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Generative Engine Optimization (GEO): A New Frontier for SEO


We’re at the precipice of a major shift in the SEO industry. Google’s AI-driven search results are finally rolling out. Google’s AI-powered search results, also known as AI Overviews or Search Generative Experience (SGE), are fundamentally changing the content landscape. But this isn’t the death of SEO, it’s the birth of a powerful new SEO paradigm: Generative Engine Optimization (GEO).

A new research paper introduces Generative Engine Optimization (GEO), a framework designed to optimize content for AI-powered search engines. This framework has the potential to significantly boost website visibility within the AI-generated responses.

The research suggests that incorporating relevant statistics, quotes, and citations can increase content visibility by up to 40%. This research touches on ways to assess how well your content performs in generative search engines, not yet well-developed. Evaluation criteria include:

  • Relevance: How well the content aligns with the user’s search intent and query.
  • Engagement: Metrics such as click-through rates on AI-generated summaries.
  • Authority: The credibility and reliability of the sources cited within the content.
  • Conciseness: The ability of the content to provide clear and concise answers to user queries.

Understanding Generative Search

AI engines like ChatGPT, Gemini, and Claude, offer users more concise search results. Unlike traditional search engines that list links for users to sift through, generative engines analyze information from various sources to provide comprehensive answers.

They understand the intent behind search queries and personalize results based on past data, learning and adapting continuously. The more you interact with them, the better they get at understanding your needs and delivering the kind of information you’re looking for.

Generative search summarizes and synthesizes content found on the web, like blog articles, websites, scanned books, user generated content, to name a few, and rewrites it in its own words. 

This new approach presents both opportunities and challenges for content creators, but Generative Engine Optimization (GEO) is key to navigating these challenges.

Challenges and Considerations

Before we get into the best strategies for GEO, let’s address the challenges we could potentially face with generative AI search. 

1) Keyword Ranking and Visibility

Ranking and visibility will become more nuanced with the complex responses of generative AI search results. This differs from ranking and visibility with traditional search.

Here’s an example of AI Overview search results:

See below for an example of traditional search results:

2) How to Optimize for GEO?

Remember all those SEO strategies to get websites on the first page of search results? Well, things are a little different with generative engines. The SEO industry is still figuring out how to make websites stand out in AI search results.

3) Black Box Mystery

Another challenge with generative engines is that they are charting unknown waters. They use complex algorithms to decide what information to show, and creators don’t have much control over when or how their content gets used. The black box nature of it makes it tough to know exactly how to optimize content for them.

Challenges Specific to Google’s AI Overviews (AIO)

Ranking and visibility with Google’s AI Overviews are more nuanced with complex response generation. Content must be highly specific and directly answer user queries, favoring concise snippets over broad topics.

The selection process remains somewhat unclear, making it difficult to predict how content will be ranked or displayed. This requires content creators to continuously adapt and refine their strategies.

How Widely Used Are Generative Engines?

Since the launch of AI Overviews (AIO) to all users in May, Google has significantly scaled back how often it appears in search queries. It went from accounting for 84% of search queries when it was still as an opt-in test, to now perhaps only about 15%, and only in collapsed or “opt-in” results. All in all, this clearly indicates that Google does not have a full solution for incorrect results and has significantly scaled back the frequency with which Overviews appear.

Optimizing for Generative Engines

Despite these challenges, this new frontier in SEO holds the potential to provide a more user-friendly and personalized search experience in the long run, once we master how to adapt our traditional SEO practices to optimize content for both human readers and AI engines.

To that end, GEO is a framework designed to improve your content’s visibility in AI-generated search results. Research suggests that including relevant statistics, quotes, and citations can significantly boost content visibility (by up to 40% according to a recent paper), but there’s more to the story.

Implementing GEO in Your Strategy

  • Content Quality: GEO doesn’t replace good SEO practices. High-quality, informative content is still king.
  • Test Rankings and AI Overview Appearance: The major SEO platforms like Semrush, are beginning to track and show when your tracked keywords appear in AI Overviews on Google.
  • GEO-Bench Benchmark: This research benchmark may help you evaluate how your content performs in generative engines, but specific details are still needed.
  • Data and Testing Needed: GEO is a new field, and best practices are still being developed. Be prepared to test and adapt your approach.

No additional budget is needed for GEO, just a shift in strategy. A team of researchers from Princeton University, Georgia Tech, The Allen Institute for AI and IIT Delhi introduced a nine-set content optimization technique, which includes:

1) Make yourself an authority on the content provided, with a more convincing tone.

2) Strategic keyword placement.

3) Inclusion of statistical data.

4) Citing the most reliable resources.

5) Adding quotations.

6) Easy to understand, using less complicated words.

7) Content that contains more fluidity.

8) Use of unique words to make content stand out.

9) Use of technical terms in the content.

This strategy, taken from Google, Microsoft Bing, Perplexity.AI Discover, GPT-4 and other sources, was tested across 10,000 search queries. When content creators implement these GEO strategies themselves, tools like GEO-bench can help evaluate content performance, but ongoing testing and adaptation are crucial.

Keep in mind that just like in traditional SEO, optimizing solely for AI engines might lead to content that prioritizes keywords and data over human readability. Striking a balance between factual accuracy, conciseness, and engaging writing remains key.

GEO tactics should significantly overlap with traditional SEO strategies, such as on-page strategies like targeting local keywords, optimizing your Google Business listing, and creating location-specific content, or off-page strategies like link building. The key differences are:

  • Traditional SEO: Focuses on ranking well for any search, regardless of location. It uses general keywords and backlinks to improve website authority.
  • GEO Tactics (for SEO): Focuses on ranking well for searches with local intent. It incorporates local keywords, optimizes local profiles, and builds local backlinks to improve visibility in a specific area.

GEO tactics add a local layer to target a specific audience within a geographical area.

The Future of SEO and GEO

While the specifics of GEO are evolving, the key takeaway is clear: high-quality, informative content that resonates with human readers will also be favored by AI engines, albeit using a different ranking algorithm.

SEO and GEO should work together like teammates on a winning team. GEO complements traditional SEO by adding an extra layer of optimization specifically for generative search engines, ultimately driving more traffic and brand awareness.

Traditional SEO remains the bedrock. Creating high-quality, informative content that resonates with human readers is still the core principle. Both SEO and GEO benefit from content that’s well-structured, informative, and engaging.

Stay ahead of the curve. With the implementation of GEO strategies into our content creation process, we have an exciting opportunity to ensure your content reaches the right audience.

By taking a proactive approach to GEO, you can ensure your brand remains visible in the ever-changing search landscape. As the SEO landscape continues to evolve, OpenMoves is here to guide you through this exciting new frontier.

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