Now that AI search is dawning over the horizon, people are predicting the end of SEO and a decline in web traffic. And there’s good reason for people to think that way.
Surely that’s not good for websites, right? Well, there’s a different way to look at AI search and it has to do with the concept of qualified clicks.
AI Search Is Different: Wrap Your Head Around It
Search is changing. It’s easy to freak out about AI search because where are those search clicks going to come from?
AI search is different. But different is not the same thing as worse.
In a recent interview with Fabrice Canel, a Bing executive, he talks about something called qualified clicks.
Qualified clicks is something that is discussed in the context of PPC and can also be relevant to affiliate marketing.
There is also a context for qualified clicks in AI search and it’s important for understanding the future of SERPs and SEO.
A qualified click makes sense if it’s explained with an example of a qualified referral, which is when a site talks about how great a product is and then links out to where the reader can buy the product.
In the above example, the referral is from a page that sold the reader on the product and told them where to buy it.
Click. Then buy.
That click is a qualified click.
Anyone who’s done affiliate work knows how great a contextual link like that is for generating sales (conversions).
Links from relevant context are gold because they convert into sales a lot better than something like an image advertisement.
These kinds of links are perfectly matched to the website.
And THAT is what AI search engines deliver.
AI search engines don’t need ten links because the answers are on target and the links are on target.
They’re on target because of how users interact with AI search engines.
Fabrice Canel, the Bing executive who was recently interviewed by Jason Barnard talked about this.
At about the 3 minute mark of the video Fabrice talks about how Bing Chat has enabled customers to ask complex questions, including follow up questions, that provide Bing with clear and unambiguous background context of exactly what they want.
So there’s no need to guess at what users want and consequently no need to show them ten links.
Ambiguity is introduced when users rely on keywords in traditional search engines.
That’s why BERT was invented, to help search engines understand what ambiguous search queries mean.
However, that ambiguity does not exist when someone asks a long and complex question in conversational language.
Users refine their queries on their own, expressing their need in a natural way. The AI search engine is able to understand what the user wants and it gives it to them.
Ten links, in the context of an AI chat-based search are not necessary.
But here’s the takeaway: The links that AI search engines show are highly relevant and highly qualified.
This is what Fabrice Canel is referring to when he talks about qualified clicks.
French is Fabrice’s first language, his English has the accent and some of the French grammar rules in it, so his responses have that quality in them. I added what I think he meant within brackets, so that it makes more sense.
He discusses the unique qualities of AI search queries and responses:
“So …example of a query:
I need to throw a dinner party for six people who are vegetarian. Can you suggest a three-course menu with a chocolate dessert?
And these are things that we are able to answer now.
…sometimes it’s all about understanding the web and providing this kind of experience where at the end we can — the clicks to the website having extremely qualified clicks.
And this is something we’ve seen where clearly when people are clicking, [these are] extremely qualified clicks. And this translates [into a] benefit for the end user, for the website more, certainly more than… typical search engine.”
Fabrice returns to the topic of qualified links at about the 15 minute mark in the video:
“And you see people absolutely delighted by this experience, generating more qualified clicks… This is clearly to be able to really understand deeply the web, [and] to really link to the perfect results on the web.”
I want to stop right here and underline where Fabrice says how Bing AI search is able to link to “perfect results on the web.”
This is important because it explains why AI search engines don’t need ten links, because it’s already pointing to the webpages that exactly answer the queries, as he says, “the perfect results.”
Later on he again mentions how these links, the clicks they bring are superior in quality and as a consequence, SEOs should focus on the chat experience
“But this is for the SEO community. I see way too many focus still on the SERPs and not enough focus on the chat experience and conversation experience where we see really stellar clicks. In terms of what we are offering to the user, it’s the ability to have these kinds of perfect clicks.
And here in [Bing] Chat there is this whole experience and all this chat experience where we are able to land really the perfect clicks.
And so this is more qualified clicks.
…I encourage everybody in the SEO community to pay attention to this because these clicks are stellar, good quality clicks.”
Understanding Qualified Clicks Puts AI Search Into Perspective
The takeaway here is that AI search is different because it’s not the ten blue links. Different is not the same thing as worse.
There are no ten links in AI search answers because what it provides to users are exact match links, contextual links.
It’s not doing the “people also ask thing” because the AI search engine doesn’t have to. It receives the full context of what each user wants and consequently knows what people are asking.
And that is what translates to the perfect click, the qualified click.
Understanding what qualified clicks are puts AI search into perspective, makes it easier to find your footing when setting out to rank better for the AI chat experience.
So even though the AI Search SERPs only have five or six links embedded in the answers, each of those links are highly targeted, which in turn translates to better user experiences when they go from the AI search engine to the website.
So the next time someone says that AI search is going to be a disaster for SEO and to website traffic, send them to this article, tell them what qualified clicks are about.
Watch the interview with Fabrice Canel of Bing:
How does Generative AI in Search Work and What is Coming in 2024
Featured Image by Shutterstock/Alex SG