Just over a year ago, we theorized the demise of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as we know it.  Looking back over the past year, it's incredible to see just how quickly AI is reshaping SEO, pushing marketers to think on their feet and get creative to stay ahead. 

Now, it’s time to explore how far AI has come and if our predictions about SEO came true. 

Looking Back to Yesteryear (March 2023 to be Specific). 

“My prompt into your avatar, we can’t undo, we've come too far.”

Just as the late 1970s song laments radio's decline to television and music videos, GPT-4 and other large language models (LLM) have marketing folks wondering about the future of organic search, search engine optimization (SEO), and content marketing.

Traditional SEO that we've grown to know and love (or hate?) faces an ever-changing future.  


“You ranked the first one/Oh-a oh/Dropped to the last one.”

Prediction 1:  Shifting to from traditional search to conversational interfaces - As more people interact with chatbots and AI assistants like ChatGPT, the volume of traditional search engine queries will decrease. This means that the SEO strategies of the past, which relied heavily on optimizing content to drive unbranded search volume, may not be as effective in the future. 

Outcome: Decreases in organic traffic have already been attributed to conversational AI bots as users turn to platforms like ChatGPT and Claude.AI for immediate and direct answers. Technology and consulting firm, Gartner, predicts that “By 2026, traditional search engine volume will drop 25%, with search marketing losing market share to AI chatbots and other virtual agents.”

Prediction 2:  Adapting to the changing nature of search results - In a world where AI-powered chatbots provide instant answers to users' questions, the importance of ranking first in search results becomes even more crucial. If your content isn't number one, it might not be seen at all. Emphasize quality over quantity. 

Outcome: With several core updates from Google over the last year, ranking criteria have changed and are even more affected by AI. Content that easily answers search queries and provides readers with quality insight into a topic should be more visible than the thousands of AI-generated content that wasn’t touched by human hands. 

Prediction 3: The need to build brand and community as an insurance policy - To prepare for this shift in search behavior, marketers need to focus on building their brand and fostering a community of loyal customers. This means creating content that is uniquely yours and using strategies like branded and gated content to protect your knowledge and ensure your content's value. Building and owning your audience through tactics like email marketing and list building becomes even more essential.

Outcome:  This remains more true than ever. A strong brand presence sets you apart from competitors and enhances customer recognition and loyalty. Fostering a community of dedicated supporters provides a reliable base of customers who are more likely to engage with and advocate for your brand. Investing in branded and unique content ensures that your expertise is protected and that your content holds its value over time. 

Prediction 4: The importance of reliable reach - As organic search traffic dwindles, marketers need to invest in brand and influencer marketing methods of reaching their audiences and should not rely solely on organic search traffic to bring them leads. Our experts anticipate an 18-month runway for this prediction to come to fruition. 

Outcome: As we mentioned above, the multiple core updates that we saw from Google this year have significantly impacted organic traffic. Less doesn’t always mean bad. These optimizations are designed to deliver both the most accurate content to the user and the most engaged user to the appropriate content. Shifting your strategy, just as Google has shifted its algorithm may include testing several new ways to reach your audience to result in lead generation. 


“I found you on the web back in Twenty Twelve/Late nights awake, optimizing for the clicks you'd delve”

Search engines, like Google, rely on web content to provide search results with links to users looking for information. Google has excelled over the years at prioritizing helpful and useful content that solves for the searcher’s intent. As such, content marketers who have prioritized quality content subsequently get rewarded with high-ranking content on SERPs (search engine results pages). Many companies rely on organic search traffic and the leads that come along with it to fuel their sales efforts.

Conversely, as we covered in a previous article, GPT Knows Enough to be Dangerous, GPT's chat-based interface gives users fast and direct answers to questions without sending users to external websites. 

Those links to external websites and the organic search (and leads) that followed, were the currency brand marketers enjoyed in return for writing helpful content to keep the search engines relevant. But now, as GPT-4 and similar models become advanced, they could potentially reduce the need for and replace search queries and the organic traffic that comes with them.

What’s more, the user experience of ChatGPT is easy and clean, unlike its search engine counterparts, cluttered with links and ads. When asking questions like "How do you change a tire?" in a chat format, these models provide direct answers. 


“Now I understand the algorithm's maze”

As content marketers, we need to acknowledge this shift and understand that our role is changing. While creating unbranded informational content may still be useful, it will be even more important to build brand recognition and focus on nurturing existing customers.

To stay ahead of the game, marketers should re-focus marketing efforts on two critical priorities:

  1. Building Brand and Community
  2. Adapting Content Strategy


“Now we meet in a virtual conference sphere/We check the metrics, feeling like it's yesteryear”

With the changing SEO landscape, marketers will need to focus on brand-building, brand awareness, and growing a community to ensure their company, products, and services remain relevant and discoverable. 

Building Brand: Focus on creating a strong, recognizable brand that people will search for by name. This will help ensure that even sophisticated language models still point users toward your website. (Pause for a moment of irony: This is the exact opposite of what the past 15 years of SEO have taught us, we know. We are in uncharted territory as GPT just changed SEO forever, remember?)

Related: Who’s Leading the Race for the Best AI?

Building Community: Develop acquisition methods that provide reliable reach, such as email marketing lists, text messaging lists, and private social media communities like LinkedIn Private Groups, Slack or Discord. Public social media platforms may not provide the timely, reliable reach that they once did due to the prevalence of revenue-generating “sponsored posts,” algorithmic changes, and advertising. The more you pay the more you play on social media. By building your community, you can create a direct line of communication with your audience, making it easier to share content, updates, and promotions.


"You recall the backlinks that used to steer/Oh-a Oh”

As the focus shifts from traditional SEO to brand building and community engagement, content strategies must evolve accordingly. Here are three tips to consider when adapting your content strategy:

Create High-Quality, Engaging Content: With the increased usage of AI-powered chat interfaces, it's more important than ever to create content that stands out. Focus on producing high-quality, engaging, and well-researched content that provides value to your audience. This will make your content more likely to be shared and remembered, helping to strengthen your brand. Competition will likely increase as well, so focus on providing the very best answer to more specific questions, rather than fighting the competition for broader searches. 

Emphasize Storytelling and Authenticity: To connect with your audience on a deeper human level, consider incorporating storytelling and authenticity into your content. By sharing relatable stories and showcasing the human side of your brand, you can foster a stronger connection with your audience, making them more likely to engage with and share your content.

Encourage User-Generated Content: Encourage your community to create and share content related to your brand to tap into the power of social proof and word-of-mouth marketing. User-generated content not only helps to build trust and credibility but also increases the likelihood that your brand will be mentioned in AI-powered chat interfaces.

Related: Your Guide to Repurposing Content 


"Algorithms Changed, a Broken Heart, Put All the Blame on AI’s Part"

The rise of chat-based interfaces and large language models like GPT-4 has undeniably impacted the SEO world. To avoid being “killed by the GPT star,” marketers must adapt their strategies to replace organic search traffic and be found in this new landscape. By building a strong brand, fostering a loyal community, and adapting your content strategy accordingly, you can ensure that your marketing efforts continue to thrive in the age of GPT and beyond.

As we face another major update in the form of GPT-4.5 Turbo (a recent leak estimates a potential release date of June 2024), we are informed that the latest version will surpass the old version of GPT-4 Turbo in speed, accuracy, and scalability. Ironmark’s GPT task force is dedicated to diving deep into new large language models and tools (including creating the 2023 version of the hit song we mentioned above), to educate our clients on how to make AI work for you.  Get caught up on the latest AI updates with our most recent webinar, “AI for Small Marketing Teams.”


Here's how the Ironmark GPT Task Force used ChatGPT to recreate the 1970s classic hit.


I found you on the web back in Twenty Twelve

Late nights awake, optimizing for the clicks you'd delve

If I was new, it didn't stop your ranking climb

Oh, a oh


They took the credit for your viral craze

Rewritten by GPT, AI-led days

Now I understand the algorithm's maze

Oh-a oh


I met your users

Oh, a oh

What did you show them?

GPT killed the SEO star

GPT killed the SEO star

Keywords lost, a broken heart

Oh-a-a-a oh


Now we meet in a virtual conference sphere

We check the metrics, feeling like it's yesteryear

You recall the backlinks that used to steer

Oh-a oh


You ranked the first one

Oh-a oh

Dropped to the last one


GPT killed the SEO star

GPT killed the SEO star

My prompt into your avatar, we can’t undo we've come too far.

Oh, a, aho oh,

Oh, a, aho oh


GPT killed the SEO star

GPT killed the SEO star

My prompt into your avatar, we can’t undo we've come too far.

Algorithms changed, a broken heart, put all the blame on AI's part

You are an SEO star!

Written by Lynne Kingsley

Lynne Kingsley oversees the digital marketing client services team as well as the marketing strategy division for the company. Since joining the company in 2016, she has increased Ironmark’s digital presence by over 700%, establishing a new lead generation mechanism for the sales team. A certified inbound marketing professional and HubSpot agency partner, Kingsley has been helping companies transform their marketing function into fully diverse and streamlined growth engines since 2003. With agency and client-side work under her belt, Kingsley’s strategic experience spans both the B2B and B2C sectors. Prior to joining the Ironmark team, she served as in-house marketing director for several non-profit organizations. Kingsley is an honors graduate of the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University.
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