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Will AI & Voice Search Finally Kill SEO?

Rohan D'Souza

February 27, 2024


min read


Website Desgin


Learn how to adapt to a changing digital landscape — and what not to do.

You’re reading this because you used Google to find an article about how AI will affect search engine optimisation (SEO), either because you run a business that relies on SEO or one that provides it as a service.

I just Googled ‘will AI kill SEO’ and was given 6,440,000 results. I, having read every single result, and through the careful application of my famously bulletproof logic, have come to the same conclusion reached by those who have a solid grasp of what SEO actually is.

My verdict is this: AI and voice search will not kill SEO. Instead, SEO must adapt to suit the nuanced challenges of the changing digital environment.

How to think about SEO

First off, the name ‘search engine optimisation’, while literally accurate, fails to express the actual purpose of SEO. We, as businesses and marketers, are optimising digital content for consumers. That’s the goal search engines are striving for. But, because our jobs require us to focus on metrics, numbers and diagrams, it’s easy to lose sight of what we’re trying to achieve.

I like to think of SEO the way I do about the scientific method. Think back to middle school: the scientific method is extremely simple: you make careful observations, formulate a hypothesis about how something works based on your observations, and then design and execute a test for your hypothesis. You use your results to refine your hypothesis and gain new knowledge.

The scientific method isn’t chemistry, biology or physics, but it is the guiding approach behind those disciplines. 

SEO isn’t keyword research, competitor research, or backlink acquisition;  it’s the guiding approach behind those disciplines. Here’s how it works: SEO is about giving searchers the content they need, where they need it, when they need it and how they need it.

AI tools and voice search optimisation aren’t going to replace SEO — they’re going to fit under its umbrella.

How AI and voice search are changing the internet

This is a massive question worthy of several articles beyond the scope of this one, but there are some important facts I want to look at here.

How AI is changing SEO

The specific ways AI tools affect SEO depend on the side of the equation you’re on: content producer or consumer.

As a producer, there are some pretty extraordinary new generative AI tools designed to help you create all kinds of content. Arguably the most popular ones are tools like ChatGPT, which creates written content of all kinds. But there are also tools that can create video content if you feed it a video sample of you speaking. No matter what medium you’re creating content in, there’s bound to be an AI tool that’ll generate usable content for you.

As a consumer, AI is already being used to parse and present information in a digestible and personalised form. For example, Google is testing an AI-powered summary feature that’ll be the first thing you see on a search. Their AI will attempt to answer even the most specific questions with generated content based on popular and informative existing content. 

Creation and consumption demand SEO practices to ensure that content is accurate, honest and meaningful. Google’s new AI feature credits the content it draws from, meaning that your properly optimised content can still be featured and earn new leads.

How voice search is changing SEO

Voice search is a growing trend. According to Google, 20% of searches on their app are now done by voice. That’s a hefty percentage. 

There are some pretty interesting voice search statistics floating around. Here are a couple that really drew my attention.

  • 90% of people use voice search because it’s easy.

Convenience is maybe the defining feature of voice search. It’s just easier to ask your voice assistant (whether that’s Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant) a quick query, especially if you’re multitasking, which we know everyone always is.

So, how is this going to affect SEO? Well, check out these statistics on what people use voice search for:

  • 66%: weather forecasts
  • 58%: alarms and reminders
  • 56%: research businesses
  • 52%: brand promotions and sales
  • 51%: restaurants

Again, it’s about convenience. Voice search isn’t just quick to use; it also delivers quick answers. People are going to use voice search for a brief definition of SEO, but they probably aren’t going to use it for a long explanation of how voice search is going to change SEO practices.

As a content producer, that means you need to start researching if you have something to offer readers that they want to know quickly. Because if they do, then voice search SEO is a strategy worth investing in. 

I reckon that pretty much every brand has something their clients will search for via voice, no matter how niche it is. Do you sell door lockset hardware? Because someone, somewhere, is asking their voice assistant where to buy the best/cheapest/strongest online or in their area. 

How to adapt your SEO practices for AI and voice search

I’m going to give you five tips for optimising your new and existing content to make it friendlier to AI and voice requirements. These tips are based on my research as well as my experience as an SEO content developer here at EngineRoom.

1. Deliver quality over quantity

Search engines like Google are always, always, always going to want high-quality content to deliver to searchers. Quality is the most important point of difference any search engine can offer. As a content producer, your job is to impart as much unique, clear and valuable knowledge as possible.

If you create a small treasure of specific high-quality content (rather than a dump of poorly researched, uninformative and derivative content), then Google will reward you by featuring your work in their AI and voice snippets.

2. Focus on specificity, context and intention

AI and voice searches work best for long-tail searches. These are searches for specific information that typically has a clear intent. For example:

  • A short-tail or head keyword would be: Melbourne
  • A long-tail keyword would be: Christmas events for kids in Melbourne

Base each piece of content, whether it’s a written blog article or a video, around long-tail searches. This will help Google understand when and how to use your content for AI searches.

3. Organise your content for AI and voice snippets

As we’ve discussed, AI and voice searches are used for convenience. People want specific answers quickly. So, create short and specific answers. 

If you’re creating a piece of content to answer a question, write directly and clearly so that an AI can easily summarise the answer and so that a voice assistant can quickly read it.

4. Write to be heard, not read

Practically everyone writes in a different voice than the one they speak with. You speak in a casual, relaxed tone, and you write in a formal voice. The problem is that some people become a touch too formal and veer into business jargon and pretentious academic language.

In order for your content to rank well for AI snippets and voice searches, you need to write in a way that sounds natural and clear when read out loud.

But that doesn’t actually mean you can’t write in a professional or academic voice, but do so only if that’s your audience. If you’re writing on a niche topic that requires technical language that your audience would be familiar with and expect, then go ahead and use it because it’ll help earn their trust and prove your credibility.

5. Give AI the information it needs to personalise its results

Once again, people use AI and voice search for specific information. Quite often, that means local information. People want to know if the products and services they’re after are available near them, or online, or on a certain date or event. 

You need to make sure this information is available on your site. A great way to do that is by filling out your Google Business Profile. Google’s AI and voice assistants will look for that information when delivering results, so don’t forget it.

Future-proofing your SEO against coming changes

A future-proof SEO strategy isn’t one that relentlessly improves your conversion rates no matter what. There is no such strategy. True future-proofing is about staying agile enough to meet your customers’ evolving wants. The core of what customers want will always remain consistent because their needs grow out of human nature:

  • Clarity
  • Convenience
  • Trust

But what they want will evolve into new mediums, messaging and values. You know what? Defining the ‘right’ way to do SEO (to do anything complex, really) can sometimes be too nuanced a task to do quickly. But defining the wrong way to go about something? That’s easy. Here’s a recent example of someone being the absolute worst. In the last weeks of 2023, I was browsing X (which you and I both still call Twitter, let's be real) when I came across a post by an individual (who shall remain anonymous) bragging — bragging — about how they had ‘hacked’ SEO using AI and automation. Here’s what they did.

  • They downloaded the sitemap of their most successful competitor. The sitemap is a list of URLs that make up a website, including landing pages, product pages, blogs, etc.
  • They then made a list of their competitor's blog articles and used a free program to clean up the URLs, so they just had clean blog titles (e.g. turning ‘/is-seo-dead’ into ‘Is SEO dead’).
  • They fed each title from that list into a generative AI text tool (ChatGPT, I believe) and asked it to write 1,000-word articles based on each title. The result was hundreds of fully written articles.
  • They then published those articles and received a massive boost in traffic.

Seems like a success, right? I’m not going to link to that X post because I don’t want to give them traffic, but if you were to find it, you’d see the comments absolutely flaying the poster for their moronic approach to SEO. And you already know why people hated it, don’t you?

This individual’s strategy crashed. It was bound to. What they did was pump and dump hundreds of low-quality articles that they hadn’t checked for quality, facts, unique insights or even logic. The results they got were an instant high that immediately dissipated once readers realised they were wasting their time.

So why were they bragging about this?

Wrapping it up

SEO, AI, voice search, innovation — at some point, all of these terms that mean something and operate in specific ways become buzzwords. They’re nuanced topics, and it’s only natural to want to simplify them. The problem is that we simplify them by turning them into metrics that can be graphed and explained to the people who write our paychecks, or explained by the people we pay to grow our business. We need to remember what the metrics are for. The SEO Hacker in the story above forgot (or, if I were inclined to be less forgiving, doesn’t care) what our job actually is.

I’m going to say something a little… directly. It may come across as rude, but I don’t mean to be. It’s just going to save both of us a lot of time if you take it on board right now. If you think your convenience is more important than your customers’ needs, you won’t last. If you don’t want to earn your customers’ trust and provide them with meaningful, informative, solution-oriented, engaging content, then please don’t work with us.

But if you do care about your customers, if you do care about the quality of your brand, services and products, and if you do want your business to be the best version of itself, then EngineRoom’s SEO agency team will be glad to help you. I sincerely believe that AI and voice search will not be the death of SEO. I hope this has given you a bit to think about. If you’d like to chat more about it and have a rousing argument or get some advice, give us a call.

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