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How to win with generative engine optimization while keeping SEO top-tier

There’s a new search strategy in town! Generative engine optimization (GEO), the younger sibling of search engine optimization (SEO), has arrived at the station.

There’s a good chance you’re already familiar – if you head to Google and ask it a question, you’ll likely see an AI-generated blurb at the top of your search results. 

If you own a business and have spent time and resources vying for that top search position with SEO, this shift might be frustrating. Do you need to start all over again to optimize your content for this new type of search? 

Good news: There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, but it is time to adjust strategy slightly.

Your existing SEO best practices will handle most of the heavy lifting, but there are a few clever shifts to make to stay visible, relevant and competitive. 

Understanding generative engine optimization

Acronyms abound in the digital marketing world. What does this new one mean and why is it important going forward? Here’s what you need to know. 

What is generative search?

Generative search relies on artificial intelligence (AI) to pull together information from multiple sources and compile unique, coherent responses to user queries.

With generative search, users receive AI summaries with direct answers at the top of their search results page instead of a traditional list of links. 

When generative search results are accurate, they can save time and increase helpfulness for the end user. 

For people creating internet content, however, this signals a slight shift. To get your content featured in that top-result AI summary, your content needs to be AI-ready. 

The rise of generative engine optimization

Generative engine optimization is how you get AI-ready content. 

GEO combines traditional SEO practices with an understanding of how AI models process and prioritize content. If you apply GEO principles well, your content will be poised for visibility in generative search engines such as Google’s AI Overviews and Microsoft Copilot.

Fortunately, best GEO practices don’t exclude human readers. You can (and should) write for both human and AI audiences – but more on that in a moment. 

First: Why is it critical to focus on this now? 

GEO is a brand-new concept and an area of AI use that’s getting understood and structured right now. That means there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the adoption of these strategies. 

And there are a lot of opportunities for those who do adopt these strategies to stand out. 

The upcoming shift in SEO practices

In a nutshell, traditional SEO relies heavily on keyword and backlink placement, good content structure and back-end technical site optimization.  

Although these elements are and will remain important, it’s time to shine a spotlight on creative, authoritative and relevant content to succeed with GEO.

Your mission is to write content that is clearly helpful and well-structured so that both AI and human readers instantly understand the value you’re bringing to the table. That’s a big ask, but I have some practical tips to share. 

Strategies for navigating generative search

Are you interested in being an early adopter of GEO best practices and taking advantage of this paradigm shift?

Start weaving these practices into your content creation routine. 

1. Focus on content fluency and structure

Here’s a term to keep in mind: Fluency optimization. This trendy phrase boils down to keeping your content easy to read for robots and humans alike. 

Here’s a quick checklist for accomplishing this:

Make sure your content flows smoothly. Get rid of jargon and long sentences. (Reading your content out loud is an easy way to identify these!) 

Use clear headings and subheadings – often. Make these headings descriptive and down to earth. 

Use bullet points and lists. These break information down into easily digestible formats to improve readability. 

Keeping your content organized and skimmable makes your information accessible for all readers, AI and otherwise. A clear, strategic content structure also makes it easier for you to stay on track.

Dig deeper: Mastering content quality: The ultimate guide

2. Leverage E-E-A-T principles

As you learn more about GEO, E-E-A-T is an acronym you’ll see often. 

It stands for experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. 

The more you sound like a trustworthy, authoritative, experienced expert in your content, the more humans and AI want to read, remember and rank your pieces. 

To do this, consider: 

Experience: Share personal anecdotes and case studies to demonstrate hands-on knowledge.

Expertise: Cite reliable sources and include detailed, accurate information.

Authoritativeness: Highlight credentials, awards or recognitions related to your field.

Trustworthiness: Use clear language, avoid clickbait and ensure your content is free of errors.

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3. Optimize for both humans and AI

The Venn diagram of content that’s written well for both machine and human writers may be a circle. Keep your language structured and clear, with personable asides to delight human readers and crisp, to-the-point headers so robots can hone in on shareable information. 

Your goal is to make it very, very easy for AI to extract key points for use in generative search and keep your content fun and valuable for humans to read.

This may seem like a tall order, but with consistency, structure and clarity, you’ll be well on your way. 

Dig deeper: 25 tips to optimize your content for people and search engines

4. Consider using AI tools for content creation – at first

The thought may have already crossed your mind that if you’re writing for AI, at least in part, then using AI to write may be a strategic choice.

This depends on your familiarity with AI and your comfort as a writer. Relying on AI as an assistant for initial content outlining, brainstorming and even content analysis can be valuable. (It certainly helps with the hardest part of any project – getting started!) 

One word of caution: Although AI can help you generate initial drafts or iterate engaging headers, you should still plan on editing, fact-checking and refining the content before publishing. For one thing, AI can make things up (or “hallucinate” information) and you wouldn’t want to put your readers or your own reputation at risk with false content. 

In addition, it will become increasingly important to differentiate what you say from the growing mass of purely AI-generated content out there. (E-E-A-T, remember?) 

Dig deeper: AI content creation: A beginner’s guide

The two things you need to remember for successful GEO

As you expand your experience with generative search techniques and tweak your content with GEO, two factors will help you succeed: 

Education.

Consistency

Why? 

Education will help you use AI better. Investing in AI training, staying up to date about generative search and keeping an eye out for the latest AI tips and tricks will help you (and your team!) get the most out of AI tools. 

Learning more about GEO will keep you ahead of the curve. This is brand-new tech and the best practices will likely shift over the coming months. Knowing about those shifts will help you take advantage of every single one. 

Regular training will reduce fear and boost adoption. If anyone on your team is leery of AI or GEO, that makes sense! These are big concepts to take in. Educate your team on the benefits of AI in content strategy, reinforce the idea that AI is a tool to enhance human talent (not replace it) and start with small, manageable AI integrations. 

Play the long game. Applying GEO techniques requires upfront labor in exchange for a delayed payoff. Remind yourself and your team that, even if progress seems incremental, it’s a critical strategy that will benefit your company with time. 

Balance your SEO and GEO efforts. GEO is not the end of traditional SEO! Continue to invest in technical SEO, keyword research and a backlink strategy. Your efforts will build off each other if you’re consistent, so make each a part of your ongoing content strategy. 

Generative search is giving savvy business owners an opportunity to rethink online visibility. By investing in both GEO and SEO techniques, you can boost the relevancy and competitiveness of your content. 

The main thing to remember is that your content needs to be high-quality, authoritative and relevant.

Write to your strengths and prioritize clear content structure, and you’ll be well on your way to winning the game with generative engine optimization. 

 

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