If ChatGPT is going where I think it's going in the next few years, then it’s about to disrupt everything about SEO as we know it. I see this as the next flip phone to smartphone moment. Here are some of the things I think SEO is about to change with the acceleration of the declining cost of computing, cleverness of AI engineers, and the evolution of search in a post world mature AI era.
ChatGPT is an AI chatbot that humans can talk to using text as input, and in return, the AI returns a response with text in a humanlike manner. ChatGPT has piqued the world's interest and accelerated an arms race to integrate generative AI technologies into all industries, including SEO.
As many know, Google is the king of search and the inventor of page rank, with its purpose being to serve the most relevant website that contains the most relevant content against a user’s search query. Due to this, Google has ever since indirectly created the marketing discipline we now know as SEO.
Google’s ability to serve the most relevant content against a user’s query has dominated the market for over 20+ years as the number one go to resource for all searches. With the emergence of generative AI services, specifically ChatGPT’s integration to sit on top of Bing search as an example, SEO as we know it will be completely changed.
Let’s start off the marketing predictions with a banger. SEO is dead, which is funny for me to say because I’ve read headlines claiming SEO is dead for the last 7 years. I’m not just saying that to be shocking, I’m saying that because the following "legacy" SEO way of doing things will be irrelevant.
Here’s my rationale:
A) Content creation is dead. No more creating "expertise," "authoritativeness," and "trustworthiness" (E-A-T) content. ChatGPT is trained on millions/billions of parameters, and subsequent versions will be trained on trillions of parameters of existing content. If it hasn’t been trained on a piece of existing content, it will extrapolate from its existing database to create its own content.
B) Backlink building is dead. Assuming it is correctly trained (a big assumption, but there is no reason to think otherwise). It’ll know with a high degree of probability which information is credible and which is not. Plus, the search engine results are completely irrelevant; more on that later.
C) Technical SEO is dead. There's no reason to care about web core vitals if it simply delivers the right answer to the end user without leaving the chat interface.
How I use search today is going to be completely different with ChatGPT integrated with search. When I type in a search query today in Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc…it returns a list of websites that have the best SEO.
I then have to scan through the list of search engine result pages (SERPs) and click on a result, land on a website, and then read the content on that website. If the content on that website doesn’t answer my question, I bounce back to the SERPs and repeat the process.
This exact user behavior will cease to exist. This exact action is now the equivalent of dialing a phone number on a rotary phone. It will be considered an outdated user interface.
The new way to search will be to have the user conduct a search and ChatGPT will simply output the correct answer. No more hunting and backing out, hunting and backing out, which by the way…conspiracy theory….perhaps Google never really wants the user to find the answer on the first go with the opportunity of serving more ad impressions and earning advertiser dollar clicks?
Search engine result pages will be entirely removed from the user interface. This is now the equivalent of the yellow pages. For all the SEO practitioners out there, you have probably all heard the SEO joke, "The best place to hide a dead body is page two of Google." I predict the new version of this joke is, "The best place to hide a dead body is rank 1 page 1 of Google."
In Microsoft’s unveiing of OpenAI integration into Bing and Edge they shared the the following slide.
They explained that all search queries can be bucketed into three categories.
With that said, just think about it. If ChatGPT can fix informational and everything else categories, then there is no need for a user to look at SERPs and click through to a website. If informational and everything else" search categories make up 66.6% of all search queries then you can expect 66.6% of web traffic to disappear.
I’ve seen the term "Answer Engine Optimization" get thrown around in discussions. The next generation of SEO specialists will be all about trying to get their company’s answer into the result of a user’s query in ChatGPT. How often you show up as an answer is the new SERP, and perhaps this will lead to new AEO tools. SEMrush, AHREFS, Screamingfrog, etc. might need to reinvent themselves.
If ChatGPT becomes a modular service that can be deployed on any website, an AEO specialist’s job would be to make sure that their chatbots answer the customer’s questions correctly, which includes lead generation, customer service, sales, retention, and loyalty.
Furthermore, if ChatGPT is embedded as a fundamental function of a browser (not just tied to search engines), like what Microsoft is doing with their Edge browser, then the AEO’s domain responsibility expands greatly to every web based application (constructing email replies, spreadsheets, presentations, video conferences, etc.). They call it "your copilot for the web" for a reason.
Rewind the clock about 10 years, and SEO was the most lucrative way to drive organic traffic to a website. As time went on, search features started to diminish the value of organic SEO. Ads pushed the organic results down the page, and it has now become more of a pay to play game.
For this reason, plus the fact that SERPs are irrelevant and ChatGPT has the ability to create its own content, I think the value of SEO is going to zero. ChatGPT will achieve so much abundant content, possibly covering everything humanity could ever want?
If you can’t get traffic from search, then you’ll have to find it elsewhere. My mind immediately goes to social media, email marketing, membership, and community platforms. The organic game has changed, and brands must find a way to connect with audiences and provide value more in the form of service and entertainment than educational content.
Once the traffic dies off and the clickbait headlines stop driving ad revenue, the largest media companies will start to buy all the smaller players in an attempt to stay afloat. The smaller publishing companies will have to make due with selling for a fraction of what they once were worth, and consolidation will occur.
The largest media companies will then have to put up paywalls for the last standing media journalists, targeting people who perhaps want to take a break from the know-it-all AI and take comfort in knowing the ideas and opinions of the content they are consuming are actually from a human that aligns with their individual ideologies.
ChatGPT by 2030 has completely mastered any query that has to do with "How to do" something. Websites will have to think of ways to fall into the navigational bucket, and the last remaining way to do that is to make an entertaining product (rewards, games, comedy, art, etc). The new challenge will be to maximize time on site because if a user isn't hanging out on your site, they'll be chatting with their best friend, ChatGPT.
Once ChatGPT knows everything about human psychology, gains the ability to be funny, and knows exactly what content to inject that dopamine hit to keep your endorphins going, then even entertaining contents days are numbered.
In conclusion, I’ll leave you another slide taken from Microsoft’s OpenAI Unveil presentation.
Legacy search technologies will now be powered by generative AI technologies. Before the end of the decade, I’m convinced we’re going to see an incredible amount of innovation in all aspects of our lives. Search is just the tip of the iceberg.
There’s no better time to be alive than right now, and I’m pumped to see how things progress over the next couple of years. Until next time, see ya!