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SEO is going to be important for a long time yet

Today I’m going to write something which all of you will know already. But don’t stop reading yet. What I’m going to say is that despite the big developments going on in the IT sector, search engine optimisation is going to be as important as ever for a long time yet. That’s the bit you know. What I hope will be helpful is to explain why, so you have an answer to hand when colleagues tell you that “the Daily Mail says that AI is going to kill Google”, or whatever.

Here’s the thing. The best AI technology just happens to be in the hands of the dominant search engine (Google) and its only real competitor in search (Microsoft). These companies – particularly Google – make a ton of money from search, and they’re not going to divert people away from it while they do. If some as-yet nonexistent service powered by AI somehow offers an alternative to search, these companies will probably be behind it.

At the moment, informational sites on the web have a mutually beneficial relationship with search engines. Google is pushing things as far as it can go with the way it scrapes data from many sites and provides answers without users needing to click through to the sites.

Imagine if a ‘chat-based’ method of searching for information completely took over from a ‘keyword-based’ one, such that we asked the bot a question and it gave us the answer, rather than pointing us towards the websites that contain the answer. Then, suddenly, there’d be little traffic to purely informational sites on the web. If that was the case, some of those informational sites would close down, and others would just block the bots from seeing their content.

The result would be that there’d be nowhere for the chat-based systems to get their information from. The industry knows this. So while there are big changes ahead, they’ll be guided by commercial considerations, and the big players at the moment will be the big players in the future too.