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The Key to the Future of SEO / AEO – Understanding and Credibility

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The Key to the Future of SEO / AEO – Understanding and Credibility

This post is in English
Jason Barnard
This post is in English
The Key to the Future of SEO / AEO – Understanding and Credibility

When someone searches on Google (or Bing), they are expressing a problem they are seeking to solve, or a question they need the correct answer to. The "raison d'être" of Google and Bing has always been to guide their users quickly and simply to the best available result.

With the rise of voice search, Google and Bing increasingly rely upon understanding and credibility to provide the one, single, best solution.
What should you be doing to take advantage?

In this article we will review:

  1. An overview of the situation.
  2. The foundation of the future.
  3. What you need to do - starting today.

Overview of the situation

The evolution Desktop -> Mobile -> Voice

Search evolves with the devices we use. That is key. The switch from desktop to mobile has had (and continues to have) a major impact on search behavior. The switch to voice will have an even bigger impact - both in terms of how users search, but also the way Google and Bing provide answers to those users.

Market Share By Device 2000 to 2028

Voice is naturally more verbose, more natural.... and ultimately requires a single answer.

What does that mean to the relative importance of top rankings?

  • In the relatively slow days of the desktop-noughties, ranking page 1 was a success, ranking in the top few pages was acceptable.

 User chooses the best solution / answer from 10 to 20 options.

  • In the mobile world of today, ranking top 3 is a success. Ranking top half of page 1 is acceptable.

 User chooses the best solution / answer from half a dozen options.

  • As Google and Bing evolve from search engines to answer engines, ranking #1 (increasingly position 0) is success, ranking top 3 is acceptable.

 User accepts the suggested best solution / answer, but retains a (little exercised) option to choose from a  top 2 or 3.

Acceptable Ranking SERP by DeviceAcceptable Ranking SERP by Device

What does this mean to your organic traffic?

In 2018: Don't panic.

Things won't change significantly this year. But now is a very good time to start changing your thinking from "Page 1 or nowhere" to "#1 or nowhere". And get to work preparing your site, and your company for this new paradigm.

Beyond 2020: Panic.

It is not unreasonable to imagine that by 2022, search traffic is divided equally between desktop, mobile, and voice.

  • In 2005, the first place gave 30% of market share.
  • In 2017, the first place gave 40% of market share.
  • In 2022, the first place will give 60% of market share.
  • In 2026, first place will give 80% of market share

As you can see, the shift towards the dominance of that top spot is accelerating.

As we move to a world that will increasingly favor voice search, ranking at the top (#1 / position 0 / featured snippet / answer box) is going to be critical. Your competitors know it. They are working towards that. 

A few (not-so-doom-and-gloom) provisos that may help calm your nerves:

  1. The importance of this trend of "#1 or nowhere" will vary enormously between markets and business types... Generally speaking, niche markets and local businesses will be most affected by this trend.

  2. Long-tail search queries will increase, leaving more opportunity to get at least some #1 rankings and spreading the risk.

  3. Voice search will not 100% replace mobile in the same way that mobile did not 100% replace desktop.
    It is very important to bear in mind that desktop, mobile, and voice will all continue to bring a share of traffic. It is anybody's guess what the relative importance will be.

The Foundation of the Future

Understanding and credibilityWhat Google is looking for above all else.

Understanding - Looking from Google's point of view, it needs to understand who you are and what you offer in order to consider your offer as a potential candidate to be suggested as the best solution.

Credibility - Once it has understood you and your offer, in order to present your offer as the best from several possibilities, Google will look at relative credibility.

In the new world of Answer Engines,
understanding and credibility are what matter most.
By Far.

What has Google understood so far?

Basic Understanding:

Google is not starting from scratch; it has already understood some (basic) things about your brand. It has a pretty good basic understanding of most brands. Here are some figures from (who measure Brand Authority): Understanding MeasurementsYou will gain a significant competitive advantage by pushing up into the top 20 percentile.

Complex Understanding:

What Google lacks is the details and confidence in what it has understood. What I call "complex understanding". For the moment Google has this understanding for very few brands - perhaps 5% or less! The biggest opportunities are here - Google gives a significant advantage to brands it is sure it has correctly understood in detail. Understanding MeasurementsNote: That first line actually goes all the way up to about 80... Google lacks complex understanding of well over 80% of brands.

What is Google's take on credibility?

Once again, Google is not starting from scratch; it already has an opinion about the credibility of your brand (good or bad). It has a great deal of information to base it's "opinion" on. Credibility MeasurementsYou will gain a significant competitive advantage by pushing up into the top 20 percentile.

What You Need to Do - Starting Today

Communicate - Convnice - Kalicube.proWhat you can do to get ahead of the competition.

Communicate - You can sit back and hope that it will understand your brand and your offers. Or you can actively communicate to Google who you are and what you offer.

Convince - You can sit back and hope that it will realize that you and your offer are the best of the best. Or you can seek to convince it that your offer is the best, most credible available.

Looking at it from another angle... 
The onus is on you

Communicate so that Google understands and convince the search engine that your brand is the most credible solution.

Communicate - Understanding -

Techniques that will help you communicate effectively and improve understanding:

Advice: Do a search for your brand name right now and see what comes up pages 1 and 2. Then work to ensure that every result on those first two pages reflects a positive, coherent, and standardized view of who you are and what you do.

  1. Semantic HTML5.

  2. Structured Schema markup.

  3. Quality content using appropriate vocabulary.

  4. Get / improve links and mentions from highly pertinent brands.

  5. Get / improve confirmation by third parties (NAPs).

  6. Confirm and valorize off-page mentions and links on your site.

Convince - Credibility -

Techniques that will help you convince Google you are highly credible

Advice: Do a search your brand name plus the word “reviews” right now and see what comes up pages 1, 2 and 3. Those are the opinions that Google thinks are the most representative of public opinion about your brand. The first thing to do is work to ensure that every result on the first two pages reflects positively on your brand.

  1. Drown the bad stuff by promoting the positive results on pages 2 and 3 (don't create spammy content of your own - that will come back and bite you).

  2. Get positive reviews on the review platforms that appear on pages 1 and 2.

  3. Ask journalists to update articles that appear on pages 1 and 2.

  4. Generate positive client feedback social media / reviews (including your reaction).

  5. Obtain peer group confirmation (associations, conferences, etc.).

  6. Get vocal support from thought leaders / journalists.

  7. Get links and mentions from highly pertinent brands.

  8. Confirm and valorize all the above on your own site.

Sidenote: Understanding and credibility need to evolve in tandem. 

To attach any sort of credibility to your brand or your offers, Google needs to understand who you are.
Credibility without understanding means nothing.

Being understood, but not being credible (bad reviews, negative social media, etc.) is obviously bad.
Understanding without credibility will kill your brand.

A Simple View For the Future (Answer Engines)


  • Google wants to understand. It is your job to communicate and educate it.
  • Google seeks credibility. It is your job to convince.

Together, Understanding and Credibility Give Brand Authority

Coming soon: why you should be obsessed with 
Brand Authority (forget Domain Authority)


I have been doing extensive research for since January 2017. This article is based on that research... plus I used some figures from to illustrate Google's current level of understanding and appreciation of credibility. Here is that data we have collected and analyzed in the past year. in Numbers

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Almost 2 decades of experience: I started promoting my first website in the year Google was incorporated and built it up to become one of the top 10,000 most visited sites in the world (60 million visits in 2007).
Today I am a search marketing consultant, speaker and author on all things search / answer engine optimisation #SEOisAEO

My column will outline how we in the world of SEO can successfully segue into AEO – Answer Engine Optimization. I will develop the details of the three major concepts your AEO strategy should center on: relevance, communication and credibility. Within these concepts, luckily for us, most (white hat) SEO tactics we use today will remain. #SEOisAEO
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Thank you for the great article. We’ll sure use these tips. We’ve got so inspired that we’ve translated it into Russian so that our non-English speaking colleagues can read it too
Wow, this is huge. I think sometimes we get so caught up in our marketing strategies that we even forget to see the long term goals. great read and something everyone should consider.
Jason Barnard
Rading‘ Julius
Thanks !
Big compliment :)
Nice thing with this approach is that it *should* fit neatly into / alongside your marketing strategies.
Jennifer Bell
I read the entire article and still don't understand what "AEO" refers to. What am I missing here?
Jason Barnard
Jennifer Bell
Hi Jennifer

Google is turning i to an answer engine - ie a search engine that gives one single result - the correct answer.
As opposed to a search engine today that lets us choose between multiple results

We need to otpimise for search engines that give only one result. the answer.
AEO - Answer Engine Optimisation
Jason Barnard
wow, thank you so much . Jason Barnard... I was finding about "AEO"
Hi Jason. very excellent article, i have ask one question ? how to fix duplicate titles and meta descriptions for automated pages? i facing this problem my website is [removed by moderator]
Jason Barnard
Hi Kanth
Your question is very vague. Plus that is not the subject of the article, so even if I understood what you are asking, I don't think it is appropriate to answer.
Hi Jason,

Very good article with great tips,.I got the useful information what I needed.thanks!
Jason you are really a legend :) From today I'm one of your fan :) What you say if someone only build brands or profile links?
Jason Barnard
Pinoy Tambayan
Thanks !
I say no to profile links
I say yes to building brand mentions AS LONG AS Google understands who the brand is.
Ashok Sharma
Jason, great piece of content. The AEO is new to me. Thanks for sharing this. What are your take on on https and how we can improve links and mentions.
Jason Barnard
Ashok Sharma
Hi Ashok
Improving links and mentions - I suggest approaching this less from a linkbuilding angle, and more from a more traditional "press officer" angle.
One source of links an mentions that many people miss out on is industry sites where you can legitimately have a profile...
Getting lots of social buzz (especially the indirect effects this can have) is a great way to improve your brand's mentions / public visibility and credibility for SEO
Akash Srivastava
Excellent analysis, Jason!
Vaibhav Kumar Aggarwal
Great content. We very well know traditional SEO is going to change to Mobile+Voice+PWA in near future.
wow nice and informative article.
Saravanan Subramani
Brilliant approach.! This is for the first time I heard about AEO. This is a very new experience to know about this. Thanks Jason for an excellent topic today. !
Jason Barnard
Saravanan Subramani
Hey Saravanan

Thanks !
This is a subject that cannot be ignored or sidestepped.
Check out these videos from Trustpilot
Hopefully we will be doing something similar with SEMrush soon
Saravanan Subramani
Jason Barnard
Yeah yeah it's true jason..!!

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