Google’s new Generative AI Search, utilising Google Bard its AI chatbot service, is set to revolutionise how the search engine serves results to users.
But how will this impact website owners and the traffic they receive to their site? Will Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) practices change at the same time?
What is Google Bard?
Bard is Google’s step into the world of AI chat bots based on LLM (Large Language Models). An LLM refers to AI models that can generate natural answers using a large amount of data (which Google has plenty of!).
It follows on from the early success of Chat GPT, leading to its technology being snapped by Microsoft and integrated into an AI chatbot called Bing Chat.
How will Google Bard Change SEO?
Let’s start with a definition of SEO:
The process of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) involves the improvement of a website to increase its visibility on search engines such as Google and Bing. For years this has been based on improving a number of factors related to Google’s algorithm such as:
- Technical improvements such as improving site speed
- Adding target keywords to the site
- Creating useful content around your product/service
- Building domain authority through backlinks
But, have the changes to Google and Bing using the implementation of chatbots such as Bard and Chat GPT changed the fundamentals of how a site is optimised?
Does the Introduction of Google Bard Mean SEO is Dead?
What better way to understand whether the introduction of Google Bard means for SEO than by asking the chatbot itself:
Thanks Bard, it’s good to know SEO professionals will still have a job!
Quite simply, the fundamentals of SEO won’t change due to Bard. Your site will still need to be technically sound; showcase the right keywords on the right pages; feature quality, informative content and have a solid backlink profile, which will be a big relief for SEOs doing their job properly.
However, as mentioned in Bard’s answer ‘Google Bard may also be able to generate its own content, which could potentially compete with websites that are currently ranking well in SERPs’. This is a concern for site owners who produce informational content in order to generate traffic for their site who may find they are not receiving the clicks they used to as Bard answers the query without needing a click through to their site.
A similar precedent has been seen with some of Google’s featured snippets in recent years, which serve results such as definitions to users without the need to click through to a website. These are often referred to as ‘zero click’ results and are often seen at the top of search results, meaning no clicks for any of the sites producing informational content. Below is an example of a ‘People also ask’ set of featured snippets which do not generate any clicks through to websites:
Despite this, Google fundamentally remains a search engine meaning they have to by definition serve up results from the data it uses for the queries.
If they choose to prioritise AI content over user-generated website content or not source the original data properly, it will likely lead to a drop in traffic for some informational terms for publishers.
Although there will likely be several tweaks on how Google displays chatbot responses in the future, we have listed some SEO tips for Bard based on what we know below:
How to Optimise your Site for Google Bard?
Whilst we are in very early days with understanding how Bard will present search results, it’s likely it will link to website sources in its answers – so making sure your content is featured in these is key. To do this, we come back to creating quality content that answers specific queries around your product or service.
But how else will we be able to optimise your site for Google Bard? Let’s ask the chatbot itself what it thinks!
Here’s what it had to say:
Let’s expand on each of these points to see how they can be implemented in practice:
Use Natural Language Processing (NLP) to Create Content that is Relevant and Engaging
NLP relates to the interaction between computers and human (natural) languages. Quite simply, the content on your website needs to be written with the search intent and relevancy in mind.
It’s no use creating pages of content that serve solely to rank for specific terms or keywords, the page in question also needs to comprehensively answer that query for its specific search intent in a structured and thoughtful way.
We would go beyond this and say you should be using questions as headings (see how we have done this in this post as an example!) where appropriate – meaning it is more likely to be featured by Bard as one of their featured snippets.
Whilst Google Bard is the biggest change to its search engine in years, it’s clear that creating quality, expert content still reigns supreme.
Use Keywords that are Relevant to your Business and that Bard is likely to understand
Keywords are a vital part of SEO – and always will be. Identifying the top keywords for your business and adding them to relevant on pages to your site will always be crucial.
As Bard is a large language model, it has been trained on a huge dataset of text and code, including search results from its staggeringly large database. This means that Bard is able to comprehend a wide range of keywords and phrases and keyword relevancy so will serve your website for results if a query is asked that relates to that term.
As a simple example for hotel SEO, if your website includes the keyword phrases ‘5- star Hotel’ and ‘near London’s West End’ in the meta and on-page content where relevant, it will be much more likely to be served as a result by Bard for the query ‘What are some 5-star hotel options near London’s West End?’
Use images and videos to break up your text and make your content more visually appealing
I’m not sure this one really relates specifically to Bard, but it’s a useful web design tip all the same.
Images and videos definitely help to break up the text, make content more engaging and give visual aides to the reader. By adding keyword-rich alt tags, these images can also be indexed on Google search possibly bringing in more traffic to your website.
So, in order to keep Bard happy here’s a lovely image of the original Bard himself William Shakespeare:
Use internal linking to connect your pages and make it easier for Bard to understand your website
Internal linking is the process of cross-linking pages on your website, ideally using popular keywords in the anchor text.
Internal linking both helps to make your website easier to navigate whilst also helping search engines such as Google understand the importance of different pages on your site and thus what terms to rank them for.
It seems that Bard will use the same process to determine what results to serve in its responses, so make sure you keep linking to the most important pages on your site using target keywords for that page.
Use Sitemaps and Robots.txt to help Bard find your Pages
A sitemap is a file that acts as an index of the URLs on your website. A robots.txt file is a file that tells search engines which pages on your website can be crawled and which should be ignored.
As with regular search engine results, bots will be crawling your website to understand which content to index or not and the same process will be used for Bard’s results.
Ensuring your site is well-structured and crawlable remains a vital aspect of SEO that will continue with the introduction of Bard.
Summary: What does Google Bard Mean for the Future of SEO?
It’s clear that AI will change how search engines present their results and thus how SEO as a process is conducted.
Whilst it’s still relatively early to see how to optimise a site for Bard, it’s clear that many of the fundamentals of SEO will retain their importance, with a focus on a well-structured, technically sound site with quality, keyword-rich content the key to success.
If you’ve been following SEO best practice, there shouldn’t be too much to scare you in all this, although you may see certain clicks to your website drop away as Google simply answers the query without a web link.
Love them or loathe them, AI and AI chatbots such as Google Bard are here to stay and it’s important for SEO professionals to continue adapting to technological advancements within the industry.