Will GEO Become the New SEO?
TL;DR – Generative AI experiences (or engines) could largely replace search engines in the future. If so, generative engine optimization (GEO) could become the new search engine optimization (SEO).
Could Gen AI replace search?
As more people use a particular technology it becomes imperative for businesses to be found on that platform. When the internet took off in the 90s, businesses saw a need to create websites to market their products and services. When the use of search engines skyrocketed in the early 2000s, investing in SEO and paid search became necessary. The same has been true of social media. Few Americans were familiar with TikTok before 2019 and by 2022 they drove $11.6 billion in ad revenue.
And now as generative AI becomes a part of our daily lives it will be necessary for companies to ensure their visibility within these new experiences. Could generative AI experiences replace search engines? And is so, will generative engine optimization (GEO) become the new search engine optimization (SEO)? In my professional opinion, both seem likely in the foreseeable future. It won’t happen overnight and I don’t think search engines will completely disappear. But it seems probable that search will take a backseat to AI long-term.
Generative AI adoption
Generative AI has been at the forefront of every technology and business discussion of the last year. And when you look at adoption rates it makes sense. According to some forecasts, generative AI adoption will be faster than smartphones and tablets were in the past.
It makes sense that generative AI is regularly available for free or cheap because using the tools improves the underlying models. Or to put it another way, the more times you use generative AI tools like ChatGPT, the smarter they get. Their results improve based on information learned through prompts and feedback on responses.
The SERPs are stacked against you
Generative AI could present new opportunities for websites struggling to gain visibility in natural search. It’s no secret that larger organizations domination search results pages (SERPs). Google has long been accused of giving big brands a ranking advantage, and to be honest – I think it largely makes sense for users. But it can also create an environment that stifles innovation and invites anticompetitive behavior.
Thankfully with generative AI, there could be more possibilities for smaller companies and organizations to gain visibility. Google SGE for example pulls information from pages that rank lower in SERPs frequently based on my testing.
Google will put the G in GEO
If and when Google releases SGE (or an equivalent) will mark the moment when GEO is a necessary consideration for every company doing business online. If Google displays an SGE result for the majority of queries, GEO could easily supplant SEO as the best way to be found organically. I believe Google could go from the world’s largest search engine to world’s largest generative engine. With the release of SGE. Adoption could take a few years, especially with some of the current issues such as privacy challenges, hallucinations and ethical concerns. But in my professional opinion, generative AI experiences and personal assistants (personalized generative AI engines) are an enviable technological evolution. Generative AI engines and experiences won’t completely replace search engines, but it will be a huge shift. The AOL.com homepage still exists, but I suspect only a fraction of Americans rely on it for news like they did in when I was a kid. Search engines as they are today will likely end up in a similar position – still there, but rarely used or relied upon in the same way as they are today.
Could this be a good thing for SEOs?
SEOs that make the transition to GEO could stand to benefit. In my opinion SEOs often have to fight for a seat at the table. With AI being the next big thing that would likely change. Your CMO might not care about your SEO strategy, but they’d likely make time for an AI-related pitch. In short, it could be positive career shift for SEOs that are stagnating in an oversaturated market. As much as I love being a content goblin, I think the SEO industry is overdue for a rebranding.
I give credit to this article by Danny Goodwin and the study it references for coining “generative engine optimization.” There’re numerous articles about artificial intelligence optimization (AIO) describing it as a way to increase visibility in generative AI experiences. But personally, I prefer GEO over AIO because I feel it’s more specific. I suppose as an industry we’ll need to cross that bridge sometime.