In the SEO community, we often joke about how often news articles and media pieces have declared SEO dead. From paid ads taking up organic real estate, to Google using rich snippets, we’ve seen so many instances where a big change in the search world has not resulted in the end of SEO. But here comes the elephant in the room – AI. The feared term has taken hold of many industries and threatening to replace jobs everywhere.
Is AI going to kill SEO once and for all? No, in fact, it is a complimentary tool for search. Let’s dive in.
AI’s impact on search is fragmented. There is AI in search queries and then there is AI in content and data collection.
AI in Search Results
I would bet you have tested out ChatGPT. Bing announced a partnership with ChatGPT earlier this year as a proof of life and to get ahead of the AI game versus Google. Google, shocked by this revelation, released Bard, a half-baked AI that was about as ready to be consumed by humans as my first pandemic loaf of bread. What these releases did show, however, is that AI search is more focused on conversational searches than it is on concrete searches with clear intent.
Search AI is best for queries that search engines don’t have the logic to sort out. Are you looking to find recipes with the handful of things left in your fridge? Search AI can come up with some options. Want to look over recipes for chicken marsala? Normal search is ideal. So, while people will use AI search over normal search, most of it will fill in the gaps that search engines can’t properly answer.
There are two caveats to the Google AI search. When performing an AI search, Google will display sites that it pulled information from. So, there’s a chance to still get organic traffic from AI search. This also means focusing on more conversational queries could net you traffic from both AI searches and normal organic queries. The other caveat is that AI search is (currently) free of ads and AI search, when used, takes up a lot of real estate. Big G loves making money. The only thing they love more than money is making MORE money. So there’s a challenge here for them that might limit the exposure of AI taking over a lot of search. That is until AI searches are sponsored by State Farm or The General Insurance (Google if you use this idea, you owe me money).
AI in Content and Data Collection
This is probably the most interesting side of AI’s involvement in search. For one, Google has pretty much come out and said that AI-assisted and generated content is an inevitability (and has already been used to much success). They are creating rules to help prevent AI content from absolutely spamming all search results and turning into another Bing (once again, my apologies to Bing). Things to keep in mind when using AI to help assist or create content:
There are other caveats too. If you use AI content to fully or partially make content you need to call it out in your content. Content should also be human-curated. Copy pasting from a tool to a website is not recommended.
But with all that being said, AI can be great in assisting in:
How This Impacts You
Let’s get down to brass tax. How does this apply to you? What does it all mean, Basil!? Research from MozCon showed that the most successful SEO SaaS companies produced 500 new pieces of content a year. Quick math that is way more than 1 new piece a day. Luckily research also showed that companies can have moderate success with 100 new pieces of content a year. That still amounts to about 8 new pieces of content a month. How much does your content team, or whatever makes up your content team, make on a quarterly basis? From my experience, SaaS companies are lucky to produce a handful of content a month. What if AI could help you get a piece of content to 80% completion? What would take someone the time to produce one piece of content could, in theory, produce five at the same time with the help of AI. I’m sure in execution it’s not exactly that easy, but the takeaway is that AI can help you scale your content production when your team lacks the resources to do so.
AI tools will be used to succeed in SEO whether you join in or don’t. Not keeping up, however, could be your long-term downfall. There’s still a lot to unpack when it comes to AI and creating content, but if we use it in a manner that can be helpful to people and have a fully baked content strategy, then we’ll be in a better place than where my first pandemic loaf ended up (RIP Loafy).