Google is redefining websites, SERPs and online marketing through Lighthouse, structured data, AI and automation.

In the Fall of 2016, Google CEO Sundar Pichai talked about the change from a mobile-first to an AI-first world. “The last ten years have been about building a world that is mobile-first, turning our phones into remote controls for our lives,” Pichai said. “But in the next 10 years, we will shift to a world that is AI-first, where computing becomes universally available – be at home, at work, in the car, or on the go – and interacting with all of these surfaces becomes much more natural and intuitive, and above all, more intelligent.”

Since then, a host of voice assistants, smart devices and other AI applications for real estate have become almost mainstream. We know we’re at a tipping point because public perception of AI is changing. 10 years ago, few people were familiar with the concept of AI and machine learning; however, studies show that 72% of people understand what AI is today and only 28% of them are uncomfortable with the thought of it. That means consumers want AI.

While the AI applications for the buyer or seller are exciting, the applications for brokers and agents, and implications for how they’ve traditionally marketed themselves could revolutionize real estate. As moving to an AI-first world accelerates the flow of information to the consumer, changing how they search, possibly killing the keyboard altogether and replacing the URL with AYA or ask your assistant, an AI-first world will change every facet of how agents market themselves, create relationships and manage the transaction.

As one possibility that is becoming a reality today, agents will be able to focus solely on creating connections as top of funnel lead generation and middle of funnel lead qualification and nurturing become AI-driven. AI-powered solutions will leverage customer data to indicate when someone is ready to sell, recommend a marketing plan, deploy that plan through marketing automation and match buyers with sellers. All of this pre-qualification is done before the agent needs to get involved.

A truly AI-first world may still be 3-5 years away; however, the changes Google has made to its search algorithm and the consumer behavior shift from desktop to mobile to voice search are placing more importance on brokers and agents having rich digital content that is device agnostic. Additionally, the ongoing automation of Google’s tools has enabled companies to focus on more personalized, relevant strategies to acquire and retain customers. Since 2018, Google has been using Lighthouse, a speed tool, as its analysis engine and also incorporates field data provided by the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX) into the tool. Lighthouse scores websites, influences ranking and is a huge factor in what answers are returned to voice-driven queries like “are there any open houses near me this weekend?” And Lighthouse runs on AI. In fact, Google is helping developers improve their websites by leveraging Lighthouse monitoring in real time, alerting developers to updates needed and suggesting what they actually look like. Lighthouse is an open-source, automated tool for improving the quality of web pages and web content and it’s easy to imagine the next step as auto-optimization of digital content, which is already happening in online advertising.

Brokers, agents and marketers are already using AI today, whether they realize it or not. Not being aware of the impact of AI on how consumers find and are delivered information today is a huge liability. As we continue the shift toward an AI-first world, where Google knows what consumers need and has the ability to give it to them with accuracy, intelligence and speed, the brokers and agents that make it easy for Google to understand their value proposition are going to come out ahead.