Dallas Riffle Media

How Google’s AI Updates for SEM and SEO Will Impact Your Business

Lately, artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as an incredibly pervasive topic within the marketing community, igniting debates and discussions while also fostering innovation. Perspectives range from “it will make us more productive” to “it will take our jobs” and everything in between. The truth is, we don’t know exactly what impact AI will have, but a safe bet is that it’ll be somewhere between those two opinions.

One thing we do know will happen is that search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) are about to undergo massive changes, primarily driven by AI. Specifically, Google’s experimentation and rollout of AI models and tools for paid search ads and organic search results.

Let’s start with search engine marketing. In late January 2024, Google began rolling out its Gemini AI model for Google Ads, which is a conversational experience that allows advertisers to build higher quality paid search campaigns and increase the campaign’s Ad Strength scores that measure ad copy relevance and quality.

The new AI experience enables Google Ads users to generate ad content, including copy and keywords, from a website URL. According to Google, advertisers that use AI in Google Ads are 42% more likely to create search campaigns with “Good” or “Excellent” Ad Strength, and advertisers that improve their campaign’s Ad Strength from “Poor” to “Excellent” see 12% more conversions, on average.

Over the coming months, Google will also roll out capabilities for the AI experience to create images for paid campaigns using generative AI and images from landing pages.

This is good news for Google Ads users because it improves the results for their paid search campaigns, which will help businesses and brands improve their SEM performance. The other Google AI advancement might not be as beneficial to brands and businesses, however.

The Google Search Generative Experience (SGE) is an experimental search experience that uses generative AI to provide searchers with an overview of their search topic rather than returning a list of relevant URLs. The AI-assisted search tool returns the AI-generated overviews at the top of search results which pushes organic results lower on the page. The reason we mention this may not be beneficial to brands and businesses is that users may find the link clicks significantly reduced. That would hurt SEO efforts because the links users aren’t clicking on might be yours.

Here is an interesting comparison. Searching “Toledo Mud Hens” in today’s version of Google search returns this result:

The first result is the official Minor League Baseball webpage for the Toledo Mud Hens. Searching the same phrase, using the experimental SGE, returns this result:

The Hens’ official website is still the first organic search result, but the AI summary at the top pushes it down the page. In the AI summary, there are four “show more” buttons, and only one of them, the last one shown, is for the Hens’ official website; the first two are for Toledo-focused websites, and the last two are for tickets.

This is a big deal because there’s a chance that AI summary search results will lead to more zero-click searches if the “answer” is provided by AI. In this case, the message the searcher gets is controlled by Google and its sources for creating the AI response and not necessarily the actual source: The Toledo Mud Hens.

We must reiterate that SGE is experimental, and testing is ongoing. Results for a search on Monday might look completely different than a search on Thursday. Google is changing how the results look to determine what is best for searchers (and what is best for Google, obviously), and what it will look like when it’s launched is unknown. Even after it launches, Google will continue to change how search results look because it’s always updating its search tools.

That being said, we at DRM do have a few takeaways from the SGE testing done so far.

  • Some experts in the SEO community believe that the AI summaries will lead to fewer clicks, and many estimate organic search results may drop as much as 30% for some websites (mainly those that are informational, like a B2B site). It’s impossible to say exactly how much any given site’s organic search traffic will drop, but we agree that it will drop for most websites.
  • eCommerce sites, however, will see organic search traffic grow with SGE. That’s because it is built on Google’s Shopping Graph, a database of more than 35 billion product listings.
  • Good looking images for AI cited sources will get higher CTRs so make sure you’re always using the best images possible on your website.
  • The ‘holy grail’ of organic search will be having a presence at the AI summary at the top of the page. How do you do that? Find a way to explain your information as clearly as possible. If your website is light on content, or just uses basic ‘Features and Benefits’ bullets, consider having an SEO expert rewrite it to improve your chances of being included. (which DRM can help you with, by the way).
  • Google is always changing its search algorithm and releases frequent updates, so SEO isn’t a ‘one and done’ project – it is an ongoing strategy that requires constant learning, experimentation, and expertise (which DRM does, and has).
  • Don’t obsess over just making Google happy. Focus on your customer and provide THEM a good website experience. Google rewards sites that provide users a good experience and give searchers the information they are looking for so always focus on that.

DRM is a marketing agency that is strong in SEM and SEO. We use our digital expertise to help you get found and use creativity to connect your brand to your audience and help your business grow. We were founded to do what we are passionate about: Putting creativity to work and connecting brands to their audience, connecting audiences to your company goals, and connecting your business to the success it deserves.

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