AI’s Influence on SEO: Opportunities & Challenges
- AI & SEO. AI is changing SEO, enhancing understanding of language and user queries.
- Content concerns. Unregulated AI risks generating low-quality, misleading content for SEO.
- Attribution issues. Authenticating AI’s data sources is crucial to maintain credible, informative content.
As Buster Poindexter would have once opined in the 80s: AI is hot … hot … hot! It seems you cannot read a headline or listen to a webcast that doesn’t tie AI somehow into the narrative. AI is going to take over the world; AI is going to doom humanity; AI is going to take everyone’s jobs; AI can code; and more of the like.
Yes, there is real concern over AI and the lack of regulations surrounding it now. And rightfully so, AI needs some guardrails around it and soon to ensure it is being used in a productive and unbiased capacity to make a positive impact on people’s lives.
But in the short-term, AI is making a real impact on business and consumers right now, and one of the areas it is making waves is within SEO and organic search. AI continues to have real value for benefitting SEO, as it provides a better understanding of natural language and more accurate responses to user queries.
While Google has been using AI and ML in some capacity to power search functionality since 2016, with the launch of ChatGPT the world is reignited with talk about AI and generative AI and how they will impact business and life in general.
Following are some of the ways that AI can beneficially impact your search and SEO strategy and tactics.
Related Article: Where Are Marketers on the Generative AI Adoption Curve?
Content Creation: Balancing Quality and Ethics
In February 2023 Google posted a blog called “Google Search’s guidance about AI-generated content” to establish rules and best practices around generative AI and the content it creates. Google has said it’s OK to use AI-assisted content creation, as long as AI is not used for illegal activities, abuse, misinformation, spam, and you know, sex. Funny how sex gets included with the illegal stuff.
Google has a ranking system for content that is supposed to reward higher-quality content. Anyone reading content today on the web may question the veracity of this claim. Over the years smart marketers have learned how to game Google search results, like they have time and time again.
The big concern with marketers using AI is they don’t use it to make better content, but to create tons of low-quality AI material intended to game the engines. If history is any guide, we should expect the latter.
But Google says that is a no-no. According to its blog, “When it comes to automatically generated content, our guidance has been consistent for years. Using automation — including AI — to generate content with the primary purpose of manipulating ranking in search results is a violation of our spam policies.”
And for marketers who think ChatGPT is production-ready to create a streamline of new SEO-friendly content, the reality is ChatGPT at this point is more of a hand-programmed demo than a system ready to execute on thoughtful content creation. ChatGPT, in order to seem so smart, had to be manually trained by humans with data, and it has only been trained up to 2021. You’ll need a plug-in to get anything beyond 2021, but this data isn’t baked into the model. Nothing post that date is included in ChatGPT results.
You simply cannot create thought-provoking, engaging material for consumers by only using content pre-2021. It is too out-of-date.
Personalization and Relevance: How AI Fine-Tunes Search Results for Users
Since 2016 Google has been using AI algorithms to improve search results. AI algorithms allow search applications to understand user intent and behaviors more completely, analyzing data on search history, location and other user behaviors.
Gathering and analyzing such data allows companies to personalize search results better to target more defined customer segment audiences. Companies are also deploying AI-powered chatbots to help customers search for information, and then using that data and results to inform their SEO strategy.
Related Article: 10 Top Chatbot Providers You Should Know About in 2023
Staying Ahead With AI: Predictive Analytics for Future-Proof SEO Strategies
By using AI-enhanced predictive analytics solutions, whether stand-alone or integrated into other martech applications, organizations can better predict future trends and outcomes. These predictive analytics can inform content creation efforts and optimize SEO and content for user consumption.
Predictive analytics allow businesses to stay ahead of the trends by identifying emerging opportunities to focus on. They also allow businesses to see where they need to improve and how they can optimize their operations.
How AI Automation Is Streamlining SEO Practices
AI can help automate portions of your SEO strategy allowing you to focus on things that matter to the business. After all, it takes quite a bit of time to do things like keywords research and market research, and there are AI tools out there to help do SEO heavy lifting. AI can analyze web performance and user behaviors and provide keywords suggestions, allowing you to create a strategy faster and with more confidence. AI can also help differentiate yourself from competition by offering suggestions for keywords to rank better than your core competitors.
Protecting Content Creators: Addressing Attribution in an AI-Driven Search Landscape
One of the biggest concerns with how AI will impact search rankings and referral traffic is how it will handle attribution back to source content. Now that Bing has incorporated AI and Google launched Bard, its competitor to ChatGPT, how attribution is handled on these platforms needs to be defined and clarified. So far no one is providing an answer to this question, making me somewhat concerned that original content creators will be disenfranchised by lack of attribution through AI-powered generative search.
The bigger issue is the quality of the generative AI content itself, and how accurate it is and valid. Who knows what sources were fed into AI algorithms prior to launch? How does one validate the source material not only due to attribution, but due to source quality? Who is making those decisions about what to train on?
Just recently, an attorney used ChatGPT to help with filings in a negligence case. Well, it turns out when ChatGPT does not have the right data fed into it, it just makes it up. At least six cases submitted by the lawyer “appear to be bogus judicial decisions with bogus quotes and bogus internal citations,” said Judge Kevin Castel of the Southern District of New York.
The lawyer apologized and said he “greatly regrets having utilized generative artificial intelligence to supplement the legal research performed herein and will never do so in the future without absolute verification of its authenticity.”
And how will we all do that? How will people know whether a generative AI program is just making content up to fulfill its mission? No one knows or can say yet.
Organic Traffic in the AI Era: What Happens to Publishers and Advertisers?
I’m also concerned as a media publisher as to what happens when Google answers queries on the same page. The potential lack of organic search traffic that publishers and advertisers rely upon is poised to see some volatility as AI’s integration into search matures. For many publishers, organic search can be 40%-75% of their overall traffic. Bing is providing links to sources, but are people likely to click them if they got the answer they were looking for?
The Future of AI in Organic Search: Embracing Transparency and Ethical Practices
The reality is AI will continue to impact the organic search and SEO industry, not only helping search applications understand customers better as fully-rounded people, but to deliver more targeted results at more defined audiences.
AI can assist in content creation to benefit SEO, which is how Google would like to see it, or it can just churn out tons of low-end search content to game the engines. Google will need to make sure that does not happen and AI is used in a positive way, not manipulation.
Finally, there must be transparency around AI attribution and sourcing. Original content creators should not be disenfranchised and have their identity removed from the chain of content creation. And the sources AI is pulling from need to be authenticated, or else it can be pulling from less-than-reputable sources to shift opinion, not inform.