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Google’s 2024 I/O Conference: What Brands Need to Know About Search

Patrick Danial, Chief Technology Officer & Co-Founder

Key Points

  • Google’s 2024 I/O event revealed how the company will continue to implement generative AI in search and release it to all users.
  • Marketers must continue to react and adapt to AI to deliver value through organic search.
  • AI assisted SERPs will lead to better informed clicks and a decrease in lower quality traffic.

From metrics to moments that matter 

Google’s recent announcements at their annual software conference mark a significant shift in the landscape of search and information retrieval. 

Compared to last year’s highly controlled AI demonstrations aimed at reassuring investors, this year’s announcements focused more broadly on an experiential and tangible release of AI across Google’s suite of products, with a particular emphasis on search. 

It’s clear that Google’s vision for generative AI in search will transform not just how users interact with information but also how marketers and brands engage with audiences. While brands have feared these changes may result in a loss of clicks from search, the enhancements are beginning to paint a different picture.

AI as a search assistant

At the heart of Google’s new approach is the quote “Google will do the Googling for you,” stated by Liz Reid, Google’s head of search. The wordplay from Reid reveals the company’s intention to use AI to improve its mission — to better organize the world’s information and make it more accessible to searchers. 

Prior to the event, there was concern over how that mission would come to fruition and how users (and brands) could actually be impacted. But in practice, it seems that AI is emerging more as an assistant rather than an all-knowing oracle.

This shift benefits users by proposing to significantly reduce cognitive effort and time. Instead of wading through numerous links and repeatedly refining queries — behaviors associated with a poor experience — users will be presented with concise, organized, and relevant information that is easy to digest.

Rather than merely generating impressions and clicks that might boost a marketer’s vanity metrics, this approach delivers a more informed consumer to a brand’s door. Searchers are thus better prepared to engage with brand content in a more meaningful and intentional way. 

This shift from simple search results to actionable insights will likely reduce unproductive web visits. When consumers ultimately decide to click on a result, they will be primed for the unique value your brand content will deliver.

Marketers can be reassured that these interactions are much more likely to build brand equity and deliver revenue.

Balancing AI assistance and brand expertise

While AI can handle many of the cognitive tasks involved in searching, it cannot replace the expertise, distinct perspective, and specialized knowledge that brands offer. This is where brands can truly shine. 

Google’s AI serves to curate and streamline information, but it ultimately guides users to the experts: brands that have the depth of knowledge and the specific products or services that users are seeking. By optimizing communication between consumers and Google, AI allows users to arrive at brand websites more informed and ready to engage. 

Your website is where they will seek a deeper breadth of information presented in your brand’s unique voice. At this point, Google’s generative AI certainly can’t replicate the brand personality and point of view that resonates with audiences and creates lasting connections.

Implications for marketers

As marketers, we must adapt to these changes in how organic search delivers value. The era of simply optimizing for clustered topics across the user’s journey is evolving into one where context and experience are paramount. Here’s what this means for us:

Content quality and relevance

With AI overviews compiling and presenting information, the emphasis on high-quality, authoritative content becomes even more critical. 

Marketers need to ensure that their content is not only optimized for search engines but also genuinely informative and valuable to users. This content should be designed to be easily digestible and engaging, aligning with the AI’s goal of simplifying complex information.

Educational and interactive content

Google’s shift towards using AI as a learning companion suggests that users will increasingly seek content that educates and engages them. Marketers should consider creating interactive content, such as tutorials, guides, and explanatory videos, that can be integrated into AI-driven search results. This approach will help brands position themselves as trusted sources of information and learning.

Building trust through transparency

The trustworthiness of AI-generated content is crucial. Google’s commitment to grounding AI outputs in established facts means that marketers must prioritize transparency and accuracy in their content. 

Providing clear references, sources, and evidence will not only enhance credibility but also align with the AI’s objective of guiding users to verify information from multiple perspectives.

Leveraging AI tools for content creation

The new AI features, including code-writing tools and image-generating models, offer marketers innovative ways to streamline content creation. These tools can assist in developing high-quality visuals and copy, making the content creation process more efficient and allowing marketers to focus on strategy, creativity, and empathy.

The future of organic search

The transformation of search into an interactive and educational assistant presents both challenges and opportunities for marketers. As AI technology continues to evolve, the ability to adapt and innovate will be key to maintaining a competitive edge.

Here are some strategies to consider:

Focus on user intent: Understanding and addressing the specific needs and intents of users will be more important than ever. Content should be tailored to provide clear, actionable information that directly responds to user queries but is highly differentiated through a brand’s unique purpose and proprietary product and customer insights. 

Enhance user experience: Optimizing for a seamless and engaging user experience will be critical. This includes mobile optimization, fast loading times, and intuitive navigation, ensuring that search and AI systems can easily parse and lift components to reference and cite.

Feed language models: If AI are to continue moving toward higher risk categories (e.g. finance, health, pricey purchases), trust in training content will need addressing. This will likely need to draw on new methods for scoring model inputs or reinforcing facts through more traditional search content.

Sitting on the sidelines of thought leadership is a non-starter for brands who wish to increase their participation in LLM outputs and evolved search experiences.

Embrace new formats: As AI-driven search evolves, marketers should explore new content formats, such as interactive infographics, podcasts, and live streams, to engage audiences in diverse ways. With the rapid increase in AI-produced content, originality, and context will rise above the homogenous limits of public models.

Final thoughts

Google’s generative AI announcements signal a new era for search and marketing. By reimagining search as an assistant and learning companion, Google is increasing speed to choice through a more intuitive, educational, and engaging user experience. 

For brands and marketers, this means prioritizing richer audience insights to ensure their web assets are optimized for all the different ways consumers will find and interact with information in the future. 

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