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Google is NOT YOUR FRIEND!
In several FB groups, I openly asked what other people were experiencing and if the rumors about Google killing SEO blogging were true. Well, it did not look good! Some blogs already took a hard hit in October 2023 after the Google Helpful Content Update.
I have already written about this madness on this blog and advised you to ignore the SEO analytic tool’s content length recommendations for now! And now it looks like we can identify the reason behind this move: Google is slowly rolling out ChatGPT-Style AI search results that take over the prime real estate above the fold. They are pushing for more condensed and to-the-point content with the last algo update to a point where they prefer bullet point lists over atmospheric sentences. In fact, it helps Google to minimize your human touch writing style (fancy BlaBla author voice) from the actual information, which makes it easier for the AI to generate useful results.
So, what is this SGE exactly?
SGE (Search Generative Experience) is a new Google Experiment in Search Labs. This is currently only available in the US (English). In a nutshell, it mimics the ChatGPT approach of answering your search query directly with generative AI by conducting live online research, looking at the top search results for the given search query, and summarizing the results in an easy-to-understand answer.
Say Bye Bye to Organic Search Traffic from Google
This means that Google will now take the hint from ChatGPT and answer your search query directly. Yes, you heard that right: no more clicking through hundreds of websites that MAY answer your query when they can sum up a nice answer for users.
But, Thorsten – doesn´t that actually sound quite helpful?
Sure it does. I have personally been using ChatGPT for some time now, as I have realized how much easier it is to get a direct answer to my question instead of sifting through all those manipulated search results that are mostly not even helping to answer the question and instead just wasting my time!
There you have it; this is your answer. And it´s true: Peeps at Google have also figured out that ChatGPT is actually more “helpful” in answering your search query than the market leader in search itself! So, of course, this is a HUGE FAT problem for Google because, low and behold, the “normal” users should figure that one out by themselves and start using ChatGPT as their default search instead.
Why is this freaking me out if it´s actually a good thing?
The problem is the underlying consequences this has for your blogging efforts and maybe even your whole business. As I see it, this new feature uses YOUR intellectual property, expert knowledge, and website content resources to empower Google to undercut the usual way Google Search works.
Up until now, the rules of the game were clear: We blog our fingers bloody to get a (fair?) chance to get Google to reward our efforts and send traffic our way so potential buyers could purchase our stuff. But now, this move kicks everyone in the balls and shows you the middle finger. And even though I can understand that Google might be scared as hell all by themselves, here comes ChatGPT and eats their search for breakfast. I can only imagine how extreme the reaction must have been when the top echelons at Google figured out how many Billions in losses that could cause them each quarter.
Nah, Google doesn´t like that one bit, and here is what they figured out as an answer and how it´s going to happen instead:
1. Google is using your content without asking for your permission (well, if that wasn´t a given before…)!2. Google is not giving you any credit for it! (and this is a real problem for you!)3. Summarizing an answer taps into many websites and resources at the same time. (So it pisses of many people at once)4. Google is basically forcing you into buying more search ads to make up for the lost traffic. (What, WHAT!?)
So the question remains: Is Google killing SEO blogging in 2024?
Until now, Search looked like this: By “forcing” a user to jump hoops through the search results website links, they send you all that juicy traffic you want. And even though most people don´t click more than a handful of results on the first page (discontinued because of endless scroll, which btw. is another GOOD invention by Google as now there is even a chance of people scrolling way and beyond the first page(s)), this means several people will get visits from the same user for that search query.
While on your website property, you are able to “help” the user along with more information, redirecting them to other “useful content”, like downloading a lead magnet (looky look to your right 🙂 and asking them to subscribe to your blog or (let´s be real:) buy a product. All of this now goes flush down the toilet, with X% (no one knows any numbers yet, but it could be dramatic) LESS traffic even reaching your website.
Google killing SEO blogging; how will this affect your organic search traffic in 2024?
So, YES, in my book, this new SGE feature, when adopted as the new default for all Google Search users, might basically mean Google killing SEO blogging as we know it. As to what exactly this means for SEO in total, what will change, how the focus needs to shift, and what alternatives must arise, I cannot say yet.
If you sum up the equation, you will see that under the bottom line, Google is using this “good for the user” experience to trim down the traffic to your web properties seriously. Consequently, they might use this as a “Robin Hood” move to disguise their true “Death Star” intentions of forcing you into buying more paid ads.
Doesn´t this sound too far-fetched? Nah, not even close! Money rules the world, and I don´t trust any post-IPO company to play a straight game with their customers. Might that come in a disguise as being user-friendly or not. The user´s best interest always means in their OWN best interest instead. So, “intending” to do good when everyone in any industry suffers for it while feeding the (rich) beast does not sound good to me. At all.
So what is the Alternative?
The first thing that comes to mind is getting your marketing basics 101 right: Using the whole playbook instead of just relying on SEO. Every good marketer has a full stack of strategies, and SEO is only one of them. When you (or your agency) know what you are doing, then there are many other options to ante up the game. I am a big advocate of email marketing, and even though email has been called dead more times than I can remember, it´s still the buzzer-beater in any game!
Here are the top marketing strategies you should get intimate with in 2024:
Email List Building
At the end of the day, Email is the only channel that fully belongs to you and that you can fully control. Any other channel could suddenly pull the plug on you completely, change the rules, or just lower your reach to only 2% of your hard-earned page followers (YES; I am looking at you post-IPO Facebook!). Out of all channels, it´s the one that generates the most money (if done right!). That´s certainly true for ViSPR! If you want to push the limits, there are viral list-building tricks that helped me 7x my results with a 50 USD per month tool. If you know how to do this, then it´s a very cheap and sustainable way to grow and own your audience.
Cold Email Outreach (B2B)
This one is a bit tricky to scale, has a shady reputation (for a reason), and B2C cold email outreach is not even allowed at all. Most people try to convert this into a LinkedIn Automation Game, but that does not really work and is super annoying as hell. If you know what you are doing and use the right tools, Cold Email can be a very personalized outreach to true matching potential users and can benefit both sides. But of course, if you only blast out emails just for the sake of it, please don´t even bother, and don´t annoy everyone else.
Omnipresence Content Marketing
Now, here it is, the holy grail of marketing. Even if you try to set this up, this content machine is a hungry beast that needs constant feeding, or it will just turn against you by wasting your time, resources, and money in the process. But if you stick to a strict content production schedule and promotion strategy, then this one will pay back big time! Yes, I agree it´s expensive to set up and maintain if you cannot do it all by yourself, but still, even then, when done right, this is the winner! It´s your best chance to become a trusted influencer in your industry and be top of mind whenever your expertise or solution is needed.
Sure enough, there you have it. The circle is closing itself again. Didn´t I tell you that Google wants you to spend more on search ads? Yes, it´s true, but it´s also tried and tested. The new Performance Max ad formats are actually not half bad either and are supposed to do wonders for lowering your ad spend and increasing conversions (meaning those juicy sales). Google is also playing around with a new AI ad format that is supposed to set up the ads all by itself. I have seen the demos, and it sure looks incredible. To be true, this sounds super awesome for any clueless newbie home advertiser, but here we go again; it also sounds like the end for all those super-specialized Google Ad agencies. Yet another death industry branch to be chalked up to the money game Google plays. Whatever happened to: “Do no evil”?
And then, of course, there is always Facebook Ads. Admittedly, FB has been struggling with its shitty and mostly useless interface for years. Lately, they have heard the coin drop and are also fumbling with a new way to streamline the ad creation process. The new approach enforces removing most audience filters and going all-in pants down. However, according to some dedicated YouTube channels, this new approach seems to work out. Looks like categorizing people into strict boxes of interest wasn´t a good idea after all (now we are talking).
What does this all mean for building backlinks in 2024?
As Sam Oh from AHREFs pointed out in a YouTube video (where he tried to update an older post to rank #1): it´s not a backlinks problem – it´s how Google evaluates your on-page content. Backlinks are here to stay; each link contributes link juice to your overall SEO footprint. My advice is to go for as many links as you can get. Especially the easy-to-get CORE links (blog post coming up).
I don´t know if the ranking factor equation will change and if backlinks will still make up about 50% of your SEO juice power, but they are not going away. According to internal sources, Google actually tested search results without relying on backlinks, but the results were awful, and they did not find a reliable alternative to show quality content. So there you have it:
Backlinks are going to stay top relevant in 2024 and can even make up about 50% of your SEO juice.