Organic Search 7 min read

The Next Evolution in Organic Search: Generative Search Engines are Coming. Are you ready? 

By Scott Donnelly 12 April, 2024

I have worked in SEO for 12+ years and I’ve seen the landscape shift a dozen times over. But the rollout of generative search engines (GSEs) feels like the biggest earthquake yet. This is not about making small tweaks to strategy to stay in line with the algorithm rollouts of the past. This is a paradigm shift, folks, and we need to be ready.

Generative search engines haven’t made it to the UK yet, but you can bet on their arrival at some point in 2024.

The Rise of the Machines (to Answer Your Queries) 

Imagine a search engine that doesn’t just return a list of links, but interprets your intent, gathers relevant information from various sources, and synthesises it into a comprehensive answer. That’s the core functionality of a GSE. 

Think Google’s “Featured Snippets” on steroids. Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE), still under development, exemplifies this approach. It aims to understand the user’s query on a deeper level, anticipate their needs, and potentially deliver the answer directly on the search results page (SERP) – bypassing the need to click through to individual websites. 

What Does This Mean for Organic Search Marketers? 

This isn’t necessarily a doomsday scenario, but it could be if you don’t adapt and get ahead of the game. Here’s what we can expect: 

  • Focus on User Intent, Not Just Keywords: Keywords will still be relevant, but they’ll be one piece of a much larger puzzle. We need to understand the “why” behind the search query. What problem is the user trying to solve? What information are they truly seeking? 
  • Content Depth Over Keyword Density: GSEs favour in-depth content that comprehensively addresses a topic. Gone are the days of thin, limited information articles. We need to create content that anticipates user needs and delivers exceptional value. 
  • The Rise of Answer Engine Optimization (AEO): Just like SEO, AEO focuses on optimising content for the way users are searching, but with a twist. It’s about crafting content that directly answers user questions and provides the information they need in an easily digestible format. 
  • The Importance of Experience, Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T): This will become an even more crucial factor as we move forward. GSEs will prioritize content from credible sources with a proven track record of providing accurate and reliable information. 

The Future of Organic Content: A Brave New World 

The impact goes beyond SEO tactics. The entire landscape of organic content creation is in flux: 

  • The Decline of Searches & Rise of Zero-Click: Gartner’s recent search survey predicts a significant decline in search volumes (up to 25%) due to the changing habits of users and increasing adoption of AI chatbots and other platforms, including social. Couple this with the increasing chance of zero-click searches due to more detailed results from GSE means that SEO performance is going to need to be analysed differently.   
  • The Power of Long-Form Content: GSEs seem to favour in-depth, comprehensive content. Long-form pieces that delve into a topic with authority might hold the key to capturing user attention and establishing E-E-A-T. 
  • The Value of Multimodal Content: Text isn’t the only game in town anymore. Consider incorporating video, infographics, interactive elements, and other multimedia formats to enhance user experience and cater to different learning styles. 

Embrace the Change, or Get Left Behind 

This isn’t a time to panic (yet…), but it is a time to adapt. Here’s how SEOs can thrive in the GSE era: 

  • Invest in AI Tools: Embrace the technology! Tools powered by AI can help identify user intent, analyse search trends, and optimise content for better ranking in the new landscape.  
  • Become a Content Strategist, Not Just an SEO: Think beyond keywords. Focus on crafting engaging, informative content that solves problems and establishes your brand as a thought leader. 
  • Collaborate with Content Creators: Bridge the gap between SEO and content creation. Work with writers, editors, and other content professionals to ensure your content aligns with user intent and GSE algorithms. 
  • Focus on Building Trust and Authority: Become a reliable source of information in your niche. E-E-A-T will be paramount in the age of GSEs. 

The future of organic search is exciting, but it demands a shift in mindset. By understanding the power of GSEs and adapting our strategies, we can continue to drive organic success for our clients and brands. Remember, in this new world, the key isn’t so much about only ranking high, it’s about providing the best possible answer to the user’s query. So, get ready, and start reviewing if you’re current SEO strategy is fit to thrive in the age of GSE. 

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