Recent updates from Google and OpenAI are causing a stir among publishers and content creators. While search results have changed, how we create and publish content has not. To continue getting search results for your earned and owned media efforts, learn what tweaks to make to optimize for generative search, with a focus on semantic keywords, answering questions, content structure, and summaries (like this one!). Despite alarm bells sounding, there isn’t much to worry about as long as you create the very best content on the internet for your topic.


Last week was busy. OpenAI launched GPT-4o, which can now access audio, visuals, and text in real time. Google announced that it will combine its search engine with Gemini. And Apple scrambled because it has nothing as exciting as the two. 

The good news is that the giant tech companies are racing to bring us even better AI than we’ve had in the past 18 months. The bad news is it still doesn’t do our laundry or dishes. 

OK, there is also some bad news coming out of publishing: they’re freaking out. If you produce content, you need to be aware of it, too…and understand how it might affect how your content shows up in search results. 

But because I’m me and always look at opportunities in these changes, I don’t think we need to sound the alarm bells. After all, if your content has experience and expertise baked in, it won’t matter what the tech giants do; you will be fine. 

But you do need to be aware of how things will change, both as a consumer and a marketer. 

Google, OpenAI, and Apple

Let’s first look at the changes from Google, OpenAI, and Apple so you better understand how this will affect your owned and earned media efforts. 

If you’ve Googled anything in the past 10 days or so, you’ve likely seen a shift in what shows up in search results. Rather than getting a list of links, it first attempts to answer your question and then provides some links as sources via an arrow button. It looks eerily similar to the results you get in ChatGPT, but it does have the added sourcing. 

They’ve said this is designed to enhance your experience by directly providing more nuanced, contextually relevant answers within search results. It’s like the answers you get from Alexa or Google Assistant—it finds what it thinks is the most relevant answer and dumps it on you. Sometimes it gets it right. Sometimes it gets it wrong. Sometimes it gets it very wrong.

While not as aggressive as Google or OpenAI, Apple is also making some AI strides. The biggest change they have made is updates to Siri, which will affect how content shows up in voice search, but not necessarily anywhere else. I’d put Apple third on my list of things to worry about. 

OpenAI, on the other hand, continues to make life more interesting for us as it invests more in ChatGPT. It now has access to images, video, audio, and text, and it has more sophisticated reasoning and planning abilities, allowing it to tackle complex queries and provide more structured and thoughtful responses.

In other words, it can read my mind, which my husband of 21 years has never learned to do!

What’s interesting about OpenAI is that they’ve partnered with publishers to license content and collaborate with Apple, which will benefit everyone.

Publishers Are Freaking Out

At the same time, publishers are freaking out a bit about all of these changes—particularly about the changes to search results. 

USA Today reporter, Felecia Wellington Radel, said, “As a journalist, it’s equal parts fascinating and discouraging to think that someone searching for information that may be provided in my writing or that of my colleagues may be used to enlighten a user on Google Search, but they may not even realize the resource or see the original piece.”

And a CNN article said publishers are sounding the alarm in a doomsday scenario. 

“This will be catastrophic to our traffic, as marketed by Google to further satisfy user queries, leaving even less incentive to click through so that we can monetize our content,” Danielle Coffey, the chief executive of the News/Media Alliance, bluntly told CNN.

Google, on the other hand, argues that these changes will benefit news companies. A spokesperson told CNN that Google shows more links with its AI Overviews feature and that improving the search product will send more traffic to news sites.

“We see that the links included in AI Overviews get more clicks than if the page had appeared as a traditional web listing for that query,” Google said in its announcement. “As we expand this experience, we’ll continue to focus on sending valuable traffic to publishers and creators.”

Which Leads to an Even Bigger Issue

The response among publishers varies. Some have struck licensing deals to provide content archives, while others, like The New York Times, have taken legal action for copyright infringement. This is why Google’s assertion that its AI Overviews feature will drive more traffic to publishers is met with skepticism.

This leads to an even bigger issue: a recent Wired article showed that nearly 90 percent of top news outlets (like the NYT) now block AI data collection. But leading right-wing outlets, like NewsMax and Breitbart, mostly permit them.

This is a different topic for a different day, but something you should think about: if the answers we get from generative search and AI are only coming from one type of news source, how does that change the massive divide we already have in the U.S. and in the world? 

It’s not good.

E-E-A-T Reigns Supreme In Generative Search

Last week, I talked with a small group of people on LinkedIn about how generative search will affect keywords, backlinks, domain authority, and more. In other words, how does it affect SEO?

Right now, nothing much changes. All year, we’ve talked about the importance of E-E-A-T or using experience and expertise in our content to create authority and trust. That still reigns supreme. 

You should also continue to optimize your content for generative search because that’s how the AI will know what your topic is about.

So don’t stop doing what you’re doing! 

While these more traditional SEO practices remain important, optimizing AI content requires additional strategies that take into account the algorithms’ advanced capabilities.

Let’s talk about what those are…are you ready?

Semantic Keywords

I remember when semantic search became a thing, and I read a bunch of books to figure out what it meant. It turns out that semantic is just a fancy word for related terms or synonyms. You don’t need to read a bunch of books to figure that out. You’re welcome! 

So, while creating content, use related terms and synonyms to provide context and help AI understand the broader topic. For instance, I might use generative search as my keyword for this article and generative AI and SEO as my related terms. You can also ask your AI tool of choice to create semantic keywords for you. Easy peasy! 

Answer Questions

This isn’t new—Marcus Sheridan popularized answering your customers’ questions first with his pool blog, then through speaking and his book, “They Ask, You Answer.” 

It’s the easiest way to show up in search results because you are literally answering questions people ask their search engines–and now AI.

Don’t stop doing that. If anything, beef up that practice because it allows you to demonstrate experience and expertise, which we already know are important. 

Content Structure and Formatting

This next tip is an interesting one. We already know that using headers, subheads, bullet points, and numbered lists to organize your content will make it easier for people to scan and learn (and hopefully share). But it also makes it easier for AI to parse and index.

And, while you’re doing that, create concise summaries or key takeaways at the beginning of content to provide quick insights for both users and AI. This is something I am not currently doing, but you can bet your butt it’s going to begin happening right this second!

Regular Content Updates

This tip isn’t new, but it’s something to prioritize if you aren’t already doing it. The AI algorithms prioritize fresh content so go back into your archives and update older content that has performed well. 

Andy Crestodina has a great tutorial on how to do this and what to update. 

Every year, I update the PESO Model© primer for communicators on Spin Sucks. I use the same URL and refresh the content to reflect how the framework has evolved in the previous 12 months. Because of that, it shows up first in search results, AND it’s included in generative search responses. 

This is one of the easiest ways to use long-tail search and capitalize on previously published content. 

But the truth is that if you continue to create the best content on the internet for your topic, including expertise and experience, all of these changes won’t affect your results. 

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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