What is AEO (Answer Engine Optimization)

The way people search for information is rapidly evolving. While traditional search engines like Google still dominate, a new breed of AI-powered answer engines is gaining traction, revolutionizing how we find answers online. 

As these advanced AI systems become more prevalent, optimizing your content to be featured in their responses is crucial for businesses looking to stay ahead of the curve. 

With AI assistants like ChatGPT, Alexa, and Google Assistant becoming household names, the time to embrace AEO is now.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the intricacies of this emerging field, know what is AEO, and how you can optimize your websites for it in the coming days.

But first, have a look at what is an answer engine!

What is an Answer Engine?

Answer engines use smart computer programs to give quick answers to questions people ask. When you search on Google or Bing, they show you a list of websites that might have what you need.

But answer engines like ChatGPT, Google Gemini, and Bing AI are different. They directly tell you the answer to your question without making you look through websites.

Instead of clicking around on many sites, answer engines understand your question using technology. Then they just show you the answer right away in a few seconds.

You ask a question like “What’s the capital of America?” or “How do I make a cake?”. The answer engine gives you that exact answer immediately. No searching is needed.

Answer engines use smart programs to quickly provide just the information people ask for, making things very simple.

Now that you’ve understood what an answer engine is, let’s jump onto the next section and know what AEO is.

What is AEO?

AEO means Answer Engine Optimization. It is a way for companies to make their websites show up in the answers given by AI systems when people ask questions.

In simple terms, AEO means creating content on your website that directly answers people’s questions. The answers need to be written in a way that artificial intelligence (AI) computer programs can easily understand and pull that information to provide responses.

AEO involves finding out the exact types of questions your target customers commonly ask AI assistants like ChatGPT or voice assistants like Alexa/Siri. Then you make your website content match those common questions and provide clear, helpful answers.  

Doing this helps make sure your content gives people the information they are looking for when they ask AI a question. It also helps build trust that your website is a good, credible source for the AI to use when answering.

Why does AEO matter?

More and more people are using AI systems to get answers instead of search engines. These AI systems get their answers from websites.

Some AI systems don’t show where the information comes from. But others do tell you the websites they used. Many people ask the AI system for the sources, so they can check if the information is correct.

If your website is one of the sources the AI system uses to give answers, it means more people will see and visit your website. Over time, some of these visitors might become your customers.

Optimizing for AEO is important because it helps the AI systems find and use the good information on your website when giving answers. This allows more people to discover your site through the AI answers.

The AI answer systems are becoming very popular for getting information quickly. Making sure your website is a source for these systems can bring you more visitors and potential customers.

Types of Answer Engines

There are two main kinds of answer engines that use artificial intelligence (AI) to provide answers to people’s questions:

1. AI Chatbots that Generate Written Answers

These are chatbots like ChatGPT and Gemini (previously Bard). They use extremely advanced computer programs to understand questions people type or say, and then generate written answers that sound like they were written by a human. The chatbots can comprehend the meaning and context behind the questions.

They can have natural back-and-forth conversations by understanding follow-up questions. And they can provide in-depth, detailed responses on a huge variety of topics.

An added benefit is that people can give the chatbot feedback on whether its answer was good or bad. This allows the chatbot to continuously learn and improve over time, making its answers even better and more personalized to each user.

2. Voice Assistants that Respond to Speech

The other main type is voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant. These use voice recognition technology so you can simply speak out your question loud instead of typing it.

The voice assistant listens, understands your spoken words, and then responds by speaking the answer back to you.

In addition to answering questions, voice assistants can also perform other voice-activated tasks like providing directions, setting reminders, controlling smart home devices, and more – all hands-free without needing to use a screen or type.

Voice assistants are becoming extremely popular, with around 50% of people in the U.S. using voice search daily. As the AI and speech recognition capabilities continue advancing, these voice assistants are becoming more ingrained and useful in our daily lives.

To maximize visibility, it’s important for businesses to optimize their content and information to be picked up by both AI chatbots that generate written responses as well as voice assistants that provide spoken answers. 

AEO vs SEO

You may be curious about the difference between AEO (Answer Engine Optimization) and SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

SEO is about optimizing your website content so it shows up better in search engines like Google or Bing when people type in keywords or queries.

Some people think AEO and SEO are completely separate strategies. While others view them as essentially the same thing. Both perspectives are partly correct.

On a technical level, AEO and SEO are different because:

  • AEO is optimizing for AI systems like chatbots and voice assistants
  • SEO is optimizing for traditional search engines

So the end targets are different – one is AI answer engines, and the other is search engine results pages.

However, in practice, many of the methods used for AEO and SEO significantly overlap. The tactics you would employ to get your content featured by AI assistants giving spoken/written answers are often the same as what helps your pages rank higher on Google.

For example, some key things that help with both AEO and SEO are:

  • Using conversational phrases and questions as keywords
  • Having clear, concise answers to common questions
  • Building authority and trust signals

So while the overarching goals differ slightly, the actual optimization techniques utilized have a lot of similarities.

Because of this overlap, you can think of AEO as being a subset or component of a comprehensive SEO strategy. Many of the things you already do for search engine optimization will inherently help with answer engine optimization as well.

Take a look at the table below to further understand the difference between AEO and SEO!

ParameterAnswer Engine Optimization (AEO)Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
GoalProvide direct, concise answers to user queriesImprove website ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs) for a wide range of queries and keywords to increase organic traffic
Content FormatOptimized for formats like featured snippets, knowledge panels, voice responsesEncompasses various content types like blog posts, images, and videos. Involves dynamic content optimization
Keyword FocusTargets long-tail, question-based keywords to match user intent accuratelyTargets a broader range of keywords including short-tail and informational keywords
Increased VisibilityBoosts online visibility by appearing in AI-generated answersEffective in boosting a website’s overall online presence and organic traffic
AdvantagesBoosts discoverability, enhances brand recognition, improves visibilityIncreased web traffic, better user experience, long-term results, budget-friendly
Core ChallengesLimited control over formatting, variation in user intent, difficulty measuring successConstant algorithm changes by search engines, increasing competition and saturation in many industries

How to Optimize for AEO

Now the big question: How can you make your website show up when AI systems give answers? What should you do for AEO?

There are several things you can do. These are things you may already do to optimize for search engines. The things to do include:

Research Common Questions and Keywords

First, find the precise questions and keyword phrases your customers use when searching. Look at what questions your website already ranks for in Google’s Search Console.

Also, use keyword research tools to identify frequently asked questions in your topic area. Then optimize your new content to directly answer those common questions and use those keyword phrases.

Think About Why People Search

When you put keywords on your site, think about why people look for those words. Are they trying to buy something? Get instructions? Learn information? 

For answer engine optimization (AEO), understanding why someone is asking a question is more important than just focusing on specific keywords.

Traditional search engine optimization (SEO) is mainly about optimizing content for particular keywords and phrases. However, AEO requires going deeper to understand the user’s intended reason and goal behind their question.

This means analyzing the full context and implied objectives surrounding the question being asked. AEO techniques prioritize breaking down the complete question structure and creating content framed to accurately satisfy the specific information the user needs.

While keywords still matter for AEO by helping to identify common types of questions, the real focus is on figuring out the underlying intent driving why the person asked the question in the first place.

Make your content answer their reason for searching. AI systems will pick the content that does this.

Optimize for Featured Snippets

Featured snippets are the short answer boxes at the top of Google.

Example of featured snippet

As more people use AI assistants and voice searches to get quick answers, there is an opportunity for businesses through answer engine optimization (AEO).

By optimizing their website content to directly answer common questions people ask, companies can increase their visibility in the featured snippets provided by search engines and AI systems.

Research shows these featured snippets at the top of search results get a significant 8.6% of all clicks on average when ranking first. So having your content shown as the direct answer can bring in meaningful traffic and visibility.

To get into these, provide short, clear answers to questions. AI answer systems also look for this type of simple, direct answering.

Optimize for Voice Search

Voice searches are full questions, not just keywords. So make sure your content uses complete question phrases that people might say out loud.

Some people also like to ask questions with their voice instead of typing. AI systems look for content that matches how people naturally ask questions.

Optimize your local business information like address and hours for “near me” voice searches. Try to get your content featured as a “snippet” at the top of Google results, as voice assistants often read those snippets out loud as the answer.

Also, use long, conversational keyword phrases that match how people naturally speak out questions using words like who, what, where, when, why, and how.

Use Business Directories

List your business information on sites like Google Business Profile, Yelp, etc. When AI systems are asked to recommend a business, they often use information from these directories.

Doing these things can help the AI answer systems find and use your website content when giving responses to people’s questions.

Create Informative About Us and FAQ Pages

AI prefers using content from reliable, trustworthy sources. Having a well-written “About Us” page tells the AI the background of your brand/company so it understands you are a credible business in that topic.

A FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page directly listing out answers to common questions also increases the chances the AI will pull that content to use as responses.

Build Brand Trust and Authority

AI systems prefer pulling answers from sources that are trusted, authoritative brands.

Having positive customer reviews, getting mentioned in news/media outlets, and winning industry awards can all increase your brand’s credibility and reputation.

This makes the AI more likely to feature your content when providing answers.

🤔 Should you do AEO?

Now that you have fully understood AEO and its impact on your website or business, you must be thinking about a final verdict from an expert to know whether you should go for it or not.

In my opinion, you must make efforts for AEO because just like you are doing SEO to increase the visibility of your website, it is high time to use the latest technologies or ways to stay ahead of the competition.

Before it gets too late, you must jump into it and take advantage of its full potential

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