Keep­ing up with AI-dri­ven devel­op­ments in the search indus­try is the new nor­mal for search mar­keters.

Tech­no­log­i­cal break­throughs, such as advance­ments in voice recog­ni­tion and the cre­ation of pow­er­ful machine learn­ing algo­rithms, great­ly impact how peo­ple search – and con­se­quent­ly how we do search engine opti­miza­tion.

The idea of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence tak­ing over the dig­i­tal land­scape can be daunt­ing to some mar­keters who view it as a risk to their pro­fes­sion­al careers.

But while there is still a lot of guess­work involv­ing the top­ic, there is like­wise ample knowl­edge avail­able for mar­keters who want to get up to speed on AI as it relates to search.

On August 22, I mod­er­at­ed a Best of SEJ Sum­mit webi­nar pre­sent­ed by Pur­na Vir­ji, Senior Man­ag­er of Glob­al Engage­ment at Bing Ads, Microsoft.

Vir­ji offered action­able tips on how search mar­keters can lever­age AI today and pre­pare for the future.

Here’s a recap of the webi­nar pre­sen­ta­tion.

Over two decades ago, Microsoft Founder Bill Gates had a vision where com­put­ers could one day “see, hear, talk, and under­stand human beings.”

Sig­nif­i­cant inno­va­tions in com­put­ing have been made since then. The advent of cloud com­put­ing, pow­er­ful algo­rithms, and big data helped make arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence a real­i­ty today.

What Is AI & Why Should Search Marketers Care?

Vir­ji defines AI as tech­nol­o­gy that can:

  • Per­ceive.
  • Learn.
  • Rea­son.
  • Assist in deci­sion-mak­ing.
  • Act to help us solve prob­lems.

Essen­tial­ly, we learn and use tech­nol­o­gy and, in return, tech­nol­o­gy learns us and dis­cov­ers ways to be help­ful (i.e., answer­ing, coor­di­nat­ing, lis­ten­ing, observ­ing and antic­i­pat­ing).

Mar­keters should care about AI because search is becom­ing more intel­li­gent through it.

For instance, at Microsoft, Bing is a big source of their AI data and it makes all their oth­er offer­ings a lot bet­ter. In return, this AI goes and feeds the search engine to make it smarter.

Until recent­ly, a search engine’s job was all about index­ing infor­ma­tion that exist­ed on the web, orga­niz­ing it, and then bring­ing it up when peo­ple typed in their query.

Through advances in AI such as nat­ur­al lan­guage under­stand­ing and machine read­ing com­pre­hen­sion, we now see that search engines are able to some­how under­stand the con­text of the data, as well as the enti­ties and the rela­tion­ships between the enti­ty.

This means the search engine is not just index­ing, it is also able to rea­son over all of the con­tent on the web.

A good exam­ple of this is Bing’s Mul­ti-Per­spec­tive Answers, a fair­ly new intel­li­gent search fea­ture pow­ered by AI.

Any oth­er search engine will try to give users the results that match their par­tic­u­lar query. This can become an issue because it becomes a lit­tle fil­ter bub­ble right where all we see is our point of view echoed back to us and
that’s not real­ly under­stand­ing true intent.

With Bing’s Mul­ti-Per­spec­tive Answers, a searcher will be able to learn more about a top­ic from dif­fer­ent views (i.e., pros vs. cons).

This is just a sim­ple exam­ple of how intel­li­gent search is able to deliv­er way more per­son­al and rel­e­vant expe­ri­ences to users.

AI helps empow­er both mar­keters and cus­tomers.

3 Ways You Can Leverage AI Today

1. Intelligent Visuals

Search is becom­ing more visu­al. Almost 23 per­cent of web search­es in the U.S. are image search­es.

Both Google and Bing’s search engine results pages (SERPs) include visu­al con­tent such as images and videos.

The two search engines also let users search for your words or images.

Image search isn’t just con­ve­nient, it allows you to search when you don’t have the words to describe some­thing.

Visual Search Checklist

  • Opti­mize images.
  • Opti­mize prod­uct feeds (if you are a retail­er).
  • Add struc­tured data.
  • Cre­ate XML sitemaps.

2. Intelligent Audiences

Search is increas­ing­ly the cen­ter­piece of con­sumer engage­ment.

AI and machine learn­ing also ben­e­fit paid search. We can now cre­ate and curate lists of users who have shown
pur­chase intent in par­tic­u­lar top­ics through a fea­ture called In-Mar­ket Audi­ences. This is avail­able both on Google and Bing.

In In-Mar­ket Audi­ences, pre­dic­tive intel­li­gence is able to deliv­er lists of users who are ready to buy. Bing Ads pre­dic­tive intel­li­gence iden­ti­fies users who have shown pur­chase intent sig­nals with­in a par­tic­u­lar cat­e­go­ry, includ­ing search­es and clicks on Bing and pageviews on Microsoft ser­vices.

There are plen­ty of pre-made audi­ence lists to choose from which enable adver­tis­ers to tar­get users who are more like­ly to con­vert.

Prop­er usage of this fea­ture can help increase click-through and con­ver­sion rates and ROAS, as well as decrease costs-per-click.

Audience Checklist

  • Iden­ti­fy the dif­fer­ent lists that you can match with what you’re sell­ing.
  • Add the lists and lay­er on with bid mod­i­fiers. (Start with at least a 15 per­cent bid mod­i­fi­er for most of the groups).
  • Ana­lyze and adjust as need­ed.
  • Fur­ther expand your lists.

2.5 Intelligent Automation

There are also var­i­ous automa­tion options that you can use to increase effi­cien­cies, includ­ing:

  • Auto-bid­ding.
  • Auto­mat­ed exten­sions.
  • Dynam­ic search ads.

3. Intelligent Conversation

Search is becom­ing more con­ver­sa­tion­al. But while adop­tion rates for smart speak­ers are grow­ing fast, voice search per se is cur­rent­ly not that huge in terms of vol­ume.

Right now, voice search use is most com­mon for sim­ple infor­ma­tion­al tasks.

That is not to say that opti­miz­ing for voice search is unnec­es­sary.

At the moment, it might be good not to spend so many resources on it. You should just be doing what you’re doing for SEO.

Voice Search Checklist

  • Imple­ment struc­tured data.
  • Answer ques­tions.
  • Peo­ple also ask” opti­miza­tion.
  • Opti­mize for fea­tured snip­pets.
  • Opti­mize your local list­ings.

Leverage Bots

More com­pli­cat­ed back-and-forth trans­ac­tions, like mak­ing an appoint­ment or order­ing food, hap­pens via bots. Bots could be your dig­i­tal assis­tant or chat­bots.

Focus on lever­ag­ing chat­bots which you can build once and then deploy across all chan­nels.

Conversational Checklist

  • Cre­ate a skill.
  • Devel­op chat­bots.
  • Cross-plat­forms.


Con­sumer and search behav­ior is evolv­ing rapid­ly and AI is going to help empow­er mar­keters and cus­tomers alike.

  • A bet­ter under­stand­ing of our audi­ence gives us more oppor­tu­ni­ties for increased per­son­al­iza­tion.
  • Audi­ence tar­get­ing can enable us to expand our reach.
  • Focus on visu­al and con­ver­sa­tion­al inter­ac­tions.