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How SEO Agencies Are Adapting to a World Without Traditional Search

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The way we get information on the internet is poised to transform from a mostly search-based user experience to a conversational, or chatbot-based one, powered by engines like Google’s Bard and Microsoft Bing’s partnership with OpenAI.

Caught up in this dynamic are SEO agencies, who have carved out a niche helping brands get discovered in this current search paradigm.

In response, several SEO agencies are adapting their tactics to prepare for this new user experience, including conducting analyses on how to make it into a chatbot’s answers, retooling websites such that they will be maximally likely to be surfaced by chatbots, and experimenting with long-tail keywords.

“You can start to reverse engineer what sources they’re pulling from and what would make it likely to pull from a certain source in the future,” said David Shapiro, svp of earned media at NP Digital. “It’s like SEO back in the early 90s, even before Google, really trying to understand what’s powering these results.”

The shift in search is just one of many changes in the past few years to the performance marketer job. The discipline became in vogue in the past two decades for its focus on technical granularity and lower-funnel results, but now privacy concerns and artificial intelligence are preventing performance marketers from exerting as much control when crafting media plans.

Showing up in AI search and honing prompts

Most people are still searching on Google’s search engine. Only 14% of U.S. adults have tried ChatGPT, according to a May Pew Research Center survey.

As marketers wait for wider adoption, they’re analyzing when and how a brand gets cited by a chatbot, a service around 10% of NP Digital’s clients have asked for in the past few months, Shapiro said.

“We’re noticing that pages ranking number one in organic search results aren’t necessarily the top source in the same search engine’s chatbot results,” said Evan Finkelstein, senior manager of SEO and performance content at New York Life Insurance Company.

A key task of SEO agencies is finetuning content and metadata on websites so that search engines will pick them up. Now agencies are working to spruce up websites so that an AI chabot’s web crawler might be more likely to put the website’s content in a chatbot’s answer.

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