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Is AI threatening SEO strategy?
Is AI taking over the SEO Industry? Understand how to leverage the technology and its limitations to your SEO efforts.
Artificial intelligence has taken over the SEO industry in recent months.
With the emergence of AI-driven tools like ChatGPT, which can understand and perform all kinds of (SEO) tasks, an ever-lasting question is once again finding its way into lots of headlines: Is the SEO industry dying?
First, if you’re impressed with ChatGPT and think it may be threatening SEO, you may be surprised to know that according to the tool itself, the SEO industry is going to be just fine:
AI may change the way SEO is done, but it is unlikely to replace the entire profession. While AI can automate certain aspects of SEO, such as keyword analysis and technical site audits, it still requires human expertise and creativity to develop and implement effective strategies.
Additionally, search engines themselves are constantly evolving and becoming more sophisticated, making them a moving target for AI to keep up with. As such, the role of SEO professionals in staying up-to-date with search engine algorithms will likely continue to be in demand.
Note: I like that “moving target” point a lot…
Second, on a more serious note: if you have been an SEO professional for several years, you’ll have noticed that search engine optimization has never been threatened by any technological advancements. On the contrary, it always thrives when innovative tools emerge to uncover new ways to do (old) tasks and provide new opportunities.
That said, AI tools like ChatGPT can help further the profession along, giving us another tool to allow our industry to flourish.
Let’s see how ChatGPT can change SEO (and already is):
1. Help with content creation and optimization
Automating SEO content creation is something SEOs have been trying to do for years, and for obvious reasons: Search engines have traditionally needed text to understand what a page is about, and it is not always possible to hand-write content for every target query or search intent out there. This is especially true for large-scale ecommerce websites with millions of SKUs and product pages.
ChatGPT to the rescue? Not so fast – using AI to write content may not be a good idea for at least two reasons:
- AI-generated content will always lack any personality or style (which Google may already recognize or will recognize in the future).
- Anyone who is familiar with Google’s history of finding ways to penalize any scaled content creation or optimization tactic knows that once AI-generated content becomes an issue, Google will find ways to detect, disvalue, and potentially penalize it. While automating your content strategy helps cross off your to-do list quickly, using AI for content creation is not a good idea in the long run, just like it wasn’t a good idea to automate your content creation with any kind of rewriting or translating tools in the pre-AI days.
So where can we lean on AI to help with our content efforts? Tools like ChatGPT can help with many SEO content creation tasks without putting your overall SEO strategy at risk, including:
- Content topic ideas
- Keyword research analysis
- Creating content summaries (for meta tag optimization or featured snippet optimization)
- Putting together content briefs and outlines
- Content structuring, etc.
Here’s ChatGPT categorizing keyword lists by search intent, for example:
And here’s it helping with content structuring:
Similarly, you can ask the tool to categorize your keyword lists by sentiment or create a semantic analysis to group your keywords. The output still requires a manual review, but it is much more effective than performing any of these tasks by hand using nothing but your subjective understanding of those queries.
No one hires a professional team to merely perform any of these tasks, so it is more about making parts of the process more efficient (and leveraging the technology to uncover new ideas that traditional keyword & audience research might miss) than replacing a full-service agency.
2. Save time on small tasks
ChatGPT can perform smaller tasks to help save time. These include simple coding, basic research, and some forms of data analysis.
For example, ChatGPT can quickly put together Schema code based on your instructions. Or it can suggest Schema types that would work based on the content you input. It can provide a clean HTML code for any text input. It can even write simple PHP tools and fetch data from APIs.
It will still be up to a smart developer to put many of those pieces together, fix errors (which the tool makes regularly), test the output and adjust the code accordingly. If you’ve ever worked with dev teams, you’d think, “This is what they are already doing, but they are relying on public code snippets and freelancers,” and you’d probably be right!
In this respect, ChatGPT is just a little helpful assistant that can make many lives easier but still needs human intervention because there’s always a bigger picture, a complex testing process, and a long period of adjusting based on actual human interaction with a page or a tool.
What can’t AI tools like ChatGPT do?
Search (for now)
ChatGPT cannot search, it is not currently updating its own database, and it is not accessing other search engines.
Whether that is going to change or not, we don’t know (one would assume it is likely in the future), but we do know that Google has spent decades teaching its algorithm to deliver a variety of results in response to a human query, so I don’t expect this tool to be able to become Google’s replacement any time soon.
Catch and monitor trends
ChatGPT relies on its existing knowledge base, which it is trained to understand and learn from. Updating that knowledge base seems somewhat of an issue because it would require more training and testing, which is not easy. Otherwise, the tool’s knowledge base would have already been much more up-to-date.
Anyone who has been in SEO for a period of time knows that change is the only constant in our industry where your site may very well get filtered for something you did five years ago. As such, you wouldn’t want to rely fully on dated data from an AI tool to make up-to-date decisions for you.
As ChatGPT admits, it’s not good at aiming at moving targets – the very nature of the SEO industry.
Think like a human being does
Emotions, errors, getting lost, and feeling confused – all of these are integral parts of people’s searching and buying journeys only a human being can relate to.
Being able to understand human emotions and predict reactions is a huge component of important SEO tasks like link-building outreach and viral content creation.
Creating relatable content is also what only a human being can do, and it goes without saying the tool can’t perform necessary tasks like promoting your content, conducting outreach, following up with prospects, and so on.
With AI content, there runs the risk that all content on the web – its tone, formatting, and verbiage – ends up sounding, looking, and feeling the same. And that’s an internet none of us want.
Without integrating with other tools like Google Analytics, Search Console, and the rest AI also doesn’t have the ability to analyze the dozens of reasons your website may have lost traffic and propose solutions to these issues. Ironically, overuse of AI-generated copy may end up being the cause for many of you in the future!
I am sure this is just the start of AI’s application both in SEO and our everyday lives. Soon we will see the days when AI-driven technology integrates with other toolsets, leverages more up-to-date datasets, report analytics and recommendations back to us, and updates (or even performs) on which SEO checks are due in order to make further improvements to our overall optimization and marketing efforts.
But what happens when the AI tool learns to do what it currently can’t?
Again, change is the only constant in our industry, and there will be more and more ways for us to find out how AI-driven technology can make SEO more effective and productive.
However, anyone who has been playing with ChatGPT wondering if the SEO industry is threatened, may have a poor understanding of what an effective SEO strategy is. It requires a much deeper perspective and understanding of the bigger picture, the target audience’s needs, link amplifiers’ interests, trends and emerging opportunities than the current iteration of AI-driven technology can provide.
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