Thursday, May 30, 2024

3 Steps to Get Ahead in an AI-First Search World

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AI Optimization (AIO) is becoming increasingly important — and for good reason. Traditional search augmented with Generative  AI like Google’s Search Generative Experiences are now being tested outside of labs and are expected to impact 84% of search queries. AI-first search engines like Perplexity are experiencing a monthly growth rate of 40%. These innovations have the potential to connect customers with brands in new and exciting ways.  While traditional engines rely on indexing, Generative AI employs a different approach — surfacing content from different domains. As a result, AIO  involves optimizing content specifically for these cutting-edge, AI-first engines. AIO shares similarities with traditional SEO but has its own unique nuances. To harness the full benefits of AIO, marketing leaders must understand what their teams need to do to succeed in this new medium.

Understanding AI Optimization

AIO marks a shift from the traditional goal of securing higher rankings in search results to the fine-tuning of content for AI models that provide direct answers to users. This shift is paving the way for new and unique interactions with users that would not have been possible in a traditional search model.  For example, with AI-first search, a user can say they are planning a vacation to Paris and are interested in architecture and then request an itinerary for a 5-day trip. The engine can render that itinerary just as it was asked. This kind of dynamic and personalized result is not possible in a traditional search model. The models behind AI search engines like ChatGPT, SGE and Perplexity, are tasked with identifying reliable sources of knowledge to address queries like the one above. Thus, AIO extends beyond SEO basics like optimized title tags and keyword placement; it leverages content that aligns better with the user’s intent and the context of the query. Achieving success with AIO necessitates that digital marketing teams are equipped with the right data and are operating in a way that makes it optimal for AIO to take place.

Three Ways to Start Operationalizing AIO

The good news for marketers already doing SEO is that by creating relevant and engaging content, most of the heavy lifting is already done.  But marketers can take some extra steps to ensure their digital assets are ready for AI-powered search engines: 

  1. Learn How AI-Powered Engines Work: Understanding and leveraging AI-driven search engines is crucial for SEO teams aiming to stay ahead. BrightEdge Generative Parser™ is an industry-first technology that explores how AI-powered search engines are rendering results.  Our comprehensive Ultimate Guides to Google SGE and Perplexity are designed to demystify the complexities of these advanced engines. They are regularly updated with the latest modules and emerging patterns, are filled with hands-on examples and strategic advice, equipping teams to refine their SEO strategies for peak performance.
  2. Prioritize  Intent-Based Content Creation: In AI-powered search optimization, the objective is not just to rank highly, but to become a trusted source for dynamically generated answers. As search engines develop deeper understanding through AI, they strive to grasp the searcher’s intent and generate responses that not only address the immediate query, but also anticipate subsequent related queries.  It’s essential that the content closely aligns with the intent of the the topic, in order to establish your website as an authority. Large Language Models (LLMs), like those powering advanced search engines, prioritize content from sites recognized as authoritative in their respective fields, making it crucial to enhance your topic authority.

    Additionally, it’s important to understand and prepare for the “intent neighborhoods” that AI models will likely generate. These are clusters of related queries and concerns that search engines predict users will explore next. Enterprise platforms like BrightEdge provide the data needed to map out these intent neighborhoods. When creating content, make sure you address not just the immediate need or primary query of users, but also their evolving queries. For instance, when optimizing a web page about learning to play the guitar, it’s important to consider not just the playing techniques, but also other relevant needs such as what guitar accessories to purchase, how to store and maintain the instrument, and the various musical styles learners might be interested in. AI can use these varied intents to generate comprehensive answers that users will see when they search for guitar learning tips on AI-powered search engines like Perplexity, ChatGPT or SGE.

    BrightEdge’s Copilot for Content Advisor simplifies this process in the initial content planning stage. Moving beyond traditional keyword dependencies, Copilot assesses related queries from standard searches and reviews thematic content from top-ranking pages, resulting in a content plan that covers the entire scope of a keyword or subject. Beginning with such comprehensive insights enables teams to produce content that fulfills the requirements of AI search models. Content Advisor uses AI to generate briefs that draw from user intent and matching web content, guiding the development of content strategies that are in tune with the sophisticated needs of AI-driven search engines.

  3. Enhance Topical Authority through Intelligent Clustering: Establishing your site as an authoritative source on relevant topics is paramount in the landscape of AI Optimization. It’s not enough to rely on citations and backlinks alone; a strategic approach to connecting thematically similar content is also essential. AI-powered search engines like Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) are shifting the paradigm. They do not solely rely on traditional ranking factors, as evidenced by the fact that only 38% of pages sourced by SGE also appear in the top 10 of traditional search results. This suggests that even content not highly ranked can gain visibility if it is thematically coherent and well-connected.

    Technology such as BrightEdge Autopilot, plays a crucial role in this process by using AI to intelligently group related content on your site. This not only benefits SEO, but also optimizes your content for AIO by demonstrating clear thematic relationships between pages, which is critical for AI-driven search engines to understand and trust the authority of your content. Additionally, BrightEdge technologies such as SearchIQ and Oncrawl analyze and fill gaps in your structured data to ensure that every piece of content is correctly categorized and easily interpreted by search algorithms, further enhancing your topical authority.

AI Optimization has the potential to unlock new ways to refer traffic, pre-qualify customers, and create better experiences . Marketing leaders can take some steps now to ensure their teams and their digital assets are well-positioned to win as this new frontier evolves.  Here at BrightEdge, we’re at the forefront and measuring how these new technologies are unfolding. We look forward to navigating them with you!

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