see them decline, or free-fall

Lets dive into it.

SEO and AI Output: Content

Ive both heard whispers of, and seen first-hand, businesses cutting their writing teams free and switching 100% to ChatGPT.

At this stage, thats a huge mistake and pretty short-sighted.

AI content without human editing isnt strong enough. It makes things up, often lacks personality, and most importantly, isnt optimised.

Relying purely on AI content is going to be a race to the bottom; eventually, everything new produced by AI is a rewrite of a rewrite.

The good news is, when it comes to content, you already know the answer

Turn the dial up on quality.

Quality is a fuzzy metric though, so when it comes to content, what does quality mean?

Make sure the content is:

  • Written by a subject matter expert

  • Edited and updated by a second subject matter expert

  • Includes personal experiences throughout

  • Identifiable back to the expert, who should have a clear footprint online, and ideally appropriate real-life experience, training or education

  • Contains unique images & other media

  • Supported by other content on related topics

Beyond that, avoid topics that can be very easily answered by non-experts; those will be eaten up.

Link building

Link building has been the cornerstone of improving SEO rankings, pretty much since search engines existed.

The pattern that has run along with that is Google constantly moves the goal posts on what links it does and doesnt value, and thats mostly for good reason and a move towards quality.

That being said, even bad links or cheap links can actually work, even if just temporality so it can be confusing on what types of links to go after.

Overall I don't think links change too much, the incremental improvement towards better, more editorially gained link will continue, and given the influx poor content, high quality links will become the deciding factor in many cases.

With ChatGPT, its much easier for website owners to fill a page with relevant copy. This SERP-wide content saturation means its harder to differentiate, which makes good ole linkbuilding as important as ever.

Zack Notes,

One correlation we do see again and again is that sites with a legitimately stronger link profile (not just high DR, but actually strong relevant links) have a protective bubble around them, meaning they tend to get dinged less by algo updates, vs weaker competitors.

Brand, and being an Entity

With the barrier of entry for content lowering, more content coming out with less personality, it's going to be more important than ever to stand out as a brand.

That simply means being making sure you have something unique to say, and you say it in your way.

That doesn't have to be hugely complicated it can just be simple things like:

  • Identifying your tone of voice

  • Identifying your hooks, what are the 2-3 things you say or do that your audience loves you for

Dr Squatch is a great example of a business that's built itself on the strength of their brand.

They know exactly what they want to say, and exactly how they want to say it, that comes across in everything from their ads, to the website copy.

Ranking Fluctuations

Over the past few years, we have witnessed numerous updates to Google's algorithm. These updates have been more frequent and significant than ever before.

However, these updates are just a prelude to the even bigger changes that are coming.

While the specific changes that Google will implement remain a mystery, it is clear that the company is investing heavily in AI and machine learning.

Google's ultimate goal is to make search results as accurate and relevant as possible, and AI is a key tool in achieving this objective.

As Google continues to experiment with AI content, we can expect these fluctuations in the algorithm to continue. Some of these updates may be minor tweaks, while others may have a more significant impact on the search results.

How do you survive these constant ranking fluctuations?

  • Dont rely purely on organic search results. If you do, now is probably the time to re-think that

  • Invest in a second, third or fourth marketing channel

  • Build some links - a good link building strategy or digital PR campaign can provide some much-needed resilience

  • Focus on brand / entity - build recognition around what you do, the problems you solve, and the services / goods you provide

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