SEO in an Age of AI

If you’re a fan of the Terminator franchise and/or a doomsday prepper, you may be a bit leery of the sudden influx of artificial intelligence into nearly every facet of modern life. On the other hand, assuming ChatGPT doesn’t become self-aware and try to enslave humanity, you can no doubt see all the exciting potential AI brings to the world – not least of all the world of search engine optimization. 

But what does AI mean for SEO? And more importantly, how can you, as an SEO professional, set yourself up to benefit from it?

Let’s find out…

The Impact of AI and Machine Learning on SEO

Search engines are built upon an ever-changing and increasingly complex algorithm designed to parse webpages, analyze their content and determine their relevance and authority to various search queries. 

In the early days, these algorithms were designed by humans, with engineers like Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and later Matt Cutts (among others) contributing code designed to improve the quality of search engine results. And then machine learning hit the scene. 

Sometime in 2015, Google released RankBrain, an algorithm that uses machine learning (a subcomponent of artificial intelligence) to process search results and improve their relevance. Capable of making changes to the algorithm independent of a human coder, it has been acknowledged as Google’s third most important ranking signal. 

(Side note: Human engineers still make changes to the code, but their “hands-on” impact has been greatly reduced).

But Google, in its unending quest to provide better search results, didn’t stop there. As AI technology grew more advanced, it rolled out and will continue to roll out increasingly complex pieces of software designed to determine exactly what sort of information a searcher is looking for, and then provide results that best answer it. 

So, what does that mean for search engine optimization? Quite a lot, actually. 

AI Content May Soon Take Over

As every good SEO professional knows, content is still king. But whereas in the past, this required human writers, AI is taking over. According to a report from Europol, a European law enforcement group, as much as 90% of online content could be AI-generated by 2026. 

Understandably, this has content writers and copywriters across the globe nervous for their futures, but what about for SEO pros? AI looks like it will actually be a boon for them.

For one thing, an improved semantic understanding by machines will help webmasters optimize their content for user needs, analyzing existing content and providing recommendations for improvement, including suggesting new keywords. And it can already be used to generate meta tags and other on-page elements that are part of the optimization process. 

SGE Bursts onto the Scene

In May 2023, Google announced an AI-powered search called Search Generative Experience, or SGE. Still in beta testing at the time of this writing with an expected launch date of December 2023, this technology could revolutionize everything we know about SEO.

By using predictive intelligence to forecast trends and user behaviors, it will carry over context from one search to the next in order to help users discover information in a more natural manner. 

One of the big changes is that it appears likely SGE will actually drive less traffic to top-ranking sites for keywords, as it will provide users with an answer to their query right in the results page (think of a better version of featured snippets).

While humans might still click through to a site for more detailed information, it’s going to eliminate clicks from searches like “what temperature do I bake chicken breasts at?”

How this will affect each site will depend on the nature of the site and its purpose. Some people are expecting it to drastically change how online shopping is performed, as Google will provide product suggestions at the top. There’s a lot of speculation, but at this point, no one knows for sure.

Voice and Visual Search Optimization Looks to Capture Larger Audience

Thanks to Siri, Alexa and a host of smart devices, many people are already comfortable with voice search. As AI improves, its voice recognition capabilities will improve along with it, making natural language and long-tail keywords an increasingly important part of any SEO process. 

Likewise, Google Lens and other visual search tools will likely increase in usage and performance as the AI learns to identify objects within context or images. This means metadata, especially alt tags and text, are going to be increasingly important. 

Set Yourself Up for Success

The ability to adapt and pivot has always been important in SEO, but it will only continue to become more important as technology advances. 

To make sure your website keeps generating views, here are some things you can do:

  1. Find ways to target your customers’ searches more accurately – Comb through your metrics, track customer journeys or just ask your website visitors what they’re looking for. This will help you find new keywords as well as better serve their needs.
  2. Discover a new approach – Everyone who sells office chairs is probably already talking about “lumbar support” and “ergonomic postures.” But how many of them have content specifically targeting osteoarthritis or herniated discs? Find a new approach and you’ll land that specific traffic. 
  3. Build direct traffic – Worried that search engines will send your targets to the competition? Get them to your site directly by including your URL in your advertising and providing specific calls to actions and benefits for visitors. 
  4. Spend more time on strategy and less on busy work – SEO success requires creativity. But most SEOs have their days filled with mundane (but important) tasks like reporting. Evisio takes care of this problem. 

Whether you’re looking to simplify reporting or want to automate website analysis, this groundbreaking platform eliminates the tedious work from SEO, regularly scanning any website and providing you with easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions for improving search rankings. 

You really should see it for yourself by claiming your free trial today

Image source: Photo by Alexander Sinn on Unsplash

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