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The world of internet marketing and online business changes at a rapid pace. Long-term success in the industry requires adapting and evolving along with the inevitable changes.
Artificial intelligence (AI) technology has been a topic of interest for several years, but its impact on the industry within the past year has been faster and stronger than just about anyone expected. It’s hard to believe that less than a year ago, ChaptGPT didn’t exist.
Of course, AI impacts website owners and online businesses in many ways, but it’s also affecting website flippers, brokers, and the market for buying and selling sites. This article covers some specific observations I’ve made within the past six months of monitoring the market for websites and online businesses.
AI’s Impact on Website Owners
AI’s impact on website owners and flippers falls into two main categories: content generation and generative AI search.
Of course, AI can be used to generate website content, like long-form articles and blog posts. In the past, written content had to be created 100% manually, either by writing it yourself or by hiring someone else to do it for you. Today, it’s possible to use AI to create massive amounts of content very quickly.
As a website owner, AI opens up endless possibilities. But at the same time, AI opens up new opportunities for your competitors.
Generative AI Search
Google organic search is the #1 traffic source for most websites and blogs. For some sites, organic search accounts for 90% (or more) of the site’s traffic. And organic search traffic is the holy grail for many site owners because these visitors are actively looking for the content you provide.
While search engine optimization (SEO) is a constantly-changing industry, the integration of AI into search results could become one of the most significant developments the industry has ever seen.
At the time this article is being written, Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) is still in development and isn’t scheduled to roll out to the public until 2024. However, many people (including me) have been testing it through Google Labs.
SGE includes an AI-generated response at the top of the search results for most queries. There are clickable links to pages within the AI-generated box, but the provided text answers many basic questions. As a result, searchers may be less likely to click through to websites from the search results because they may get what they want from the AI-generated text.
At this point, SGE’s impact on organic search traffic remains to be seen, but some websites are likely to experience significant decreases in traffic if and when SGE rolls out in a format similar to what it is now.
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The Impact of AI on Website Owners
AI’s ability to create content and the unknown of AI content within the search results impact website owners in a few specific ways.
1. Building Content Websites is Faster and Easier
The most obvious impact of AI for content-based websites is that sites can be built much faster than before. Instead of spending months or years writing hundreds of articles to cover a topic thoroughly, AI can complete the task in almost no time.
Since you don’t need to write all the content manually, you don’t need the same level of expertise. You also don’t need to hire writers with expertise. Instead, you can rely on AI to create content for you.
With AI, it’s possible to create a content-based website that covers a topic pretty well in as little as a day.
Please note: I’m not advocating using AI to generate massive amounts of content for your website or publishing AI-generated content without editing and proofreading. As of today, the quality of content generated 100% by AI is still not as good as what can be produced by a knowledgeable, skilled human writer. However, many website owners are taking this approach, so it’s worth discussing.
2. There are More Content Websites Than Ever
Since it’s faster, easier, and cheaper to create content than in the past, it’s no surprise there are more content sites online than ever. This is especially true for topics that are ideal for AI-generated content.
AI is better for specific topics and types of content, including articles that answer basic questions. For example, you could create a gardening website and do keyword research to find gardening-related questions people are searching for. Then you can use AI to generate articles that answer those questions.
These question-and-answer websites are ideal for AI content, and more of them are popping up daily.
3. More Competition for Search Rankings
Most content website owners aim to get search traffic by finding low-competition keywords. Since fewer sites target these keywords, it’s easier for a new or small site to rank on the first page of Google.
With more people using AI to create mass content, the competition level is increasing for many of these keywords. As a result, finding and ranking for low-competition keywords is becoming more difficult (although it’s certainly still possible).
The increased competition impacts new sites being created, whether the content is written manually or by AI. And the competition also affects existing sites that have been ranking for low competition keywords for years. The search terms that have always sent traffic to your site may be getting poached. Maintaining your rankings has always been an important part of SEO, but it’s more challenging now with AI content getting better and more popular.
4. More Content Websites are Listed for Sale
If you browse website marketplaces like Motion Invest and Flippa, you’ll find plenty of content-based websites for sale. I’m not suggesting all these sites simply use AI to generate content. However, the increase in AI content has impacted the number of sites listed for sale.
Some website owners have created sites with AI content to flip and make a profit. And others who have taken a more traditional approach to building their sites may decide to sell because of the increased competition due to AI.
The rise of AI is a double-edged sword for content site owners. AI has the potential to improve productivity and profitability, but it also has the potential to harm what you’ve worked hard to build. I believe this uncertainty has resulted in more site owners deciding to sell their sites.
And with more sites listed for sale, it’s not uncommon for sites to take longer to sell or not to receive any offers. Of course, the laws of supply and demand impact website sales, and the supply of sites for sale seems to be increasing recently.
5. Uncertainty About the Future of Search Traffic
If you have a content-based website that’s been around and making money for several years, you’re probably concerned about the future of the industry and the impact of AI. Not only do you have to compete with more sites since anyone can use AI to create content, but you also have to deal with a potential drop in organic search traffic due to generative search.
No one knows how much generative search will impact click-through rates and the traffic websites receive from searches. Featured snippets caused a lot of panic in the SEO community when they were introduced, but their impact on most search queries has been minimal. So maybe SGE won’t have as significant of an impact as many website owners fear, but the uncertainty is cause for concern if you rely on organic search traffic.
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How to Survive the Rise of AI
1. Don’t Give Up on SEO
Even though there are threats to organic search traffic as we’ve known it in the past, SEO is far from dead. SGE may result in a loss of traffic for some sites, but it’s not going to kill organic search traffic.
Website owners should continue to create high-quality content that’s optimized for search engines. However, the other points below are also important.
2. Create Content That Can’t Be Duplicated By AI
Although artificial intelligence can create certain types of content, it’s not ideal for other types of content. In my opinion, if you want to protect your content-based website, you should create content that AI cannot easily duplicate. This includes:
- Technical or specialized content. Including advanced tutorials, guides, and niche information that requires expertise.
- Content that requires first-hand experience. Including product reviews showing that you’ve personally used the product.
- Personalized or individualized content. Including interviews, stories, videos, etc.
- Critical analysis and opinion. Thought-provoking content that requires knowledge and expertise. Become a thought leader in your industry.
You can still create other types of content as well, like simple question-and-answer articles. However, you can stand out from the crowd by creating content that isn’t easily duplicated.
3. Develop Multiple Traffic Sources
Having diversity in your traffic sources is more important now than it’s ever been. If you rely completely on organic search traffic, you’re taking a big risk with your business. Work to build other traffic sources like social media, email, YouTube, and paid ads.
Not only will this help you to make money and reduce the risk for your business, but it will also help when it’s time to sell your site. Traffic diversity has always appealed to potential buyers, and I believe it will be even more significant going forward. Buyers may be more hesitant to purchase a site that relies completely on organic search traffic based on the current threats site owners face.
4. Prioritize Building Your Email List
This could be considered part of the previous point, but it’s worth emphasizing. Building a large, responsive email list is one of the best things you can do for your online business.
Algorithm updates and other industry changes (like SGE) can impact search traffic. Changes from social platforms like Facebook and Pinterest can also affect the traffic you get from those sites. But your email list is yours. You can promote to your list regardless of what’s happening with SEO and social media.
A healthy email list can be used to send traffic to your site, strengthen your brand’s image, and sell to sell products and services (your own or through affiliate programs).
Websites and businesses that generate revenue through email lists are also very attractive to potential buyers.
5. Focus on Building a Brand
One of the problems with many niche websites is that they don’t emphasize branding. All the emphasis is on SEO and getting organic search traffic. Visitors may arrive at a niche because it has the information they’re looking for, but they usually have no reason to remember the site or come back in the future.
In today’s competitive online landscape, branding is essential. If you want to protect yourself against changes outside your control, you can start by focusing on branding. Work to create a memorable brand that connects with visitors. Develop loyal fans that want your content and come directly to your site or subscribe to your email list to get it.
6. Embrace AI in Your Work
If you’re not already using AI, you should start now. With the current rate of development and adoption, you’re likely to get left behind if you completely resist AI.
There are many different ways to use AI. Maybe you use it to create certain blog posts or sections of blog posts (it’s great for FAQs), even if you don’t use it as your primary method for writing content.
Even if you’re writing content manually, you can use AI for brainstorming content ideas, creating attention-grabbing titles, outlining articles, writing meta descriptions, creating social media posts, and more.
Using AI for these tasks helps you to get familiar with the available tools and how the technology works. As it continues to grow and evolve, you’ll be able to adapt and integrate it into your work where appropriate.
The only constant for online business owners is change. And today, many of the changes, especially for content-based websites, involve artificial intelligence.
Since AI technology is developing so quickly, a lot remains to be seen about its long-term impact. However, it’s clear that website owners and flippers must consider the possibilities and threats related to AI. I believe it’s already having a significant impact on website buyers and sellers, and that’s likely to increase in the near future.
You can help to protect yourself and your business by taking the actions covered in this article.