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How Google’s AI Search Will Change Marketing Strategy

Published on Apr 16, 2024

How Google’s AI Search Will Change Marketing Strategy

Social media is vital to marketers, but many users are getting tired of it.

According to a new study from Hootsuite, 59% of people who follow brands on social media think there’s too much advertising there. More than half (52%) say self-promotional brand content is exhausting. And a third would prefer no brand content on social media at all.

The social media toolbox company asked 6,026 consumers about what they like and dislike about brands’ interactions on social media. The results suggest that just as social media platforms have changed, brand strategy on social media also needs adjusting. Clickbait, repetitive content, inauthentic content and items that don’t appeal to users are the biggest reasons why brands are unfollowed or advertisements are hidden from feeds.

And consumers, especially Baby Boomers, don’t want brands to post about politics, policy or religion. What they want is to be taught something new, see something that makes them laugh, or be inspired—and they want brands to lean into what they represent and reflect relevant cultural events.

⚡ Related Reading: Culture Wars Rage On, Forcing Marketers to Decide Whether to Reevaluate or Retrench

In short, users want more thoughtful, intelligent and fun content from brands. And, Hootsuite found, the payoff is pretty big.

Seven in 10 people who follow brands on social media have explicit plans to purchase from them, and nearly six in 10 have already done so.

When choosing brands to follow, users want them to have a relatable social presence, with compelling points of view on topics within their areas of expertise. And while this means something different to every user, brands can generally find success if they post about their core area, like brands with sustainability at their core posting about upcyling, or an athletic apparel brand posting about sports. It’s not necessarily more work, it’s being more thoughtful and understanding of a brand’s core fans.

Social media success is getting more important as search engines are moving toward integrating AI into their search platforms. Google has been experimenting with adding its Gemini AI to search, and is making optional generative AI search available to some users for beta testing. This creates a completely new paradigm for marketing, and it shifts the entire search experience.

Generative AI is changing the way many processes are done, and Google’s Search Generative Experience is working to bring its power to search. A generative AI-powered search could allow users to get a specific answer to a specific question, instead of results based on keyword-driven algorithms. It also broadens the spectrum of what a user would get from a search. But it demands new attention and strategy from marketers. BrightEdge Founder and Executive Chairman Jim Yu has been researching these changes, and I talked to him about what he’s seeing. This conversation has been edited for length, clarity and continuity.

What are some of the bigger changes you’re seeing as Google is using AI for search?

Yu: There are three major changes that are happening. Number one, the AI search version of Google … [is] no longer just going to do the search on that one keyword. Let’s say we’re looking for golf shoes. It’s not only going to look at golf shoes, it’s going to look at what’s the right golf attire? What are the different types of things you should look for in golf shoes? What are the different brands? What are the reviews and prices around that? The search engine now will use the AI to take a single search query, assemble the entire related areas of conversation, run those searches, summarize that with the AI, and give you a very well-researched and well-thought-out and summarized point of view. It makes the average person that searches 100 times better at search.

The search engine, for the first time with AI, is going to have a form of informed opinion. … Search engines have always used this paradigm where you put in a keyword and then they come back to you with a number of results that have a bunch of different types of sources. It doesn’t assert a perspective one way or another. It just gives you places to go visit to do your own research. What’s different is now it’s using the AI, the large language model, to run a search and summarize a bunch of things. Oftentimes, that is going to include some form of an opinion form. Google has a version that’s starting to read things like pros and cons.

Related to that is a third dimension that will change everything for marketers and businesses. … BMW spends $300 million a year on advertising. But when you search for the BMW X3, in the AI version, it will tell you that while it’s a great high-performance car, it performs well, drives well, it’s not as comfortable for the passengers. It is expensive to maintain. Its parts are sometimes difficult to find. The AI engine of Google is actually going in and aggregating that information, and stuff like Car and Driver and different types of sources like reviews. …The old model used to be you run the ad, people search for your product. And they’re seeing your own site, maybe a little bit of your paid search ads. When an opinion is front and center, it’s going to start changing how consumers buy. Today when you buy, comfort or maintenance cost might not be at the front of the consideration set for that buyer.

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Is there anything that brands and marketers can do to mitigate this type of thing coming up at the very beginning of a search?

Absolutely. It’s not necessarily that you can change that completely, but what’s really important is, today, marketers run all of these things a little bit in silos: Here’s my paid search team. Here’s my SEO team. Here’s my content team. Here’s my social team. Here’s my local team. Here’s my reputation team. They don’t actually integrate how they’re working on marketing. In the future, that won’t be an option. [AI-powered search engines are] going to consolidate all that into one integrated AI experience. As a company, [you have to think] in an integrated fashion. That’s not only looking at reputation and reviews, which is an area that … [will] be very important. In addition to that, location is going to be very important. With our generative portion [of search], we’re seeing 45% of the AI results in Google include integrated locations. What that means is that BMW search isn’t going to just have the review. It’s also going to have the local car dealership.

If you think about it for a company, it means you’ve got to think about your brand. You’ve got to think about the reviews. You’ve got to think about trends. You’ve got to think about even your retailer arm in that local store that offers inventory of that shoe. That’s the integration of marketing. Just like Covid was a big tailwind for everybody digitizing, AI is going to be a moment of driving marketing integration, …simply because the end consumer of your products and services will demand a much more integrated experience, so as a company, you have to manage it.

What does this mean for the craft of digital marketing?

Even though mediocre content is essentially going to be free [through AI generation], original content is going to come at a premium. If you’re a marketer, what that means is understanding your brand and where do you have a right to win. If I’m Nike, I have a right to win on basketball shoes. If you’re picking basketball shoes, I should be one of the authoritative sources, and as a marketer, I should be able to tell you about the trends, and the new things that you should look for, and what’s going to help your performance. … If you look at these different areas, it becomes much more about what is your brand? What does it stand for? What do you have a right to win, and how do you create the kinds of original content? It’s not ever easy to create the content, but if you’re focused in those areas where your brand has heritage and has a right to win in the market, you’re set up to go win those topics anyway. …Understand the puck is going to keep moving faster and faster going forward. With the speed of gen AI, everybody can catch up on the content pretty fast, and so you’ve got to keep moving where your end consumer is going. … Having the right kind of data, the right kind of science, the right kind of creativity, the right kind of feedback loops, and using AI to win in the AI world is going to be very important as well.

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This article was written by CMO from Forbes and was legally licensed through the DiveMarketplace by Industry Dive. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].