Is Digital Marketing Moving Towards AI Engine Optimisation?

    In a recent interview, entrepreneur, investor and longtime industry analyst Jeremiah Owyang asserted that Bill Gates’s vision of personal AI is coming. And, it will disrupt SEO and e-commerce. His prediction was that, instead of SEO, that will give rise to AI engine optimisation.

    The Rise of AI

    According to Gartner’s latest report, generative artificial intelligence (AI) is positioned at the peak of inflated expectations on the 2023 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies. The globally recognised research and advisory firm predicts that the technology will reach transformational benefit within two to five years.

    The report is a curated and concise compilation of technologies that Gartner believes are important, and could potentially drive transformational changes soon. According to Melissa Davis—VP Analyst at Gartner—technologies at this stage of the Hype Cycle are at an early stage. So, you can’t predict how they will evolve. That means they may present “a greater risk of deployment, but potentially greater benefits for early adopters”.

    The report also mentioned four themes of emerging technology trends, one of which was Emergent AI. 

    So, what is Emergent AI?

    In simple terms, emergent AI refers to new skills that unexpectedly come up (or emerge) in AI systems.  Various emerging AI techniques, including generative AI, offer significant potential for improving digital customer experiences, making informed business decisions, and establishing competitive advantages. 

    Other techniques listed under emergent AI in the report were AI simulation, causal AI, federated machine learning, graph data science, neuro-symbolic AI, and reinforcement learning.

    Now, the question is, how is this relevant to SEO?

    That brings us to the “personal AI” vision of Bill Gates

    The Personal Digital Agent as Described by Bill Gates

    According to the co-founder of Microsoft, the development of AI will inevitably lead to a digital personal agent. During a Goldman Sachs and SV Angel event, Mr Gates explained his vision of such an agent, which he said would understand your needs and habits, read stuff you didn’t have time to read, etc. He said, with this AI tool, you would never need to “go to a productivity site” or visit Amazon again. 

    The implication, obviously, is that your digital agent would do all of that for you. He also said you’d never have to visit a search site again.

    The thing is, that particular future is almost already upon us. People are using chatbots like ChatGPT to get answers. And, these tools provide the answers in a slightly different way than search engines.

    AI Engine Optimisation

    The difference between chatbots and search engines is that the former provides direct answers, whilst the latter offers result pages. So, instead of trawling through multiple pages to get the info you need, you could just ask the bot and get what you’re looking for. This difference could lead to a rise in “no click” searches, where users get answers without visiting websites.

    This feature makes “search” easier for users. As a result, as chatbots become more popular, there might be a shift away from traditional search engines. This could impact businesses that rely on search engine-driven traffic. Here are some aspects of digital marketing that might be affected.

    Online Advertising 

    The main issue that would arise is the decline of online ads. Advertising fuels the internet and supports services like search engines. The potential decline in page visits due to chatbots raises questions about revenue models for businesses and tech companies.

    AI-Generated Content

    Technical SEO agencies like Geeky Tech would also have to compete with AI-generated content. Generative AI can create SEO content, making specialised SEO knowledge less essential. However, it may lead to formulaic content and affect content quality.

    New Strategies From Search Engines and Marketers

    The new, disruptive technology would, of course, mean that search engines would have to change strategy. They could adapt algorithms to prioritise new and valuable information over repetitive content.

    At the same time, businesses might need to enhance content quality to encourage longer visitor stays and conversions.

    Dealing With Biassed Results

    There would also be trust and ethical considerations to bear in mind. Chatbot-generated content might have less than transparent sources, posing trust issues. And, if chatbot outputs are biassed—and tolerated due to revenue goals—it would give rise to ethical considerations.

    A Different Kind of Search

    A shift towards chatbot-centric searches may lead to hybrid search experiences combining regular search results and chatbot responses. Search engine providers might also explore ways to monetise chatbot results, similar to how search engine results were in the past. Ethical concerns regarding biased outputs would obviously need to be addressed as well.

    A more unified user experience might emerge, where chatbot responses include relevant links as part of natural-language answers. Businesses reliant on driving website traffic would need to adapt to the changing landscape brought about by generative AI.

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