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Adapting SEO Strategies for the Conversational Search Era

Last week’s blog solved the great third-party cookie conundrum, highlighting a notable shift in the evolving landscape of digital marketing. But that’s not the only major driver of change that marketers should be preparing for. 


It’s no surprise that I’m talking about AI. But more specifically, how AI is transforming our search behavior through the power of conversation. 


The rise in popularity of conversational agents like ChatGPT and Bard has created a cultural shift in the way we search for and access information. This week, we’re diving into the profound impact of conversational AI on user search behavior, site traffic, and SEO strategies. 


Let’s jump in…


Conversational Search Evolution

Conversational search is nothing new—we’ve slowly adapted our habits to favor this model as smart devices and voice-activated assistants like Alexa have become a part of our daily lives. And as our comfort with speaking to a device has increased, so has the complex technology of natural language processing (NLP) algorithms.


Where we once typed in a key term and received a list of results to sift through, we can now have active and intelligent conversations that provide hyper-personalized responses and results. It’s fast, it’s convenient, and it’s tailored to our specific needs, creating the perfect environment for cultural adoption. 


And it represents a profound shift in how consumers and technology interact. 


It is fueled by our desire to have more engaging and personalized experiences and to create connections that allow us to go beyond merely seeking information. And, it's transforming the search experience from a static process to a dynamic dialogue as a result. 



example of conversational search queries
example of conversational search queries


5 Ways Search Engines Responded

Now that we’re conditioned to seek information in a conversational way, the way that we interact with search engines has changed. 


We’re providing more search parameters, expecting to receive more specific results, and doing so in a conversational way. Where we once searched for “marketing agency,” we now search for “top 10 digital B2B marketing agencies near me.”


Now, search engines are finding more ways to provide a dynamic back-and-forth experience over static searches, including:

  1. Adapting algorithms to better interpret and respond to conversational queries to understand the nuances of conversational language and extract meaningful intent.

  2. Emphasizing featured snippets and quick answers to provide users with rapid, concise, and conversational information delivery. 

  3. Integrating and improving voice search features to accommodate the prevalence of voice-driven search queries. 

  4. Leveraging user data to personalize and enhance search experiences, providing tailored results that align more closely with user expectations.

  5. Integrating a conversational agent into their search experience, such as Google’s integration of the AI Assistant extension in Chrome. 


Even with all of these changes going into effect, 65% of users still believe that AI tools will replace traditional web search engines as a faster alternative for online search. 


Brands that traditionally have a heavy focus on SEO and SEM to drive awareness and sales need to make a strategic pivot now to prepare for this paradigm shift. 


3 Marketing Metrics Conversational Search is Changing

As search engines push toward more zero-click, dynamic experiences, traditional SEO approaches must be re-examined, and KPIs must be redefined to measure marketing success. 


Click-Through Rate

What is it? The ratio of users who click on a specific link to the number of total users. High click-through rate = better search results. 


What’s Changed? Search engines’ push toward zero-click search means fewer users are actually clicking through to websites to get the answers they need. What was once a primary performance indicator is now starting to fall by the wayside as the measurement of SEO success. 


How do you adapt? If users aren’t going to find you as readily in search results, you need to reach them elsewhere. Focus on generating site traffic through other marketing channels. Keep an eye on which users spend the most time on your site so you know where quality traffic is coming from! 


Time on Page

What is it? The average amount of time a user spends on a specific webpage before navigating away. Higher time on page = better search ranking.


What’s Changed? Rather than quickly scanning pages, we’re now spending more time in conversation. So, when users do actually click through to your site, they need to be engaged with comprehensive and valuable information—otherwise they’ll quickly leave. 


How do you adapt? Encourage and facilitate deeper interactions within your site through text, image, video, and UX. Provide additional context, related information, or avenues for users to explore further, and time on page should increase. 


Bounce Rate

What is it? The percentage of visitors who navigate away from a website after only viewing one page, indicating a lack of engagement or interest. High bounce rates = bad search ranking.


What’s Changed? Users want to explore diverse facets of a topic within a single conversation. If they can’t explore various facets of a topic easily on your site, they will leave, increasing your bounce rate. 


How do you adapt? Focus on creating user experiences that are akin to navigating within a conversation. This will encourage users to delve deeper into related topics, visiting multiple pages on your site and keeping your bounce rate low. 


Get Ahead of the Curve

The future of search and marketing is intricately tied to the art of dynamic conversation. Successful brands will be those that seamlessly integrate conversational intelligence, going beyond traditional metrics to measure engagement depth and user satisfaction. 


Crafting dynamic dialogues, adapting to hyper-personalization, and strategically pivoting toward a conversational-centric approach will define the winners in this era.

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