In May 2023, Google made a series of announcements about how AI and Google search will be reformed in the coming months and years. Like it or not, Google search as we know it is changing and the way we produce content must adapt with it if we want to keep our businesses and clients part of the online conversation.
The current landscape
In recent years, we’ve been working to a Google-led model of creating content to perform in search engine results pages (SERPs). Keyword performance and SEO have been the name of the game as brands chase and attempt to beat the ever-changing algorithms. Optimising for Google has been placed higher in priority than optimising for users.
The problem is that as people have begun to use social platforms like TikTok as a source to search for news, trends and content, Google has been left behind with search results dramatically reduced and a skewed version of the online landscape being presented as fact.
As SEO specialist Carrie Rose notes:
Google is telling us that demand is declining across a range of sectors. But that’s not necessarily the case at all. People are using new channels for search. Festival gear is up 3% on Google and 200% up in Pinterest. Garden furniture is 40% down on Google but users are hitting Pinterest and TikTok for this information.
As digital experts, we can no longer provide our clients with a correct overview of online trends if Google is our only source of information.
Putting the customer first
Whilst brands are frantically keyword-stuffing to rank higher in SERPs, they have forgotten to ask… where are our customers? Producing content for Google is no longer a strong enough strategy, because that’s not always where our target markets are spending their time.
It’s important to remember that Google has announced these new changes because they are never as up-to-date as the consumer themselves. Customer behaviour must come first, and Google is only one of many tools that we can use to reach them.
We don’t need to steer completely away from the fundamentals, but all content should be created with the consumer in mind and tweaked to favour whichever platform we are choosing to show it. When putting content together, the question should always be whether it reflects the other spaces that people are choosing to search. Remember, TikTok now has its own search widget on iPhone, and we can expect more from this ever-expanding platform.
As psychologist Dr Kiran Webster explains:
‘We are not thinking machines that feel. We’re feeling machines that think,’ she says. ‘Digital is everywhere,’ she explains. ‘We need to stop pushing (our sales messages), start empathising and make our audiences lives easier.’
She continues; ‘By inspiring and educating, sales will increase.’
How will AI help Google search evolve?
AI has been a driving force for some time in Google search but now it’s taking its place right at the centre of our search experience.
Google is using AI to fuel Search Generative Experience, offering a richer result for your query. You can now expect to see:
- Follow-up questions available without starting your search from scratch
- Experts appearing in search
- Ability for users to verify content from sources and experts more easily
- Perspectives becoming ever-more important – online opinions and reviews
- Answers to longer-form search queries becoming the norm
- Helpful content and genuine experience is leading the way
- User-generated content is Queen
Ultimately, Google’s changes mean that thinking like a creator is now vital. Leading with sales messages and leaning on keywords will no longer be enough to keep you up in search rankings.
Brands must learn how to emotively capture the interest and loyalty of consumers who will now have easy access to others’ experiences of a business – rather than what the business itself is telling them.