Don’t Worry—AI Won’t Kill SEO

Why the death of SEO is greatly exaggerated. 


AI-assisted search is everywhere these days. Bing added AI to its search engine shortly after its deal with OpenAI. Perplexity AI entered the scene with an AI-only search engine. And most recently, Google rolled out AI Overviews (previously called SGE for search generative experience).

As expected, many SEO professionals and companies are worried. Is this the end of SEO? Are search engines dead? Fortunately, we’ve been here before. Whether it was one of many search algorithm updates, the introduction of ads, or the rise of search across newer networks (like TikTok and Meta), this isn’t the first (and won’t be the last) time reports of SEO’s death has been greatly exaggerated. The good news is SEO isn’t going anywhere—at least, not in the way we at Razorfish think about SEO.

Despite the introduction of ads and algorithms and competition, the volume of searches on Google has continued to increase every year since the search engine’s existence. In fact, in a recent interview, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that early SGE data shows that people are searching more when it shows up. (We can make multiple inferences about that, but that’s for another article.) People aren’t leaving one search platform for another— they're just searching more across all platforms as search continues to permeate more facets of our daily lives.

Is AI going to change search? Of course it will—but the change will be more in appearance and how we measure search. The goals of search, the reasons people search, the intents behind those searches, and our approach to SEO won’t really change that much.

Here’s why we aren’t worried:

  • AI answers are still based on the queries people search. We'll still need SEO marketers to understand what people are searching, what words they are using, and the intent behind those searches to fill gaps in the marketplace and help users achieve their goals.
  • The experience still cites websites with links, so we'll still get clicks—just maybe not as many.
  • AI search still performs a search based on a query to find a relevant website using the same methods current search engines use, so we'll still need to make sites that are helpful to users and coded in a way that they’re crawlable/indexable and easy to understand.

Where does SEO go from here?
We have to become marketers who understand user intents and needs. Our focus now moves to verbs—the things users want to do that require a website, not just a random fact. We have to broaden our thinking from just clicks and ranking positions to awareness, intents, and actions.

For years, websites were the best answers we had to any query—even if that’s not what the user wanted. For example, when somebody searches for “What time is it in Costa Rica?” they never wanted a website, just the answer. There’s no next step or action for that user to complete. For sites that employed this type of business model—ranking for facts and figures that they really don’t “own”—AI search will be detrimental. For sites that are geared toward helping a user accomplish a task or do something, there isn’t much to worry about right now.

Is SEO dying? Of course not. It’s just growing up, and we need to follow suit, maturing from the old ways of SEO to the new ways of SEO marketing. By focusing on searchers’ intents and the actions they want to take, we can better align our strategies with their needs. This shift from simply driving clicks to facilitating meaningful interactions will ensure SEO remains a vital component of digital marketing.

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