Experts say generative AI updates may soon plunge organic SEO traffic. Here’s what marketers can do instead to control their top of funnel pipelines.
Marketers, Google just revealed substantial changes at Google I/O 2023.
Historically, paid and organic traffic drive the top of the marketing funnel.
But Google revealed new generative AI updates are poised to keep users on Google longer, nosediving organic traffic and disrupting the traditional marketing funnel.
In this blog post:
- We'll explore what’s happening with SEO, how marketers can protect their pipelines, and an emerging strategy to adapt to this top of funnel shift.
- We'll delve into the emerging trend of community-led growth and its potential to replace organic SEO as a top-of-funnel growth driver.
- Additionally, we'll examine the concept of the community flywheel, its benefits, and how it can be implemented in practice.
You’ll come away with the groundwork for creating your own community flywheel strategy and the tactics to execute it.
Typically, your “top of funnel” comes from two main sources: Paid and Organic.
Top of funnel (TOFU) sources build brand awareness and attract audiences to your business’ website:
- Paid traffic sources include cost-per-click digital ads, social advertising, TV spots, billboards, paid partnerships and newsletter and event sponsorships.
- Organic traffic sources include SEO, direct traffic from word of mouth and product stickiness, referrals, email, and “dark social.”
Traffic arrives on your website through your content.
Prospects see your content and click through (CTR) to your website from these TOFU third-party channels like search engine result pages (SERPs), social media posts, DMs, email newsletters, partner surfaces, and so on.
Your website captures their email and information for lead scoring and nurturing.
Using tools such as CTAs and form fills, your website converts this traffic using tactics such as leads magnets, newsletter signups and contact sales form submissions (free account signups for PLG companies).
The marketing qualified leads (MQLs) turn into sales opportunities that are won or lost.
MQLs turn into booked meetings with your sales team who work the deal until close.
Customers renew at the end of their contracts.
In 12 months, your customers hopefully are hopefully happy and renew for another term.
The Full Funnel: Putting it all together
Together, this diagram maps the journey of a prospect from the top of the funnel all the way through to becoming your customer.
Google’s Generative AI updates are about to shatter the pipeline of companies who rely on SEO for their top of funnel marketing.
Google will become the journey and destination, keeping users on Google longer.
- Google’s Generative AI updates will surface more information directly on the SERP in new content blocks called Generative AI search results.
- Generative AI search results reduce the CTR to your site, since many users may find the information they need directly on Google’s SERP.
- If more users stay on a Google SERP page, less users will click through to your website.
CNBC writes about this problem in their article Google’s new A.I. search could hurt traffic to websites, publishers worry:
Luther Lowe, a longtime Google critic and chief of public policy at Yelp, said Google’s update is part of a decades-long strategy to keep users on the site for longer, instead of sending them to the sites that originally hosted the information.
“The exclusionary self-preferencing of Google’s ChatGPT clone into search is the final chapter of bloodletting the web,” Lowe told CNBC.
From early designs, it appears the “ten blue links” we’re accustomed to are still there (for now), but they are pushed down below the page or hidden within an accordion menu, making them more difficult to find.
How can marketers protect their pipelines (and their jobs) against this sharp drop in organic search traffic?
It’s important to note that nothing drastic or sudden will happen. What experts are saying will matter most is high quality content — expert voices and unique delivery will continue to get rewarded — whereas average and below average information will be swallowed by generative AI’s ability to produce more satisfying and accurate results.
That said, the drop will nevertheless be material, and for some companies, it could be deadly.
Community is the new organic GTM strategy.
It’s not accidental that community-led growth is an emerging trend, albeit a quieter one, alongside the explosive rise of generative AI.
As Kipp Bodnar (CMO at Hubspot) and Kieran Flanagan (CMO at Zapier) discussed in their podcast Marketing Against the Grain, community cannot be replaced by AI, as it is deeply embedded in what it means to be human. AI struggles with the infinite nuances of the human experience.
But how does community build pipeline for B2b marketers? How does it even begin to replace organic SEO as an top of funnel channel?
Community turns the marketing funnel into a flywheel – a growth loop
- McKinsey published “A better way to build a brand: The community flywheel” in which it describes (paraphrasing) how a brand with an engaged community can increase sales, reduce costs, and move faster than its competitors.
- Notion surpassed 20 million users using community as its primary growth channel.
What does a community GTM strategy look like in practice?
- At Hopin, we believe community is the future of growth, as do many companies who have already built strong brands with community such as Figma, Hubspot, Salesforce, and our own StreamYard to name a few.
- We’ve designed our suite of products to power the community flywheel by creating Events and Content. Events and content create engagement, conversation, and organic traffic.
- At every stage of the loop, a Hopin product can be used to create a community experience and engage a target audience.
Centralizing on a community platform unlocks the greater “decentralized community” at the top of the funnel
- A community platform serves as the hub to power your decentralized community and control your top of funnel
- In a community platform, you can empower and enable the various members of your community to share your brand and products with their networks. These members include your raving fans, partners, influencers, affiliates, ambassadors, agencies, and so on.
- Optional: Shift your paid program budgets from expensive ads at the top of the funnel to rewarding and incentivizing your community members through engagement and activation programs (i.e., swag, affiliate program, speaker fees, community events, etc.)
Putting it all together
Another look at the full strategy.
Marketer Playbook Takeaways:
- With looming Google Generative AI updates, you need a way to control your top of funnel pipeline when organic search traffic bottoms out.
- Turn your funnel into a flywheel by adding in community.
- Create events and content to “turn” the community flywheel.
- Centralize your community onto a platform that powers the greater “decentralized community” at the top of the funnel. Use budget to amplify if needed.
We’ll be unpacking this strategy more and more over the coming months.
Subscribe to the Hopin Community Newsletter to stay in the loop.