Jun 7, 2023
“rather than just trying to simply say, okay, here's a task I used to do and now I can get the AI to do it. Let's think of completely new things we can do with this technology, and turn that into a marketing asset. You know, what can I build with with this tech that I couldn't do before?” Danny Richman
Looking to see how marketing professionals are actually using AI in their daily life? Listen in to Will Francis and Danny Richman chat about what's new in how AI is affecting marketing - this week they have a good look at Google's planned AI integration.
Will Francis 00:00
First off, let's talk about the integration of AI technology into Google search engine. The big question is, how is this going to affect SEO? And is there going to be an SEO industry to speak of in the future?
Danny Richman 00:15
This is the big topic in the whole world of SEO. Yeah, there seems to be a very divided opinion on this. There are some people, and some really experienced and knowledgeable people, claiming that this effectively almost destroys SEO entirely. There are others that are saying this will have no more impact than Featured Snippets did when they started appearing in search results. It's just a kind of expanded Feature Snippet. I think I sit somewhere between those two camps. I think it's inevitably going to have a lot more impact than a Featured Snippet. Because you've got to remember as well, what we're seeing at the moment with this first version of you know, what Google is calling, what is it, SGE, Search Generated Experience, this is only the first version and it's likely to evolve, and it's likely to improve as time goes on. But I just notice from my own behavior, maybe I'm not the most typical Google user out there. But I do feel that I may be the kind of the canary in the coal mine, in that how I'm using search these days may be indicative of how the general population may use it over the next few months and years, in that I found that my use of Google has declined significantly over the last year. For most queries now, the first place I'm turning to is ChatGPT. And certainly, since they've now integrated Bing search with ChatGPT - which means I now don't have to worry about it not having the latest information - I just find that the answers I get from that are far better than I could get from a traditional Google search.
Will Francis 02:19
Yeah, but that's got to leave content creators, website owners, you know, people are creating content or websites, that's got to leave them shortchanged in some way, because the point that we create that content is in the hope that we'll make it onto that first page of 10 blue links, and that we'll get traffic. And where does that leave us? Does it become a point where it's not worth creating that anymore?
Danny Richman 02:44
I think it depends on the kind of content you're creating. I think there has been a long standing tradition in SEO or strategy in SEO, that, you know, if you've got a business, let's say, for example, I don't know, let's say you're a small business, and you're a personal trainer, okay? You know, one of the ways that you can drive traffic to your website, and also drive links to your site, is by creating some really nice content on all the kinds of topics, you know, fitness related topics that people search for on Google, bring them into the website, and then hopefully, that's going to attract potential clients, and also links to the site, which then helps you rank better for all the commercial terms that you might want to attract. I think that is largely going to disappear.
Danny Richman 03:32
I think the two reasons, coming at it from both ends: first of all, you've got Google, is going to just answer those questions. And not only will it answer them, but then where I've got follow up questions, or I need it explained in a slightly different way, or I need it very personalized to my needs, that is a far better experience than just a simple article that that fitness trainer may have on their website. So I think from that angle, it's gonna, it's gonna come under threat.
Danny Richman 04:03
And then I think from the content generation side, whereas that used to require some degree of effort to produce that kind of content, or at least the money to spend on content writers, the ability to produce that content is just going to get easier and easier and easier. So I think, it just raises the bar I think for everyone and I think trying to just churn out that kind of generic advice-type of content that can now so easily be done by AI and so easily answered by search engines now.
Will Francis 04:37
Well go on then, how can I future proof? So, I'm thinking about this now in terms of the content I put on my website, how can I future proof my approach to that content creation? What content do you think will win in that future that you can see a few years down the road?
Danny Richman 04:54
I think you have to think about what the AI cannot produce, yet. And also what takes a bit more effort to produce. So you've got just the same in almost every aspect of business and in your marketing, you're going to have to differentiate. Now, the form of that differentiation may be that maybe you niche down to one particular type of audience, very specific type of audience, or you're presenting it in a format that the AI cannot at the moment offer, say, video content.
Will Francis 05:30
So like, instead of me waffling on about how to create a marketing strategy, I should create a template, a really good PowerPoint template.
Danny Richman 05:38
And one of the things that I've been working on with clients that we found really effective is, rather than just simply trying to use AI to churn out content, let's use the AI to build tools that make this a really valuable site to visit, and offer people something that they cannot get easily, you know, lots of free tools that we can create. Because again, that barrier to create apps, create tools, create really interesting things for your website, even if you don't know how to code and you have no budget to pay developers, you can do that now really quite easily using GPT.
Will Francis 06:17
You mean like your tool where you put in ingredients you've got and it tells you what you can make for dinner or something like that, or Chrome extensions, I've seen people building Chrome extensions.
Danny Richman 06:27
All kinds of things. I mean, yeah, I'm working on I think I mentioned to you, but I can't say anything about it publicly for another few weeks. But I'm working on a new feature for an ecommerce website, which will be a world first, it's completely built with AI, it uses AI. And maybe in a future episode, we can talk about that in a bit more detail.
Will Francis 06:52
I'd love to, I'd love to hear how you built it anyway.
Danny Richman 06:55
You see, for me that's where it gets more interesting is, rather than just trying to simply say, okay, here's a task I used to do and now I can get the AI to do it. Let's think of completely new things we can do with this technology, and turn that into a marketing asset. You know, what can I build with with this tech that I couldn't do before?
Will Francis 07:19
Yeah, I think that's the thing is, the lazy copywriting thing that's the train that everybody's on, well most people are on. And that's the value they see is kind of missing the point. And by definition, that is not differentiation, that's just kind of pumping out as much waffley garbage as possible.
Danny Richman 07:37
I get a little frustrated when I see: there's so many posts on social media at the moment, with all these various people saying, you know, use this prompt and you can get ChatGPT to create your content for you. But the thing is, if it's if it's that easy to do, it's that easy for everyone. And so that's not really going to be a long term viable strategy, just churning out that kind of content using AI. Even if it does rank on Google, it's really only a very short amount of time before anyone can just churn that stuff out. And so, you know, the bar is raised quite significantly. And the impact it will have... I saw a study today, actually, that was put on Twitter that was an analysis of, I think 1500 websites. And it looked at how many clicks they're getting from Google. So it brought them all together. And it's found that even though the volume of searches has increased, the number of clicks that those websites are getting from Google has gone down. Google has been on this path for a long time before all this AI stuff started, you know, it was already kind of eking out publishers from the organic search results, and adding in more of those features.
Danny Richman 09:03
And as much as Google may say, "we care about publishers, and we care about people creating content and being able to drive traffic to those sites", the evidence would seem to suggest otherwise, and I think that Google are far more concerned, however much they might want to support publishers, I think they're more concerned about not losing market share to competitors. And so whether Google likes it or not, they're going to have to give users the best experience possible. And if that means not linking out to other websites... because in reality, who really wants 10 blue links? Only SEOs want 10 blue links. You know, as a user, I don't want 10 blue links! I just want my questions answered in the best way possible.
Will Francis 09:59
That's very true isn't it? And Google, just, obviously, they're going to push that as far as they can without forcing this kind of, I don't know what it would look like, but sort of an exodus from the internet on the part of publishers, an exodus from website-based content, maybe towards social media content or more kind of walled garden type stuff paywalls, I don't know.
Danny Richman 10:22
You mentioned social media, I mean, I do have a bit of a theory that it will not be that long before we see something very similar happening on social media as well. Because it will not be that difficult for social networks, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, who will have a very good understanding about what type of content goes viral - why rely on your users to generate that content? Why not just create it using AI? If you can run it through 'the robot' and figure out what is going to attract the most eyeballs? Why would you not do that?
Will Francis 11:07
It's a very good point. I was thinking about this in preparation for this episode, I was lying in bed thinking about this exact point, and thinking about if there was a sort of the internet is dead kind of thing coming up at some point, I can imagine a world in which there's just no point in creating new content for the Internet, that's all kind of been captured and done and finished, the internet's been completed, you know, we've got Wikipedia and all this sort of stuff that's training data for these large language models. They've got enough they've got what they need. And publishers, there's no incentive for them anymore. You're right, the same sort of thing could happen in social media. And then it's interesting to think what other kinds of content or community destinations might crop up in that post-traditional internet world,
Danny Richman 11:54
It will be really interesting, and I am not of the opinion that content is dead, or SEO is dead. I think it will adapt as it has done ever since I've been involved in it, that's been 20 odd years now, you know, there's always been big changes coming through and the industry adapts, and marketers adapt to the new norm. But I do think that the nature of how people implement and develop SEO strategies is going to have to change quite significantly.
Will Francis 12:30
What should I be doing now, to set myself up and prepare myself for what's coming down the line?
Danny Richman 12:37
I can tell you because I've actually been speaking to my clients and giving them advice. I've got quite a few clients where we've been working on SEO for a number of years now. And the SEO strategy that we've developed has become so successful, that now almost the entire business is reliant on that traffic coming from Google. And I'm now having conversations with clients. And this might seem a bit crazy for someone that advises them on an SEO strategy. But what I'm now speaking to them about is maybe we should think about diversifying so that we are not so reliant on organic search from Google anymore. And we need to think about ways of driving traffic to this website that don't rely on a content-only strategy.
Danny Richman 13:23
And so practically, what does that look like? Well, I think certainly, those that will win out will be the strongest brands, so people who have managed to build a brand so that people are searching for them directly. I think brand building has always been extremely important, I think it will now become even more so.
Danny Richman 13:45
And I think really just trying to do something that's quite different from what your competitors are doing in terms of the nature of the content that you have on your website: it cannot just simply be these sort of search-based articles, we need to offer something that's going to be a little bit more special than that.
Will Francis 14:08
Yeah, true. I mean, that thing about brand building, that's just, I think, it's building the relationship with the audience, isn't it? And it's sticking in people's heads, meaning something to people. And this is like, this doesn't sound new, we could have been saying this 50 years ago, but it's about having relationships with your audience that means something. And that could be communities, groups, Discord servers, email newsletters, physical meetups. I think that's the alternative, isn't it to pure just content postings.
Danny Richman 14:39
The other interesting thing will be, you know, where you go to Google, you're using this new Google experience. If you're doing a kind of commercial type search, transactional search, you know, what is the best mountain to mountain bike to buy for a six year old child, you know, something like that. Well, Google is still going to need to send people to a website to go and find those bikes. And it's still going to need to offer links. This is how you can go and get those things. So I think that's also where the SEO industry is going to have to adapt because it's going to have to try and figure out and understand where is that information coming from, those recommendations? How does the AI learn which are the the websites and retailers that are being shown in the AI generated response? And yeah, that's going to take a bit of adaptation to understand that and figure that all out, but it's very early days for that, you know,
Will Francis 14:47
It is, we're at the beginning of something, yeah.