Around 30 minutes into Google I/O 23 this week, Aparna Pappu, vice president and general manager of Google Workspacecasually launched a Google Docs document as part of her presentation on how to do it artificial intelligence as a collaborator, it happens Documents, Slides AND Linen (I love the fact that it’s called Duet, a bit more poetic than Microsoft’s Copilot.)
The first, ironically, is for the job description (one of the most popular use cases, she joked). For a split second when help me write a window will pop up, it displays text that reads “fashion blog post in a quirky tone”. Blink and you might miss it.
For me as a content producer, this was the highlight of Google I/O 23: realizing that Google is now so comfortable with AI-generated content that it is actively encouraging text creation as part of its own online services with potential an audience of over two billion users. (Where will it end? Will it one day appear on YouTube as a “help me produce” prompt? Who knows).
Although not (yet) one of best website builders, Google sites may sooner rather than later inherit the “help me write” feature. Others like Wix AND Hostinger website builder have already included this in their features, but Google’s unique position as a content producer and SERP Gatekeeper is making publishers around the world even more concerned.
Search engine optimization: the end?
Google’s generative search, where the answers are generated by Google’s AI and inserted to the very top of the search results page, is sure to capture the attention of the SEO community as it pushes the organic results down the page once again, and this will have a long-lasting impact on publishers of all sizes .
I would call this SERP “footnotes” because it reduces content producers to what could essentially turn into footnotes at the bottom of the page (similar to what we see on Wikipedia pages). Maybe it was all planned and ChatGPT was the perfect excuse for Google to introduce it once and for all; we will never know.
The return to AI-created content, which now looks like Google’s stamp of approval, means there could be a surge in machine-produced content, legal or not, content that is not only cheaper to produce but also hard to distinguish from human-created content.
Reducing production costs to a fraction of a dollar and eliminating the complexity of creating content (regardless of topic or length) will profoundly change the dynamics of online publishing.
Unless, of course, Google excludes content created by its own AI engine, but I wouldn’t count on it. This could encourage publishers of all sizes to embrace AI-created content at scale, which in turn will push SEOs of all kinds to put scalability and automation at the heart of their workflows, with best SEO tools available.
But the more Google pushes traditional organic content down the page, the less valuable those positions become, which in turn can affect revenue and make SEO obsolete (what’s the point of having SEO if all you’re fighting for is positions in footnotes). Of course, we can’t rule out Google’s ability to curate, condense, combine, and remix existing content to create Wikipedia-like metacontent.
And this is the last step before what I consider Google’s ultimate goal of continuous, long-term growth, which is the ability to insert affiliate links in AI-generated content at the top of the SERP page. Performance marketing is worth hundreds of billions of dollars a year, and AI could be just what Google needs to grab a bigger slice of this lucrative market.