Ep 274: The Future Of SEO, AI Companies, Google & Search Engines For Humans with Eli Schwartz

It’s time to spice things up as we explore the cutting-edge trends and insights in the world of SEO and AI. We are thrilled to introduce our guest today, Eli Schwartz. Eli is the bestselling author of “Product-Led SEO” and an SEO expert and consultant with over a decade of experience. He has collaborated with leading B2B and B2C companies, helping clients like Shutterstock, Coinbase, WordPress, Blue Nile, Quora, and Zendesk generate millions in revenue through highly successful global SEO strategies.

Jaryd and Eli discuss what’s happened in the landscape of SEO from 2011 to 2024 and what it’s going to look like well into the future? Why are most AI businessesn’t actually helping users, and how is Google? Why should we be bullish on not just Google but SEO moving forward for all platforms? Why is it not about keywords anymore and what’s it actually about? 

They also talked about how to create content that Google and all search engines will love? (Hint hint, don’t create for just the search engine itself – you’ll see what we mean during the pod.).

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Episode Highlights

04:30 How Google is changing the digital landscape?

11:20 Who will be greatly affected by the changes in Google Search? 

18:00 What is Eli’s assumption on Search Generative Experience (SGE)?

28:10 Don’t do sneaky games with Google!

34:50 Be an expert in the space

40:30 Keywords aren’t necessary anymore

Courses & Training

Courses & Training

Key Takeaways

Eli Schwartz discussed the significant changes happening in SEO and search engine practices, driven primarily by the integration of AI. He emphasized that Google’s recent shifts are not entirely voluntary but rather necessary to stay relevant amidst the growing influence of AI and competitive pressures. These changes aim to address the evolving digital landscape and user expectations but also present challenges and opportunities for websites and content creators.

Jaryd and Eli agreed that while AI tools are touted heavily, their actual daily use and integration into workflows remain limited. They highlight that Google’s SEO landscape is shifting toward higher-quality content, which will impact websites relying on keyword-driven, commoditized content. Eli also predicts that Google may strategically limit the rollout of its Search Generative Experience (SGE) to balance innovation with practical user and business needs.

➥ Jaryd and Eli talked about how Google’s ongoing helpful content updates affect publishers and content creators. Schwartz compared these updates to the 2011 Panda update, which moved focus from keyword-heavy, low-quality content to user-friendly, high-quality content. They discussed Google’s efforts to keep search results good despite challenges from AI and bad SEO practices. The main point was that creators should focus on making users happy instead of trying to trick Google’s algorithm. This approach will benefit both users and content creators, no matter the platform.

About The Guest

Eli Schwartz is the bestselling author of Product-Led SEO and an SEO expert and consultant with more than a decade of experience working for leading B2B and B2C companies. Eli’s strategies have generated millions of dollars in revenue for some of the internet’s top websites. He has helped clients like Shutterstock, Coinbase, WordPress, Blue Nile, Quora, and Zendesk execute highly successful global SEO strategies.


Connect with Eli Schwartz


Jaryd Krause:

The SEO game has changed, and if you do not know what's to come and how to repair, it's clear you'll be left behind.

Hi, I’m Jaryd Krause. I'm the host of the Buying Online Businesses Podcast. And today, I'm speaking with Eli Schwartz, best-selling author of Product-Led SEO and an SEO expert consultant with more than a decade of experience working for leading B2B and B2C companies.

Now, Eli's strategies have generated millions of dollars in revenue for some of the internet's top websites and businesses. He has helped clients like Shutterstock, Coinbase, WordPress, Blue Nile, Quora, and Zendesk and executed highly successful global SEO strategies for many large brands.

Now, Eli and I talk specifically in this episode about what has happened in the landscape of SEO and what is going to continue to happen well into the future.

And to understand this, we needed to go all the way back to 2011 with the Panda update, what happened there, what that looked like, and how that translates to what's happening now through the 2024 landscape and what's going to look like, as I said, in the future.

We also discuss why most AI businesses aren't actually helping users and how Google is not throwing many AI businesses under the bus with names like *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*—some of the big ones that people are apparently using a lot, but in reality aren't—and why Google is actually paving a way forward versus what some of these AI businesses are actually doing.

Now, we also discuss why we should be bullish on not just Google but SEO moving forward for all platforms. We talk about why it's not about keywords anymore. It's not about creating content that is incentivized in a specific way based on what an algorithm wants or what a company wants.

We talk about how to create content, not just for Google but for all the search engines people are going to love. You don't need to create it for just the search engine itself. And you'll see what I mean.

And I give a great example of how people can create this amazing content moving forward using some other platforms and how people are addicted to different styles of content to create better experiences while consuming content.

So now there's such value in this podcast episode. I know you guys are just going to love it. So let's just crack on, dive straight in and enjoy.

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Eli, hello. Welcome back to the pod.

Eli Schwartz:

It's great to be here. Thanks for having me, Jaryd.

Jaryd Krause:

You're so welcome. Mate, I want to get you on to talk about all things SEO. It's your bread and butter. It's what you've been doing for many, many years now. And there are some people freaking out about it.

Eli Schwartz:

They should be.

Jaryd Krause:


Eli Schwartz:

They should be.

Jaryd Krause:

And that's what I want to talk about. Why should they be freaking out about it?

Eli Schwartz:

I think Google's changing everything, and I don't think they want to be. But I think everything we know about Google is about to change, probably in the next couple of days to a week.

Jaryd Krause:

They have to, right? By the time this comes out live, I mean, a bunch of changes have already been made as of the end of 2023 and the start of 2024. It's been rolling out for a while.

People on the receiving end of having so much traffic and losing a bunch are not in a good spot and not happy at all. And I can understand why. I can empathize. I've lost traffic and money as well.

And forget that Google is kind of forced to make these changes. Or they don't know that Google is kind of forced to make these changes because the environment's changing and they need to keep up the scratch to stay relevant, I guess, right?

Am I correct in saying that? And how would you explain this?

Eli Schwartz:

I think Google is forced to make these changes because the conversation on the internet and in technology in general is just about AI. And Google, for many reasons, has to be relevant. They have to do this stuff, even if they don't want to.

For example, Google has shareholders. And shareholders don't necessarily have to understand Google's business, but if they don't appreciate what Google is doing, they'll dump the stock. And then the stock price goes down and then Google has a hard time recruiting.

The same goes with hiring. So if Google doesn't remain as buzzy and cool to work for as it is now, then it'll be hard to recruit employees.

So Google is being forced to do something that upends their entire business model around search. So for the last 25 years, search has been a list of links and then they monetize with a list with some ads.

They've changed the ads a little bit. They'll have shopping ads, for example. But it's very, very static. The way Google has been—except for design changes—is the way it's looked for the last 25 years.

And then suddenly, this AI thing comes out. All everyone wants to talk about is ChatGPT and AI search. And there's this search engine perplexity; they're just anti-Google. And they keep having these articles about how they're better than Google and no one's going to Google anymore.

And none of this is true. But Google has to remain relevant. So what they're doing is integrating AI into search results. And I think that Google is being forced to do this for the reasons I just mentioned for their business. But they don't want to do it.

And what it means for users is that search will change. The way search looks will change. And what it means for websites is that that change might mean a loss of traffic. And some of this is going to be a good thing because it changes the web in a good way. And some of it's a bad thing.

And when I say it's a good thing, it's because the paradigm of search for the last, let's say, 10 years has been that if you want to generate search traffic, you write content. That's what search is.

And to that end, people just write content for the sake of content. And not all of it is valuable, useful or even belongs on the internet. And what Google is doing with generative AI is summarizing said content.

So let's say listicles. There are all these sites that will say these are the top places to visit in Asia or these are the top backpacks for camping, or these are the top skis that you want to buy. That's not so interesting. It's not even necessarily valuable.

But then, with generative AI, Google can create those listicles out of all the content that has existed on the internet and there's your listicle in search.

So if all you're doing is creating a listicle and you're not really curating, you're not really adding value; it's just content for content's sake. Google is skipping that middleman and creating the content themselves.

So that's where I see everything changing. And some of it's going to be in a good way because people are just, again, creating content just for content, and we don't need that anymore.

Jaryd Krause:

Yeah, we've got enough content. We've got enough information out there.

It's more about us humans getting it delivered to us in a way that is short, sharp, easy, comprehensible, and enjoyable versus having to search something and then having to go through three different pages or four different pages to get the answer before we finish our search. That's what Google has been.

And obviously, I mean, people that are using ChatGPT now—I don't use ChatGPT myself personally much. I like to keep my brain pretty sharp. I mean, I don't know.

I think people are sort of outsourcing a lot of brain resources to ChatGPT and, unfortunately, not thinking for themselves and believing a lot of the data is put in front of them. And it's scary. I think it's quite scary. That's just my little personal opinion. What do you think about that?

Eli Schwartz:

I don't think people use ChatGPT as much as everyone says they do. Whenever I've done these kinds of surveys on LinkedIn, everyone says they're doing AI. But most people don't really know what to do with it.

So whenever I meet someone in person and they're like, “Oh, AI has changed my life,” then I'm like, “So, okay, tell me how. What do you do with AI?” And they don't really have a lot of good examples.

And I like access to AI, but I can't say that I use it on a daily basis. And mostly, what I'm doing is doing a Google search. At times, I want Google to summarize things for me. So I'll use Gemini or ChatGPT if I want something more detailed.

But I think it's nice that it exists. But it's really hard to shift over to “This is the way you're going to do things.”

Let's say I'm planning a trip. I don't really want AI to summarize it for me. I want to see the results. I want to go to different websites. And I think that's the way most people are going to do things for now.

There are aspects of it they're going to rely on. But I don't think, for the most part, everyone is using it every day.

Jaryd Krause:

Yeah, I agree. And I don't think people truly understand how it works. I don't, and I'm not going to pretend to. And I think a lot of people and businesses are saying, “Oh, we're using AI to do this,” and not understanding how it actually works.

But that's not the topic of discussion. Let's stick with SEO and Google. I've got so many questions, but I just don't know which one to start with.

Who do you feel is going to suffer the most in the next few years in terms of businesses and why? And maybe we can talk about it content-wise and what that content is leading to in terms of revenue.

I know that you are a product-led SEO, and I think there should be people that have fared well out of this in terms of businesses with great products that are creating content around those products that are providing a great service and Google can see that versus somebody that's just creating content for affiliate revenue with gateway pages and ad revenue.

So let's stick with that sort of question first. Who do you think got smashed the most and should be quite wary in the next year or so of what's about to come?

Eli Schwartz:

Yeah. I think anyone who's just writing content for keywords is going to see the largest impact from search results, where they're not providing a service.

Let's say your media is unique and you're doing unique reporting. You're doing actual reporting and you're gathering data. That's content. That's valuable content.

But if you're just an aggregator and you're going on—and again, people do this really cheap with AI or they'll do it even with humans—they'll go to Upwork our Fiverr.

So if all they're doing is saying, “Here's my topic; write this article about it and use this keyword,” and if that is your entire approach towards content and SEO, then I think you definitely will be dramatically impacted by search results changing and moving towards higher quality.

So there's a lot of that on the internet. Let's say that in the health space, health is commoditized. I mean, the human body. There's tons of content about the human body and it's very similar.

My head hurts. Why does my head hurt? What do I need to do to fix my headache? Very commoditized content. What are the symptoms of the disease? How do you fix that disease? What are the treatments for that disease? Again, very commoditized.

So a lot of websites that just put together this commoditized content for the human body and health will see impacts from search results.

Now, if you have a unique take on it, a unique diet that no one else talks about, you're not going to be impacted because you're providing unique value to the internet.

So that's where I think everyone is going. Right now, again, no one knows this is coming. Not enough people know this is coming. Search results are changing.

Even from a generative AI standpoint, again, ChatGPT, Perplexity, Gemini, all of those search engines themselves, Claude from Anthropic, right? So all of these search engines themselves, if people can do those searches and say, “Hey, I have a headache. What are the best treatments for a headache?” they can do that search.

So if you're going and just doing the search and then publishing the content you found in generative AI, which, again, many sites are doing, or they're doing it with Fiverr or Upwork, you're not really adding value. And there wasn't a solution prior to generative AI and now, with generative AI people can just do the searches themselves.

I've actually talked to a few generative AI search engines and their approach to SEO is, “We're going to do the prompts and we're going to take the content that comes out of these prompts and just publish it on the internet.”

And then I asked them, “Well, why not skip the middleman? Why do you need to publish this and just let people prompt it?” And they think that's an approach to SEO. And again, that's an approach to SEO that might've worked two years ago, but I don't think it'll work in the near future.

Jaryd Krause:

So can you explain that again? I just think it's going to be so valuable for people to understand these AI search engines, these sort of newer ones, or the ones that are being talked about now, and people are starting to use how they work, what they're going to do, and then sort of what Google is going to have to do to stay ahead of the pack.

So can you explain that again? They're having people put in the prompts and then they're just showing the answer.

Eli Schwartz:

Basically, yeah. So imagine you're ChatGPT. I don't want to out the specific search engines for right now but imagine you're ChatGPT and you want to do SEO, which is complicated to even think about.

Like, “Oh, I'm ChatGPT, I'm competing with Google, but I want to be on Google's platform to compete with Google.” So that's already challenging to think about.

So you're using ChatGPT and you want to generate more inbound searches Let's say it's about health. So you create these prompts, which are “What are the best cures for a headache?” You put it into ChatGPT, and ChatGPT pumps out an answer—a 500-word answer.

And then you take that piece of content and publish it under, let's say, /health. And then you would want that, when someone goes to Google, they find your ChatGPT output content on your ChatGPT.com website, right?

And there are many sites that are actually doing this right now. I don't think that's valuable. If you're doing the prompt, then you're publishing what comes out of the prompt. I think users who are curious about this can just do the prompt themselves.

So I think the challenge is that there's, let's say, billions of pieces of content that have been produced on the internet, but at least there was some sort of physical aspect to creating this content and it suppressed the amount of content that could exist.

With generative AI, there's no more suppression, and then all this content can just get pumped out and Google doesn't want to crawl it. And again, it's not very valuable.

So we're going to see this change where, hey, this is not really a shortcut because everyone could take advantage of the shortcut and they could even skip the shortcut and go directly to the generative AI and do the prompt themselves.

So, yeah, that's something that's happening and that's something that I think will go away pretty quickly.

Jaryd Krause:

Well, it's really good, though, isn't it? For the internet and for us, I mean, I don't need people to do our prompting for us. We're already going to do it on Google.

Eli Schwartz:

Exactly. And that's sort of what SGE is with search generative experience at Google. Hey, you did a search query and we're turning it into a prompt and then the content's coming out with actual content rather than just search results.

Jaryd Krause:

Yeah, that's right. That's exactly right. So you type your search query into Google and it's just collecting all of that data and then presenting it. Whereas you can go and find that data from the prompt that you put in any way, you're just creating an unnecessary thing.

I guess if it's delivered in a more consumable way for people and people enjoy it, then great. But I still think people today are searching and wanting to look at multiple pieces of data and multiple sites to make up their own assumptions to actually get an answer that they feel they can trust, right?

It's not just like, "Okay, cool. Thanks, Google. Thanks ChatGPT. I believe you in one sentence you gave me, and I'm going to go away and do it.”

For me, if I'm looking at something, like I split my lip open a week ago from surfing, and I got stitches in it, I cut them out, and I want to make sure my scar doesn't heal really badly, so I've gone away, and I didn't use ChatGPT to find out how to heal a scar fast.

I don't use ChatGPT. I don't think it's great, and I don't believe most of the things that it shares. And so I was through YouTube and Google, and I watched multiple videos and read multiple things, not just one. And then I made my own assessment.

And yeah, I'm with you. I don't know if SGE is going to be the way forward. That said, how do you think this is going to look moving forward? What do you think Google’s going to have to do, or may even do?

Of course, this might just be an assumption from you, but how do you think this landscape is going to change? And then what does that mean for the search engines? What does that mean for these AI generative businesses? And then what does this mean for publishers, I guess, or business owners?

Eli Schwartz:

I think Google’s going to do a head fake here. I think Google is going to announce that SGE is launched, and then they’re not really going to launch it. It’s going to be very, very limited.

Because I think there’s still a lot of problems with SGE. There’s hallucinated content. In many cases, it's not so valuable for users. They don’t like it. There's already been a complaint about it.

Obviously, the biggest problem for Google is that it impacts ads because you can’t have SGE at the top of search results and ads. You can’t have both, of course. So I think this is a big problem for Google.

So I think Google’s going to announce it. Tell everyone it's been announced. Wall Street, like the hedge funds that make these big decisions, maybe they don’t really use Google, and they won’t really notice it’s not on everything possible.

The media will talk about it, and they’ll say it’s on everything, and that’s good enough. Users will have enough of it that they’ll see it’s there. And if they want to use generative AI, it’ll come straight from Google. They don’t have to worry about it going to ChatGPT, which is, again, a big concern for Google.

I'd say that last year, when ChatGPT came out, the concern from Google was that people were going to start using ChatGPT instead of Google. I think that at this point, Google is less concerned about that because it didn’t happen—nearly the way all the pundits said it was going to happen.

So what I think is going to happen is that Google is going to launch SGE, say it’s launched, and then hopefully they'll call off the dogs, and they won’t really launch it, and search will sort of stay the same.

The big thing that will happen is that Google needs to really tamp down on the results because there have been all these complaints about the quality of Google results. There’s too much spam in the results.

Obviously, another big problem is that there’s too much AI-generated content. So they’ve been addressing that with what they call helpful content updates.

They'll continue to do that. And there probably is going to have to be some big shift towards nailing all this AI content, because until they really nail it, everyone’s going to really produce it and think it’s a shortcut.

Again, I can't tell you how many companies I've talked to. They're like, “Hey, we have this great idea. We're just going to put these prompts in and then spit out a million AI pages. Isn't that a good idea?"

And in theory, if no one else knew that—again, I hear this once or twice a week—that's like the magic secret to SEO growth. So, no, I don't think it's a good idea. I think it'll last for some amount of time because it's hard for Google to really nail it, but then it'll go.

Jaryd Krause:

Okay. Interesting. So being heavily in the space of publishers running content websites, creating content for value, and earning money from ads and ad revenue, what I heard from you there is that Google is going to continue to roll out helpful content updates. And what does that even mean for a publisher?

Because there's a lot of publishers out there, you know, kicking and screaming and saying, and I guess there's some bias towards it as well, “My piece of content is clearly superior to what's being shown in the SERPs right now.”

What does this look like for these helpful content updates? I mean, what are your thoughts on that? It's too far for Google to go, right? There's a lot of change that needs to be made.

Eli Schwartz:

Yeah, I think when it comes to helpful content, most people know when they're not necessarily being helpful. They're just producing content for the sake of content and Google is going to continue to nail this.

I think about this, and I have a newsletter post on it, so I really learned a lot about SEO. What year is it? 2011. So it's been 13 years since Google launched the Panda update. Are you familiar with the Panda update?

So prior to the Panda update, everyone had this sort of—let's call it the 2010s or the 20s, whatever it is—idea of, like, “Here's what SEO is.” And there were sites like eHow where it's just writing content for the sake of content, just plugging things full of keywords.

So SEO, again, sort of sounds like today, but it's that 13-year-old version where, “Oh, here's a great idea; I'm going to generate all a bunch of inbound by just throwing a bunch of keywords and content.”

There was even a plug-in that I played around with called Caffeinated Content WordPress Plugin. And what that plug-in did—it sounds like generative AI, but it's from 15 years ago—is you take RSS feeds, and you pull in from different sites, these RSS feeds.

And then it would use—again, not generative AI—synonyms. Let's say I use the word "podcast,” and it changes the word to “broadcast,” right? So it just takes synonyms and then it'll mash up the content and merge these two pieces of content together. It was total garbage, right? So, like, that's generative AI from 15 years ago.

So prior to Panda, the way a lot of websites generated SEO traffic was like, “Oh, we're going to fill the web up with content, because content is good, and Google likes content.” And that's true, right? A lot of sites generated a lot of traffic from just having content.

At the company I worked for, we were in the automotive space and our idea was that we were going to have a site for every single car that existed. An entire website and then all the content on the website would be duplicated across all the other websites. And it worked; we generated tons of traffic.

Then Panda came out in February 2011. And that was when Google incorporated quality signals into the content. So you couldn't just have content and hope to get traffic. Google would say, “Oh, this content is of low quality.”

A lot has come out since then. It's similar to the quality score, like the algorithm is similar to the quality score for Google ads in that it doesn't match the keyword and the click-through rates are very low. And then, if you didn't achieve a certain Panda score, they basically demoted you or removed you from the index.

So that's what happened 13 years ago. I think helpful content is the same idea, but after 13 years, they're now using AI signals to say this content based on these signals is of low quality or based on user engagement is of low quality.

And if you don't achieve that benchmark and that baseline of what good content is, you will be removed from the internet or demoted significantly.

So that's the idea. So I don't think this is really anything new. It's just that Google invented the Panda algorithm in 2011, and then it got obsolete because a generative AI figured out how to get around all those signals.

So Google updated essentially Panda to identify what is low quality and remove that again from the index.

Now, because of generative AI, things move so much faster with this cat-and-mouse game, where you could figure out what Google identifies as unhelpful content and then just hide those signals. And it's going to keep going round and round.

And there's a lot of blaming Google and the media, “Oh, Google results are terrible; look at all these things and Google can't beat it.”

To defend Google, Google's doing the best they can in an environment where everyone's trying to take advantage of them, and they catch it and then the sites move ahead.

So to be fair to Google, this is not a static environment where they're just sitting on their haunches and they're not able to keep it updated. This is an environment where they're playing a constant game of whack-a-mole.

So I don't think Google results will ever be great, but can you imagine what would happen if Google really didn't update things? Then it would look terrible.

Jaryd Krause:

It would be terrible. I mean, when you think about it, there'd be so many generative AI companies just spitting out absolute garbage and it could not be good for the internet, really.

I mean, Google's actually really—if you think about it—paving a way forward for everybody versus these companies—not to put ChatGPT under the bus or any other of them and name them, but where they just go, “We're just going to scrape the internet for data and then put it in front of you.”

Well, Google's already sorted that problem out in their own system internally. Now they're actually making it better so that they don't have to worry about all these scraping tools, or, I guess, the scraping businesses.

And what I heard you say, in the way I interpret it, is that back in the day with Panda, you could just keyword stuff and then you'd even have people that were putting keywords in with a white background and white text and doing a bunch of different things, where the incentive was to have a lot of keywords.

And the incentive was that if you do certain things, Google is going to rank you, and then people would start creating content for Google.

And also, this is where, you know, the black hat, gray hat and white hat SEO sort of started to come in, where people would be like, “Cool. We're going to be mostly white hats on the outside. We're going to do a little bit of gray hat as well,” and they would play a game against Google.

And I think that's what has become very apparent for a lot of bloggers that are making money from ad revenue and affiliate revenue and even people that are with product businesses as well. “I'm going to play a game with Google and I'm going to try to beat Google to get ranked higher with my content.”

And at the end of the day, Google is the boss. Google is the one that's creating the rules and they can change the rules for you at any time, right?

So I think people have come into this space not really understanding that concept and are really like, “Oh, well, what happened? You can't just change the rules on me.” Well, it's their game and they're setting the rules.

So I think it's important for people to understand where our place is as publishers and where Google's place is as the company that's helping you rank if you give them what they want.

And what I'm curious about now is in the future, what sort of incentive are they going to share with people? What is a helpful content update? And the lines are pretty blurred for a lot of publishers, not knowing what the incentive is and I think it's like anything.

When Panda comes out, we're going to have to revisit, readjust and think about what's the new incentive now to make sure we can produce content that Google loves so we can get traffic to our site. Does that make sense?

Eli Schwartz:

Yeah. And I like to think of it as a three-sided marketplace where you have the users, you have the website and then you have Google as the broker in between. And you really have to understand the mindset of this broker, which is mostly satisfying to the user.

So if you're coming up with some sneaky hack that you're able to benefit from Google, but it dissatisfies the user, then Google is incentivized to make sure that that doesn't happen.

Because of what Google wants, from a broader perspective, Google needs to make sure that everyone continues to do searches, because the more searches you do, obviously, their growth goes and continues to get bigger.

But the more searches you do, the more likely you are to click on ads and tell other people to do Google searches. If people have a bad experience and you do fewer searches, then maybe you'll go to Bing or maybe ChatGPT.

So when anyone's coming up with hacks for Google, that's the wrong approach. You need to figure out how to come up with ways to satisfy users, because that's what Google wants to do.

So if you're satisfied—and that's part of my product-led SEO approach—you're satisfied with building for users, because ultimately, that's what Google wants to do.

Today, Google might not be great at finding exactly what you've done to satisfy users because of deficiencies in the algorithm or competition. But that's the direction they're heading.

So if you're building towards satisfying users, you're aligned with Google's future direction, regardless. But if you're finding holes and loopholes within the Google algorithm, you're not aligned with the user, and Google will eventually close that and then you need to come up with another strategy to find another loophole and algorithm.

So the best thing to do is really understand Google's incentives, which satisfy users.

Jaryd Krause:

Yeah, absolutely. So then, how do we satisfy users moving forward?

Before you answer that, I mean, it sounds like you're pretty bullish on what Google is going to do and make changes to make the internet a better space versus what a bunch of these other AI companies are going to do.

So for publishers that have always ranked on Google and made money through organic traffic from Google, that's a massive positive, knowing that moving forward, things could change, and they could still work with Google to get a bunch of great organic traffic versus I just need to go to build channels of traffic from other places, which is a smart idea for diversification of traffic.

But I guess it's really a settling thing for people moving forward, knowing that Google is working to stay on top and produce the best results for people's searches.

So then, what do you feel those incentives will be moving forward, and how should people start thinking about them? When everybody says, “Oh, you just need to make sure you've got valuable content that's not spun out by Google by AI.”

Eli Schwartz:

So, again, I think the SEO focus is in the wrong place. I think the SEO focus should be on the user and not on the platform. So Google is the platform.

So if you were building for the user and what that means, and that question I thought you could ask is, “How do you build for the user?” All right. So thank you for asking the question, Jaryd. That's a great question: How do you build for the user?

So the way you build for the users, you talk to the user, you understand the user, and you know who that user is because you're selling to them. That's who pays you or that's who consumes your content and that's your return. And that's everything you've done.

If you have a store, let's say you sell retail goods; you're selling shoes. You know the shoes that your user wants. And if your buyers don't want the shoes that you stock and you only stock the shoes that—I don't know—look good with the paint on the wall, you're not going to sell anything.

So you understand your users, you empathize with them, you talk to them, and you learn from them. So that's what you should be doing.

And the way to be successful in SEO is to be independent of that platform, which today is Google; tomorrow it might be Meta. Meta is actually working on their own generative AI with WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram.

And maybe the next day it becomes Amazon, which also has generative AI. Or maybe after that, Apple decides that they're not going to have a deal with Google and they're going to build their own search engine. We can continue going down there. Maybe Bing finally explodes, and everyone uses Bing.

So if you were dependent on this platform, which today is Google, and then the platform shifted to you, now you need to find other hacks to be successful at Meta, be successful at Amazon and be successful at Apple.

But if you're aligned with the user, that's what all these engines want to do. So whether it's Apple, Meta, or Google doesn't really matter. They want to best bring the user to the place that they're looking for, whether that's a website or search results. So align with your users and the platforms will ideally serve both. Well, it will serve the user to bring the user where they're supposed to go and will serve you because you're trying to serve the user.

Jaryd Krause:

I love that. I love that answer. And then people are going to say, “What does that look like when aligning with our users?”

I mean, what I hear you sort of say is: Be in the space; be the expert. What Google sort of brought out with the EEAT is to be the expert in the space because then you're going to know what your users wants, needs, fears, frustrations, and desires are.

You're going to speak that lingo. You're going to speak that language. You're going to be able to make puns and crack jokes through your content.

You're going to speak to them in a way that is like, “This is definitely written by a surfer,” or “This is definitely written by a professional tennis player,” or “This is definitely written by somebody that knows how to create beef jerky,” or whatever it is.

That content, you see, works so well on YouTube when people are in the space, as well as on Facebook and Instagram, where you get your friends that might be sharing reels or sharing videos with you. And you're like, “Yes, this person gets it, and it just hits home.”

Maybe Google and all of us content publishers that are creating written content for search engine results, whether it's Apple, Facebook, Google, whatever it is in the future, needs to take a leaf out of the books of how YouTube and TikTok and Instagram and Facebook are presenting content that users are like, “Yes, I love this.”

Because people are addicted to that content on those platforms. But they're not addicted to that content like they are in search results. So it's very interesting. I'm just saying this out loud and thinking about it now. What are your thoughts on that? Should we be taking a leap out of their book there?

Eli Schwartz:

Yeah. I mean, I think it's important to understand users. And now, to be fair, there are a lot of times where you can't understand users because you're not one of them. You have a website for surfing and you're not a surfer. Well, then you need to understand surfers.

And I think that's the case where you want to imagine how you would do things offline. If you have a surfing store and you don't understand surfers and you denigrate surfers that come in, no one's going to buy from you, and you're going to have a terrible reputation.

So get into this space. Force yourself to understand it and write from the user's perspective. And again, the way most people mess this up is to write from the search engine's perspective.

Like, “Oh, I know I need to use these keywords because SEMrush, Ahrefs told me to.” Instead of “I know I need to use these keywords because I had conversations with potential buyers and buyers and I looked at their history, and I know that's what they care about.

Jaryd Krause:

That's what they're saying. They're the questions they're asking. They're the words that they're using when they're describing something as well.

And to add to that, people are going to be a bit like, “Well, I don't want to have to become a subject matter expert. I want to maybe buy this business or own this business and not be the subject matter expert and have to do all the writing.”

Well, yeah, of course. But Google's already shared with you that you need EEAT on your site. We've talked about it a lot where you can hire people that are subject matter experts and have careers, a full career in surfing, or have been in surfing for 10, 20, or 30 years.

They can write the contents. And actually have them do it, not just have AI create the content. Then you have somebody else do a little bit of editing.

And I've mentioned that people can do that as a hack in the past, but why bother now when Google will be able to determine and see that like, “Okay, cool, cool, this is not really people?” Google's going to see that people aren't resonating with that or staying on that page long enough.

I know that if a surfer writes something great that I really appreciate, I'm going to read it and I'm going to stay on that page a lot longer.

Versus, I can tell as a human far better than what Google can that this was written by AI and then a surfer maybe edited a couple of things in it and it's not really something that lands with me, right?

Eli Schwartz:

Exactly, right? You want to really put yourself in the user's shoes because you're working and you're writing for the user and that's who you care the most about, not Google. And I think that EEAT is just a way to capture that idea of understanding the user, but I don't think there's like any EEAT score.

Jaryd Krause:

Yeah, that's right. I'm with you on that. How do you really score that when the range level versus how much time they spend on the page, really, at the end of the day?

So that’s a really good answer for people. Moving forward with content is either becoming the subject matter expert or.

But what I would suggest if you don't want it is really having amazing people with full careers who know the audience that they're talking to create incredible content in the style, dynamics, and way that people are going to want to read it. It's just juicy.

Maybe instead of teaching writers to have a keyword and then you need these three, four things that you need to research and then a writer creates content, flip it on its head and go find a professional that is not maybe the best writer, but that's okay.

Teach them a little bit of writing skills, help them with that, but teach the expert first. They're an expert first and a writer second. I think that's really going to be huge.

Eli Schwartz:

Absolutely. And I don't think keywords are necessary anymore. And I think it's really important that we wrap up with that. But keywords aren't necessary anymore because we live in a world where generative AI is rewriting or writing content from scratch, regardless of the words you use.

You can prompt a generative AI and say, “Write me a blog post about how to live a healthy lifestyle.” And then it will use all sorts of words that you didn't put in your prompt.

So we don't necessarily need to use keywords because Google has AI baked into it. It can understand synonyms, related words, topical intent and all that. So, again, it's not about nailing it with a perfect SEO score. It's really about nailing it for the user. And I think that's the most important.

Jaryd Krause:

Perfect last words, Eli. I love that. Thanks so much for coming on. Where can we send people to learn more about you?

Eli Schwartz:

So check out my newsletter at productledseo.substack.com or elisnewsletter.com.

And then, if you haven't read my book, Product-Led SEO, obviously, when I wrote it, I didn't know anything about generative AI. But it is more applicable than ever because my book is all really about understanding users and building products toward users. And generative AI has changed the way we're going to discover content, but it really puts the focus on users.

So if you build product-led SEO, you are inoculated against future Google updates because, like we just discussed, Google is trying to align with users. So if you align with users, you have aligned with Google. If you align with Google, you won’t be screwed if the platform changes.

Jaryd Krause:

Yeah, absolutely. I love it, Eli. Thanks so much for coming on. I really appreciate your time, as always.

And everybody that is listening, please do us a massive favor, both Eli and me. We spent some time creating a great piece of content. We're both experts in our fields.

And share this podcast episode with somebody who has an online business. They need to know this information. They need to be ahead of the curve. And they need to know what to do, not just for their users but for the internet, to make it a better place. So please share this podcast episode with fellow business owners and help us spread the word.

Eli Schwartz:

Thanks, Jaryd.

Jaryd Krause:

Thanks, guys.

Hey, YouTube watchers, if you thought that video is good, you should check out this video here on the 2 Best Types of Websites Beginners Should Buy. Or check out my playlist on How I Made My First $100k Buying Websites and how to do due diligence. Check it out. It's an awesome playlist. You'll enjoy it.

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Jaryd Krause is a serial entrepreneur who helps people buy online businesses so they can spend more time doing what they love with who they love. He’s helped people buy and scale sites all the way up to 8 figures – from eCommerce to content websites. He spends his time surfing and traveling, and his biggest goals are around making a real tangible impact on people’s lives. 

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