2024-06-11-EB-13: The Pathfinder

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EB-13: The Pathfinder


Jim Yu (LinkedIn), founder and executive chair at Brightedge, the enterprise SEO platform used by over 50% of the Fortune 500.

I am also joined by my first guest host, Daniel Griffin (LinkedIn), founder of ARCHIGNES, a search research & development lab building tools for exploring & evaluating search engines.


  • The interview explored AI-powered search, specifically focusing on the emergence of new search engines and the adjustments of players in the market.

  • Jim discusses the rapid growth of Perplexity, which is generating referral traffic to major brands at a 40% month-over-month rate.

  • He analyzes the unique challenges Google faces in adapting to this new landscape, including the potential disruption to their ad-driven revenue model.

  • The conversation explores the evolving role of SEO in the AI era, highlighting the shift from keyword-based optimization to building authority and influence in niche areas.


June 4th, 2024


  • On the changes in the search market due to AI: “Early this year, for the first time ever in the last decade, there was the emergence of new search engines that actually drove traffic, referral traffic to businesses and sites.”

  • On the emergence of Perplexity as a new search player: “Perplexity is growing 40% month over month growth [in terms] of referral traffic to major brands from a [new] search engine.”

  • On Perplexity's impact on Google's market share. "It's like 0.07%. It is not toppling the world order just yet."

  • On the relative non-visibility of ChatGPT in search referrals: “ChatGPT obviously has a ton of traffic, a lot of users. But it generates the answer without a ton of transparency into the citations.“

  • On the shift from keyword searches to AI-powered summarization: "When I click on a link in the AI summary, I'm a pretty well-qualified user relative to somebody who was going to go through four or five different keyword searches to get to that point in the life cycle."

  • On Google's approach to differentiating user value. "Google has been claiming that with SGE or AI overviews, the person that's clicking that link is more high value because they already learned a bunch and then they still clicked."

  • On Google’s actual innovators’ dilemma: “You get a little bit wrong on... it’s on the news, everybody slams them. The amount of exposure just from the waterfront you've got to cover is really hard to innovate. That is an innovator's dilemma, but it's a little different than they can't do research.“

  • On Google's response to AI competition. "I think Google is going to go as fast on this AI thing as they are forced to."

  • On the potential threats to Google's dominance. "Where the crown jewel really starts to get threatened is if core search behavior starts to move. You look at the mobile device, at GPT-4o and multimodal, and at what's going to happen at Apple's worldwide developer conference with the OpenAI deal."

  • On Google deplatforming websites without a mobile version: “As of this week, if you don't have a mobile site, they’ll just de-index you because it's a bad, bad user experience for the search. So they don't want to send traffic your way. You're no longer gonna be visible.“

  • On the evolution of AI agents. “I think the early models of that, if it's going through a web browser, I think publishers will be super happy. It's still the same type of value."

  • On whether AI generated SEO spam is overwhelming Google: “Search engines have always fought this thing of duplicate content. Were they late to the party to detect AI duplicates? Absolutely. But I would say you can see in every single update, they're getting better at this. “

  • On Google prioritizing the largest publishers: “This is much worse with OpenAI than it is with Google. Google has the biggest index, bar none. It has more servers. It throws those resources at indexing the web. It looks at the small guys more than anybody else does. But on the whole, it still rewards the big guys just as a shortcut.”

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EB-13, the thirteenth episode of our podcast, dropped this week. Before I continue, the rules of the game are:

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  • Jim believes the AI-driven search revolution is fundamentally changing how people access information, challenging the established order of the web.

  • He emphasizes the need for businesses and marketers to adapt to this new paradigm by focusing on building their expertise and creating valuable, authoritative content.

  • His goal is to help businesses navigate these changes, ensuring they remain discoverable and relevant in the increasingly complex and AI-driven world of search.


  • BrightEdge uses its extensive index of search data to analyze trends and help clients understand how they are performing in search engines.

  • They have developed "generative parsers" that interact with AI search engines, providing a deeper understanding of AI-driven search experiences.

  • Jim advocates for a new approach to SEO that focuses on building authority and collaborating with influential figures in specific industries.

Limitations and What's Next

  • Jim acknowledges that AI search engines are still in their early stages and have limitations. One of the biggest challenges is the tendency to prioritize large companies or volume of traffic over accuracy and relevance.

  • He highlights the need for increased transparency in how AI generates and cites information to address concerns about potential bias and copyright issues.

  • Jim foresees a future where search becomes more multimodal, incorporating elements like images, videos, and AI agents. He believes the competition for data assets will intensify, making it crucial for businesses to secure partnerships and licensing deals to fuel their AI models.

Why It Matters

  • The rapid advancement of AI in the search domain is reshaping the digital landscape, impacting how businesses reach their audiences and how consumers access information.

  • The shift towards AI-powered search has significant implications for the future of content creation, marketing strategies, and user privacy.

  • Jim's insights into the challenges and opportunities presented by AI search engines offer a valuable framework for businesses to adapt and thrive in this evolving environment.

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