Generative Engine Optimization (GEO) vs Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Understanding the Difference

Learn the difference between SEO and GEO, and how to craft content that appeals to both old-school and AI-driven search engines.

Written by
Daniel Højris Bæk
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February 20, 2024

I recently wrote about a study that coined the term Generative Engine Optimization (GEO) as the researchers focused on how to optimise for greater visibility in AI searches (Google SGE, BingChat, ChatGPT etc).  

But what is the difference between this new discpline and then our classic Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?  

Both aim to increase the visibility of websites, but they do so in different ways and in response to different types of search engines.  

Getting the hang of SEO and GEO is a must for SEO pros who want to craft top-notch content that's a hit on both old-school and AI-driven search engines.  

It's like knowing the secret handshake at two different clubs! (yes, sorry, this was a metaphor suggestion by the AI as I write the article. I think it is a bit too much, but funny at the same time 😃)  

What is SEO and what is GEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is a well-known strategy that focuses on optimizing websites to rank higher in traditional search engine results pages (SERPs).  

It involves using targeted keywords, creating high-quality content, and building backlinks, among other tactics. SEO is primarily concerned with how search engines like Google and Bing crawl and index websites.  

Generative Engine Optimization (GEO)

On the other hand, GEO is a newer concept that has emerged in response to the rise of AI-driven search engines, also known as generative engines.  

Google Bard Search Result example

These engines, such as Google's Search Generative Experience (SGE) and BingChat, go beyond simply retrieving information. They generate comprehensive responses by synthesizing information from multiple sources.  

GEO involves optimizing content to increase its visibility in the responses generated by these AI-driven search engines.  

According to a study I mentioend initially, GEO methods such as including citations, quotations from relevant sources, and statistics can significantly boost a website's visibility in AI search results.  

Different Targets

The key difference between SEO and GEO lies in the type of search engines they target.  

The classic Google Search Result Page vs Google Bard

While SEO is designed for traditional search engines that list websites in response to a user's query, GEO is designed for AI-driven search engines that generate comprehensive responses.  

Measuring Success in SEO and GEO

Another significant difference is the metrics used to measure success.  

In SEO, metrics such as click-through rate, bounce rate, and time spent on page are commonly used.  

However, these traditional metrics may not be sufficient for generative engines. Instead, GEO proposes a set of impression metrics that measure the visibility of citations and their relevance to the user query.  

It's also worth noting that while SEO strategies can be applied universally across all types of content, GEO strategies may vary depending on the domain.  

For instance, authoritative language may work best for improving historical content, citation optimization may benefit factual queries, and statistics may enhance law and government topics.  

A summary of SEO vs GEO

In conclusion, both SEO and GEO are essential strategies for increasing website visibility, but they cater to different types of search engines.  

SEO GEO
Definition A strategy that optimizes websites to rank higher in traditional search engine results pages (SERPs). A newer concept that optimizes content for visibility in responses generated by AI-driven search engines, also known as generative engines.
Target Traditional search engines like Google and Bing that list websites in response to a user's query. AI-driven search engines like Google's Search Generative Experience (SGE) and BingChat that generate comprehensive responses.
Metrics Uses metrics like click-through rate, bounce rate, and time spent on page. Proposes a set of impression metrics that measure the visibility of citations and their relevance to the user query.
Strategies Can be applied universally across all types of content. May vary depending on the domain. For instance, authoritative language may work best for historical content, citation optimization for factual queries, and statistics for law and government topics.

As AI-driven search engines continue to evolve, the importance of understanding and implementing concepts and methods such GEO alongside traditional SEO methods key increasing.  

SEO professionals must adapt to this new paradigm to ensure their content remains visible and relevant in the changing digital landscape. No matter what happens in the different search engines.  

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of using GEO over SEO?

While SEO remains crucial for traditional search engines, GEO offers the advantage of optimizing content for AI-driven search engines. This can lead to increased visibility in AI-generated responses, potentially reaching a wider audience.  

Can GEO and SEO be used together?

Absolutely.  

In fact, it's recommended to use both strategies to ensure maximum visibility across all types of search engines. While SEO targets traditional search engines, GEO focuses on AI-driven ones.  

How can I learn more about GEO?

There are several resources available online to learn about GEO. You can start by reading research papers and articles on the topic, attending webinars, or enrolling in digital marketing courses that cover the subject.  

Is GEO more important than SEO?

Neither is more important than the other. Both have their unique benefits and target different types of search engines. The key is to understand the strengths of each and use them in a complementary manner.  

How can I measure the success of my GEO efforts?

GEO proposes a set of impression metrics that measure the visibility of citations and their relevance to the user query. These metrics can help you assess the effectiveness of your GEO strategies.  

Will GEO replace SEO in the future?

It's unlikely that GEO will replace SEO entirely. While AI-driven search engines are becoming more prevalent, traditional search engines still play a significant role in how users find information online. Therefore, a balanced approach that incorporates both SEO and GEO is recommended.  

Generative Engine Optimization (GEO) vs Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Understanding the Difference

This is an article written by:

+20 years of experience from various digital agencies. Passionate about AI (artificial intelligence) and the superpowers it can unlock. I had my first experience with SEO back in 2001, working at a Danish web agency.