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The need to demonstrate authority

A good question I heard recently was: “If search is going to change so much with the advent of AI, should I wait and see how things pan out, and in the meantime, save up my marketing budget so that I can subsequently redesign my website to provide something that will be better optimised for future search?”

It’s an approach that has a strong case, but it’s not what I would recommend. There are two obvious reasons for this. Firstly, there won’t be an obvious point where ‘new rules’ come into play, that we can then tackle. AI-powered search will develop steadily over the next few years. Secondly, we already know what’s going to happen to web search in the future. It will become much more question-and-answer orientated, continuing a trend that’s been clear for some time.

So what we need to be providing are more answers, and that’s something we can put resources into now.

The most clicked-on suppliers

Unfortunately, I do think search engines are going to head towards being ‘robo-advisors’ and actually attempt to answer questions like: “What’s the best blue widget available on the market?” They might start off by answering: “I don’t have enough information to be able to recommend a specific product, but here’s a list of suppliers”. However, over time they’ll probably start saying: “I don’t have enough information to be able to recommend a specific product, but the most clicked-on suppliers in the last year were these”, before – in time – moving to: “Here’s a list of the blue widget suppliers that have the highest engagement on their websites or customer ratings”.

We can whine as much as we like about the unsuitability of such recommendations in highly technical markets, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen.

For me, demonstrating authority and answering questions should now be a priority on everyone’s website.