When the internet was first emerging, we relied on search engines like Lycos, Dogpile, and Ask Jeeves. Searchers needed an intimate understanding of query syntax to narrow results and find desired content. With technological advancements and Google's prominence, delivering precise search results, especially within the top 4, became both achievable and expected. Being on the second page of search results has been equated to invisibility for a long time, and users have come to anticipate this efficiency. Additionally, the emergence of devices like home appliances and phone personal assistants has led to conversational queries being answered directly, bypassing traditional search results.
The Role of AI in Accelerating Change
The rise of AI is poised to accelerate this trend. Currently, large language models such as ChatGPT struggle to attribute their answer-sourcing process to specific websites. This is understandable, as AI might process a multitude of content pieces to respond to a query. So, how does AI guide searchers to the most relevant sites? While much remains to be determined, AI-driven search is undeniably growing. In some cases, users are turning directly to ChatGPT, circumventing Google and Bing altogether.
So, how does this impact business owners and website managers? Although much remains uncertain in the realm of AI-based search, one certainty is that AI and AI-based personal assistants will take on the heavy lifting of providing answers and results to searchers. It's prudent to start preparing for this inevitable shift now.
Traffic Acquisition Strategies
For the past decade, traffic acquisition for websites has primarily followed two avenues. The first is content-focused, often termed "inbound." This involves strategically generating valuable content for your audience, which draws them to your platform. The second approach involves purchasing traffic through PPC or social media ads, tailored to your audience segment.
In the content-based strategy, you tailor content for YOUR audience. This is done through your website, micro-sites, blogs, social media, email/SMS campaigns, and white papers, among others. The emphasis lies on engaging the audience and achieving conversions. However, this approach can be daunting for smaller companies due to the constant and resource-intensive nature of content creation. Outsourcing content often falls short in capturing the brand's voice and personality. Unless working closely with an agency over an extended period, aligning with your brand becomes expensive for most small firms.
This leaves PPC as a practical traffic acquisition strategy. Engaging in some level of PPC is advisable, as it can be highly effective when executed correctly. It also compels you to analyze data and performance across your digital ecosystem, optimizing ad spend and strategy.
Shifting Focus in Digital Copywriting
This landscape was stable until recently when our industry faced disruption from emerging AI technology. AI has the potential to reshape search profoundly, necessitating a comprehensive understanding of future changes for business owners and marketing managers.
For the past 10-15 years, digital copywriting has adapted to readers' tendencies to scan and cherry-pick rather than read marketing content closely. The focus was on succinctly conveying information, often driving readers towards CTAs or conversions. This trend is unlikely to shift. Digital readers, particularly on mobile devices, possess short attention spans and consume shorter, more concise content to retain engagement.
In the digital sphere, there were two audiences to satisfy: the target audience and SEO algorithms. SEO tactics and website optimizations aligned with Google's ever-changing algorithm. However, if AI assumes search control, factors like page load speed, keywords, backlinks, or meta content might diminish in importance. Instead, AI will concentrate on developing a digital grasp of an organization's identity.
AI's Hunger for Rich Content
Current AI models have effectively reached the "end of the internet," having ingested extensive content. They hunger for deeper, richer content to enrich their understanding of organizations. This stands in contrast to the past decade's emphasis on concise copy for human consumption. Future content creators' success will likely hinge on catering to AI almost as much, if not more than, human readers.
Consider Ask Jeeves, a name that resonates with nostalgia. Google's ascent overshadowed it in the search domain. Imagine Jeeves reborn as an AI-based personal assistant, deeply integrated with searchers' needs and internet knowledge. Future searches might resemble, "Hey Jeeves, which tire shop should I visit for a slow leak?" Presently, we'd search "tire shops near me," cross-reference reviews, and seek social recommendations. In the future, Jeeves could provide an exact recommendation, potentially arranging appointments seamlessly, obviating the need for traditional search results.
Shifting Strategies: From Control to Influence
Currently, we can influence perceptions through content manipulation. However, AI's dominance will shift this dynamic. Our control over external business perception will revolve around influencing AI's digital understanding, not exerting full control.
Given these developments, businesses must assess their readiness. While the technical aspects of digital AI communication will evolve, cultural and human aspects within organizations must also adapt. Current marketing websites focus largely on business acquisition, but future success will require revealing more facets to AI engines.
One practical approach is creating a knowledge base (KB). Instead of merely providing contact information, craft companion content in the KB elucidating how to interact with your organization. This in-depth content aids AI in comprehending your company's operations, potentially enhancing sales and customer retention.
Embracing a Content-Rich Future
While many questions linger about AI's precise impact, the importance of content remains undeniable. Organizations must be poised for this shift, treating digital platforms as first-class entities. Many companies risk being caught off-guard by this transformative change. If you wish to delve further into this topic, we're available to address your concerns. Consult our knowledge base to learn how to reach out to us. 😉
August 21, 2023