The Ultimate Guide to AI for Healthcare Marketers + Do’s and Don’ts Cheatsheet What You Need to Know
The Ultimate Guide to AI for Healthcare Marketers + Do’s and Don’ts Cheatsheet What You Need to Know

“AI is going to take your job.” “Marketers will be obsolete in 5 years.”

We’ve all heard these tired doomsday predictions. If you’re a marketer worth your salt, it’s highly unlikely AI will take your job.

But it will take your search traffic. How much traffic you lose will depend on how well you adapt your SEO strategy for AI.

With Google reportedly losing market share as AI search platforms like Perplexity become more popular, one thing is clear:

The search landscape is changing — fast — and marketers have no choice but to keep up.

AI’s Impact on Search Behavior

Content marketers are accustomed to keeping up with fast-paced industry changes, but AI search is proving to be a new kind of disruptor — one that is evolving at break-neck speed. In the last year:

  • Google launched its AI Overviews SERP feature after beta testing it as Search Generative Experience (SGE), a Search Labs experiment that saw many iterations in 2023 and early 2024.
  • Multiple tech companies released generative AI tools and answer engines to the public.
  • Meta and other search engines like Bing added AI search features to their platforms.

As a result, we’re seeing searchers begin to trade the cluttered, ad-heavy Google SERP experience for AI-powered search.

Why? AI Overviews and AI chatbots offer a conversational, streamlined, and highly personalized experience, with results tailored to the user and their interactions with the platform. This is a stark contrast to the one-size-fits-all experience of traditional SERPs.

Let me be clear: Google’s near-monopoly on search is far from over. But the number of people using AI as their primary search tool is projected to multiply, and marketers have cause for concern.

How Is AI Affecting Search Traffic?

Google is continually changing its AI-powered search experience, and AI search tools are constantly improving. While we don’t know what the future of search will look like, here is what’s happening with AI search today:

  • Less visibility for top organic search results: AI Overviews (formerly SGE) dominate the top of the SERP, burying organic results far below the fold. (See the screenshot below.) Plus, with more users turning to AI chatbots like ChatGPT’s new GPT-4o and Google’s Gemini, fewer searchers will be looking for you on Google.

SERP visibility with and without Google’s AI Overviews

  • Reduced organic search traffic: By providing answers directly in the SERP, Google’s AI Overviews decimate click-through rates and turn informational intent keywords into zero-click searches. Chatbots are also search traffic vampires, often providing answers without any citations that could drive traffic to the source.
  • When it was still in beta testing, SGE had an especially “extreme” impact on health-related queries, according to research by BrightEdge. Among 9 industries studied, SGE snapshots appeared most often for health-related queries. (Early data on the AI Overviews rollout shows a similar trend, with health-related queries among those most likely to deliver an AI-generated answer.)

But don’t fret, healthcare marketer. There’s a silver lining to all this disruption.

Certain AI-driven search tools, like Google’s AI Overviews and Perplexity, may actually be a land of opportunity for content marketers:

  • They drive referral traffic: Perplexity provides 5+ citations in its answers, and according to BrightEdge research, referral traffic from Perplexity to brand sites is growing at almost 40% month over month (January – April 2024). Plus, it’s one of the AI search engines that Google Analytics (GA4) can currently track referral traffic for.
  • That traffic is qualified: AI-driven referral traffic will be more valuable than what you typically get via organic search results. By the time a user clicks through to your content, they’re looking to dig deeper into a topic and potentially make a decision.
  • AI Overviews boost smaller sites: It can be hard — or impossible — to beat out sites like Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic and WebMD to rank for broad, health-related queries. But sources cited in the AI Overview often don’t overlap with the top-ranked sites for YMYL. Optimizing content for the AI Overview gives smaller healthcare websites a better chance at SERP visibility.

AI Search Optimization Strategies

All healthcare organizations, big and small, can take advantage of the opportunities that AI-powered search offers. Adapt your search strategy to earn mention in the AI Overview and Perplexity citations.

(Why focus on Google’s AI Overview and Perplexity? They’re the AI search tools most likely to drive traffic to your website.)

1. Reverse-engineer AI results to find out what works

Since AI search is evolving every day, it’s too early to nail down what works. But you can definitely look at the data and spot patterns.

First, find out which of your webpages are already receiving AI referral traffic. (Set up GA4 to track AI referral traffic.) Identify the URLs earning referred traffic from AI and determine common features (format, style, intent, etc.).

Then, conduct an AI Overview analysis for your priority keywords:

  1. Google your priority keyword targets.
  2. If an AI Overview comes up, evaluate it. How is the response structured? What are the suggested follow-up questions? What features do the sites in the source panel carousel have in common?

SGE Anatomy

3. Record your observations and identify the commonalities (or ask ChatGPT to analyze the data for you).

Apply your findings from both exercises to your SEO for AI strategy.

2. Shift your search strategy: Include SEO for AI

AI search will impact your traffic. But you can compensate for some of that traffic loss by optimizing your strategy for AI search:

  • Focus on creating mid- to bottom-funnel content: Build out rich consideration and conversion stage content. Answer questions that a chatbot can’t.
  • Optimize your top-funnel content for AI: Focus AI optimization on broad, informational intent keywords. (More on that below.)
  • Adjust your KPIs: With AI Overview pushing down organic results, expect organic traffic to decrease. Search rankings may become less valuable within your overall content strategy.
  • Track AI referral traffic: Pay attention to the content types, formats and keywords earning click-throughs from AI. Set a baseline and monitor how it changes.
  • Be agile: AI Overviews are still new, and they are changing all. the. time. Be aware of the latest iteration.

3. Optimize your informational content for AI search

The goal post for broad, informational intent keywords has shifted. Instead of focusing solely on organic rankings, set your sights on showing up in the AI Overview:

  • Prioritize keyword intent: AI search tools focus on relevance. Think about what the user actually wants and create content that fulfills their need.
  • Cover topics and queries fully: Google’s AI Overview and Perplexity both guide the user’s search journey with follow-up questions. Answer relevant questions and provide full topic coverage in your content.
  • Target long-tail keywords: Searchers are using longer, more specific queries that start a “conversation” rather than the concise, keyword-focused queries we’ve historically seen. Targeting long-tail keywords optimizes for this type of conversational search and allows you to better align with search intent.
  • Make your content stand out from the sea of vanilla. Incorporate E-E-A-T, keep it fresh with regular updates and focus on your audience’s FAQs and pain points.
  • Use rich visuals: Infographics, videos and images can boost visibility in the AI Overview and Perplexity responses.
  • Organize your content for readers and AI: Break up information into chunks, lists and Q&A pairs to help AI search tools understand your content.
  • Experiment with formats: Publish a variety of formats for web content — lists, Q&As, long-form, short-form, etc. — and see what makes it into the AI Overview and Perplexity answers.

(Note: Don’t give up on traditional SEO, but add these AI-focused SEO tips to your toolbox to make your content findable.)

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