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  • Writer's pictureTiffany Harder

How AI is Changing SEO


How AI is Changing Search


Every year, the marketing community, gurus, and content creators develop the idea that SEO is dying. Meaning – optimizing for search should not be prioritized in the marketing strategy. SEO, along with other strategies, hacks, and tactics are often under the spotlight as to whether or not they are going to help you and your clients grow.


This year was no different. SEO is very much alive. 


What is different this time? AI, or generative AI, and a massive update that Google released in March 2024 clearing the debris for better quality content and changing search and content quality for the better. 


Let’s take a deeper look at the intersection of SEO, Google, and AI.


Why SEO Basics are Evolving


SEO – is Search Engine Optimization. The main focus is to rank high in the SERPS, for keywords that you and the competition are using in the search turf war. Over the years, SEO has proven to be an effective way for TOF visibility and especially local search. It has also invited some not-so-ethical and low-quality “content” with the intent of being deceptive just to gain traffic. 


The basic concept of SEO is not changing, it’s how one arrives at an optimized website and content. The hacks that have elevated some businesses to the top such as deceptive link building, no effort user experience (UX), and “thin” content, you know the articles that have absolutely no meat or value to anyone - other than the converted “click” it took to get there. 


We call that a meatless bite. 


Google started making strides and smaller updates in 2023 to clear up the useless, repetitive and unoriginal content. There’s also a shift in long-form to short-term content. What we know is that Google’s new content update doesn’t necessarily prioritize word count – but the quality, relevance and usefulness can influence the length. 


There’s one undeniable stat published by NeilPatel Blog. He says that human-written content outranked AI generated 94.12% of the time (February 2024). This is undoubtedly another state contributing to this massive shift in content consumption. 


Why is SEO Changing Now? 


Fast content for a fast-paced world – where trends change overnight, products launch daily, and the pull for marketers to feed the content cycle doesn’t slow. But when you take a step back, content to feed the machine, instead of feeding the human can be dangerous. Everyone and their dog is looking for AI shortcuts. I know how that looks coming from an agency owner, but it’s only as fast as we “perceive” it to be. It’s like hitting that drive-through instead of cooking dinner. And hey, no shame but we all know that the quality of food isn’t the best consumption for our health. 


The AI trap has even top (not best) marketers over-relying on it.  At Ritch Reps, we find generative AI and LLMs downright intriguing. Sure, AI might offer a quick fix, boosting short-term gains for marketers and creators. But let's be real, banking 100% on AI isn't a sustainable strategy. What's coming into sharper focus, and honestly, it's been heading this way pre-AI buzz, is the pivot towards genuinely relevant, high-quality content. That’s where the real game is at.


Over-optimization is on its way out as a dated SEO tactic. Google's smarter than ever, and ultimately de-indexing sites that are keyword stuffing, tweaking technical aspects, and manipulating backlinks. It’s clear: Google prefers quality over quantity and genuinely aims to serve user intent.  So, the focus is shifting towards creating genuinely informative and relevant content that resonates with human readers, not just algorithms. This shift underscores the importance of adapting to more sophisticated SEO strategies that prioritize real value.



The “BIG” shake-up – The Google Core Update

Alright, let's keep it straight. The Google core update in 2024? It’s Google’s way of favoring content that feels more human and less like it’s trying to game the search engine with an overload of SEO tricks. Think of it as Google preferring a good, meaningful chat over someone just throwing keywords at it. The NLP (natural language processing) is about valuing authentic, helpful content that genuinely responds to what people are searching for – If the content doesn’t cut it on real substance, Google’s not impressed.


No one should be surprised by the update. Google’s concept of E-E-A-T, Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness is not new. It’s never been a direct ranking factor but it’s part of Google assessing the quality of content. Their emphasis has always been on originality and value for the reader. And recently, the rise of a terrible search experience is something that we can all relate to. And Google responded in a big way, with their biggest core update today early March. 


*Even as experienced Digital Marketers, we do not claim to completely understand all of the complexities of Google’s massive search quality update. This article focuses on Google products and impact on their search engine. 


We have all been waiting for a check on the quality of the content. If you know, then you know – instead of AI elevating the output, it’s been a regurgitation free-for-all for the last 18 months, which helps no one.



Google Helpful Content Update – What happened?

Google said this update has refined how it understands which webpages are “unhelpful, have a poor user experience or feel like websites were created for search engines instead of people.” The last major update was the September 2023 update (according to www.searchengineland.com)


Along with other spam updates and site reputation abuse, Google’s partnership with Reddit is also noteworthy when talking about the intersection of AI and SEO. This is a shift based on the search demand for relevant, user-generated experiences that are more specific and relatable. The collaboration, announced in February 2024, is supposed to improve reliance and the depth of information available to searchers. 


According to Elizabeth Tucker, Director of Product, Search at Google, told Search Engine Land that the update will help reduce unhelpful content in Google Search by 40%.


Aka , sites are being de-indexed. And if you aren’t familiar with that process – basically in order for a site to show up in Google, they have to Index and essentially approve it. We are watching people report traffic drop down to zero overnight and will more than likely see this in social media until the updates have finished in May. 


How AI is Changing the Search Game

Is AI a direct impact on SEO? Yes and no. With that being said, Google doesn’t want or need more of the same AI content. They have it 10X over. Let’s be real – the average to low–level content creator is most likely looking for shortcuts in creating content to keep up with the demand and boost their profits. Using generative models like Chat GPT to do all the heavy lifting is what we have been seeing in 2023 and that is a contribution to the low-level content being produced with the sole intention of ranking versus adding value to the user search experience. 


Branding Leader and Creative Education Leader, Chris Do, recently said in an interview, “Technology doesn’t make people lazy, it reveals the person.” 


Of course, human behavior will choose the path with the least resistance for short-term gain, feeding that reward system. We get it, though, and are AI-positive at Ritch Reps when it comes to ideation, preparing the canvas (aka outlining), and streamlining robust product processes.  


Have you tried SGE? 

So now that we understand AI has impacted the content being used to drive traffic, what’s the other part? SGE is a Google Search Generative Experience and it was released in August of 2023. 


Admittedly, receiving the best outcome instead of URLs where you have to click on the website is a better experience. As you can see this experience has been resulting in content that wasn’t even relevant to the link and created a poor user experience. 


This is the change in experience. And with this change in search, there will be a whole new set of SEO opportunities, as other search engines are quickly adapting and testing for a better search experience.


Simply put, when you search for ‘beach sandals’, the new SGE system uses Google LLM to help synthesize and present information in a summary that is meant to be easier to understand.


The New Search Content 

Based on our understanding of the recent shifts in Google’s search and the long-term plan for SGE, here’s a quick list of how to navigate content creation and SEO – at least for now. 


What’s Working:

  • Unique, fresh perspectives for content

  • Great User experience 

  • Search Intent optimization


What is no longer working:

  • Short-term keyword stuffing

  • Relying on word count to rank

  • Ignoring search intent


When the basic principles of SEO are changing, and we are seeing regulation against crappy content – finally. It’s time to lean into the strategy in your content planning and focus on those concepts. We are here for the change up – it’s part of being a marketer. 


Looking for help with your business marketing? 




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