The Age of AI: Disrupting SEO and E-Commerce

The future of personal AI envisioned by Bill Gates is fast approaching, according to Jeremiah Owyang, founder, investor, and industry analyst. Owyang believes that this future will disrupt the realms of SEO and e-commerce, forcing marketers and creators to move beyond traditional search engine optimization and instead focus on optimizing AI. In an interview with VentureBeat, Owyang stated, “The advertising model as we know it…that’s going to break.” Instead, AI agents and foundational models will dominate ad dollars as advertisers pay to have their messages included in generated responses. This shift may lead to the emergence of “sponsored sentences” within AI or ads placed next to generated content. Marketers and creators must therefore adapt to this new landscape and consider how to be discovered within AI itself, moving beyond reliance on search engines.

Owyang predicts that as more consumers turn to GPT tools for information, web crawling will become less efficient. OpenAI’s recently launched web crawler, while useful for now, may not be sufficient as more users rely on GPT tools rather than visiting marketing or news sites directly. Owyang explains that the vast variety of data schemas makes it challenging for chatbots to obtain data in this manner. So, how will chatbots gather data in the future, and what does this mean for businesses looking to connect with customers online?

Catering to LLMs

Surprisingly, Owyang suggests that marketers and creators should make their data available for chatbots to train on. He compares this strategy to search engine optimization, stating that if he were a journalist, he would want his articles to be ingested by all of the large language models (LLMs). By doing so, his work would appear first when people search for relevant information. Chatbots like Bing, You.com, and Perplexity are already including citations, making it essential for marketers and creators to consider having their content consumed by these LLMs. However, Owyang explains that gated content, which follows a different business model, does not necessarily apply to this strategy.

Owyang highlights that marketers have faced disruptions repeatedly over the past few decades, with each new development requiring them to adapt. The rise of Google search, for instance, led to an emphasis on influencing influencers to boost SEO. Marketers focused on journalists, financial analysts, industry analysts, and media and government relations to increase their online visibility. Over time, content creators and additional influencers were added to this mix. Now, AI is becoming another influencer that marketers must cater to by offering information. Owyang suggests that companies may need to reduce the central nature of their websites and instead provide an API to efficiently influence autonomous agents. In fact, building an autonomous agent may prove to be the most effective way to influence these AI influencers.

Investing in the Future

Owyang mentions that Bill Gates, along with other prominent figures like Reid Hoffman and Eric Schmidt, invested in Inflection AI as part of a massive funding round totaling $1.3 billion. Gates believes that the first company to develop a personal agent capable of disrupting SEO will have a decisive advantage. Inflection AI launched Pi, a personal intelligence chatbot, which aims to provide a more empathetic, useful, and safe experience compared to other AI models. Additionally, Inflection announced the release of Inflection-1, a large language model that outperforms OpenAI’s GPT-3.5. Owyang envisions a future where every brand has its autonomous agent that interacts with buyer-side agents, making decisions on consumers’ behalf. However, the reality is that such advanced chatbots are still far from widespread implementation.

AI Engine Optimization: A New Era

To succeed in an age dominated by AI, marketers, publishers, and creators must rethink their approach. Owyang introduces the concept of AI Engine Optimization, distinct from traditional SEO. Rather than waiting for web crawlers to visit their websites, marketers now need to create APIs that provide real-time information to foundational models. Although a universal API protocol has yet to emerge, it is only a matter of time before users turn to AI models like OpenAI for information. Marketers should also consider training their own branded AI using the same corporate API, enabling interaction with consumers and buyers across websites and apps. This approach will also benefit from connections with emerging buyer-side agents.

Owyang stresses that businesses must prepare for the seismic shift that lies ahead. The call to action for marketers is twofold: they must not only influence human decision-making but also shape AI behaviors. As AI rapidly evolves, corporate and government leaders are exploring possibilities and investing in building their own large language models (LLMs). Soon, companies like Walmart, Macy’s, or even the New York Times may have their LLMs. The future holds exciting opportunities for those who are ready to adapt.

The age of AI will undoubtedly disrupt the fields of SEO and e-commerce. Marketers and creators must shift their strategies to optimize AI, moving beyond traditional search engine optimization. With the rise of GPT tools, the focus on catering to chatbots and LLMs becomes imperative for success. The future holds the promise of autonomous agents negotiating on behalf of consumers, transforming the way we interact with brands. Businesses must embrace AI Engine Optimization and prepare themselves to not only influence human decision-making but also shape AI behaviors. This seismic shift requires a proactive approach and a willingness to adapt to the evolving AI landscape.

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