SEO in 2023: between Amazon Prime, generative AI, and impatience
In this historical moment, the most repeated keyword in all environments is "artificial intelligence". Upon the arrival of ChatGPT, AI becomes mainstream and accessible to everyone.
In SEO industry it's no different, and this shift has brought about significant changes but also the possibility to explore new opportunities and threats for consumers and companies, often too exposed to the search for immediate and unsustainable results.
In this article we will see how SEO can generate added value when applied correctly, even in times where intelligence seems to be all at computers’ side.
The human dimension and the Amazon Prime effect
Who among us while waiting in line has never seen someone lose patience waiting for their turn, or while we are driving have become desperate because we can’t go faster or even because we waited a second longer to leave at the traffic lights? We are in a hurry. A lot. Too much.
Then, new technologies have pushed a huge part of our purchases to digital. In an imperceptible and very pleasant way we have become accustomed to seeing our purchases-wishes being delivered-satisfied in a very short time. In some cases, predictive technology can even get ahead of us or, through suggestions and notifications, instigate new purchasing desires. All experiences that traditional village shops struggle to replicate.
The most important player, Amazon, has accustomed us with performance levels that were unthinkable until its arrival. Many of us today, thanks to Amazon Prime, have the right to free deliveries (well, maybe) in a very short time. In some large cities even on the same day.
The consequence? All other competitors must compete with this efficiency which certainly influences consumer choices. Amazon employs huge capital and human resources to make its unbeatable machine work, constantly investing in further improvements.
Not to be overlooked are the effects that all this causes on the neurochemistry of the consumer's brain. Let’s just think about dopamine, without going too far.
But how do other competitors cope with all this? Perhaps we will cover this in a future article. Right now, the point is: don't we consumers take for granted the immediate satisfaction of our desires?
For those who have doubts, Amazon's revenue trend might be of help:
It is fair to say that our society now measures its times conditioned by a profound amazonprimitis. We want everything right away.
The technological dimension and the rapid growth of generative AI
Let’s transition from human behaviors to technology changing our lives faster than ever. With OpenAI's release of ChatGPT, artificial intelligence has broken into the habits and devices of millions of people like never before.
The LLMs (large language models) underlying ChatGPT were already available on the market and known to professionals for years. Of course, the transition from GPT3 to GPT 3.5 and then GPT4 represented a notable leap. But the most significant change is above all to make these technologies available to a much wider audience, who can now exploit the potential of ChatGPT with a very simple interface, without having to know how to write even a single line of code. Just like a chat.
Microsoft, the main investor of OpenAI, seized the opportunity and signed an agreement to equip Bing, its search engine, with the same technology and simplicity introduced by ChatGPT, making an innovative way of doing searches available to the market. Clearly a move to try to gain market share at the expense of Google.
Bing Chat uses the artificial intelligence underlying ChatGPT, in that mode that is now often called generative AI, capable of immediately responding to inputs provided by the user, customizing the answers. No longer a prerogative of data scientists and programmers, but within the reach of anyone with a connected device.
Based on the intent of what we are looking for, Bing Chat does not return the most relevant results with its contextual links, but a new experience made of images, texts, videos, snippets, links and more.
Based on subsequent inputs, Bing chat adapts to what the user does, be it a click on a link, a term, an image, a map, or anything else, recreating a tailor-made and unique experience.
The attempt is clearly to dialogue with the user until the latter has satisfied his needs.
Faced with the threat posed by Open AI and Bing, a few months later Google released its own version of generative AI, called Search Generative Experience. In this article we won't delve into its technicalities, but it is the same principle already used by Bing.
This has taken away the sleep of the entire search marketing industry: what will happen now that artificial intelligence is capable of doing everything (at least that's what it seemed to be)? Still: what will happen to content production now that AI is able to produce content that is seemingly done by humans?
Naturally, many have quickly rushed to publish content on a very large scale by relying on new tools, with significantly reduced costs. What could go wrong?
EEAT, it's not an order to eat
A fairly widespread thought these days is to ride the LLM wave and publish content on a very large scale. Once the parameters have been set, everything works automatically or almost automatically at very low cost.
Many easy clicks, right?
It is not difficult to imagine how content producers got seduced for an easy gain, who now dedicate themselves to the insanely large publication of "new quality content". But, once a number of these "quality contents" are equally published, which of them truly has "the quality" that best responds to what the user is looking for?
Then, from the search engine's point of view, how can an abnormal quantity of "quality" pages be classified?
Over the years, Google came up with many different things, one of them was the acronym EAT: expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. This means that Google has a way of measuring how relevant a page is for a given query, considering its expertise in the topic, as well as its authority and reliability.
That's enough? No.
In December 2022, Google, with unsuspecting timing, added a second E standing for "experience" to the acronym. A sort of warning sign to website owners: publish as much as you want, as I am able to measure how competent, authoritative, reliable and experienced you are in the topic, effectively closing the door to the latest arrivals sponsored by AI.
EEAT is now a central topic in SEO and certainly needs to be explored further. For now, we are interested in its most direct result: the production of a new article without context and roots, therefore having no relevance in its industry, will not rise in the SERPs.
Said even more simply: although AI is able to write meaningful texts, even of a certain length, which it was not able to do until very recently, this content will not grow in organic searches if it is devoid of other fundamental elements to distinguish it in the ocean of available similar contents.
Who can pull these contents out of the ocean?
SEO, as a matter of fact. Let's see how.
SEO requires work and respect for its times, which come at a cost. Always.
In this world that is in such a hurry and where everyone wants everything immediately, it may seem that SEO is not keeping up with the times. As we have seen, our attention is overwhelmed by requests, questions, and things to do. Apparently, long-term efforts seem outdated and above all financially inefficient.
This is a period shaped by the promises made by technology: you just have to have the right tools, which will do the job for you, and then you will only need to harvest the benefits, saving time and considerable costs.
Today, standing out requires greater effort than before, not only in terms of quantity but above all in terms of quality. Making a site stand out for its experience, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness is not (and will not be) feasible in the very short term, nor even executable by machines.
Perché? Rendere concreti gli elementi EEAT di un sito è un compito tutt’altro che semplice e veloce. Ad esempio: come far diventare un sito una voce rilevante nella sua nicchia? Qui interviene la SEO.
Technology's evolution is fast and does not allow us to know its boundaries. Certainly today, but possibly also in the future, SEO will continue to make its contribution to every business with its commitment to results and the marketing of products and services, going beyond the ordinary.
Human capabilities remain unique and go far beyond what artificial intelligence is capable of doing. In SEO, this allows us to achieve results that cannot be achieved in an automated way, which is more fundamental than ever to overcome the challenges of this time. And possibly in what is yet to come.