How AI Is Changing What We Know About Search Journeys

James Bentham

Head of SEO


With search engines regularly receiving updates and algorithmic changes, SEO specialists must always be on their toes. Now, those in search engine optimization need to consider a new game-changer within the search journey – artificial intelligence.

As content experts experiment with generative AI tools such as ChatGPT, traditional, expected elements of search engine optimization will continue to evolve. Considering this groundbreaking technological development, SEO experts must ensure users can still find the most relevant information online.

In this article, we look to shed light on how AI impacts search journeys and how artificial intelligence may upend best practices for search engine optimization in the future.

The relationship between artificial intelligence and search engines


AI is here to stay. It has impacted nearly every aspect of online behavior, especially search engines. Generative AI has now been integrated within Google and Bing, making it an active part of the search journey. With these changes, a worry is that crucial touchpoints once integral to search journeys may decrease in value, possibly disappearing altogether.

Although the search experience may become quicker, clicking SERP results and interacting directly with web pages could soon become non-existent. Instead, artificial intelligence may deliver query responses natively within search engines, significantly affecting SEO.

Alongside this, the integration of artificial intelligence does pose additional concerns. Namely, how trustworthy and factually accurate is a piece of AI content compared to content created by SEO experts?

How much truth will matter in the search engine user experience


Google’s E-E-A-T update will change how search bots view the trustworthiness of content. As noted by Google, in line with the E-E-A-T update:

Does [the] content … demonstrate that it was produced with some degree of experience, such as with actual use of a product, having actually visited a place or communicating what a person experienced? There are some situations where really what you value most is content produced by someone who has first-hand, life experience.

As Google called out here, identifying an author as an expert and using high-ranking keywords is no longer enough to ensure trustworthiness. Instead, SEO specialists need to prove expertise, ideally through first-hand experience, to create authoritative content.

Google elaborates further by saying:

If, for example you’re looking for information on how to correctly fill out your tax returns, that’s probably a situation where you want to see content produced by an expert in the field of accounting. But if you’re looking for reviews of a tax preparation software, you might be looking for a different kind of information.

This means that SEO experts need to work even harder to create meaningful content that remains visible in SERP results. Staying relevant and claiming SERP real estate is especially important since Google plans to embed artificial intelligence into the search journey. Digital marketers must ensure users actively engage with their web pages rather than only referring to AI answers on the SERP page. 

However, an added complication is AI’s lack of independent thinking. Artificial intelligence instead collects insights from high-ranking content to deliver answers to user queries (similar to a search bot), which has some experts worried that the metaphorical snake of search engine optimization might start eating its metaphorical tail.

SEO experts want content to generate high-ranking results by adhering to the E-E-A-T framework and relying less on AI. But, on the flip side, these trustworthy pieces of content inform the answers artificial intelligence presents to users, possibly circumventing the value of the author and raising the value of the machine.

Ultimately, the best way to ensure content visibility is through content strength. AI won’t lessen its impact when content is trustworthy and directly answers a user’s query based on E-E-A-T principles. Instead, it will change its presentation to users.

New platforms that will support the search journey


Along with AI, visual media will significantly impact how search engines present content in the future. Through TikTok and Instagram’s growing popularity, users have begun gravitating toward influencers and trusted publishers to aid decision-making online. YouTube videos and Amazon search results will also become core parts of the search journey. Therefore, SEO experts must explore connections with these platforms to ensure an approach that incorporates every stage of the search journey.

Learn more from our Head of SEO, James Bentham, in this Marketing Masterclass on SEO Strategy and Performance.

What can users expect in the next evolution of the search journey?


We are at an inflection point where content, truth, and AI are all coming together to change SEO. Initially, digital marketers were worried about integrating AI within search journeys. Previous ways to rank well, such as informational content, are less relevant than they once were. Plus, the removal of ‘how-to’ and FAQ results by Google means a reliable ranking element has gone from organic search. So, we need to discover alternative methods.

Generative AI only works successfully when it has regular and authoritative content to repackage. Otherwise, responses to users’ questions may come from a wrong or incorrect perspective. Creators should create content that appears at the top of search rankings and is of high quality to appear as responses in AI tools. AI will not remove the truthfulness found in content. Instead, it will repackage that content so users can gain answers to queries even more effectively.

Artificial intelligence is here to stay. So SEO experts must embrace AI to forge full-funnel search paths, critical to building compelling user experiences. SEO can no longer exist in isolation. Instead, SEO experts need to strategically align with creative, social, and influencer teams to make the most effective use of AI.

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