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8 essential insights from Oban’s organic search webinar

Oban’s recent webinar explored the latest trends in organic search, from the impact of AI to regulatory changes and industry shifts. If you missed it, don’t worry – you can watch the full webinar on our YouTube channel or keep reading for a summary of the key points.

#1: The organic search landscape is much bigger than Google

It’s easy to think “SEO = Google”, particularly if you have a US or UK-centric mindset. But organic search is much bigger than that. Not only are there other traditional search engines to think about – such as Baidu, Naver, and Bing – but increasingly platforms like TikTok, Amazon, and Spotify are influential in driving online visibility and engagement.

To optimise your online presence in 2024, it’s essential to understand the breadth of the organic search landscape. From social media platforms to e-commerce giants, each channel offers different opportunities.


#2: No discussion of organic search in 2024 can overlook AI

To state the obvious: AI tools like ChatGPT have transformed the digital marketing landscape, offering huge scope for scalability in content creation. But left to its own devices, AI can generate poor quality and inaccurate content. That’s why human involvement in content creation isn’t going away – we still need human input to ensure originality, accuracy, and the right tone of voice.


#3: Google is responding to the AI landscape

Google’s original guidance, in April 2022, labelled AI-generated content as spam, breaking their guidelines on providing valuable content. However, by February 2023, they revised their stance as the technology evolved. The updated guidance emphasised content quality over how it was produced, tying AI content evaluation to EEAT principles (Experience, Expertise, Authority, and Trust).

Despite these revised guidelines, poor-quality AI-generated content continued to proliferate. To combat this, Google rolled out a core algorithm update in March 2024, aiming to slash low-quality, unoriginal content in search results. New spam-tackling policies targeted scalable content abuse, affecting AI-heavy sites and those exploiting domain authority for lower-quality content.

Beyond algorithm updates, Google is developing AI products like Search Generative Experience (SGE), which crafts customised AI answers from various web sources. While still in testing, SGE may appear in search results for select users. Concerns regarding spammy sources mean ongoing refinement is needed.

Gemini, formerly known as Bard, represents Google’s foray into multimodal conversational AI. It’s expected to be integrated into the search experience, offering interactive dialogue alongside traditional search. Google also wants to integrate human perspectives, such as video-led search results from fashion influencers and forum filters to incorporate diverse viewpoints.


#4: There is increasing regulatory scrutiny of Google

Amid an ongoing antitrust trial in the United States, Google finds itself under scrutiny for allegedly impeding users’ ability to switch default search engines in their browsers. The accusation highlights Google’s substantial financial investments, exceeding $26 billion in 2021 alone, to secure its position as the default search engine on browsers like Safari and Firefox. This has been identified as a barrier for potential competitors.

The trial has significant implications for Google’s future. Should the US government prevail, Google may lose its auto-install and default search engine privileges not only in the US but also potentially in other markets. There’s also a possibility of the company being subject to division, aiming to curb its dominance, especially in emerging markets such as AI.

The trial has allowed internal documents and testimonies from Google insiders to shed light on the company’s practices. Internal slides confirm Google’s use of click and user data to refine its search rankings, feeding this data into learning systems like BERT. The statement, “With every query, we give some knowledge and get a little back,” attributed to Google, demonstrates the reciprocal nature of user interactions with the search engine. This shows how important it is to give users a good experience so they stay interested and keep finding your content useful.


#5: Microsoft is investing heavily in chatbots

Microsoft has made substantial investments in AI chatbots, mirroring Google’s efforts. Initially, Microsoft launched a chatbot named New Bing, using technology from their acquisition of ChatGPT. Despite high expectations, New Bing failed to capture significant market share globally.

Undeterred, Microsoft has rebranded New Bing as Copilot, positioning it as a comprehensive AI assistant capable of helping users with a wide range of tasks, from meal preparation to holiday planning. Microsoft is looking at ways to use Copilot in tools for business, such as creating presentations and documents.


#6: Russia’s protectionist push is changing the search engine landscape

Yandex, the leading search engine in Russia, has been steadily gaining market share from Google. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has prompted Russia to adopt a protectionist stance, particularly in strategic sectors like search engines. This aims to reduce reliance on Western products like Google, which are perceived as unfavourable by the Russian government.

The Kremlin orchestrated a deal for Yandex’s Dutch parent company to sell its majority stake to a consortium based in Russia. Consequently, the Dutch parent company is divesting its assets and relinquishing control, retaining less than 5% of Yandex. The new investors in Yandex include Lukoil, a prominent Russian oil company, capitalising on the sale at a significant discount mandated by Russian regulations. This discount serves as a tax on foreign firms exiting Russia, with a minimum requirement of a 50% markdown on asset sales.

The acquisition by Russian investors signals a potential shift in Yandex’s operations, particularly concerning its search products and overall perception.


#7: Yahoo is having a global shake-up

Recent developments in Yahoo’s global operations and Yahoo Japan have also sparked interest. Yahoo Japan, managed by LY Corp, faced pressure from Japan’s Ministry for Internal Affairs and Communications to reduce Naver’s influence. LY Corp, jointly owned by Naver and Japan’s SoftBank telecommunications corporation, aims to compete with the likes of Baidu and Google.

There was speculation that Naver would take control of Yahoo Japan’s search function from Google. However, plans were disrupted when LY Corp experienced a cyberattack in November 2023, raising concerns about over-reliance on Naver and inadequate security measures.

Meanwhile, Yahoo Global hinted at a potential overhaul of its search experience, possibly decoupling from Bing, its current search engine provider. This transformation could include UX enhancements and AI-powered features.


#8: The EU mandates accessibility for e-commerce

The European Union has mandated member states to enforce the European Accessibility Act by June 2025. This legislation affects various service providers within the EU, with notable implications for e-commerce businesses.

Under the Act, e-commerce entities must adhere to WCAG standards up to AA level, ensuring websites and apps are accessible and user-friendly for individuals with visual or auditory impairments. Compliance requires regular audits. Businesses must conduct routine staff training to ensure awareness of updates and the reasons behind them. They must report on accessibility measures and undergo periodic external reviews.

While specific fines for non-compliance remain undisclosed, it’s expected that penalties will be substantial. Ensuring compliance is therefore imperative for e-commerce operations within the European Union.

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The organic search landscape never stands still and nor do we. To find out how Oban can enhance your online visibility around the world, please get in touch.

Oban International is the digital marketing agency specialising in international expansion.
Our LIME (Local In-Market Expert) Network provides up to date cultural input and insights from over 80 markets around the world, helping clients realise the best marketing opportunities and avoid the costliest mistakes.

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