Insights / SEO

PUBLISHED: May 22, 2024 57 min read

Webinar: SEO in the Age of AI

Lily Ray

Lily Ray

Vice President, SEO Strategy & Research

Inna Zeyger

Vice President, Digital Media


Inna Zeyger 00:00 

So we’re just going to get started. Thank you so much for joining us on this webinar today. We’re so excited to see all of you, so many names, so many faces, and can’t wait to talk about SEO and the age of AI today.  

A little bit of housekeeping for those of you that just joined. We’ll make sure that we’ll be sending a recording to all registrants. So don’t worry, if you come in a little bit late, you’ll get it. And as we chat, please feel free to leave your questions for us using the Q &A button below.  

We’ll try to get to some of it during our conversation, but we’ll leave time towards the tail end. All right, very, very cool. Super excited and can’t wait to talk about it. So today we’re talking about SEO and the age of AI, looking at some really, really transformative changes in SEO driven by advancements in AI and Google’s evolving response to the rapidly expanding digital content landscape and search patterns.  

I know a lot of changes happened yesterday, a lot of announcements with Google Marketing Live, so hopefully we’ll get a chance to touch on that. But largely AI tools, I think that’s been the big topic of conversation for all of us for well over a year, not just on the SEO side, but on the digital media side as well.  

But AI tools can enhance efficiency, they can help with personalization, they allow businesses to create tailored content at scale in a way that’s just more efficient or in areas where it used to be very time intensive to do.  It’s also helped people better understand their world. It’s given us a lot of personalized answers to the questions that we’re looking to understand every day, and I think that’s also going to be a pretty big topic of conversation today.  

But with all of the helpful things that AI has helped us to do, AI -created content can be really challenging to do well, something we’ll talk about quite a bit today as well. So low -quality AI -generated content just has really negatively influenced search results, though I’ve seen some complaints here and there and also user experience.  

And Google’s introduction of AI overviews for search queries has often enough resulted in misleading answers to important questions, and I know the speaker today has quite a lot of thoughts on that too.  So over the past year, Google has implemented a lot of updates with the goal of improving search quality. For some businesses, these updates have had unintended consequences, completely upending business models. So today we’re going to talk about these developments in quite a bit of depth and discuss how SEO practices must adapt to stay ahead in this new landscape. So let’s do some introductions.

Hi, my name is Inna Zeyger, and I’m the VP of Digital Media here at Amsive.  Please don’t leave. You are in the right place. We are going to be talking about SEO. You must be wondering why a media person is on an SEO conversation. But really, a lot of the work we do is so intertwined, and often enough, the collaboration leads to much stronger and better results.  

So before I introduce my guest, Lily Ray, she is a colleague, a friend, and a pioneering SEO. She heads up our SEO team as the VP of SEO and strategy and research. And Lily spends a lot of time analyzing how Google and other search engines evaluate and rank content.  And she works with our clients to help future-proof their SEO strategies. So really excited to have her. Lily, welcome. For those of you who don’t know Lily, I’d love for you to introduce yourself.  

Lily Ray 03:33 

Yes. Thank you. Super happy to be here and happy to be here with you as well, Inna. Love working together and love doing these types of projects together as well. So, yeah, my name’s Lily. I oversee our SEO team with a handful of other directors.  

We’re about 35 people now. We assist clients in lots of different categories. And, you know, with all things SEO, my role personally and specifically in the last couple of years has really focused a lot on research.  Just looking into what Google and the other search engines are doing day in and day out. They’ve certainly kept us on our toes for the last couple of weeks and months. The things have been quite busy, but just trying to keep a handle on what’s happening, what’s changing, and certainly focused on AI.  

So happy to talk about everything today.  

Inna Zeyger 04:16 

Yes, yes, we’re going to dig deep on those. I know a lot of you get to hear on this conversation. So today we’re going to be talking about SEO and the age of AI. And we’re going to be covering a bunch of different things.  

But what I’d love to really talk to you about Lily is just the recent changes in search results and what these changes have looked like. And it’s a big concern for many how marketers can respond to these changes now and what this actually means for SEO in the future, which is always a big question and know you have a lot of thoughts on that too.  

So let’s start with the very, very first one. What’s going on with search results in the last year? What sort of changes are you seeing? 

Impact of AI on SEO and Google’s response

Lily Ray 04:53 

Absolutely. Let me know. Can you see my screen OK? Yes, perfect. Yeah, so I want to focus on some of the bigger changes that have happened in Google search results over the last, let’s say, eight or nine months or so.  

Now, there’s been a lot, but the ones that I want to focus on, because I think they’ve had the biggest impact, have been the September Helpful Content Update, which rolled out last year in September.  We have the March core update, which was about a 45 -day core algorithm update that concluded last month in April. We also have the March spam update, which was launched at the same time as the March core update, but ended a little bit earlier.  

And of course, we have AI overviews, which we’ll be speaking about today. Just really, I know we’re going to dive into this in a second, but just looking at, bear with me, here we go. Here we go. Really quick, a couple of big things that happened. Pure spam manual actions were sent out in March. This was Google sending manual actions to websites that were engaged in what they call pure spam. So Inna, you mentioned before, overuse of AI -generated content, using a lot of AI tools to kind of mass auto -generate a lot of low -quality content.  So a lot of this type of content you’ll see here on the right, Google was actually sending pure spam manual actions to these sites, which removed their sites from search entirely. So you can see that here during the letter A.  

Scaled content abuse is another new change that Google made as part of this core update. So what they’re saying here is if you have found an opportunity to scale a lot of low-quality or mediocre quality or just content that Google considers to be unhelpful in a way where they’re kind of mass creating lots and lots of pages really quickly, getting all those pages, or trying to get those pages indexed on Google, Google can now consider that a form of spam, which they call scaled content abuse, which can be remediated either by Google sending a pure spam manual action or taking algorithmic action against the website.  

And I’ll pause there as we move on to the next question.  

Inna Zeyger 06:53 

Yeah. And, you know, like one of the big things is, you know, there’s the type of content, but, you know, how are sites sourced in these, you know, new AI overview answers? Like, what are we looking at?  

Recent changes in Google Search results

Lily Ray 07:06 

Definitely. So that’s another really big change that I will dive into next, which is Google’s announcement about AI overviews. I think everybody in the industry knows about this by now, but in case you don’t, Google’s been testing this over the last year, really.  

They announced it last year at Google I/O. This is a new way of Google displaying AI -generated answers to questions directly in Google search results. And essentially, what they’re doing is they’re taking a mix of top ranking results, as well as actually results that don’t rank anywhere in the top 50 or top 100 in some cases.  And they’re picking the most relevant passage and kind of using generative AI to generate a direct answer to the question in Google search results as well. So this was the big announcement that they made last week.  

Yeah, last week at Google I/O. May 16th, they said that they’re now going to be rolling out a version of this publicly, you know, available to U.S. searchers to start, but it’s going to expand into other countries going forward.  And to your question, Inna, how are they sourcing websites? Something that’s been really surprising to me about these results is that it’s not the answers that they’re showing directly in the search results and the links that they’re showing are not limited to only the top ranking results on Google.  

Myself and many others have seen many, many examples where Google actually sites, websites and links from websites that are not ranking in the top 100, which there’s pros and cons to that. But what’s nice, you know, generative AI, AI overviews are showing links to sources.  So some people argue that this isn’t a big change from featured feature snippets, but you can see the layout is quite different than featured snippets in many cases. And you do have this kind of like carousel where you can filter through different options that Google links to. And Google also will include like a little carrot that you can expand and see the different citations that they’re referencing as part of generating that answer. One thing that’s important to note and one big, I think, piece of feedback that Google has received through Google forums and through social media over the past week since this thing became public is there’s no option to opt out.  

You know, with Bing, they have co -pilot, they have a similar version of this that they’ve had for a while. And there’s the ability to toggle it off. Google currently doesn’t have that.  

Inna Zeyger 09:20 

Yeah. Sorry to interject on this one, but like this is, you know, by far like the users of Google, not just SEOs too, right? Like sort of one big question. And I don’t know if we’ll have an answer because I think we’ll have time will tell, but you know, users are facing that very significant change in their search experience, essentially, Google saying, Hey, we’re moving your cheese.  

This is how you’ve been using Google. This is what it looks like. And now it’s a uniquely different experience. And, you know, like, I think as digital marketers, we, you know, spend a lot of time analyzing what’s accurate, what’s, you know, correct.  Yet, you know, I think you’ve also seen that a lot of these results have had some issues. Can you tell me about that?  

Lily Ray 10:11

Yeah. And to your point right here, the last, the last bullet is the new web filter options. This was actually something new that Google announced as part of Google IO last week, which is we finally have a filter directly in Google’s organic results.  

So here you have, you know, images, news videos. There’s a brand new one that’s called web. You’re not always going to see it. It’s going to appear dynamically. In some cases, depending on the layout of your Google results, it might be sandwiched under another filter called more.  So you have to click more and then click web. And then you can see classic, you know, 10 blue links, the way that Google used to look in the late nineties, a few, but that’s what you want to see. So that’s nice for a lot of SEOs.  

Inna Zeyger 10:49

He doesn’t want to go like old school with their search results, right? Yeah, exactly.  

Lily Ray 10:55 

So, yeah, I mean, the AI overview is, first of all, it’s mostly it’s right now it’s largely showing for Google searchers who are logged in. It’s not showing for incognito just yet. But if you’re logged into Google, even if you have Google Labs turned off, you’re most likely going to be seeing a generated overviews in the US right now.  

Inna Zeyger 11:15 

Yeah, and I guess like one big question that, you know, related to this and the user experience, it’s also the accuracy of everything. Like, I guess, my question here, and I think many people’s questions are, you know, do we think that this is going to, you know, impact the user base or market share Google because there’s a lot of other search engines, maybe that don’t have the same market share, but definitely have a lot of strong opinions and different use cases than, you know, what Google has.  

So I think it’s a consideration might be jumping ahead a little bit, but I’m curious on your thoughts there.  

Lily Ray 11:53 

Yeah, no, I mean I mean personally I wasn’t super surprised by some of the feedback that Google’s getting just because I have been experimenting with this product for a year and I’ve seen a lot of its shortcomings now.  

AI is constantly improving it’s constantly, you know, being trained with new information that’s kind of the whole point is when you roll this thing out you have many more users that are giving it a lot more knowledge to train on and provide more feedback about when it gets things wrong so I understand, you know, people are resistant to change a lot of people are very scared of AI there’s a lot of people that are, it’s a big transition so I understand that we’re a bit biased, especially in the SEO space and we say we don’t like this thing turn it off but something I was quite surprised to see is the level of pushback that they’re getting that Google’s getting.  

This is just a screenshot here shows many different examples of how the media is kind of framing this thing so a lot of it is like, you know, can’t turn it off. You know, want to be able to turn it off want to make that web filter default, but you can’t actually do that.  And then if you actually look in Google’s own search community. So let me find that real quick. Google has a search community where users are able to provide feedback about how they feel about different Google search products.  And I’ll share an example of what that looks like. This week, and for the past couple of weeks so you know number one Google specifically said on stage, we’ve found that with AI overviews people use search more they’re more satisfied with their results.  

Sundar Pichai the CEO of Google indicated that people are clicking around more this thing kind of leads to higher click through rates, but something that I thought was interesting and I think many of us are finding interesting right now is the number of people that are going to Google support community to say, how do I turn this thing off I don’t like it.  

So, again, maybe the super satisfied users aren’t leaving comments anywhere but it’s not hard to find this type of feedback right now.  

Inna Zeyger 13:44 

Yeah, and I think there’s like that feedback from individuals, but you know, like in terms of, you know, businesses and advertisers, how has this impacted different industries? Like what has been the broader response?  

Lily Ray 13:57 

Yeah, definitely. Well, the impact of AI overviews really does depend on your category and how your business makes money, how your website makes money. And this is actually a trend that’s consistent with what we’re seeing with some of the core updates, which I’ll talk about in a second.  

But if you’re a website that primarily exists to serve information, to serve product reviews, if you monetize with display ads, affiliate links, you need traffic, you need page views, those types of things, this presents a really big threat to your business in many ways.  Because essentially what Google is doing and what the AI tools can do is they can take information from lots of different websites and kind of summarize it, regurgitate it, say the same thing that the sites are already saying.  

So the user gets what they need directly in the search results. They don’t necessarily have a reason to click through in those cases. And just to show really quickly what that looks like, that’s actually consistent with some of the trends that we’re seeing actually as a result of Google’s recent core updates, including the March core update.  One of the biggest trends that I saw is that websites that do monetize in that way, websites that are, and this is not because of the monetization, but this is to say that the websites that rely on traffic as a way of paying the bills.  

So news publishers, media websites, product review websites, recipe bloggers, travel bloggers, there’s so many different sites that fit this criteria, are losing a lot of visibility. And we’re seeing a lot of that being diverted back to sites like Amazon, YouTube, definitely Reddit’s been the biggest winner this whole year.  So as a result of this, when a lot of these sites rank higher, like the e-commerce sites and the Reddit’s and YouTube, that can result in Google showing content from those results more frequently in the AI overviews.  

The rise of Reddit

Inna Zeyger 15:47 

That’s a lot. That’s a lot to think about too, right? And like, I want to touch a little bit on Reddit, because it’s just been everywhere, right? Like, we see that in results. We see that everywhere.  And, you know, like, on the other side of things, like, there’s Reddit advertising. And, you know, one interesting thing is, is that, you know, like, anything that we do on the advertising side isn’t going to show up on those results.  

Whereas, you know, like, the content that goes in to, you know, Reddit posts that are showing up, you know, is what’s appearing. Any thoughts on the Reddit side and how advertisers or how businesses should navigate that?  

Lily Ray 16:24 

Yeah, absolutely. This has been probably, I would argue, the biggest change to SEO in the past year. And the reason I say that is because if you look here at Reddit’s organic visibility growth, according to Sistrix, Reddit is the red one here.  So I try to make analogies to kind of explain how big of a deal this is in the SEO space. If you look at the sheer number of what we call Sistrix visibility index points, essentially, Reddit has earned 1,000 of them.  

So think of this like the stock market of SEO and how many points you have is indicative of how visible your website is in Google’s organic search results. Reddit has absolutely skyrocketed in a way that we’ve never seen from any other website ever.  Reddit is ranking for so many different types of queries now. And not only that, Reddit and Google announced a partnership in February and that actually created a situation where now Google is allowing Reddit to be shown in new and different ways.  

So they might get, for example, this discussions and forums treatment directly in Google’s results just today. An SEO named Brody Clark shared something showing that Reddit gets this new kind of mockup appearance in the search results where a lot of the Reddit answers are displayed directly in the results as well.  So not only is there organic search traffic and rankings exponentially increasing over the last year, but you’re seeing Reddit displayed in new and different ways. And you’ll also see this treatment pretty frequently in the search results as well, where the same, like in theory, this is one organic listing, right?  

But it actually has eight or six to eight unique URLs that are included here. And the last thing I’ll say about it just because Reddit and Amazon have been two of the biggest winners. We have a new article about this on the Amsive blog, actually two new articles.  So one is all about Reddit’s growth. One is about the March core update, but something that we show in these posts is that Reddit and Amazon are ranking in top positions. In this case, number one positions for a lot of these best product queries, best portable air conditioner, best weed killer.  

We used to see a lot of these product review sites ranking in top positions for these queries over the last year or so. And that really switched to Reddit and Amazon recently. So I think this has been the biggest sea change.  As far as how marketers can respond, it’s tricky, right? Because Google, or rather Reddit, has they really locked down on people manipulating Reddit for marketing purposes. That’s been true forever. That’s probably one of the reasons why Google is rewarding Reddit so much is because in theory it has these authentic voices.  

People are not trying to sell things. But of course, SEOs being SEOs, spammers being spammers, everyone’s looking for an opportunity right now to spam Reddit. There’s people that are doing it with some success, but I know for a fact, Reddit is trying to shut it down.  

You have to be very careful.  

Inna Zeyger 19:02 

Yeah, so I mean, it we’ve talked about a lot right about how the how search is evolving how it has evolved with AI. So let’s move on to give it all the fact that there’s been so much change, you know, as marketers, what can we do to compete in organic search.  

Lily Ray 19:20 

Yeah, it’s becoming, honestly, it’s becoming trickier and trickier. I would say we’re facing a lot of new challenges in the organic search space. I would say AI overview is being the biggest, most obvious one, but these ranking changes are a big challenge as well for many types of websites.  I’ve been surprised with the level that publisher, news, media affiliate websites have lost visibility over the last year. Now search is dynamic, you know, nothing’s permanent. Things ebb and flow over time, you know, Google responds to what its users are looking for, what its users want.  

So arguably that’s why we saw a lot of these changes over the last couple of years is because Google’s giving searchers what they want. Searchers want Reddit. They want to go directly to the source. They want to go to the e -commerce website.  So, you know, one piece of good news is if you’re not one of those types of sites that makes money off display as an affiliate links, there’s tons of SEO opportunity right now. I mean, I think something that’s been very surprising to me in the last, even just the last couple of weeks, after May 5th, you know, here’s some pretty big brands in the, in the kind of automotive space.  

So these sites are skyrocketing in the last few days. You know, big brand sites, Honda, GM, Ford, Toyota, but it’s not just them. There’s a lot of sites in a lot of different categories that are starting to see pretty significant growth in the past couple of weeks.  

Something that’s been very surprising to me, very interesting to me is the way that, uh, different types of content on different websites is being rewarded from an SEO perspective. So, you know, it wasn’t just Reddit that was the only forum that was rewarded with some of Google’s algorithmic changes, sites that have user generated content, sites that have forums, sites that have communities, sites that have blogs are seeing really big increases as well.  

So looking at Microsoft, these are different, uh, uh, sub domains on Microsoft, so you’ll get, you know, support, Microsoft learn, Microsoft asks, Microsoft answers. Microsoft is essentially a Q and a, you know, a forum within the Microsoft community.  And look at how that’s grown in the past several months as well with SEO visibility. That’s the Brown one. Um, and then Adobe, another website, Those are Adobe stock photos and look at how that’s really carrying the visibility of the website recently too.  

So, you know, diversifying the type of content and kind of expanding into different content formats, plus really encouraging your users to leave a lot of user generated content seems to be the direction that Google’s going.  

Responsible use of AI for content creation

Inna Zeyger 21:46 

Yeah, so it sounds like, you know, if you’re going to want to try to influence AI overviews, or just rankings, UGC, what are some other strategies to scale SEO efforts, not just to like, get more visibility, but also, you know, I think earlier, when I was doing the introduction, I mentioned that, you know, like, one of the benefits of AI is it allows us to do some things that were massively tedious in the past, a lot more quickly, but, you know, what does that mean with us being able to use that AI responsibly?  

Lily Ray 22:20 

Yeah, that’s a really important question because the landscape has changed in the SEO space as far as what is an advisable approach to using generative AI. Google put out an article in February, 2023, advising site owners on their stance on AI content.  And to sum it up, I encourage people to read that article very closely because when I read it, I kind of understood what they were talking about, but I do think a lot of people read it and said, Google’s fine with AI content, which is not 100% true.  

Google’s fine with AI content if it doesn’t fall into what they call one of its spam policies, which is mass auto generating content without human oversight, without editing, without making it really high quality and kind of doing that specifically for the benefit of SEO.  And a lot of people did that over the last year or, you know, recently, a lot of people got away with it because Google was still designing algorithms, penalties, new systems to kind of process this new change.  

But as it stands right now, I would say, you know, using that approach for your mass auto generating content using AI tools without any editing, you know, is very dangerous for SEO. Google’s made its stance very clear.  So I’m not saying AI is bad. I think there’s a million amazing use cases for it, but definitely that approach of just using it to scale content with little oversight is something that Google absolutely cracked down on and the other search engines as well.  

How can marketers drive Search visibility?

Inna Zeyger 23:49 

Mm hmm. So, you know, given that, like, again, use responsibly, take precaution, you know, it sounds like there’s still some gray areas, you know, within the Google space around that. And, you know, policy does keep on changing.  

So I’m sure that’s going to evolve over time. But, you know, given that, but what can marketers do now to drive that search visibility?  

Lily Ray 24:10 

Yeah, I think, you know, SEO is getting more and more challenging. You have to be more and more creative. You have to think about what are ways that I can drive a lot of value for my customers over time in a way that’s very thoughtful.  

It’s producing what we call like helpful, high quality content. So I just found this example recently because the BBC is surging and Google’s organic results. And I wanted to drill down into why that’s happening.  Of course, there’s a million reasons why these types of things happen. But something that I found that was very interesting is this part of the BBC website called BBC Bite Size. And I think this is really interesting because obviously BBC is a news website.  

It’s a publisher website. Many publisher websites have lost visibility lately. But BBC has been able to capture a lot of visibility with this bite size section. And what this essentially is, it’s like think of it as a combination of like Wikipedia on a very small scale or combined with like an educational resource for students and for teachers.  

So what BBC will do is they’ll say, you know, there’s an article on the BBC website about there’s a ton of rain in London right now that’s been super rainy. And then they’ll have a little call to action that says, learn more about the rain with BBC Bite Size, and then you go to BBC Bite Size and it’s essentially a Wikipedia page, but with original BBC videos, quizzes, students doing, I don’t know, arts and crafts projects, but whatever it is, it’s original content that’s multimodal.  It’s very thoughtful. It’s very resource intensive to build these pages. But they’re evergreen. And what that means is that throughout the year, when people are looking for information about the rain, BBC is not just a news publisher.  

Now it’s a website that has these evergreen resources that add a lot of value for Google searches and for searchers everywhere.  

The impact of User-Generated Content

Inna Zeyger 25:54 

Yeah, and it’s interesting because I know we’ve had some questions, some comments, and don’t worry, everybody, keep on popping the questions into chat. We’ll make sure we’ll get to as many as we can at the tail end or during conversation, you know, like I know you mentioned that there’s a new site, you know, like there’s some questions around, you know, the impact of UGC user contributions on new sites, you know, comments on new sites have been diminishing.  

You know, any thoughts on that?  

Lily Ray 26:20 

Yeah. Um, comments are, it’s tricky because I don’t want to say. Go release your comments into the wild and allow search engines to crawl all of them because what could possibly go wrong, right? Like many things can go wrong with that approach.  Many things can and have gone wrong with that approach. So, you know, different publishers have different systems of how they allow for comments. What does the moderation look like? What’s indexable to search engines?  

What’s viewable to search engines? Like you can technically set this up in a way where you can have comments for users or that users can read, but search engines can’t see any of it. And the reason people might do that is because when you have comments that are, let’s say profane, um, have personal information, they have dangerous information, Google inferior and search engines that can, they can render and read that content that can count against the overall page quality.  So you have to be really careful, but that being said, Google’s making it very clear that they like user generated content. So I think, you know, if you’re a recipe site, people love reading the comments, like people that love cooking food, they read the comments.  

They want to hear what other people experienced when they were cooking that recipe, so search engines know the value of that content. So I would think about moderation, think about what comments make sense for your business, respond to the people leaving comments as much as you can and set that up in a way that it can potentially benefit your SEO.  

Inna Zeyger 27:38 

Yeah. And, you know, I guess like on the other side of it, because, you know, there’s news sites, but that’s just a very, that’s a small percentage of the overall industry, right. And the types of advertisers and clients that we see, you know, it might be a little bit more challenging for, you know, B2B clients for professional services to leverage the same type of UGC or make the same sort of pushes with it.  

Like, what are your thoughts on that for like bringing it down to B2B to maybe like retail to areas where, you know, they might not have access or immediate access to such UGC.  

Lily Ray 28:15 

Yeah, definitely. I think there’s a lot of more like locked down, you know, regulated categories where you wouldn’t want to leverage comments because there’s all kinds of compliance or regulatory issues, whatever the case may be, you know, just a few. Yeah, but the thing is, Google is still really focused. And I think Google is a proxy for searchers, right? People on the internet are still really interested in seeing firsthand experience. Though, you know, there’s many ways that B2B sites, brand sites can engage with customers to produce or to kind of incorporate that feedback back into its content strategy.  

One random example that comes to mind is Healthline. So when Google started to focus more on experience driven content, Healthline started to incorporate real contributions from people who have that medical condition, for example, or people who are experts in that medical condition to have a quote, you know, somewhere in the article about what they have to say about it. And when you think about this from a search engine perspective, what you’re doing is you’re adding something new and original that’s a new addition to the conversation that they haven’t seen across other sites before, we call it information gain.  

But essentially, it’s saying something that people haven’t said before. So if you’re a B2B site, of course, you can use, you know, chat logs that your customer service team has had with its customers or phone calls that people have called in and said certain things, you can interview your audience, they’re just collecting that first person experience driven feedback and incorporating that into your content strategy.  

Inna Zeyger 29:43 

And not to derail with the dark side of things, which is paid media, but as much of that first party data that you can collect, including any sort of like email addresses as part of that is really, really helpful because then you can leverage that in your advertising.  

But just from like that UGC perspective, like that’s great tip. I do want to spend a little bit more time on a couple of different industries because I know we have such a, we have a whole bunch of folks here across all types of verticals.  You mentioned earlier, there’s highly regulated industries that, there’s so many more considerations for like, I think one that there’s really two that I think between insurance and healthcare that are by far the most regulated along with the financial sector, like any thoughts on how you can approach that for those industries.  I don’t know.

Lily Ray 30:40 

Yeah, I mean, so listen, not every category needs to focus on user -generated content. There’s different ranking systems and different considerations that search engines use depending on the category.  

So I would say we have this notion in the SEO space, something that Google has talked about for a long time, of E-E-A-T, Experience, Expertise, Authority, and Trust. What we’ve been talking about on this webinar to date is experience, right?  And Google will literally say, different types of queries require different types of results. You might need experience -driven results if someone’s typing, what does it feel like to have, I don’t know, the skin condition.  

They might wanna hear someone that has the skin condition chiming in with firsthand experience. But for things like insurance, or more regulated categories, they’re not necessarily, in some cases, searches are looking for first -hand accounts with people that have shared, people that have tried different insurance companies and have reviews.  That’s actually when they’re actually gonna show more sites like Reddit and that type of thing. But Google has algorithms to elevate the most trusted, the most authoritative companies and resources for certain types of queries.  

So when you get into things like insurance, when you get into finance, when you get into more sensitive topics that actually have an impact on people’s livelihoods, their safety, their financial security, Google is going to be very focused on that EEAT concept.  So that goes back to the basics of SEO. You wanna make sure you’re working with experts to produce that content. You wanna make sure you’re citing the latest regulations in your space, listing authors, being very transparent about how you create content, showing your users all the signals that you’re a trusted brand.  

All of that really adds up for SEO performance.  

Measuring organic Search visibility

Inna Zeyger 32:22 

Well, thank you, because I know we just covered a whole bunch of industries was like very good practical sort of applications of, you know, how to work within, you know, AI, as well as you know where SEO is going but I think one huge topic of conversation is, you know, there’s the action that you take to get that visibility or to use AI responsibly, whatever it is that we do.  

Ultimately, it comes down to the ability to measure that and be able to track that organic search visibility. So how has that changed? And, you know, how are we able to measure that organic search visibility now?  

Lily Ray 32:58 

Yeah, a lot is changing right now. There’s a lot of big unknowns, especially as it relates to AI overviews. So as far as tracking organic rankings, traffic, clicks, there’s all kinds of tools, especially here at Amsive. I think we use like 30 or 40 tools on the SEO team to track our performance. Google Search Console is the source of truth at this point for all things Google organic, and of course, GA4. But with AI overviews, we have a lot of new challenges because, and I’ve literally just been trying to figure this out for the last few days, and people that work in the SEO tool industry as well, Google is currently, it seems like they’re largely maybe 99% only serving AI overviews to logged in Google searchers.  

So those are personalized by definition because you’re logged into your Gmail account, you’re seeing that personal experience. SEO ranking tools, third-party ranking tools, are not supposed to be using.  I mean, there’s a whole question of what they’re supposed to be doing in the first place, but they don’t generally track personalized search results. They don’t log into a Gmail account. Now, some of them are starting to do this now because they need to get that AI overview data.  

But as it stands, logged out, depersonalized organic search results cannot be, they cannot, they’re not going to see overviews in their tracking. So right now, the SEO industry is in a big holding pattern because we don’t have AI overview data filtered out in Search Console.  Google hasn’t given us any indication that they’re 100% going to do that. They’ve said some things like, yeah, we’ll think about it one day, but they haven’t built this one. And then just the last thing I wanna add is there’s a really amazing new tool by Tomek, Tomek Rudzki from Onely, that I just started working on today, just started experimenting with today.  

It’s awesome. It’s the coolest thing I’ve found so far as far as tracking AI overview data. You can actually put a handful of keywords into this tool and it will tell you who is ranking in the AI overviews.  It’ll tell you which sites they’re ranking only as the AI overview, which sites they’re ranking only in the search results. It’ll show you a snippet of the actual results itself and then URLs to where the overview was sourced from.  

So you better believe I will be living in this tool for the next few months.  

The future of SEO and diversification

Inna Zeyger 35:15 

I can’t wait until the rest of the SEO team gets their hands on it. Yeah, it’d be fun. They get very excited about tools, which I love. So I know we’ve talked a lot about measurement about how it impacts different industries, but let’s move on a little bit because, you know, I think there’s questions about what the future looks like, right?  

There’s been the shift in the Google search landscape. And I think this is probably where I’m going to opine. About AI overview in a little bit, because I think we all got hit with some surprising news yesterday, too, on the media side before we do that.  

I’d love to hear from you, you know, what you think SEO looks like in the future, like not just for Google, but also considering like other platforms outside of Google where marketers should be looking to drive discovery.  

Lily Ray 36:06 

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, one, we always, myself included, we use Google synonymously with searching, right? But there’s a lot of different ways that people search, obviously. So YouTube is proving to be a really great resource for all kinds of content creators, all types of brands.  

YouTube is actually one of the biggest winners of SEO visibility on Google recently, which just means that they’re showing more and more YouTube results directly in the organic search results. And I think for a lot of companies that have been negatively impacted by recent algorithm updates, a lot of them are shifting to YouTube.  

So travel bloggers, recipe bloggers, there’s a lot of people that could benefit from the fact that so many people are spending so much time on YouTube. Google also uses that video content in different ways and displays it in different ways.  So Google has obviously the video thumbnail. There’s the short video filter directly on Google. And of course, TikTok relates to this very closely as well. So what’s nice about YouTube is if you’re doing something for YouTube, you can kind of do something for YouTube and TikTok at the same time.  

Obviously there’s a whole contingency of users. Right. They’re spending all their time on TikTok. So diversifying is very important. I think if we’ve learned anything in the last year, it’s getting traffic from different places is very important.  And then, you know, Amazon as well. I know we’ve worked a bit together on doing some Amazon search marketing as well. We’ve worked on all the things.  

Inna Zeyger 37:28 

Yeah, so that’s different platforms and I think like it sounds like in so many ways, because this happened to the digital media advertising space, right, particularly in social like, you know, years ago, we just had, you know, Google search, and then we eventually got shopping and then we, you know, had Bing advertising and eventually Facebook came around.  

So like there was this massive segmentation once like Facebook came around Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat, where there was just this fragmentation just within this one space. And it sounds like there’s a little bit more of that happening with the SEO side where, you know, there has to be focus on diversifying some of that those efforts to and to other areas.  

Lily Ray 38:11 

Yes. Yes. I think, uh, you know, given the, the changes that have happened algorithmically, given for example, the rise of Reddit, that’s absorbing so much visibility across so many different categories, there’s not much you can do about that.  I think some people would argue, yeah, you can go onto Reddit and chime into the discussion and try to add links and do all this stuff, but I don’t know how sustainable of a strategy that is. So I think there are some big threats right now to people that do SEO day in and day out.  

So diversification is very important and, um, don’t sleep on Bing. I think Bing is, uh, seeing it a little uptick in market share. I know a lot of people are saying they’re switching to Bing. They’re switching to duck, duck go.  

It’ll be interesting. There’s also a lot of unknowns in the industry, right? We don’t know what’s going to happen with the DOJ case. That could be the biggest change we’ve ever seen to our entire industry.  

Right. We don’t know what’s going to happen with this big kind of battle between open AI and Google. We don’t know what’s going to happen with these Reddit partnerships. Like there’s just so many big unknowns right now that I think, uh, yeah, what’s happening today might not be what’s happening in two or three months, but we’ll see.  

Inna Zeyger 39:15 

I mean, I think that’s just like such a common theme, though, like in this space right now, it almost feels like just over the last couple of years, like the frequency of algorithm updates, the frequency of this type of change or disruption has just scaled up quite dramatically.  

So, you know, I think I know you are probably like at the forefront of just it, but this seems like, you know, within SEO, as it always has been within paid to, it’s just important to keep your ear to the ground. Like, stay on top of those changes, but generally speaking, you know, focus on those best practices that I know we talked a little bit about earlier, regardless of what that evolving landscape looks like, right?  

Lily Ray 39:56 

Yeah, I think one thing we’re definitely learning loud and clear in the SEO space, and this is not necessarily new, but I would say that Google has become a bit more aggressive with cracking down on SEO exploits, right?  

SEO opportunities that are too good to be true. We’ve learned a lot about where Google stands in the last few months, whether it’s through algorithm updates where Google has really cracked down on lots of sites.  September helpful content update, thousands of sites lost 90% of their traffic and visibility and haven’t seen any of it come back. Thousands and thousands of websites, that was a very big, I think it was a very big statement from Google.  

We have three new types of spam policies from Google that we haven’t had before that are affecting all types of websites. It’s not just small publishers, it’s all types of websites. The May 5th update that happened on Google, the site reputation abuse spam policy enforcement has been huge for many, many big publishers.  

So Google is making its stance about spam tactics, many of which were successful SEO strategies for years. They’re making their stance very clear. And you have to stay ahead of what Google is saying not to do, because here’s how SEO works. Sometimes you’ll get away with the thing that goes against their spam policies for three months and you’ll say, it’s working. Let’s double down on it, right? And then it just took Google a little bit of time to catch up to you.  

They catch up to you, you lose everything. And it’s very hard to recover. So you have to be very careful.  

Inna Zeyger 41:30 

Yeah. And, you know, I know we’re talking about a lot of updates, and I get a chance to opine on something that actually affects us both now, or at least as of yesterday, as it turns out. So yesterday, during Google Marketing Live, you know, Google announced that they were going to be introducing ads into AI overview.  

So what I do know about it, and, you know, we’ve had some chats with Google over, I guess, the last less than 24 hours, trying to get more information, but really, like, here’s what we do know, is that it’s coming in the second half of 2024, the exact date to be determined, there have been some posts, articles indicating that, you know, it’s already out there in the ether.  

But you know, what we do know is second half of 2024, it will be launching in the US only on mobile, and as an experiment in English only, and it’s only going to affect, you know, search and shopping ads, I would add, one thing there is that, I mean, and this is to be determined, one thing on the shopping ads is that it’s a little bit vague, because, you know, you can still serve those types of ad units through performance max campaigns, too. So, you know, now, not only is there AI overview, which was, I think, largely an SEO consideration, there’s the added element of introducing ads into it. And then the second element, you know, I think paid media has like been somewhat shielded from some of these like massive changes for a bit.  

But one big concern, or at least an interesting challenge is, you know, like, what’s going to happen with the inventory that’s available for, you know, paid media ads, if they’re serving, you know, above or below, particularly on mobile, like, above or below the fold, especially with, you know, AI overview.  So that’s going to be interesting to see all applying for like two seconds on that. You know, I think ultimately, at the end of the day, like Google is still a business, a lot of their revenue comes in from their advertising dollars.  

And, you know, it’s a lot to be seen as to what happens. But, you know, like, is it going to result in decreased inventory? Probably not. I don’t think they’d allow for that to happen. But I do envision that there may be scenarios where like, we have our CPC costs start inflating, particularly on mobile, because, you know, there’s just more competition to be above the fold.  And then I got this from an SEO site, Lily, so you should be very proud of me. But there’s a study done around like where, you know, ads are serving alongside, you know, AI overview. And it’s interesting, because this comes down to like the number of tokens.  

So I think like the simplest way that we can approach it is, you know, the more number of tokens, like, let’s say, three plus tokens, on the higher intent of the search query, it’s more likely that AI overview shows up and shows up above ads.  But if there’s like three or less tokens, it’s less likely that AI overview shows up and shows up above. So I think it’s a combination of, you know, how many actual words there are in your query and how high intent that query is.  

But it sounds like that there’s going to be competition in that space for and we’re going to be combining, I guess, the work that’s happening on the SEO side to try to influence those results or try to at least rank in those results, along with competing with paid media ads showing up in the same space.  So even more room for collaboration between SEO and the paid media side. So I think I’m excited about it. I’m curious to see what happens. But looks like SEO paid media teams. Time to talk a little bit more about that as it rolls out.  

Lily Ray 45:18 

Yeah, those are all really great points. I think it’s important to remember, and this is one thing that’s been a bit of a glimmer of hope for us in the SEO space. Like you said, Google needs people to click on ads, right?  

So if this AI overview results and nobody clicking on anything ever, it’s not in Google’s best interest even. So I think you made some really great points about when it’s gonna show, when it’s not gonna show, but the fact that Google still needs people to click on things is somewhat promising for both, of course, search marketing, but SEO as well.  

Results that marketers should look for from their SEO programs and partners

Inna Zeyger 45:47 

Yeah, and I mean, I think we’re all like, keeping a keen eye on it, right, like, and what the trends are, like, what happens to, at least on our side and paid media, like, what happens to click the rate CPC is how we’re serving and, you know, what impact that has on, you know, our search and shopping channels.  

And I’m sure it’s, you know, very much the same, because we spent quite a bit of time talking about, you know, measurement and SEO or identifying ways to get that. And we spoke of, you know, a new tool that can help assist with that, too.  So I think it’s not nearly as, you know, black boxes, it’s a little bit more black box than we would like for it to be. But I think everybody here is, you know, putting in their best effort to, you know, assess what the impact is, and be able to like, produce and provide strategies.  

I know in both our teams to address this, and make sure that we’re like, doing right by clients through service. All right, my last question, or semi last question before we get into answering some of the additional questions that, you know, we’ve seen.  

So what kind of results should marketers be looking for out of their SEO programs and partners?  

Lily Ray 46:55 

Well, that all depends on what the KPIs are. I will say it’s becoming more and more competitive. The days of taking shortcuts are behind us. I really think that’s true. I think there’s always going to be opportunities to spam search engines and get away with certain things, but it seems like you’re gonna have to put more resources, more time, more energy, more focus into long -term sustainable SEO approaches.  And slow and steady wins the race in SEO. People never wanna hear it, but SEO is a thing that compounds over time when done correctly. SEO is a thing where you don’t earn a bunch of traffic invisibility and rankings and revenue and lose it all overnight.  

SEO has done well, should hopefully avoid those types of exercises. So, understanding that landscape and understanding the nature of how things work and looking at case studies from sites that have really succeeded with SEO over time, where they’ve seen that kind of slow consistent growth over time because they’re kind of putting in the work.  They’re not taking big risks, not trying to spam Google or anything like this. That’s when you can really see the results of your efforts kick in and might take in some cases, years to see that type of success.  

Inna Zeyger 48:08 

Oh, see, I love that. See, that’s like the, it takes time. And, you know, it takes the diligent work to get there. You know, again, very different from, like, media side, where I don’t think there’s like as much patience for some of those things.  

But I know it’s something that we both deal on both sides. So really happy perspective. So I’m going to wrap up. I mean, like, I’d like to, so I learned a lot, like, so, so much every day. I wish we could talk about this all day, every day together.  But this has been great. And I think, like, some of the main things I heard from you is that, you know, as content really explodes with, you know, AI assistant content creation and personalization. And of course, you know, as Google tries to combat that AI created low quality content is becoming harder and harder for brands to stand out.  

I know you gave some really great points and recommendations on how to address that. I think the second thing I heard was that AI should support content marketing efforts, not drive them. So really build on like that authentic expert perspective and, you know, experience first.  So like everybody who loves E-A-T, that’s for you all. And I’d say the third is that, you know, a good long term SEO strategy should really rely on a holistic, full funnel approach to build that awareness and word of mouth.  And, you know, because the marketplace is evolving so much, like, so much of that goes hand in hand with, you know, your digital media, your social and your influencer teams. Like, I think, like, my favorite thing to always say is, like, ultimately, whether we’re doing SEO or paid media or PR or, you know, email marketing, direct mail.  

Ultimately, ultimately, you know, we’re trying to drive traffic to a site in, you know, different methods, but ultimately, like, you know, we have same goals. And so that’s why, you know, you have me on here talking with Lily and, you know, really finding, like, that balance between, you know, both worlds or many of the different worlds.  

So that’s my piece. Lily, any last thoughts before we jump into the Q&A?  

Lily Ray 50:16 

No, not really. Just, you know, I think a lot of people are quite panicked right now, but it’s important to remember again, this thing is developing in real time, and it’s going to look a little different every day.  If we don’t have, for example, the right tooling today, we might have that tooling in two or three weeks. So everybody, as much as possible, be patient, play the long game, try to do things right, don’t panic.  

And it’s an exciting time.  

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Q&A: Amazon, Google SERP concerns, and will AI kill SEO?

Inna Zeyger 50:39 

All right. Thank you so much, Lily. This has been amazing. Now we’re going to jump into a little bit of Q &A. So I’ll get started with a couple of questions. So we had questions around Amazon, you know, please talk a little bit more about using Amazon more heavily in diversification.  

Lily Ray 51:01 

Yeah, I feel like we can both answer that one. I mean, obviously you need to be selling something, right? Not really available.  

Inna Zeyger 51:08 

I mean, I can add really quickly like Amazon, you know, it’s not just, you know, buying products on Amazon, or directly on Amazon, Amazon also has a DSP, which, for example, if you are not, you know, a retailer selling product on site, or, you know, you just want to target traffic to Amazon.  

So, you know, that’s one scenario on the media side. But again, you know, there’s also things you can do with if you are on Amazon, and also have your own, you know, .com site. There’s ways to be able to get both to work, and also be able to, you know, like use some of that great Amazon tracking, and be able to, you know, measure a bit more successfully than just like not having visibility there.  

But I’ll stop there. No, great point.  

Lily Ray 52:01 

Those are great points. I think, you know, traditionally, your team and our team have worked together on certain Amazon projects where people are wanting to do a version of SEO or SEM for Amazon specifically.  

So it’s a different search engine. And obviously the more prominently you rank, the better you’re going to do and the more you’re going to sell there. So I think thinking about that as a different way of kind of presenting your products and the search engine works very differently on Amazon than it does on Google.  

It feels a bit like Google from 10 or 15 years ago. So just that’s always an opportunity if you’re selling products.  

Inna Zeyger 52:35 

Yeah, and unlike using paid ads on Amazon, essentially, it’s contingent on the content that you have on your Amazon product pages, right? It has to be great, it has to be spotless in order for you to have the most success.  

It really does impact that, so I often say, get the pages, get the products, and then start pushing advertising more aggressively. I think those are two strategies that have to go hand in hand.  

Lily Ray 53:09 

Yeah. And just one last thing to add, because obviously there’s Amazon affiliate links. That’s what a lot of content publishers have used forever to monetize. And that is, unfortunately, I would say one of the biggest areas where Google appears to be very generally speaking here, reducing visibility of a lot of sites that rely on that type of monetization.  

So if you’re thinking of getting into a niche where you’re just going to post 10bestbarbecugrills .com and just link to Amazon, it’s becoming harder and harder to compete with that type of content without doing something completely different from other affiliate sites.  

Inna Zeyger 53:46 

Mm hmm. Oh, all right. Next question. What is the POV around Google cannibalizing itself by prioritizing AI at the top of SERP instead of paid ads, which would seem to go against their self interests.  

So mind if I take like 10 days, that one because that’s been my favorite topic of discussion and probably will be something like most media teams are talking quite a bit about right now. So for those of you that are like, want to do like a 10 second deep dive into paid search.  

So Google’s really been pushing their modern search structure over the last couple of years, which is really all about consolidation, automation, and, you know, using their AI tools to really, you know, drive scale.  I know paid media people tend to have the same thing with any sort of change may not always like having to consolidate. And it doesn’t mean that you have to. But what I would say is, this push with putting AI overview and ads into it, I think goes so well hand in hand with what they’ve been pushing on the paid media side for that consolidation piece.  

Because again, I think we’re realizing that longer tail queries are going to more likely show the AI overview, right? And we’ve been told on the paid media side to use broad match keywords, you know, smaller token keywords, like things that, you know, instead of, you know, having long tail searches, or as many keywords in our campaigns as possible to catch every variant, you know, broad match is going to capture it all.  So I think this goes quite well hand in hand, at least from like the Google perspective of, you know, using AI overview, and putting ads there. So I don’t know if it’s necessarily cannibalizing it, I think it’s, you know, too soon to tell, because it’s not enough information.  

But I think there might be like increases in CPC is an impact on CTRs. But you know, we have to think about the fact that most advertisers are not going to, you know, shift away from Google. Any thoughts on the SEO side and the cannibalization?  

Lily Ray 56:05 

I mean, I think a lot of people are a bit up in arms about the fact that Google is displaying AI -generated content while devaluing lots of AI -generated content algorithmically. So it’s been a bit ironic in our industry.  

And the same issues that people have with AI -generated content from a quality perspective, we’re seeing some of those issues in Google’s AI -generated results currently. So it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out over time.  

I imagine, of course, the quality of the results will improve over time. But yeah, it’s definitely a bit ironic.  

Inna Zeyger 56:38 

All right. Well, fine. All right. Last question. We’re going to close out. This one might be a short one or a long one. We don’t know. Will AI kill SEO? That’s so loaded. That’s such a loaded question.  

Lily Ray 56:52 

I don’t think so. I think that as long we, a lot of us say this in the industry, as long as people search for things, there will be people that need to optimize the things being found, right? So I mean, maybe at some point in the distant future, AI won’t need any, you know, human insight to create answers or whatever AI does, but I think we will have a version of SEO for a long time.  

But probably, to be honest, fewer SEO opportunities than we’ve had before.  

Inna Zeyger 57:24 

Hmm. Well, thank you for that, Lily. All right. So just wanted to say thank you, Lily, for this wonderful conversation and joining us today. Thank you to everybody who joined the webinar and for all of your great questions.  

We’ll make the recordings available to all the registrants afterwards. Follow Lily Ray, NYC, on X for her take on the latest in SEO or LinkedIn. Please follow at Amsive on LinkedIn for more full funneled performance marketing insights.  

You can also follow me on LinkedIn, I’m Inna Zeyger, and we’d love to know how you liked your content. There’s going to be a short survey that will follow this webinar. Please share your thoughts with us and we cannot wait to see you all next time.  

Thank you all so much for joining. Thank you. Thanks, all. 

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