AIO is Poised to Change How B2B Buyers Find You

by Debra Andrews | June 4, 2024

Which would you rather do?

  1. Go to Google, type in a question or search term, get back thousands of results pointing you to different websites, click through to the first few results, and scour those top-ranking webpages until you find what you’re looking for.
  2. Ask an AI-powered chatbot a question and get back a concise, curated answer.   

That, in a nutshell, is the compelling difference between SEO (the old tried-and-true) and AIO (which is about to turn digital marketing on its head).

Before you dismiss this alphabet soup of terminology, please know this: If you run a B2B company that’s serious about driving growth, you need to know what AIO is and how it will transform the way your buyers search for information.

Move Over, Google

As of this writing, Google is purported to process about three-quarters of all online searches (per a Google AI overview), and more than two-thirds of all Google search clicks go to the top three organic search results. As long as digital marketers kept pace with this dominant search engine’s ever-evolving algorithms, they’ve confidently developed marketing strategies that improve your company’s search results, driving more buyers to your website and other content.

That’s about to change dramatically.

Thanks to the explosion of generative AI, there are new and easier ways for your B2B buyers to get credible information along their journey to find a solution to their challenges. If you want to be that solution, you need to show up in the answers that AI-powered chatbots and agents are serving up.

Over time, that will mean less emphasis on search engine optimization (SEO) and a greater focus on artificial intelligence optimization (AIO).

How SEO and AIO Differ (and Why You Should Care) 

We all know what SEO is: Optimizing your website and other online content so that it ranks high with conventional search engines, ideally placing you in the top few search results your buyer sees. Digital marketers use keywords, backlinks, and other strategies to keep your content ranking high, increasing the odds your buyer will find you when they do a search.

SEO has been a staple of inbound digital marketing for years. And to be clear, it isn’t disappearing any time soon. But as your buyers begin to approach their searches in an entirely different way, I expect SEO will take a back seat to AIO.

AIO focuses on ensuring AI-powered chatbots and agents incorporate your online content into the curated responses they deliver when a buyer poses a question. The idea is to create content that captures the attention of AI algorithms and tools that use large language models and natural language processing.  

While SEO is all about creating content that ranks high on the search engines your buyers historically used, AIO is all about creating content that is relevant to and easily found by AI tools that can think and craft their own responses to your buyer’s questions. It might sound like a subtle difference, but when it comes to your buyer’s experience these approaches are worlds apart.

Here’s a Real-World Example

I’ve started using an AI-enabled tool called Perplexity to search for information, and it’s transformed and accelerated my research. I input a question, and I get back a concise response curated from sources that Perplexity has scoured for me. Perplexity speaks in a conversational tone, is trained to understand the context and intent of my question, knows which clarifying questions to ask me, and will eventually learn enough to personalize the responses I see.

I’m finding it more powerful and efficient to use Perplexity vs pouring through Google search results. And I’m betting your B2B buyers feel the same as they try out AI-powered tools like these.

What’s a B2B Leader to Do?

As with all things AI, the concept of AIO is evolving so fast that there will be something new to say about it before I finish writing this blog. Regardless of how the game changes though, one thing is for sure: Your marketing approach has to keep evolving. Just optimizing your website with traditional SEO techniques isn’t going to cut it for much longer—not as your B2B buyers gravitate to AIO chatbots and other tools that make it easier to find credible information.

Yes, that means a bit of “building the plane while you’re flying it.” Always tricky! But the alternative is worse: Finding your business irrelevant, out of the conversation, and losing market share to competitors.

What should you do as a B2B company leader?

1) Forget what you initially thought about AI and content.

When ChatGPT debuted, lots of people predicted that content would be churned out by AI tools, requiring no human intervention.

The exact opposite is turning out to be true.

Very soon, you’re going to be penalized for regurgitating the same bland information an AI-powered search feeds you. You won’t stand out in the eyes of AI bots and agents, so they won’t include your content in their curated responses and source lists, so B2B buyers won’t find you. That’s the cold, hard truth.

2) Replace that generic, 101-level content with authentic pieces that offer a unique point of view.

Authentic content has always been critical to driving higher marketing ROI, but I predict it’s going to become an absolute must in a world where AI powers up your buyer’s searches. Attracting ideal buyers and converting them to profitable customers at scale will become less about following SEO rules and more about crafting a relatable, relevant story.

So go ahead and present a provocative perspective. Propose a novel idea. Take a position on a subject. You’ll break through the noise, get buyers’ attention, and move them to act.

(By reading this blog you’ve proved my point: I could have turned this into a boring but informative comparison of AIO vs SEO, with a long list of eye-glazing definitions. But I didn’t. Which is why you found me and why you’re still reading 1,000 words in.)  

3) Demand more of your marketing partner.

Marketing has always been a field of specializations, and that’s even more the case now as technology plays a bigger role in how you attract, nurture, and convert leads into customers. Your marketing partner needs to be a strategic technologist, always keeping up with AI and emerging technologies, no matter how fast they evolve. Expect your marketing partner to bring a team of curious learners who present novel strategies that help you drive growth in a fast-changing, AI-powered world.

You’ll be hearing more about the impact of AI on marketing from me and the rest of my team. So keep tuning in for new insights! We promise to keep it authentic, fresh, and 100% relevant to helping you grow your business.

To learn how Marketri’s data-driven marketing strategy and execution can help you achieve profitable growth, schedule a call with our President Deb Andrews.