AI for SEO: The Ultimate Guide to Use Cases and Tools
If you rely on search engine optimization (SEO) to attract and convert traffic on your site, you need to know what AI can do for you.
Today, AI tools for SEO are being used to:
- Increase search traffic
- Find keyword opportunities
- Increase rankings for existing and new topics/terms.
- Generate content that ranks
- Unlock performance in voice search
- Manage local and global search listingsScale and automate common SEO activities
Over the last five years, we've studied hundreds of AI use cases and thousands of tools. In that time, we've developed useful knowledge about how AI can transform SEO.
In this post, we share the top things we've learned, including:
- What artificial intelligence is (and isn't)
- Why AI matters for SEO (and why you need an AI SEO tool)
- Use cases for AI SEO tools
- Vendors that offer AI SEO tools
Let's dive in...
What is artificial intelligence (AI)?
Before we go too far down the rabbit hole, let's talk quickly about what AI is and what it isn't. This will help you better evaluate how AI SEO tools can help you.
Artificial intelligence is an umbrella term that covers several different technologies, like machine learning, computer vision, natural language processing, deep learning, and more.
At their core, though, all of these technologies help machines perform specific cognitive tasks as well as or better than humans.
For instance, AI-powered computer vision systems in self-driving cars are able to identify obstacles just like people do, allowing the machine to take the wheel.
Your favorite voice assistant, like Alexa or Siri, understands your words just like another person, then responds in kind-all using AI.
Amazon and Netflix use AI recommendation engines to offer up products and movies you might like, making assumptions about your preferences just like a fellow product or movie enthusiast might.
AI isn't just automation, though it may include elements of intelligent automation.
AI takes things further.
AI uses advanced computer science techniques and superior computational firepower to extract insights from large sets of data.
Over time, AI can even learn how to improve its performance based on past outcomes. Unlike traditional software, AI can get smarter over time.
In some cases, the most advanced AI technology can find patterns humans would never see and recommend actions that lead to success. This all happens at a speed and scale that far outperforms the human mind at certain tasks.
That unlocks potentially unlimited performance gains and possibly insurmountable competitive advantage.
There are a ton of complexities to different types of AI. You may hear about different types of AI like machine learning, deep learning, or natural language processing (NLP).
However, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to get started with AI. You don't even need a technology background. You just need to know that AI:
- AI finds patterns in data.
- It uses those patterns to make predictions.
- It then learns from the success or failure of its predictions how to make more accurate predictions—over and over again.
Despite the incredible things AI can do, it's not magic. It's math.
So, why would you want to use AI for SEO?
Why AI benefits SEO
Search engines rely on artificial intelligence and machine learning to serve up answers to natural language queries every day across desktop, mobile, and voice search.
In fact, AI models from companies like Google essentially determine how your content ranks and who sees it. Any time we talk about changes to "the algorithms" that govern search, we're talking about changes to a search engine's AI.
For years, human beings have been playing a game with rules set by machines. We try to gain insight into what signals search engines value (comprehensive content, topic clusters, keyword phrases, etc.). Then, we attempt to meet those standards so our content and websites rank favorably.
There's no doubt that plenty of talent SEO professionals play this game at an expert level, creating immense value for their companies. But, there a lot of ways in which machines can play this game better than people.
In fact, artificial intelligence is now being used to help individual companies do SEO better and faster because it can analyze patterns in data faster than humans, at scale, and in real-time.
AI powered SEO tools are being deployed today by search pros to do more with less, and gain competitive advantages that manual work alone just can't match.
That includes using AI to optimize existing content, suggest new topics to target, and even to automate existing SEO tasks.
Thanks to this power to augment and improve AI marketing use cases like SEO, McKinsey analysts writing in Harvard Business Review estimate that AI can create $1.4 to $2.6 trillion of value in marketing and sales alone.
There's no question...
Used correctly, AI can give you SEO superpowers.
Let's explore some ways it does that.
Use cases for AI in SEO
What keywords should you target with your website and content?
It's the first, and often repeated, question on every SEO professional's mind.
In the past, this question was answered by conducting hours, days, or weeks of keyword research using a traditional SEO tool. But at best, you receive surface-level data from these tools. You can learn general search volume and difficulty.
Make no mistake: This is useful information. But it is little more than existing data being displayed in a central dashboard or platform. And that data is limited. Even if you know general metrics, you have little idea how your specific site will perform and compete when you go after keywords.
AI tools on the market today have the ability to do keyword research on steroids.
These tools don't just deliver standard keyword research. They have the ability to deliver personalized keyword research tailored specifically to your website's authority. By analyzing your entire site, these tools determine how hard it is for you specifically to rank for a given topic.
This type of "personalized difficulty" opens up a new universe of possibilities...
You might find that easy difficulty keywords aren't actually that easy for your site to rank for, perhaps due to search engines not seeing you as an authority on the topic. This saves you countless hours and dollars wasted on content creation that doesn't produce results.
You might also find that certain hard keywords are actually easy for you to rank for, thanks to your site authority. This gives you a competitive advantage when creating content around the topic, helping your brand punch above your weight.
Using AI, you're leaps and bounds closer to ranking on Page 1.
Develop SEO strategy
AI doesn't just find keywords for you. It helps you develop a rock-solid overall SEO strategy.
Today, AI tools exist that can actually recommend what topics to cover whenever you create content. This helps you outrank the competition and avoid topic gaps in your content. AI will also break down for you related topics and searches to cover in new content.
For instance, I am currently using an SEO tool to help me write this article...
The tool tells me which topics I need to address in order to adequately cover the topic and rank higher in search. Some of these topics are obvious, like "AI tools for SEO." But others, including the names of specific tools, are topics I didn't even consider writing about.
I can then take these insights and plan out future content, which will eventually be interlinked with this article to create an effective "topic cluster" that has high authority and search dominance.
While you should use AI for SEO strategy, you can also leverage it to get quick wins on individual articles.
Using the same topic coverage insights I mentioned above, AI tools will actually break down the effectiveness of your individual pieces of content. AI can tell you what topics to cover, how to outmaneuver the competition, and what length and quality of article to shoot for.
Using "content briefs," AI can actually generate a full list of recommendations for content optimization. It can even tell you which questions to answer and where to include individual links in your articles.
SEO content creation
In some cases, AI can even create content that ranks for you.
Natural language generation (NLG), an AI technology, has advanced to the degree where AI tools can generate hundreds of words of content that reads like a human wrote it.
This content is usually original, accurate (though it always pays to check), and engaging. Human writers are still needed to turn pieces into truly compelling content. AI can't do everything. But it can get your writing kickstarted, and even incorporate specific keywords and topics you're trying to target.
In fact, we recently used AI to write a 650-word blog post that ended up ranking on Page 1 in Google search.
Maintain accurate search listings
Search listings don't just mean your Google results. Searchers across different search engines, mobile search, apps, and voice assistants are served real-time results when looking for your business' information or locations.
If that information isn't accurate, your business misses out on potential conversion opportunities for customers looking right now for your products and services.
But that's easier said than done.
Making sure your business' search listings are updated across local and global listings across platforms isn't something that you can do manually with the ease and speed you need.
In fact, it's a major use case for AI, with AI-powered tools available that make near real-time updates across hundreds of platforms anytime you need to revise your business information online.
Scale and automate SEO
AI-powered SEO platforms can even help you scale up your SEO work at the speed the market demands.
As marketers, we spend a ton of time on manual SEO efforts to optimize our content and sites. Much of this work can be automated, freeing up SEO professionals to work on higher value tasks.
Today, there are AI tools that automatically optimize content, fix orphan pages, self-optimize pages for mobile, and fix duplicate content issues.
AI SEO Software Vendors
Now that you know what AI can do for SEO, you might be wondering what solutions out there actually do it.
MarketMuse is an AI-driven assistant for building content strategies. The tool will show you exactly what terms you need to target to compete in certain topic categories. It'll also surface topics you may need to target if you want to own certain topics.
The result? AI-powered SEO recommendations and insights that can guide your entire content creation team.
BrightEdge is a global leader in SEO and content performance marketing that blends search intent discovery, optimized content creation, and performance measurement into one integrated solution.
The solution uses AI to discover what people are searching for and help you create a content strategy to capture traffic and consumer interest.
Frase is an AI platform that tells marketers which questions prospects are asking, then helps them create content around those questions. The tool can actively create content briefs on any topic, as well as catalog and respond to site visitor questions.
Companies big and small are currently using Frase to research content faster, drive SEO results, and build smarter content strategies based on actual consumer questions.
HubSpot's marketing automation platform has some SEO features that use AI and machine learning to make search optimization easier. Primary among these is HubSpot's Content Strategy tool, which uses AI to figure out what themes search engines are associating with your content. It also provides AI-powered topic suggestions for what to write about next.
Alli AI uses artificial intelligence to "optimize any website in minutes." The tool requires no coding. And it works with any CMS. Once installed, Alli AI offers hundreds or thousands of recommended SEO actions—all of which the platform can execute for you at the click of a button.