Google is constantly updating and tweaking its algorithm.
This is why I regularly update my blog post that looks at SEO for life coaches so that you can stay informed.
Fundamentally, Google is just trying to help the people who use its service solve their problems.
This means that if you can focus your content creation on helping them do that first and foremost, you will normally be immune to the vast majority of these changes.
But we’re not living in normal times and the coming changes require you to pay attention if organic search traffic is, or you want it to be, important to you.
There are huge changes heading toward us brought on by the rise of generative AI tools like ChatGPT.
At the time of writing (May 30th 2023), nobody knows exactly what those changes will end up looking like, we can only make educated guesses based on the information Google drip feeds the public.
One way to do that would be to sign up for The Pro List – which is my free newsletter where I share the most cutting-edge marketing material.
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What is Generative AI? Generative AI (artificial intelligence) also called machine learning, refers to AI that looks at existing data to form new content. It’s distinct from the AI (often referred to as Super AI) you may think of from sci-fi movies and TV shows that will soon take over the world and make humans its bitch and fetch it snacks from the local garage after midnight….probably.
How Coaches Can Use Google’s SGE
The window to crushing it with SEO using ChatGPT will be closed in 12 months. Probably much sooner.
There is now click-to-publish software like Koala and Surfer SEO that will take any search term you input and spit out an entire completed article.
That article will be optimised reasonably well for search and all you have to do is publish it to your site.
Some editing would be smart to check for accuracy and make it more personalised, but the bulk of the work is done for you.
Many people in the affiliate community who rely exclusively on search traffic to generate an income are understandably jumping all over this.
I’m sure they will get good short-term results because Google is still influenced by the quantity of content (presuming it’s not utter bollocks) as much as the quality.
However, as Google continues to roll out its ‘Helpful Content’ update which started in December 2022, aimed at rewarding, amazingly enough, content that is well-written, well researched and helps people, they will start to get spanked.
And not in a good way.
They are going to slide further and further down the SERPs (search engine ranking pages) never to be seen again.
This doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t be using AI for fear of being penalised by Google.
Far from it.
You can and you absolutely should be using tools like ChatGPT.
You just need to be smart about it and use them as a tool to make you better, not as a way to outsource shit you don’t want to do.
Read 5 Reasons Why Coaches Should Use ChatGPT if you want to know my reasons behind this.
Get ready for SGE (search generative experience)
Search generative experience is the rather uncatchy name that the boffins at Google have come up with to describe their new search experience.
It starts to roll out to about a million users before the end of June 2023.
But don’t get too excited/depressed because initially, it will only be to a few testers in the United States.
If you’re outside the US, and presuming you’re not using a VPN with a US Google account, you’re not going to see anything until 2024.
But that does not mean you should ignore these changes or bookmark this post to come back to in January.
The slower rollout is your opportunity to get things in place properly so that you can crush the competition and get clients using SGE.
The people who wait until the fan and shit have been formally introduced and are dating steadily will be the losers when it comes to traffic.
What will the search results look like?
Above is a screenshot taken from Google for a search for the question ‘What planet is most similar to Earth?’
The top result when it’s highlighted like that is what’s known as a featured snippet.
It’s believed that featured snippets will form the basis of SGE results.
Now total a look at the screenshot I took from the video Google issued that
highlights teases forthcoming changes (the video itself is embedded higher up the page).
It’s a tad sexier and more engaging, isn’t it?
It’s a bit like comparing me to Ryan Reynolds – something even my wife cannot do without wincing.
As you can see, the new AI results take over about half of the screen on desktop pushing the organic results below the fold.
Below the search query is the rather colourful answer and then across to the right are the three sources that Google is saying the answer came from – all of which are clickable.
It’s believed that on mobile devices the sources will be stacked below the answer which suggests the organic results are going to be lucky if they can even cling on to page one.
However, even with the desktop results, because the answers given by AI will tend to be so exhaustive, the need to scroll past them will be minimal for anybody other than the terminally bored, or eminently curious.
But it gets potentially worse because if you’re not satisfied with the results, under the boxed-off results is the option to ask a follow-up question.
Clicking the blue ‘ask a follow up’ option launches a chat similar to Bard and ChatGPT and closes down the rest of the screen.
There is not only no encouragement for users to scroll past page one, but Google is doing everything in its power to make it pointless.
As a user, this all sounds brilliant.
Less so if you are lucky/smart enough to rank on the first page of Google at the moment because you’re probably going to get pushed down unless you’re in one of the top three slots.
This is no doubt worrying for those sites doing fairly well for highly-searched keywords, but you’re highly unlikely to be one of them.
I do rank for a couple of hundred keywords on page one, but very few of them return featured snippets which means they probably won’t be impacted by SGE for now.
At the moment featured snippets appear in about 20% of results although in some industries like entertainment and hospitality that figure can be a lot higher.
In any case, I’m excited about these changes both for myself and the coaches who hire me and/or read my content.
Let’s see why.
Luckily for coaches, Google is smart
Google is smart enough to understand that AI-generated results can have a real downside.
Many people don’t realise that Monty Python never wrote as a team.
They would usually write in pairs and occasionally on their own.
And the reason they did so was, that other than the force of habit as that was how they met, it allowed them to remain edgy.
Whereas comedy written by large teams can be funny, and certainly more consistent, it’s rarely hysterically funny and never groundbreaking.
The same could be said about generative AI.
Sure, it may well be able to book you a 10-day holiday for you and your four kids taking in London and Paris and getting you the best deal on airfares.
But will it be able to find you that incredible Parisian cafe tucked away on the back streets that only the locals know about?
And will it know about the gorgeous family-run bed and breakfast in Surrey that is a short train trip outside London and half the price of the mouse-sized and mouse-infested dive in London’s West End you’d have otherwise booked?
Because it’s pulling its answers from a cross-section of available information it has trouble being edgy and opinionated. It could never have written the Parrot Sketch.
Say hello to Perspectives
Google is launching a new feature for searching that is almost like the anti-AI.
This feature involves a button/filter labelled “Perspectives” that users can click on.
Rather than me blather on about it, here is what Google themselves say:
The Perspectives option is the new feature that allows you to see different perspectives on a topic. When you search for a topic, you will see a list of perspectives that have been written by experts on that topic. You can then read each perspective to get a better understanding of the issue.Google Bard
How can Perspectives help coaches?
Above is an example of what Perspectives looks like on a mobile device.
And it has the potential to reward coaches like us in two ways.
1. The content on your website is going to become critical
The useful content update already meant that unique content that comes from experience and expertise is going to be loved more and more by Google.
Perspectives are going to accelerate that.
It’s going to adore you for giving strong opinions.
Presuming that is. that they come from a position of deep knowledge on your topic – it’s no good ranting about why you think Pandas are utter bastards and need wiping off the face of the earth – that won’t help
And it doesn’t have to be just content you write.
Interviews with experts, guest posts from authoritative sources and publishing/republishing reports/news etc from credible sources are going to be equally helpful.
If you have a super narrow niche that you have a deep understanding of, then take a fucking bow, my friend, because you are now sat on a potential goldmine.
2. The content off your website is going to become even more critical
Reviews are opinions and opinions are perspectives.
I suspect that testimonial pages, especially those with videos like mine here will become even more valuable.
That’s a hunch, but what is certain, is that reviews/links from sites like Yelp, Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business), Reddit and TikTok are going to potentially bring you clients.
And even though it pains me to say it, coaching directories may start to have some value.
And sites like Psychology Today and the ICF may also well carry more value than is currently the case.
I’d strongly advise you to sign up for every free directory or review service you can find (presuming they are relevant). Then point them all back to the same page on your website.
It would help if you then were encouraging/begging every satisfied client or ex-client to write you an online review, or reviews.
And if they are happy to record video reviews, then you should be giving them the deeds to your home.
Conclusion (at least for now)
A lot of people (including some people in the coaching industry) are freaking the fuck out because of the changes.
But, as per any change made by Google (and the same goes for any large platform such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram etc), there will be winners and losers.
Whether you’re a winner or a loser is dictated by you, not by Google.
You can learn and implement SGE into a coherent online marketing strategy and make hay whether the sun is shining, or it’s pissing it down.
Or you can half-ass it, or ignore it entirely and wonder why the fuck you have no paying clients.
The choice is yours and if you need help, I could be your man. Presuming that is, you’re not looking for somebody to play Antman, in which case, Ryan Reynolds is your man.
This post took a lot of work to compile because I needed to know what I was telling you is the way it is, at least for now, so if you could share it on social media or leave me a comment with your thoughts or follow up questions I’d be super grateful.