Google SEO changes are about to have seismic impact on UK businesses: Martin Jeffrey

Businesses need to be ready for a seismic shift in the way that Google is generating search results, and most are completely unaware.

Some business owners will have a passable understanding of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), a few will have expert knowledge, but it’s fair to say that the majority will only have a very basic understanding.

To many, how we search for what we want to find on the internet is somewhat of a dark art. But the truth is that search is a science, and it conforms to a very strict set of unwritten rules, laid out by the biggest search engines, such as Google and Bing.

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For many, the process of searching for information on the internet can seem complex and obscure. Yet, in essence, it's a science governed by precise rules set by major search engines such as Google and Bing.

Martin Jeffrey shares his expert insight into Google's SEO strategy. Picture: Rhys HaberfieldMartin Jeffrey shares his expert insight into Google's SEO strategy. Picture: Rhys Haberfield
Martin Jeffrey shares his expert insight into Google's SEO strategy. Picture: Rhys Haberfield

And whilst the headlines around AI might have died down from their peak in early 2023, how the technology is impacting search is only now truly emerging. The reality that all businesses need to be aware of, is that without action, this could lead to them losing almost a fifth of their organic traffic.

Google is making some massive changes to the way we all use the internet. They’re already being rolled-out across the US, and analysis shows that it is resulting in a big shift in the online visibility of businesses.

We all rely on the internet – whether we’re searching for a local tradesperson, buying a new car, or looking to switch bank accounts. And whilst the way search engines operate behind the scenes is unrecognisable from the early days of the internet, most users won’t have noticed much difference.

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Google is by far and away the biggest search provider in the UK, used by 94 per cent of internet users. Even its name has become synonymous with search, but the biggest development in a generation is already being rolled out by the company, with their advances in what they term Generative AI.

The solution pulls information from a variety of sources, rather than giving you a list of options as has been the case previous (whereby some of those sources might be right and some might be wrong). Think about it as a kind of crowd-sourced melting pot of data, validated and checked against peers.

Google is effectively using AI to pull together a more bespoke answer to your question and then event pre-empt your likely next question. It is rewarding trustworthiness and quality of data in a way that has only recently become possible.

It’s no exaggeration to say that this will transform the way we all use the internet, but it could also result in some companies facing a 20 per cent drop in organic web traffic, more or less overnight. In some sectors and industries, this could hit the bottom line to the tune of thousands, tens of thousands or even millions.

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So what can businesses of all sizes do to mitigate the risks and ensure they stay relevant in a new world of search? Well there will be an increased focus in meshing traditional search results with social media, so high quality and consistent output across a variety of channels will certainly help.

Increasing digital spend and online advertising will also still be a good route for many, so the focus is likely to be on creating high-quality and well-targeted advertisements that result in your audience taking an action, such as clicking through to your website.

We’re in a time of change, but also a time of opportunity. Typically a business can expect around 60 per cent of its traffic to come from organic search, and this brave new world will mean that we all have to make changes to the way we appear online and present ourselves.

But we shouldn’t be afraid of change. By embracing it by taking some relatively straightforward steps, businesses can remain relevant, and users can and should have an improved search experience.

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The four pillars that all organisations need to be aware of – and rewarded for by Google et al – are experience, expertise, authority, trustworthiness.

Martin Jeffrey is Head of SEO at Otley-based Black Lab.

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