The evolution of SEO: adapting to zero-click and AI-driven search

SEO is always changing. But these days, it’s changing in ways that we’ve never seen before. Zero-click and AI-driven search are disrupting the natural order. How can marketing teams continue to drive organic traffic to their websites in this unprecedented landscape?

The rise of zero-click Searches and AI-Driven Search Engines

Before we discuss how our new era of search is changing SEO, it’s worth establishing some definitions for the sake of clarity. So, what are zero-click and AI-driven searches?

What is a zero-click search?

While you might not know the term, you’ve almost certainly experienced zero-click search. This process happens when you enter a question into a search engine, and the answer you need appears on the search engine results page without you clicking on a link.

Here’s an example of zero-click search in action.

What is AI-driven search?

AI-driven search uses Generative AI to answer user queries. In May this year, Google rolled out Search Generative Experience (SGE) across the US. A European launch date has yet to be announced.

SGE works similarly to other large language models (LLMs) in that it synthesizes information on various websites and provides user replies via summarized answers, featured snippets, and knowledge panels. These answers appear at the top of the SERP, allowing users to get the information they need without clicking through a website.

What do these changes mean for website owners?

Search engines like Google implement these changes to make things easier for their users. They want to make the user experience as frictionless as possible, and these instant results are effective at delivering that objective.

However, while zero-click and AI-driven help users, they pose problems for website owners and marketing teams.

Businesses use SEO to drive traffic to their websites. Zero-click and AI-driven content takes this content and presents it above SERP links. Each time the user query is satisfied, that’s one less click for a website. As a result, click-through rates and web traffic could be reduced.

This fact is particularly galling for websites that provide the value and content for these zero-click searches but don’t get any reward.

There is already considerable controversy around LLMs, with some critics labeling them mere plagiarism machines.Tools like ChatGPT have obvious benefits and utility. However, hoovering up copyrighted content without acknowledgment, attribution, or payment raises ethical issues.

If a large number of users shift to using zero-click or SGE, websites that have spent time and money producing content will miss out on the traffic they need to drive sales and conversions.

While there is a clear unfairness here, there is not much marketing teams can do to stop progress.

So, what can marketing teams do to adjust to this new era of SEO? As they say, if you can’t beat them, join them.

How marketers can adapt to zero-click and AI-driven search

Here are a few ways to adapt to these modern SEO changes.

Target featured snippets

SEO teams already have extensive experience optimizing content for featured snippets. However, in the era of zero-click, these skills become increasingly important.

Here are some quick tips to help you get a featured snippet.

  • Research keywords and search terms, and take the time to understand the intent behind each query.
  • Create content that directly answers the questions your target audience is asking.
  • Add descriptive H2s and H3s to help search engines understand your content more easily.
  • Keep your content tight, concise, and helpful.
  • Cater to different types of snippets, such as paragraphs, lists, tables, and videos.
  • Long-tail keywords are often less competitive, so ensure you target them, too.
  • Finally, implement FAQ schema so search engines understand your FAQ content using a question-and-answer format.

Go deep with your content

It might seem counterintuitive to focus on comprehensive content when search engines are prioritizing quick and easy responses. However, if Google is promoting summaries and short answers, they are not satisfying user demand for more in-depth takes.

Remember, if you structure your blog posts well, you can still meet user demand for quick answers and cater to more complex research needs.

Voice search

If you lose some traffic to zero-click and AI search, you can try to compensate by focusing more of your attention on voice search.

Optimizing for voice search requires thinking about intent and where and when people use this functionality. For example, many users use voice search when they are on the go, so it’s essential for local businesses. However, it’s less likely that people will use it to find in-depth or long-read articles.

Here are some tips for catering to voice search users:

  • Targeting long-tail keywords is a big part of meeting voice search demand.
  • Use natural language in your content if you want to prioritize voice search.
  • Again, focus on providing short, sharp summaries to common user questions.

Diversify your traffic sources

The evolution of SEO is bad news for specific website business models. For example, websites that rely on ad revenue and affiliate marketing sites could be hit hard by these changes. For other websites, the effects could be a reduction in traffic without a total dismantling of revenue.

What these situations do underline is that being overly reliant on organic search comes with a lot of risk. As such, marketing teams should diversify their traffic sources.

Here are a few alternative ways to drive traffic to your site.

  • Email marketing is still a good option if you have a decent-sized subscriber list.
  • Social media marketing has a huge reach. Regular posts and user engagement can transform into organic visitors for your website.
  • PPC ads can drive instant, high-intent users to your website.

Final thoughts

SEO is always changing. Whether it’s Google core algorithm updates or the rise of zero-click or AI-driven search, no business can rest on its laurels. Thankfully, there are a variety of ways that you can adjust and adapt to these changes.

PPC ads offer instant results. However, some teams might worry about the effect on their customer acquisition costs (CAC). If that sounds like you, Amanda AI was built to help businesses punch above their weight by getting the most from their advertising budget. Reach out today to find out how we can help.

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