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Generative AI in B2B SEO: The Impact & Tips for Success in 2024

05.30.24 // Jamie Belcher

The AI landscape is evolving rapidly; new AI-powered features are rolling out across nearly all of our favorite apps and tools every day. Whether you work in tech or not, it will be near impossible to avoid a significant impact from AI in our day-to-day lives.

In the digital marketing world, tools like ChatGPT and Google AI are causing many folks to question what the future holds for SEO and organic website performance. 

In the latest news, Google announced several new developments in AI Search at their Google I/O conference earlier this month (Spoiler: AI Overviews are live!)

In this article, I’ll walk you through the latest AI tools that are impacting digital marketing, especially for B2B software companies. I’ll also provide tips for future-proofing your SEO strategy in the age of AI search.

 

Google Launches AI Overviews Across US

Google has been testing its generative-AI search features, known as Google SGE, since last year, but only users that opted-in to Search Labs could access it. Now, searchers across the US are already seeing AI-generated results in Google Search.

Google announced the official launch of “AI Overviews”, which will fully roll out in the US by the end of May, and expand to many other countries by the end of 2024.

According to Google,

“We’ve found that with AI Overviews, people use Search more, and are more satisfied with their results. People are visiting a greater diversity of websites for help with more complex questions. And we see that the links included in AI Overviews get more clicks than if the page had appeared as a traditional web listing for that query.

As we expand this experience, we’ll continue to focus on sending valuable traffic to publishers and creators. As always, ads will continue to appear in dedicated slots throughout the page, with clear labeling to distinguish between organic and sponsored results.” (source)

 

Critiques of Google AI Overviews

Only time will tell if Google’s claims about website performance hold true. In fact, many users and professional SEOs have already noted a few significant concerns about AI Overviews, including inaccuracies, word-for-word ‘plagiarized’ content, and a lack of citation links.

I found many of these exact issues during the experimental phase of Google SGE during my research last year. While we had hoped that these concerns would be resolved, it sure looks like they are still proving to be a problem in the public version of Google’s AI Overviews.

With so many users reporting examples of false information and unhelpful results, it seems likely that Google could be damaging their reputation as user trust drops. Could this push more users away from Google and towards other alternatives? 

Google AI Overviews Media Coverage

Opting Out

Already many users are asking if it’s possible to opt-out or turn off AI overviews, but it looks like there is not currently an official option to do so. However, there are a few loopholes.

As of this writing, AI Overviews will not appear in search results for those using an Incognito browser. This is likely the fastest and easiest way to avoid seeing them.

Additionally, Google added a new search filter called “Web” that allows users to see a more classic view of the Google SERP with a simple list of web links and descriptions.

 

AI Chat and Language-Based Models

If Google loses share of the search engine market, it will be to AI-powered alternatives. The very definition of a search engine is shifting as search platforms now also compete with language-based AI.

Chat-based generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Bing AI Chat, Claude, and Google Gemini (formerly Google Bard) are gaining popularity, and could be taking away some market share from traditional search engines. 

These tools are becoming more widely adapted, especially as they become integrated with more apps and devices that we use on a regular basis. For example, there are rumors of a partnership between Apple and ChatGPT which could cause iPhone users to shift away from Google and other search engines.

 

Measuring the Impact of AI on Key Digital Marketing Metrics

No one can perfectly predict the impact of emerging AI technology on the search industry, but there are some ways to improve your measurement plan and KPIs.

A challenge from a measurement perspective relates to attribution. What channel will clicks from generative AI search engines be attributed to? Can we distinguish between organic and AI clicks?

Google has stated that we won’t be able to differentiate performance metrics between AI Overviews and standard web search results within Google Search Console.

Bing currently offers publishers limited data from their AI Bing Chat tool. We can filter search performance by “Web and Chat” which combines data from standard web results and Bing Chat. However, we can only see an aggregated sitewide total; Keyword and page data is still only available for web traffic.

Other AI search and chat engines may send traffic to your website attributed to the Referral channel by default, which could eat into the Organic share of traffic if more users start making the switch.

 

SEO Metrics To Track In the World of AI Overviews 

  • Brand vs. non-brand search impressions
  • Click-through-rate (CTR)
  • Long term trends in organic rank and CTR
  • Organic, referral, and direct traffic (trends, relationship)
  • Integrated lead and pipeline data which enables full-funnel tracking to revenue

Additionally, it may be time to consider embracing zero-click marketing, the idea that many searches will not end in a click, but can still have a net positive impact on your bottom line. It just becomes a bit more challenging to measure.

 

Potential SEO Challenges Brought On By AI Search

Beyond attribution and measurement concerns, AI carries a few other potential challenges for SEOs that we should be aware of. 

Impact on click-through-rate (CTR) and organic traffic

Similar to other search features, AI-generated results can be displayed directly in the SERP, eliminating the need for a click. Over time, this could lead to reduced traffic to your website. It will likely impact some industries more than others.

Industries that could see the biggest negative impact in CTR include eCommerce, Local Businesses, and topic/interest based content publishers. This is because there is likely to be higher competition for clicks across AI Overviews, Ads, and other SERP features.

Industries with longer buying cycles like B2B and SaaS may be less impacted. While there could still be some fluctuations or decreases in CTR, we know that building long-term trust with users and positive brand sentiment are keys to success in the B2B world, and this can still be achieved via zero-click content.

 

AI-generated related searches

SEOs are already familiar with existing SERP features like People Also Ask, which can redirect users away from your content. AI chat tools are even more interactive, and offer AI-generated related searches and other suggested content, without the need for a user to modify their query. This could result in the use of fewer keyword variations and modifiers, which is why it will be important to focus on building topic authority through a strong pillar content collection strategy.

 

Google SERP Example for 'sales management system examples' with AI Overview

 

User data privacy

Many concerns about privacy have been raised about AI, such as unauthorized use and storage of personal data or copyright and intellectual property infringement. Storing or using personal data into AI models without users consent can put companies at risk of legal repercussions under data protection laws like GDPR and using AI extensively for content creation can lead to copyright infringement. A study from Deloitte showed that 56% of respondents don’t know or are unsure if their organizations have ethical standards guiding the use of generative AI.

Content quality

AI allows for much faster, much easier content creation, but the quality of the content can often be put into question. Generative AI tools can miss a unique point-of-view or way to relate to the reader, which is essential in the B2B world since users need to be nurtured for a significant amount of time. Search engines are also adapting to deprioritize low-quality content so relying too heavily on AI can have a negative impact on your website’s performance. 

 

Should Businesses Block AI Tools From Featuring Their Content?

A common question on the minds of digital marketers and business owners is whether or not we should allow our content to be featured as part of AI Overviews. Given the concerns and challenges we’ve discussed, it’s understandable to be cautious over this. 

In my view, companies in the B2B software industry can benefit from AI search by focusing on building a strong brand affinity and providing a web experience that helps nurture the user journey.

Even if users do not click through to your website from an AI search, they may still build awareness and trust in your brand. You can continue to engage with these users by providing valuable, educational content across your website and through paid media channels.

If there are pieces of content on your website that you want to block Google from featuring in their AI generated results, you can use this method of adding a ‘no-snippet’ tag to your code.

 

How to Optimize for AI in Search in the B2B SaaS Industry

With the emergence of generative AI technology shifting the search experience, are current SEO best practices still effective?

I believe that the fundamentals of SEO will hold true, especially for B2B companies. Here are my top tips for optimizing your search performance in the age of AI:

Invest in content creation

It remains essential to create high-quality content for your audience. Produce thought-leadership content that establishes your brand as a trusted expert in your field.

Organize your content based on intent

For each core product or capability, build a collection of content for the full user journey, from top-of-funnel educational pieces, to reports, guides, testimonials, and product demos for users at the bottom of the funnel. Structure your content so that related pages are linked and easily accessible for users to navigate.

Create compelling video and graphics

The SERP is becoming more and more visual, and you can further enhance your website by adding relevant images and videos. Using unique graphics, charts, and infographics, along with engaging short-form and long-form video content are great ways to engage your audience, not to mention increase the chances of your visual content being featured in search results.

Engage in digital PR

Building a strong brand presence is key to generating demand. Use digital PR to help maximize the reach of your content, build brand awareness and trust, and increase the potential of your brand to be featured (and linked) across more publications.

Polish up your site’s technical health

Cleaning up broken links, 404 errors, and other key technical elements will improve Google’s ability to crawl and understand the content on your site. It can also improve the user experience. Features like tables of contents, anchor links, lists and tables can also increase the chances of your written content appearing in AI overviews and SERP features.

 

Conclusion

AI-powered technology and machine learning models will continue to evolve (and fast), and it’s impossible to predict all the ways it will impact search engines over the coming years. 

We hope that the quality and accuracy of the results will continue to improve, and that the big search companies like Google and Microsoft will start to provide more clear data on the performance of AI content for publishers.

In the meantime, review the key metrics you use to measure success in SEO and other digital marketing channels. Consider shifting towards metrics like brand impressions, rank and CTR. Even better, implement an integrated lead data solution that enables the tracking of performance from campaign to revenue.

By investing in engaging multimedia content and digital marketing, B2B companies can continue to grow their brand presence and trust, while nurturing users through the entire buyer journey.

At Obility, our team of experts in SEO, Paid Media, and RevOps are ready to guide you to success, even throughout the uncertainty that arises from the emergence of new technologies. We’re constantly monitoring and testing the latest tactics and adapting our strategy as needed to maximize results. Reach out today to learn what we can do for you.

About Jamie Belcher

Jamie is an SEO Supervisor at Obility based outside Portland, OR. She has been in the digital marketing industry for 10+ years. Her specialties include technical SEO, keyword and content strategy, conversion rate optimization, and analytics. View all Jamie Belcher’s posts >