SEO, GPT, and AI… a lot can change in 3 months!
I logged off my Seer computer for the last time on Friday March 24, 2023. The last time for a few months, anyway. I was nine months pregnant and due on the following Monday. That Tuesday, my daughter Olivia entered the world and I spent the next 14 weeks totally unplugged from all things SEO, AI, and Seer. It was a blissful and exhausting time for my family and I. I checked in with my team here and there, but was always met with the same response: “We’re good. Enjoy the time with the family and please send pics.”
In the months preceding my leave, it was clear a lot was changing in the field. I wasn’t sure what type of challenges would be waiting for me when I got back.
OpenAI was set to change the world, and Seer was especially intrigued:
- We knew OpenAI was set to change the way marketers work
- This meant that AI Generated Content, an oft-mentioned tool in many agency’s tool belts, was poised to take a big leap forward
- We were excited by this powerful new tool, but steadfast in the belief that the most value still lied in how our highly capable team could leverage it
Meanwhile, the search landscape was changing in front of our eyes:
- Google’s Bard was released to challenge Bing’s GPT-4 Integration
- Despite the hype, we planted our flag that Google was still king (for now)
Hyperbole is par for the course in this industry, though. I knew change was coming, but I wasn’t sure how quickly it would develop. Was this a flash in the pan, like the claims that TikTok was going to take over the search landscape? Or was real change upon us?
My first day back was July 5, 2023. As I caught up with my peers and browsed different slack channels and email threads, I realized we’d really been going deep in all things AI. Unsurprisingly, Wil was the loudest voice in all of the virtual rooms.
I sent him a DM letting him know I was back and wanted to catch up on all this stuff. Maybe in the following week we could get a coffee chat?
He immediately replied with an audio note that provided a warm welcome and a sense of urgency: he was free to meet tomorrow, and had a lot to share.
How will we leverage ChatGPT and AI for SEO?
We sat together for over two hours and as time went on, I sank deeper into the realization that everything is poised to change. I was more intrigued and excited by SEO than I’ve been in years.
I typed up and summarized a few pages of handwritten notes and shared it with my senior leadership team. They were already aligned and shared with me our strategy map that mirrored back much of what had been discussed. There were three core takeaways.
1. Supernova is more important than ever before.My biggest concern was that these new advancements in AI were going to nullify what we’d been building internally, and I breathed a heavy sigh of relief that everyone’s perspective on this was aligned. Prior to my leave we were all systems go on using our homegrown data platform Supernova as the engine behind all of our analysis and thus, consulting product.
The obvious question was: Where does Supernova fit in this new world?The answer was unlocked for me in a metaphor Wil shared in his most recent client webinar. The whole video is worth a review, but the basic idea is that the quality of Generative AI is dependent on the “library” of content it has access to. Supernova is our uniquely valuable library of content, and we’ve been filling it with data our competitors don’t have for years.
2. Automating content development is table stakes.There is an obvious and exciting opportunity to leverage these increasingly capable tools to reduce time spent on outlining, auditing, and creating content. Obvious though it may be, it’s also an incredibly challenging endeavor when all nuance is considered.
I am excited to share that this is something Seer is working on, but it’s not my story to tell. More to come in the near future from our Director of Creative and Content, Natalie Price.
3. We are in the midst of an industry-wide reset.Almost everything is changing about SEO, and 12-24 months from now we believe things are going to look drastically different. No big deal, right?
Given the weight of that takeaway, I broke down the four main ways we’re envisioning the industry will change.
Industry Wide Reset 1: How we find information is changing
I’ve been doing SEO since 2010 and have seen some massive changes to the SERPs. As many of my peers will tell you, back in my day we optimized for 10 blue links. Today, the SERPs are riddled with knowledge graphs, more ads, infinite scroll, and instant answers.
This reset will continue the evolution of those SERPs, and Google’s SGE experiment is potentially the next most important era of that evolution.
One thing that hasn’t changed since 2010 is Google’s place as the #1 search engine. And while we still don’t believe Google will be dethroned anytime soon, we are bracing for more market share to spill over to engines like Bing and Perplexity, and for more individuals to use ChatGPT to discover answers.
What does all of this mean? At the end of the day, it’s the same thing we’ve been through countless times before. Like all new SERP features, we must hypothesize what qualities and elements engines are rewarding and work to understand the impact to our clients.
Industry Wide Reset 2: How we work is changing
As someone especially interested in operational scale, the implications of these new capabilities are very exciting. The SEO Division at Seer is filled with some of the brightest minds in the space. We’re constantly iterating on our process and trying to find opportunities to do things better and faster.
In my first weekly stand-up with our SEO Leads since March, the group recounted 16 different in-flight tests set to change how we work. Almost all of the descriptions start with “reduce time to…”
Further, I scrolled through the past 3 months of threads in our two main cross-div Slack channels. I logged 43 different ideas that had been shared and discussed by the team. Folks lobbed ideas back and forth around how to improve ad creative, more quickly categorize keywords, and reduce time spent on meeting notes. Roughly 75% of those ideas were ways to do something we do today, but offer a better and faster product to our clients.
Industry Wide Reset 3: The value we can offer our clients is expanding
The remaining 25% of those ideas shared within the virtual walls of Seer were ideas for new products and services we could offer clients to help them achieve their goals. The vast majority of those ideas were ways we could create a one-two punch between GPT-4 and Supernova.
One last plug for Wil’s webinar, as he shares a few of these concepts in that presentation.
Industry Wide Reset 4: The value SEO can offer businesses is increasing
Another way to think of this one is that we can do the things we’ve always done, but do them better and faster. By combining SEO and PPC data, we were able to answer many questions that marketing execs have long held. But, data analysis can be time consuming, cumbersome, and full of nuance. If only there was a function that could help get us where we want to go…
This video from Wil sums up much of what I’m referring to. The average SEOs ability to add value to the C-Suite just increased ten-fold. The treasure trove of data we’ve long sat on can be unlocked more quickly and in new ways. The potential should excite everyone in the field.
Where do we go from here?
I shared all of these thoughts with the SEO division in a series of slack videos, and this was the penultimate slide: An acknowledgement that this is a lot. For some, it’s like the thrill of being trusted to hold your baby sister for the first time. For others, it’s the agony of not wanting to be out of your mother’s arms.
Change is hard, and the implications of an industry wide reset are scary. But my ultimate message was this:
Big changes may be coming to what we do and how we do it, but some things will stay the same. Our job is to win for our clients. We are built to enable our clients to do more with less. The more we can successfully do this, the more we can grow the business. The more the business grows, the more we can give back. The more we can give back, the better we can make all of our lives.
I believe that everyone in the SEO industry doesn’t need to be a catalyst of change, but we all do need to embrace change. We need to get comfortable with challenging “the old way” of doing things, and ensure we’re approaching new ideas with an open mind. New tools can be frustrating, but now more than ever is the time to lean in and embrace the pain of friction.
On that note, I’m excited to share that this post does not represent the start of something new for Seer. In the past few months, many individuals at Seer dove into the deep end.
- We leaned into how SEO is changing as a discipline by sharing a methodology for tracking brand rankings in ChatGPT.
- We embraced many ways we’re changing the way we work, including categorizing keywords 15x faster, optimizing internal links more efficiently, and testing changes to how we optimize meta descriptions.
As we enter the second half of the year, we’ll continue to experiment and share how we’re navigating this industry reset. If you’d like to keep up, make sure you’re subscribed to our newsletter!