Navigating the Future of SEO: Insights on Google’s Zero-Click Strategy and AI Generated Results

Is this the end of SEO?

No, absolutely not. With that, people have been predicting the death of SEO. It’s kind of a joke within the industry, like SEO is dead and even predicting death of SEO for a long time. But no, I don’t think this is. I mean, some people might remember when it’s quite early in my careers more than a decade ago when featured snippets came out and again, you had this sort of suddenly this thing at the top of search results was pushing the organic down. And there’s a lot of doom saying, I would see this moment as quite similar to that one where it’s gonna change SEO, but it’s not gonna kill it. O ultimately, people are still looking to Google and similar platforms to find businesses, to find services. And there are still ways to win at that game or not.

But it’s still certainly gonna reduce the traffic volume, is it not? I mean, if people can type in a question like, where do I get? I don’t know, where do I have good birthday ideas for a 10 year old instead of clicking a link that might have the answer, like a link to your brand site that has that answer on it, Google will just summarize it for them and just give them the answers. Something they call the zero click strategy.

Yeah, I think it might. So what I think feature snippets again is a good comparison. Cuz feature snippets you would expect, right? So this is when Google shows an excerpt from one site at the top of the search results. So you don’t have to click through, you can just read the answer straight up. And there’s a lot of, there’s a lot for not just recently, but for a long time now, you know, you search for the weather, for a time zone, anything like this, you just see the answer a simple question. If I ask how old is a celebrity, you’ll just see the answer. But over that period, the traffic that Google sends to websites has gone up. Even though they, even though there’s been these answers already there, they’ve people at the same time, there’s more and more people using Google, using it for more and more things. And the way I would think about it is that these answers and talking historically as well as recently, these answers are kind of lost leaders for Google. They’re not monetized. They cost money to generate, but they keep you in. They keep you as the user, not necessarily as a marketer. They keep you as the user in Google’s ecosystem. So you carry on using Google for everything. Is Google the best weather app in the world? No, but when I want to find out what the weather is gonna be tomorrow, I just Google it.

So I’m being, you know, kept in the habit of using Google for everything. And to be honest, if even if I was gonna get traffic for some of these queries, you know, birth ideas for 10 year old is an interesting one. We’ll come back to that. But if I was gonna get traffic, you know, how old is, I don’t know, Vin Diesel? Then that’s probably not traffic I was gonna make much money off. Like that’s what we might call low quality traffic. And that’s the exact kind of traffic that is being taken by features like this, whether they be AI generated or the older equivalents.

And I think the other thing I would say is if you think about Google’s incentives, they’re a business as well, right? They have to monetize search results. So, and they monetize search results by making businesses pay for a click, right? So they are not gonna put answers that prevent a click on results where the they were, which were currently well monetized, which means to say commercial subs, but they.

Don’t make any money on organic clicks.

No, but if they don’t have something on that set that can generate money, you know, they, if say, so birth ideas for a 10 year old that probably can lead into product purchases, right? I would expect that to be a monetized search from Google’s point of view. So then putting an AI summary on a set like that might prevent you from clicking an ad is really risky for them. Whereas on something like, I don’t know, yeah, how old is in diesel? If they put an AI generated answer, it’s kind of overkill to put, get an AI generated answer to that. But norm was paying for an ad on that search result anyway. So Google does not, they don’t have the risk of losing the revenue here, right? Right. So they kind of have a similar incentive situation to businesses where there’s some kinds of query, what we would call commercial or transactional queries. There’s some kinds of query where it makes sense for them to put to use a zero click strategy, as you put it. And there’s some kinds of query where they would be shooting them. Google would be shooting themselves in the foot if they provided a zero click experience.

When Google returns these AI generated results, they do come with source links. Is there anything that marketers can do to optimize their web pages so that we get into these AI generated answers and become a source link. I, it’s kind of like, you know, it’s not perfect, but at least we can get something. Can we do anything to optimize our pages for.

That is still an emerging art. Well, so I would say a couple of things. 1. 1 is I, it doesn’t correlate well with existing organic. So, you know, the results that tend to appear, if you imagine a query where there’s like an AI summary at the top with some featured articles and then 10 organic links below. Often there’s very little commonality between, often no commonality between the regular historic organic links below and what’s featured at the top. So it is quite tactically different. It’s a different system. And we’ve also seen that a lot of the articles that are being featured in these AI generated results are are spam.

Yeah, there are kinds of web page and website that Google has spent the last 10 years eradicating from regular search with quite some zeal. So I almost wanna say, don’t try to optimize for it as it is now because this is gonna change too rapidly. And I’m not sure, like I say, because of the kinds of places where these appear, Google says they’re driving clicks. I wanna wait and see on that. I’m really not convinced that these results are driving that much traffic to websites. So I don’t think it’s a great use of your time right now to be trying to appear in these results.

AI, of course, hallucinates and makes things up. What can we do if Google’s AI results at the top of the serp pages get something about our brand wrong.

The s well on honestly not a lot. And that is one of the big problems here. I do in the same feature snippets prompted again that from 10 years go prompted legal challenges in many countries, right? And I think successful ones in France, for example. And I would, I think Google is telling me only rolled this out in the US so far for sort of mass participation. I don’t think even the, I don’t think the beta, even the beta extended to the EU. I think they’re gonna get themselves in trouble here, honestly, because. Yeah, right now there’s not a lot you can do about. Obviously, you can robot start text block the AI. Google has a Google extended user agent, which you can block, which means that their model can’t ingest information from your site. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t hallucinate about your brand because your brand is mentioned in all kinds of places. So yeah, that I, I there right now, I would say there is nothing you can do and that is a problem.

Now, it would be great if we got a robust TXT tag that said no hallucinate.

Yeah, I’d, don’t mention me or something like this. But even then you would you take that? Probably not, right? Like you’d rather, you don’t wanna completely exclude yourself from being listed in like a list of product, something like this. So yeah, it’s tricky.

Is there anything I haven’t asked that you think is really important to this, Tom?

I, the my, my main, I’m surprised, honestly, I’m surprised by what the decision that Google took and RU rumor has it. I don’t know how much to read into this, but rumor has it they thought about not going for this announcement at Io yesterday. And, but yeah, I I’m surprised. I think this is a misstep under investor pressure. Basically, there’s a lot of pressure on Google right now to be appearing to match and compete with what OpenAI and Microsoft are doing, but I don’t think this is an improvement either for Google or for their users. So my main worry for SEO is not that SEO becomes an irrelevant tactic or something like this. It’s that Google may destroy their own moat here.

You know, SEOs and industry has benefited greatly from Google’s dominance over time. We like to think as of Google as being a villain, and perhaps they’re, but they’re the devil we know. And SEO’s industry has benefited a great deal from this. All of our infrastructure and you know the Mars and stat, you know, the company that I work for in our products. We’ve tried to make sure that as we build our systems there as transferable as possible, you know, we can flick the switch and enable Bing, results, who results, whatever it might be. But there is a danger here to the ecosystem as a whole if Google is making big missteps, and this looks like it might be one.