It feels like search engine optimisation (SEO) has been back in the headlines in the first quarter of 2023 with the rollout of ChatGPT sparking a lot of conversation both inside and outside of the industry.
We recently wrote a post about the use of AI for SEO and the changing landscape in 2023 and beyond and in this post, we want to build on that post, taking a close look at the importance of SEO for businesses of all sizes in 2023 and how AI can help.
Many of the industry’s heavyweights have already weighed in on the topic of AI and SEO (and the wider sphere of digital marketing) including the likes of Rand Fishkin at SparkToro, Neil Patel, and Google’s Gary Illyes and John Mueller.
Whilst ChatGPT has been dominating the headlines, there is more to AI and SEO than ChatGPT. There are hundreds, if not thousands of AI-powered tools that can help with a variety of tasks linked to SEO including link building, keyword research, page title generation, website auditing, copy proofing, SERP analysis, and of course content creation.
Long before ChatGPT was launched, SEOs were already using AI-powered tools to help with the automation of tasks relating to the optimisation of websites and whilst ChatGPT undoubtedly has some benefits, an over-reliance on the tool can lead to negative results when it comes to SEO and should be used with caution.
What is artificial intelligence (AI)?
AI is hardly a new concept. It has been around for years, however, it now encompasses several different technologies including machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP), deep learning and more. If these terms sound familiar to you, it’s likely because you have heard them talked about by Google when referring to their algorithm which has already integrated AI technologies such as ML and NLP to improve the overall search experience.
The reason that Google has already integrated AI into their algorithm and the reason more and more businesses are turning to AI is technology’s ability to perform often laborious and mundane tasks much quicker (and often more effectively) than humans, essentially making our lives easier.
AI is being utilised across a huge range of industries from product development to cyber security, supply-chain management to human resources and now SEO is a sector that is looking at ways AI can help to remove those mundane and laborious jobs.
Does this mean that AI will replace SEO in the future? That’s a hard no.
A lot of what we do is neither laborious nor mundane. Don’t get me wrong. Some things fit very much into that bracket. Writing 10,000 page titles and meta descriptions for an e-commerce site, for example, is a prime example of laborious and mundane. Can I get AI to help me with that? Absolutely.
Writing an in-depth blog post for a client, interviewing industry experts, providing valuable insights, leaning on personal experiences, considering my audience, and tailoring my content to the people most likely to be reading it is neither laborious nor mundane. Trying to get an AI tool to write such a piece would result in a very poor piece of content that adds little value to my audience. The opposite of what I am looking for.
What is AI SEO?
We’ve already touched on this, but AI SEO is any use of AI technology to help with your SEO efforts.
AI SEO has already become synonymous with Google and other major search engines with Google’s RankBrain and BERT relying on AI technology including ML and NLP.
With major search engines all turning to AI to help to improve the overall search experience, this is a clear signal to SEOs that there are opportunities to use the same technology to improve the content you are trying to rank on those same search engines.
AI SEO also encompasses data analysis – an often mundane and laborious task that has become much easier thanks to the power of AI.
Whether you are looking to uncover niche keywords as part of your SEO strategy or perhaps looking to identify content gaps in your content, AI can help with this, processing data much faster than you would be able to if you carried out manual auditing or research.
One thing that AI-powered tools like ChatGPT don’t consider is the user experience. This is an important part of any SEO activity and one of the key reasons why AI will not be replacing humans (or agencies) any time soon.
We have already seen examples of businesses trying to replace human content writers with AI and the results have not been great. The content is poorly written, generic, and often repetitive. It has no clear tone and does not consider the target audience. Reading an AI-generated post next to a human-written post from the same brand immediately sets alarm bells ringing as a reader, adding very little value, and potentially creating a negative impression of the brand.
At the heart of any SEO strategy should be the user and their experience on the website. The content you publish is a big part of that experience so it’s important that you don’t compromise and you continue to publish high-quality, relevant content that adds value to your audience.
How AI can help with your SEO
This is not an AI-bashing post. Not by a long shot. Whilst it is important to point out the potential pitfalls of AI for SEO, there are lots of great ways you can use AI to help your SEO efforts, leading to positive outcomes and improved rankings.
The key is not to become reliant on AI for every aspect of your SEO activity. Use it where it adds value to your business and you will reap the rewards. Here are just a few of the ways you can use AI to help improve your SEO:
One of the most challenging aspects of SEO today is uncovering opportunities that have not yet been exploited. Keyword research remains an integral part of any SEO strategy, however, with increasing competition for the keywords we are targeting, uncovering niche opportunities is becoming more important than ever.
That’s where AI can help.
There are lots of powerful SEO tools and SEO suites that can help you to conduct keyword research at scale, quickly.
These AI tools can identify opportunities that your competitors are not currently targeting, giving you a much better chance of ranking well.
You can obviously discover these opportunities manually, however, it is extremely labour-intensive and you need to rely on some creativity to think about the opportunities that exist that you are not currently focusing on – not as straightforward as it seems.
Tools like BrightEdge use AI to uncover these hidden gems much faster than you could manually, freeing up your time to focus on creating amazing content that is optimised for the keywords and topics that have been identified by the AI-powered tool.
One of the most common uses of ChatGPT is to create content. Whether that’s product pages or even entire blog posts, ChatGPT is capable of generating full coherent content at scale.
Sounds great right? Sadly, not all AI-powered content tools are created equal. ChatGPT for example, is not connected to the internet so relies on a static database from 2021 meaning a lot of the information it churns out is not current and oftentimes, is not accurate either. You tend to end up with a bunch of boilerplate content that is repeated throughout the post, adding very little value to your visitors.
That’s not to say that all AI content tools are bad.
Other AI-powered tools can take the keywords you have identified and crawl the web to identify content opportunities for you including:
- Trending topics
- Content gaps
- Suggested titles to include in your content strategy
With these insights as your starting point, it becomes much easier to pull together a comprehensive content calendar which is both relevant to your audience and takes advantage of content gaps that your competitors are not targeting.
Optimising new and existing content
When we think about optimising content, we often think about page titles, keywords, internal links, and external links.
Whilst these things are all still important, there is more to optimising your content than simply pointing signals to Google about the content.
User experience is an important part of optimising your content. Increasing page experience metrics such as time on page, dwell time, and scroll depth all help to point signals to Google about the quality of your content.
This is where AI SEO tools can help.
E-E-A-T is part of Google search quality raters guidelines and the use of AI can help you to meet the standard required by Google.
Examples of AI SEO tools that can be used to optimise new and existing content include:
- Grammar checking
- Identifying topic clusters
- Understanding the optimum length of the content required to rank for a topic
- Identifying semantically relevant keywords to enhance your article
At Digital Hothouse, we have long been proponents of SEMrush’s SEO Writing Assistant. This is an AI-powered tool that helps to identify relevant keywords, identify what reading level you should be targeting your content at, identifies the top-ranking content for a particular keyword or topic and suggests an optimum length for that piece of content.
The tool also makes suggestions about sentences that it judges to be complex, sentences that are too long, and even individual words that are complex.
We combine the use of this tool with Grammarly – a fantastic AI-driven tool that helps to ensure your spelling, punctuation, and grammar are all on point.
By ticking all these boxes, you can be confident that the content you are posting is high quality, relevant, and engaging for visitors.
There are lots of ways businesses can use AI to enhance their SEO, however, it should be noted that AI is not a replacement for an SEO expert or someone with a good understanding of SEO. Whilst these tools can be useful, like most things, they are only useful when used correctly.
At Digital Hothouse, we use SEO AI tools to enhance what we already do (which is pretty blumming good already). We don’t use AI unnecessarily and we certainly don’t advocate for businesses that are looking to outsource their SEO work to an AI tool – that is a recipe for disaster.
We have already seen some businesses dabbling with AI – most typically for content writing and the results we have seen have been less than average, to say the least.
Google still places a lot of emphasis on E-E-A-T and an AI content writing tool is never going to deliver on any of those key metrics. In fact, in a lot of cases, it actually falls down on most if not all of those factors – it has poor experience (new technology), it is not considered an expert on a topic, it has no authority and it certainly can’t be trusted given the amount of misinformation is has already published.
AI for SEO can be hugely beneficial when used in the right way and we are advocates for using technology to make what we do even better. Talk to us today if you want to learn more about AI and SEO and how we as an agency can help to grow your business using our experience, expertise, authority and trust, coupled with a little helping hand from AI.