SEO in the Age of Chat-AI
Speaker 1: Welcome to Page One Or Bust, your ultimate guide to getting on page one of search engines. We're back from summer break, but the world of SEO has been moving at a neck- breaking pace. That's why our guest this episode is Amos Weiskopf, Vice President of Marketing for Lonesome Labs and a skilled programmer. With 20 years of experience, Amos has collaborated with top consumer brands, VC firms, marketing agencies, startups, Fortune 500 enterprises, and more. You'll hear Drew, Ryan, and Amos discuss the future of the organic search landscape, touching upon Google's SGE, Chat GPT, and much more. They also share effective future- proofing practices that steer clear of any futile tricks. But before we get into it, here's a brief word from our sponsor. Page One Or Bust is brought to you by DemandJump. Get insights, drive outcomes with DemandJump. Get started creating content that ranks for free at demandjump. com today. Now here are your co- hosts, Drew Detzler and Ryan Brock.
Drew Detzler: Ryan, welcome back. It's been a while. A little summer hiatus. How was your summer?
Ryan Brock: Oh, it was busy. You know this already, Drew, but for our listeners, I'll say you decided to send me all over the country for the last several months speaking at conferences. You joined for a couple of them. Actually, not even the country. We were in Canada, too. We've been all over the place, man.
Drew Detzler: Yeah. There could be worse summers, right?
Ryan Brock: Yeah, there really could be. I mean, Vegas was not a great last stop for that leg of the tour since it was already middle of July by the time we were there. It was 115 degrees. My son got red when I stepped outside for about four seconds.
Drew Detzler: Yeah. Vegas and summer wasn't a good idea. Other than that, we had a good summer. But we're happy to be back, so let's jump into it. We have a special guest on this show, Amos Weiskopf of Lonesome Labs. He's the VP of Marketing. Amos, welcome to the show.
Amos Weiskopf: Great to be here. Thank you for having me over.
Ryan Brock: This is actually our second time we've had a guest in Israel. It just blows my mind how far we are from each other. You sound crystal clear right now, Amos. I'm so excited to talk to you.
Amos Weiskopf: Likewise.
Drew Detzler: Amos, I'm interested to learn a little bit about your background, where you came from in the marketing world and when SEO first came on your radar.
Amos Weiskopf: Well, I started developing websites back in the very early 2000s. I think my first website was about in the year 2000. The first year I really stepped into SEO was in the year 2006, where I created my first large- scale website. It was called WePapers. com. It was a platform for students to share academic knowledge, and then became a startup that I built. I also started blogging around that time with WordPress, and I fell in love with the world of SEO.
Drew Detzler: I love it. I'm going to ask the beginning- to- end question here. Then we'll jump into the middle section of this. But from that time in 2006 until now, how has your philosophy on SEO changed?
Amos Weiskopf: I'd say quite dramatically. In the early mid 2000s, it was all about trying to outsmart Google and your competitors. A little bit later, in the early 2010s, it was about providing maximum value to my users. Then, around 2016 and onwards, I think my philosophy over SEO shifted and matured to a perspective where SEO is about being a minion of Google and working in the Google hive, working diligently to make Google bigger and better, and simply being rewarded with traffic for it.
Ryan Brock: That's a freaking awesome way of phrasing what I think is my philosophy as well. I mean, we talk a lot about networks of content and hubs and spokes. The whole thing looks downright beehive- ish if you think about it. The way that we like to do content, we're constantly thinking about, " What are all the different pathways somebody's going to walk down to learn about a topic?" We need to build those pathways ourselves. I mean, there's not much different there between building a pathway and building another little hexagon in a beehive. That's pretty cool. I like that.
Amos Weiskopf: Yeah. I think we're all little workers that are making this puzzle cool, the internet a little bit better. I think I like the role of SEO, which is both into making the content and making sure the content is ready, but also connecting everything, connecting the dots, connecting the little different chords of the web together so everybody can access everything.
Drew Detzler: I love that. All right. That is how your philosophy has changed from starting an SEO until now. Let's talk about another massive change that's happening right now and will continue to happen. Let's jump right into the dreaded AI. Amos, what do you think AI's impact is on organic search, not only right now, immediately, but also in the future?
Ryan Brock: No, no, no. I'm going to belay that question, and I'm going to start with a different question.
Drew Detzler: All right. Yeah.
Ryan Brock: Amos, are you as tired of talking about AI as I am?
Amos Weiskopf: I'm exhausted. But I still love talking about it.
Ryan Brock: Yeah. Same. Guilty of the same sick addiction.
Amos Weiskopf: We already see how AI, and specifically chat AI, is forcing Google to react. I know the greatest threat that stuff like specifically Chat GPT poses to Google, I believe it's the threat to their ad revenue, which makes up 80% to 90% of their revenue. Google is evidently becoming very alarmed and very nervous by this. You can see its diversion to two different aspects. The first one is very negative, very, very negative, and the second one is hopefully positive. If you look at the possible negative stuff that's going to come out of it, I think it's going to reduce result diversity. It's going to help erode the literal skills of users to analyze, think, and even have basic digital literacy, which is going to, I think, change the web.
Ryan Brock: Can we double click into that, Amos? I'm going to be honest with you. I have shared that fear almost exactly word for word what you just conveyed. That's what I've been thinking about. But I've had access to it, I'm sure you have as well, for the last month or so. I've found in practice, and maybe I need to hedge this by saying, of course, I am a search marketer, so I'm not your average person using the internet. I get that. I'm aware of that. But as I'm using it, I'm finding that virtually every time, the actual generative element of it is pretty minimal. It's pretty small, doesn't give me a lot of information, but that Google seems to be aware of that. All of the people also ask questions. All the related searches, they're all still there. But we've also got these cards up top now that give me more visually interesting things to click into, to read about. You've got the followup questions that you can ask, which is a whole new set of recommended next steps, which I thought originally were only going to pull up a conversation, but I found that in that SGE, it also pulled up new results for those questions as well. You combine that with the perspectives tab that's new, and then I don't know about you guys. This is something I've literally never even heard of, but I discovered the other day, where I searched for Pillar- Based Marketing, the name of my book, and where it would normally say, " Images" or" Shopping" or" Maps" or whatever at the top, some of those bubbles were what we would consider to be sub- pillar terms. They would say, " Types," or" Examples" or whatever. I click it, and it just performs a new search for Pillar- Based Marketing examples. I'm rambling, but the point I'm trying to make here is, as I've been using it, I've found my fears there diminishing a bit. If anything, I found myself more encouraged to dive in, in a more accessible way, to other resources out there, rather than just looking at a list of blue links. Have you had a chance to play with it? I would love to hear your experience on it, Amos.
Amos Weiskopf: I have no experience with SGE because it's blocked in my country. It's only open in the US. Everything I've heard and learned about it was by proxy, through other people. I've been collecting the general thoughts of my fellow colleagues and what they feel that this could turn into. One main concern that a lot of people seem to have is a higher entry barrier for new websites to rank. I think that's always been some sort of a fear, but I feel like now, where things are becoming even less certain, and we still don't know exactly what Google Search is going to turn into, it's becoming a much more vocal fear.
Ryan Brock: Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, if anything, there's just a lot of noise. Some people like to talk about the blue links being a wall that's impenetrable sometimes. But I guess the overall point I'm trying to make about SGE is it's very shiny object syndrome to me. There's just so many different things I could click on to learn. Maybe it's just the way that my brain works, but taking what the AI said for granted, without clicking on any of its sources or any of the other followups, just didn't seem like something I was really ever willing to do. Granted, I wasn't searching for things like how many liters are in a gallon or something that's very simple. I'm wondering what the timeline's going to be because I don't think I disagree with what you're saying, Amos, that it's going to challenge us in some ways and lower the overall literacy of people. But I wonder if it's going to happen right away, or if that's going to take a long time, and if something could intervene in the interim.
Amos Weiskopf: It sounds right to me. It's really hard to say. I think we're going to see some more accessibility to more people, especially people who are sometimes like me, especially if I had a couple of drinks, having a little bit of difficulty articulating their thoughts. I found that Chat GPT is supremely superior to Google. It's funny, but I feel like, as Google will try to imitate those chat AI systems to better understand the users, and thus provide better accessibility to everybody, they're also going to improve their product itself. Today, I'm not kidding, I made a screenshot of this. I Googled the very simple query, " How much traffic does Google get?" The first result that I got was this big map of my area with traffic on it like a traffic report. So Google's not there yet. I think this aggressive move into more AI, into the interface, is also going to affect the quality of the results of Google. I'm looking forward to that because a lot to embrace there.
Ryan Brock: The first thing I did with Bard when I got access to it, both Bard as its own thing, and then also within that search experience, was I asked it about myself. I was like, "If I want to test its ability to know things, let's ask it about me, especially because I've done things in the last couple of years that GPT wouldn't know about, like write a book, sell a business, that sort of thing." I'm thinking, " Oh, this will be cool to see what Bard can do with access to the most up- to- date information." It was the most bizarre experience. It was almost like I'd ask it, " Tell me about Ryan Brock, marketer from Indianapolis," and it would just start pulling things about me from whatever showed up in the first 10 or so pages of results. It didn't matter if those things were about me or not. It just mattered that they showed up. So it would start making up fanciful stories about awards I've won that I've never won, and places I've been and things I've done. I found that bizarre. I agree with what you're saying. Google's AI is far behind GPT. You'd think it'd be the other way around because they have access to the most up- to- date information, but it's not. It's pretty bad right now, honestly.
Amos Weiskopf: I think this is a sign that we're going through another cycle of centralization and then decentralization. I think everything with technology has been like this, especially with the web. It's always been going through a cycle of centralization, then decentralization. I think we're maybe at the brink of a decentralization part of the cycle. The reason I'm saying this is, while Google's market share for Search is still hugely dominant, they're still at 90%, I'm very excited about some future possible products. For example, Elon Musk's xAI, could that be turned into a search engine, or just a new way to retrieve information? I'm really hopeful that it will be because he does have some beef with the founders of Google, and I wanted to see him getting into this space. Then again, there's another part of mind that says, " No, Google is going to remain the monopoly for this for a long time." But it'll be very interesting to see how things progress from here.
Drew Detzler: Yeah, I agree. I like what you said, a source of finding information. That's what we're all concerned about from our own personal experience. Then, also, I'm thinking about it from a CMO perspective. I want them to find my information. I want them to find my website. That's why I'm spending time on SEO. Do you think this new experience that's being beta tested and wherever this future leads, how do you see it impacting websites and the traffic that I get on a daily basis to our website? You think there's any industries or types of websites that'll be disproportionately affected?
Ryan Brock: I'm going to throw a curveball out there. I know, based on your work at Lonesome Labs, I think you might have some things to say about this. I think, to answer Drew's question in a different way, because I agree with everything you just said, and I'm actually particularly excited about the video part of it. Everyone thinks that just because you can make video, that makes it the best way to consume information. But there are very specific places where I want video. There's specific types of information where I want video. Other types, I don't. But I believe that the kind of website that's going to have it hardest in the new world is the website that's selling things, selling objects. If you are selling consumer goods, I think the changes in the search experience are going to impact you the hardest, because we already know that doing SEO for an e- commerce website is quite different from doing it for a B2B services website, where you have to do thought leadership to establish your particular experience or your perspective or your methodology over your competitors. Whereas, a thing, I care a lot less about what a brand says about its products than I do about what other people who have bought those products say about those products. So you've got this whole dark social thing happening out there. It's been happening for a while. But Google just made dark social less dark. The perspectives tab they've added to the new search experience starts pulling in from TikTok and from Instagram and from Reddit and from all of these social websites where people are talking about their own experiences with brands and things. I can see a future where that puts more of an onus, if you're doing an e- commerce business, that you're going to have to really build community. You said something about building community. I think Google's now making that community building a visible part of search, which means the old way of doing SEO for e- commerce is going to have to make way for the new way, which is dark social. It's building relationships, getting your stuff out there in front of people who are willing to then go tell other people about their experiences, so that you can be found that way. We're not talking about Amazon here, necessarily, but I'm sure this is at least a little bit close to your world, Amos.
Amos Weiskopf: Yes. Absolutely. I've been working in consumer goods for nearly the past 20 years. We always had the challenge of maintaining social media because fact of the matter is most people don't really care. They're not that concerned or that excited. Unless, of course, those are really special products, most people don't really care to a passionate degree to discuss products. One thing that I did see help impact the SEO of a lot of consumer goods companies is having a system that allows people to rank and rate and review products on their side as well. I never really got that because I always felt like that could be manipulated, but Google does seem to prioritize that kind of stuff. Companies like Trustpilot, they help companies incorporate these features inside their websites, although those things can be also added independently. I was always fearful of the heavy impact of social media on SEO. Coming from a guy who was always heavy on SEO and PPC and nuts, never really excited about the social media aspect of the web.
Drew Detzler: Yeah, you're preaching to the choir there, Amos. All right. SEO landscape is constantly changing. What are some things that marketers should not be concerned about in the SEO world right now? What are some outdated techniques that they shouldn't be concerning themselves with?
Amos Weiskopf: I think the main thing, I would not be at all concerned about having my competitors building a ton of content using AI because that's basically, I think, our contemporary keyword stuffing.
Ryan Brock: Agreed. 100%. If everybody can do it, then it's not in and of itself an advantage. That's something that I wish I could stop seeing, but I agree. You can use the tool, become more efficient, make sure that you can actually keep up with your competition. But if you think it's just replacing the actual work of building authority, then you're mistaken.
Amos Weiskopf: I agree. I think a lot of websites are going to be heavily penalized for this over reliance. I think it's a form of disrespecting your users. Since the Yandex source code leak in, I believe it was January here, a lot of information came out of inner workings, behind the scenes, of this specific search engine. I think that does have a lot to do with Google because I believe they've poached a lot of engineers. I'm sure there is all kinds of information that passed back and forth by the changing between these two companies. Some things I've noticed simply don't change. Even with the heavy neural predictions and linguistic boosting and fast computations that's been more and more involved in these search engines, some things just don't change. For example, in the technical aspect or health metrics like host quality and the HTPS and security part of it, having no viruses or malware on your website, nothing has changed. It's still the same. The same thing with anything that has to do with structure. The URL structure or the beach structure, your entire website structure, I think structure metadata, schema markup, rich snippets, those things will just continue to be bigger and bigger, because no matter how much computation you throw into it, it's still the easiest way and the most effective way for search engines to understand your website, and who is your audience and what information you're giving out. The other thing, and this is really the main thing, is that content quality will remain at the top. I used to say, and this is really something I hated to hear, this awful phrase, " Content is king." I think it's not. I think context is king. The same thing, by the way, goes to links because we used to think, and this is another really bad form of SEO that I was also involved in, in my early years, regretfully, is that notion of build as many links as possible. Just stuff the internet with links to your website. No, it's terrible. It's harmful. It's a really good way to get yourself thrown out of Google, out of the first page. Here again, context matters.
Ryan Brock: Amos, you've said so many things on this interview that I agree with and think are very smart. I think that little speech there was probably the best of all of them. I really hope our listeners are paying attention because what I'm going to take away from what Amos just said is the same thing I said before about advantages. Oh, I could just stuff a bunch of links onto my website, and that wins? No, it doesn't because Google's smart enough, and they're going to figure that out. The long history of SEO is made up of people doing stuff that works until it doesn't. The things that work until they don't always end up being the shortcuts, the cheap things. Let's just stuff a bunch of links, or write as much content as we can, it completely ignores the whole point of all of this in the first place, which is to help bring the right information to the right people at the right time. In Pillar- Based Marketing, we talk about user context as being the most important thing. I couldn't have said it better than Amos did, so I'm going to stop there. But the idea is, we can use data to understand what people are likely to be interested in, based on what other people are interested in. We can maybe not get it right every time, but we can develop content that isn't just the biggest or the flashiest or has the most stuff or the most content. We can develop the content that contextually, in a journey, makes the most sense to write and publish. That's the big change that I think Drew and I have been seeing in SEO over the last couple of years, for us anyway. In practicing Pillar- Based Marketing, it's all about, " No, we're not going to write all this content and hope some of it sticks. We're not going to spend all of our budget on building backlinks and trying to get this little check- a- box, technical signal that, yes, we're good, and so we win. We're going to do the actual work of understanding what our audiences care about and building authority, and only writing the stuff that matters, only putting it out in the way that matters, and then following all those technical things you said." So I think I said I'd stop talking about this about 30 seconds ago. I'm going to stop now, but I just really appreciate you sharing that perspective because I think it's one that everybody listening to the show needs to hear.
Amos Weiskopf: It's my pleasure.
Drew Detzler: All right. We're going to wrap up here in just a second, Amos, but before we do, was there anything that you wanted to share in and around the current space of SEO and the future space of SEO that we haven't talked about?
Amos Weiskopf: The future of SEO, I think that's really where things are going to become very, very interesting. In general, I think user- centric is going to be even more of a focus. It's going to be bigger. I said context is going to be big, but I think this is going to be a shift from the search. I call it the search, which is the quest where I'm going to another search, wherever it's informational or navigational or transactional, whatever, to instant gratification. People want to have their answers quicker, so the search is going to be much, much shorter. We're not going to go over a bunch of different websites and pages until you find your answers. They're going to be much more instantaneous. I think voice search and conversational queries are definitely on the rise. I think when quantum computing becomes an industry standard, and maybe eventually a consumer computer standard, I think that's going to drastically change how algorithms sustain process and build data. It's very difficult to expect how that's going to change the web, but I think it's going to change it in very, very big ways. Another main thing is that I think that real- time information is going to matter a lot. Websites will have to find ways to speed up how they present information that's real time. The other main thing that I think is going to be a new paradigm of how we search through complex data, specifically scientific data, academic, and financial, and as websites, as computing power grows and these search engines have better ways of understanding such complex data, they will also allow us to find information within them in a much, much more efficient way. I think that's something that SEO professionals must be more familiar with, because as we become the engineers that ensure that content is compatible with the searchers' cognitive patterns, we definitely want to optimize making our websites' deep information more available. But also, from the user perspective, we want to optimize our content for better memory retention, and even for emotional impact, because that's the one main thing I've been seeing, again, that comes back to the user- centric approach. Whereas, I think that's becoming the main thing for search engines. Google has information about user information about every single website in the world, basically, with Google Analytics. I think that's really the main key here. Users are on your website, they interact, and they dwell on it for an extended period of time. You're going to win. That's where you want to optimize for.
Ryan Brock: Love that.
Drew Detzler: Agree wholeheartedly. Great conversation. I want to thank you one more time. This was a fantastic conversation. I sure enjoyed it, and I appreciated your expertise.
Ryan Brock: Got me going.
Amos Weiskopf: Likewise. It was a pleasure, guys, really, and an honor.
Drew Detzler: That was a great conversation with Amos.
Ryan Brock: Man. It really was, wasn't it?
Drew Detzler: Mainly because you guys agreed on quite a bit. You guys are very similar views from very different parts of the world.
Ryan Brock: Well, it's funny because I always talk about how, with the Pillar- Based Marketing thing, one of the hardest jobs I have, and by extension, you have, Drew, is convincing people that there's a different way to think about SEO. A lot of people are really steadfast in whatever beliefs they have about SEO, but then you also meet people like Amos, who have been doing it for a long time. They, like me at one point, and like you, Drew, we realized that it's changing all the time, so better not have that unalienable faith that the one thing you're doing with SEO is the best way to do things. That was what I loved about him and how he talked about things. Things are changing. Some things are going back to how they used to be. Some things are going down a path that we can't understand right now. But the idea that we don't have to do the thing that's always worked and that the changes right now are faster than ever before, the way that he framed that up, I liked, because I think it's a healthy headspace to be in if you're in the business of trying to win on a website that you don't own or have anything to do with, which is Google.
Drew Detzler: Yeah, I completely agree. He had a very calming presence. In a world today, with all the change and AI being spewed about, everyone's running around with their heads cut off, trying to figure out what they should be doing. Amos had that approach of, " Calm down, let's think about this from the 30,000- foot view and what we see actually happening here in the near future."
Ryan Brock: Yeah. It felt like we were in our own little episode of Cheers.
Drew Detzler: I loved it. I loved it. I thought it was fantastic. That's it for this episode of Page One Or Bust. We'll see you next time.
Ryan Brock: Later.
Speaker 1: Are you ready to dive even deeper into Pillar- Based Marketing? Here's your chance. The brand new book, Pillar- Based Marketing: A Data- Driven Methodology for SEO and Content That Actually Works, by co- host Ryan Brock and Christopher Day, is now available in paperback, hardcover, and ebook editions. Find it at Amazon or Barnes& Noble, or look for the link in the show notes.
Amos Weiskopf, VP of Marketing at Lonsome Labs, brings his vast experience working with world-renowned consumer brands, VC firms, start-ups, and Fortune 500 enterprises to discuss the future of the organic search landscape, including:
* Google's SGE (Search Generative Experience), ChatGPT, and more.
* Industries and websites that might be disproportionately affected.
* Effective future-proofing practices and avoiding futile tricks.
Tune in to hear why Amos says that context reigns supreme over content, and learn about essential future-proofing best practices that will help you steer clear of ineffective tactics and achieve a higher ranking on search engines' first page.
* (02:00) Intro to Amos’ evolving SEO philosophy
* (4:40) Chat AI’s impact on organic search–immediate and future
* (12:05) Disproportionately affected industries/website types by Chat AI
* (17:15) Outdated SEO techniques to leave behind for good
* (24:30) Drew and Ryan’s key takeaway
We’d love to hear from you! Reach out to us at PageOne@DemandJump.com.
This podcast is brought to you by DemandJump. Tired of wasting time creating content that doesn’t rank? With DemandJump you know the exact content to create to increase 1st-page rankings and drive outcomes. Get started for free today at DemandJump.com.