In AI-Powered Searches, Citations Are the New SERP Results

Artificial Intelligence A Catalyst for SEO Innovation

Table of Contents

Over the last few months, we have published a number of blog posts discussing artificial intelligence (AI) and its potential to disrupt legacy search. We are not surprised to report that much of the speculation is actually starting to come to fruition. Look no further then search citations for proof.

One of Google’s chief rivals in the generative AI search space is Perplexity. The people behind Perplexity are not shy about declaring their intention to fundamentally change the way people run internet searches. When you search for something on Perplexity, you ask a question. The search engine returns an answer complete with citations.

For all intents and purposes, citations are the new SERP results. They are where the SEO gold resides. Any digital marketing firm or SEO agency wanting to take advantage of generative AI search should be focusing on content worthy of citations.

AI-Powered Search Is Gaining Market Share

If you are not yet convinced that legacy search’s days are numbered, look at the market data. AI-powered search is quickly gaining market share. According to a recent Search Engine Land report, Perplexity now boasts 15 million active monthly users. Its organic share rate is increasing at about 39% monthly and its referral growth stands at about 40% month-over-month.

In simple English, Perplexity is capturing more users and making more referrals to websites. This has not gone unnoticed by Google and Bing. Both search engine giants have begun incorporating generative AI into their searches. Google has even gone so far as to begin developing a separate search product known as Search Generative Experience (SGE).

How It Works

AI-powered search leverages the vast capabilities of generative AI to provide more specific answers to user queries. So instead of providing users with a static list of websites they can click through to find the information they want, generative AI search answers the question at hand. Citations are provided to verify the sites from which information was gleaned.

Citations matter because they are the vehicles that refer traffic to a website. In a legacy search model, an SEO agency wants customer pages to appear as close as possible to the top of the first SERP. The goal is similar in generative AI search: to be at the top of the list of citations.

To gain some first-hand knowledge of the practicalities of generative AI search, I asked Perplexity a simple question: what is full funnel PPC? Perplexity returned a 200+ word answer followed by three citations. All the citations were presented as links I could follow at my discretion.

Overlap, For Now

As AI-powered search gradually overwhelms its legacy counterpart, the big question for SEO agencies and digital marketers is who to pay the most attention to. Google clearly dominates legacy search. They set the standard that every other search engine follows. But will Google dominate generative AI search?

Right now, there is plenty of overlap between services. The previously cited report from Search Engine Land suggests that Perplexity overlaps with Google’s top ten organic results 60% of the time. This suggests that pages already set up to perform well on Google SERPs should also do well on Perplexity.

However, there is no way to know if this trend will continue. As generative AI search matures and new players come to market, the overlap could go one way or the other. It could increase significantly or decrease enough to create a genuine difference between providers. As a digital marketing and SEO agency, all we can do for the time being is keep an eye on things and adjust our practices accordingly.

Like this article? Please share it