Generative AI’s influence on Personal and Companies’ Online Presence and SERPs

Search engine result pages (SERPs) play a significant role in the online reputation and brand awareness of both individuals and companies. Today, we’ll walk you through how generative AI is affecting SERPs and what you can and should do in response to its rise online.

Understanding Personal SERPs vs. Company SERPs

When someone searches for a company, the search results are typically going to be official websites and social media profiles, news articles, videos, and reviews for the company and its products and services. You’ll also (likely) see the company’s Google knowledge panel on the right hand side of SERPs if you perform your search in Google.

Personal SERPs can include social media profiles, personal websites, company websites (if relevant), photos, videos, news articles, and blog posts.

Search Intent

When people search for a company, they most often want to know something specific: is this company a good employer or investment opportunity? How do I leave a review or contact customer service?

However, when it comes to searches for an individual, there can be a wider range of intentions that can impact search results. Someone might want to know an individual’s birthday or other personal information, next speaking engagement, net worth, or work history.

Then, as always for both company and personal SERPs, there are those who want to know more about any scandals or the latest social faux pas.
The good news is that search results are dynamic and will change over time based on new information, online and offline brand activity, and updates to search engines. The change we’re talking about today is the rise of generative AI.

The Rise of Generative AI

Generative AI includes Google Search, Google Gemini (formerly Bard), ChatGPT, and Copilot (Microsoft Bing). 

These tools can:

  • Generate human-like text such as blog posts, news articles, emails, poems, and scripts
  • Automate tasks such as composing marketing copy
  • Recommend content based on user preferences and behavior
  • Answer conversational questions

These tools cannot replace human content creators or be 100% trusted. They are impressive, but still prone to issues such as hallucinations or factual inaccuracy, and biased content generation.

Let’s look at their impact – both the good and the bad – on SERPs.

Impact on Personal SERPs

More Search Options

The first thing to know is that people now have more search engine options thanks to generative AI. Where someone searches – the “old” Google or Bing, or the new Gemini or Copilot – will affect their search results.

For example, while Google Search pulled up 870,000 results for “Elizabeth Hartke,” Gemini doesn’t recognize her name.

Copilot does recognize the name. The AI bot provided a summary of Hartke’s professional endeavors and some select sources for follow-up.

If we ask Gemini about a more well-known individual, Bob Dole, we get several paragraphs of information. If prompted, Gemini provides sourcing when possible.

If we jump to ChatGPT, we see the following:

The takeaway here is that while AI bots give quick answers, they are limited in the information they share. Both Gemini and Copilot provide sources, but in a very limited number. Searchers have the option to learn more, but they are not given the entirety of the internet to decide how to learn more or what they want to read. In the case of ChatGPT, depending on which version someone uses, the latest information may not even be available.

This has a significant impact on SERPs. While generative AI does pull from all of the data available on the internet, individuals do not have control over how information is assimilated and what sources are recommended for follow-up.

Filter Bubbles

One of the concerns about generative AI in search is that it could lead to the creation of filter bubbles and only expose people to content that reinforces their existing beliefs and experiences. If an AI bot is taught to personalize search results based on a user’s past search behavior, or even explicitly stated preferences, filter bubbles could be the result. 

This could harm an individual’s online reputation if someone is repeatedly only shown negative results, no matter how out-of-date or inaccurate such results may be, or not told about someone at all because they, for whatever reason, are seen to lie outside of an individual’s interests.

Strategies for Managing Personal SERPs in the Age of Generative AI

First of all, don’t panic or stress. Yes, SERPs are changing but, remember, they are always changing. Here are some practical tips you can use right now:

  1. Remain true to yourself and authentic with any content you create. Especially with the risk of biased or inaccurate content, it is important to assure people that what you say and create can be trusted. 
  2. Regularly monitor your online presence. This is something that you should always do. Don’t let an inaccurate news article rocket to the top of Google and unduly influence human searchers and AI bots.

Address negative results quickly.

Impact on Company SERPs

Let’s look at generative AI, company SERPs, and the potential consequences on brand perception and customer trust.

Click-Through Rate

There are two ways that generative AI can influence click-through rates (CTRs).

  1. These tools can create content, including rich snippets and meta descriptions, for company websites. With time and finesse, learning how to work with the tools to optimize content creation for search engines, this AI-generated content could potentially boost your CTR.

2. On the other hand, generative AI can answer questions within SERPs. This can lead to people forgoing traditional website visits and negatively impact CTRs. There’s also the chance that someone will decide to follow-up, but will use a site suggested within the AI search result, which may not be the brand website.

Knowledge Graph Improvements

Google introduced the term ‘knowledge graph’ to refer to its overall knowledge base of any person, place, or thing. Knowledge graphs are used by more than just Google though. They are used by other search engines, chatbots, and product recommendation tools. Generative AI can help enrich knowledge graphs by expanding the types of data sets available to feed graphs. New data could include reviews, news mentions, and social media data.

This could create a more holistic picture of a brand and influence customer purchasing decisions – both for better or worse depending on the information pulled.

Effective PR and Marketing Strategies to Manage Company SERPs

Here are a few areas to focus on as you strategize for brand awareness.

  1. Focus on transparency, authenticity, and providing value to users. This is crucial for strong SERP performance no matter where users search. The content available to both human searchers and AI tools should meet this criteria.
  2. Be sure that your message is cohesive across all your marketing platforms: websites, social media, news articles, videos, etc. Don’t confuse generative AI. Make it easy for bots to understand who you are and what you do. This will help them share the information with humans.
  3. Optimize content for conversational queries and potential follow-up questions. Keywords are still important but question formats are changing with generative AI. These tools understand complex search queries and nuances better than traditional algorithms. You need to understand the user intent behind every possible question and predict follow-up questions. Make sure your content is written with this in mind.
  4. Monitor your SERP performance all the time. Proactive reputation management is a standard best practice.
  5. Remember that human oversight and control are crucial to ensure accuracy and brand alignment.

Generative AI’s Impact Is Still Evolving

Generative AI is not set in stone. More tools are going to enter the market. Existing tools are going to improve. Lawsuits are being fought as we speak. User trust is going to grow or erode.

This is what makes proactive monitoring so important. Businesses need ongoing strategies to monitor, analyze, and improve their online presence. These strategies must be adaptable to current affairs, while based on a few evergreen principles. Use the tips here to work with generative AI as it currently exists, and continue watching for any changes.
If you have any questions about the nuances of AI, implementing best practices, or how to achieve your desired SERP goals, contact us at any time.

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