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How AI Will Impact SEO

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Make no mistake: Artificial intelligence is having a big impact on search as major players like Google incorporate generative AI features into the core search experience.

There's just one problem...

Innovation is happening so fast that SEOs are scrambling to understand how AI-powered search and chat features will impact their rankings, strategies, and work.

To better understand what's coming next, we spoke to SEO expert Krish Kumar, Chief Operating Officer at BrightEdge, an industry-leading SEO platform.

How is AI affecting SEO overall?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has significantly influenced SEO over the years. Since the introduction of Google's RankBrain, machine learning, and AI have been utilized to personalize and adjust various factors that influence webpage rankings. This evolution has notably curtailed the effectiveness of manipulative or 'black hat' SEO techniques that were designed to exploit search engine algorithms. 

While not all SEO professionals employed these questionable tactics, the shift led to a more calculated and strategic approach to SEO targeting. Instead of relying on short-term strategies or specific tools, SEO professionals now adopt a more comprehensive perspective. 

This includes:

  1. Using AI to help understand, process, and structure data. By analyzing vast volumes of data, AI-based Insights help SEOs focus on the things that drive the biggest significance.
  2. Utilizing data-led insights to understand how users interact with search engines and websites. For example, user intent, conversational type keywords (something we added to our platform over five years), and measuring performance in terms of driving traffic, engagement conversions, and revenue.
  3. Integration with digital media channels and shifting beyond a silo. It's not just SEOs who use its insights. Digital, content paid, and general marketers base strategies on macro-level insights to understand how consumer behavior in different markets changes.
  4. At a granular level, SEO informs all marketing strategies such as email, content, visual, and paid.
  5. Adoption of automation to remove repetitive and mundane tasks to allow SEOs to scale their operations (and skill-sets in content and marketing) while being more efficient. 

Over the past 14 years, we have been consistently integrated AI into our platform to help users understand what will make a significant impact and identify the most valuable actions. 

Additionally, key components of our platform, such as BrightEdge Autopilot, use AI to perform repetitive SEO tasks that are challenging to scale, thereby increasing efficiency. More on that later. 

What does generative AI content mean for SEO?

The explosion of interest around ChatGPT has been exciting to watch. I think the initial buzz was accelerated as consumers (for the first time really) could interact directly with AI in a conversational manner. 

What I do see that may be of concern is the number of chat-based tools that have flooded the market. This is a combination of standalone tools, including chat-based features in websites, and a surge of plugins for any type of marketing application from coding to advanced visualization.   

While many of these are helpful, many will not be, and I always advise experimenting with caution and ensuring humans are at the beginning and end of any generative content. 

Regarding generative AI and SEO, the core principles of SEO remain the same, regardless of how content is generated. Content should still exemplify expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness, and experience to align with Google's guidelines for high-quality content. In this context, the advent of AI doesn't significantly alter the basics of SEO.   

However, SEO professionals will need to collaborate with content teams to ensure that AI tools, such as ChatGPT, are utilized in a manner that adheres to these guidelines. They must also stay vigilant about new algorithm updates and changes in how search engines assess content for originality and user value. 

The rise of generative AI is expected to increase content production and the capacity to create content more quickly and efficiently. It should reduce the manual effort needed to reach customers through organic search, making the process more streamlined and effective. 

How will Google's innovations and search generative experience (SGE) impact SEO and traffic?

While it's still too early to predict the impacts definitively, we anticipate that SGE may influence SEO traffic in a similar way to other 'zero-click' elements. By occupying prime real estate on the search result page, SGE could satisfy user queries directly on the search results page, potentially reducing the need for users to click through to a webpage.

This could result in a decrease in top-level site traffic. However, it's likely that the traffic that does reach a site will be more targeted, potentially increasing conversion rates. 

Consequently, SEO efforts must concentrate more on improving page experience and conversion optimization. These strategies will help ensure competitiveness in a search landscape increasingly populated by SGE results.

It’s important to note that the SERP will be different. However, it hasn't been settled yet, but the preview of SGE is big enough that we can't ignore the fact that Google is signaling it will be different.

Either way, SGE presents an excellent opportunity for SEO teams to shine and optimize content for better customer experiences.

What do SEOs need to do to adapt and what does the future hold?

Amid the many updates and transformations in search algorithms over the past decades, it's crucial for SEO professionals to prepare for future possibilities while staying attuned to current successful practices. The guiding compass for crafting effective SEO strategies should remain Google's guidelines.

Simultaneously, it's crucial to foster agility in website organization and practices. This agility enables swift pivots when necessary, allowing professionals to seize emerging keyword opportunities triggered by technological innovation or shifting user behaviors. An emphasis should be placed on reducing manual labor to facilitate quicker response and experimentation.

Keeping an eye on your competitors is also essential. Observing how they leverage technologies like AI and respond to features such as SGE can offer valuable insights and a competitive edge. Experimenting with these new tools and closely monitoring their impacts on queries relevant to your business should be part of your strategy.

SGE is different and SEOs may need to adapt to some major shifts in algorithms as it develops. Also, be prepared for other engines such as Bing, or other LLMs. 

While delving into these new areas and observing competitors, SEO professionals mustn't neglect the core elements currently driving successful results. Balancing innovation with tried-and-true methods is key to sustainable SEO success. 

What is BrightEdge doing with AI and generative/conversational AI?

We have been on a journey to become an AI-first company for over 14 years. 

Why? We believe that it is essential for every business to have AI-first capabilities. This journey started with Data Cube

Since then, we have been the first to market with next-generation deep learning technology, DataMind, using the same deep-learning best practices applied by Google in its voice and image recognition algorithms. 

AI has been woven into the BrightEdge platform to power search, content, and digital marketing solutions and to enable our customers on their own AI journeys.  

We did this as we recognized the early benefit of AI for SEO, and a time would come when AI would go mainstream.  

By building a robust platform built on AI, customers can rely on a company with AI in its platform. This also helps give our customers confidence that their SEO platform was created for now and for the future and has the agility for rapid innovation and change. 

Take BrightEdge Autopilot, for instance. This, and our vision, was covered on the Marketing AI Institute blog in 2019 in an article and is still very relevant today on How to Automate at Scale. I think Bing is doing something similar today with co-pilot. 

In some cases, BrightEdge Autopilot was built using an early element of GPT to help fine-tune natural language tasks. Today this has been deployed by thousands of organizations, saving SEO teams thousands of hours that would otherwise be spent on building and auditing internal links. 

BrightEdge continues integrating AI into workflows and critical parts of the platform where Chat-based applications make sense for the customer, not just for fun or market buzz 

The primary objective of our advancements is not to replace human involvement in the SEO process but to enhance their ability to perform creative and strategic work more effectively.

With respect to generative AI and new components we are developing, our mission is to empower SEO teams by minimizing their manual work. This could include automatic writing of tags, implementation of redirects, keyword research, or other essential yet time-consuming activities. 

By handling these tasks, we allow teams to focus on strategic initiatives that drive more significant impact. 

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