AI isn’t new, but generative AI tools have brought it back into the spotlight. With dire and exciting predictions, ethical quandaries, and the potential for amazing productivity, it can be hard to wrap one’s mind around safely integrating AI in SEO strategies. To help boost your confidence and provide insight into the state of AI in SEO, I’ve put together six different ways you can use AI tools as part of your comprehensive SEO strategy. And, of course, I’ll share the limitations so you can safely introduce these tools into your workflows with appropriate safeguards. First, though, let’s get clarity on what AI is and demystify machine learning.
What Is AI Exactly?
AI is a broad field of computer science that focuses on creating intelligent machines capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence. It encompasses various techniques, algorithms, and methodologies to enable computers to mimic human cognitive functions, such as learning, reasoning, problem-solving, and decision-making. AI is often confused with machine learning, which is actually a subset of artificial intelligence that specifically involves designing algorithms that allow computers to learn from data and make predictions or take actions without being explicitly programmed.
Machine learning is a key component of AI and provides the means for machines to automatically learn patterns, recognize complex relationships, and improve their performance over time through experience. Computers are trained on large datasets to recognize and generalize patterns, enabling them to make accurate predictions or decisions. Machine learning algorithms can adapt and improve their performance as they process more data and gain more experience.
Within the AI field, there are different types of AI systems with specific capabilities and applications. For example, Natural Language Processing (NLP) focuses on enabling computers to understand, interpret, and generate human language. NLP techniques are used in various applications like language translation, sentiment analysis, chatbots, and voice assistants. You may already be familiar with this idea as it corresponds to semantically-related keywords.
Computer Vision, another type of AI, involves teaching machines to perceive and understand visual information from images or videos, which has applications in image recognition, object detection, autonomous vehicles, and medical imaging. And there is robotics, where machines are designed to interact physically with the environment, perform tasks, and navigate autonomously.
While machine learning is a fundamental technique within AI, there are other AI methodologies as well, such as expert systems that use rules and knowledge bases to make decisions in specific domains. Additionally, deep learning, a subset of machine learning, has gained significant attention in recent years. Inspired by the structure and functioning of the human brain, deep learning models employ multiple layers of interconnected artificial neurons to process complex datasets, extract intricate patterns, and make accurate predictions. Deep learning has revolutionized AI applications in areas such as image and speech recognition, natural language processing, and recommendation systems.
There’s a lot going on in the field right now, and since the launch of ChatGPT, the entire industry has been in the limelight. However, only a subset of all of that is applicable to SEO, so let’s niche down.
What Is AI in SEO?
AI in SEO is the use of artificial intelligence tools to support search engine optimization efforts.
With the potential to reshape numerous industries, it’s no surprise AI has been making its mark on SEO and SEM for years. Google has used machine learning to improve its Search algorithm and Google Ads (and they recently announced even more improvements). While these advances garnered some buzz at the time, we’ve pretty much taken them for granted.
Now we’re seeing more existing SEO tools integrate AI functionality into their platforms and the launch of new tools that can make implementing SEO best practices and running audits easier and more intuitive. At the same time, these tools aren’t a panacea. They can’t provide all the fixes — especially without human intervention.
How Can AI Help With SEO Efforts?
One of the most touted benefits of AI is its ability to save users time. If you’re looking to improve your efficiency and boost the effectiveness of your SEO strategy, integrating AI may be the answer.
To start using AI in a way that really supports your goals, first determine what processes may benefit from the inclusion of AI. What’s taking more time than it should? Where are you seeing poor outputs that may be improved with AI? Are there repeatable processes that don’t require much oversight? Take an eagle eye to your current workflows to pinpoint areas of inefficiency or just opportunities for improvement.
Once you have some potential starting points, you can investigate what integrating AI into those workflows would look like. At what point in the process would AI be introduced? What kind of tool will you use? Who will need to provide guidance, oversight, or review?
It’s a lot to consider, but it’s worth the effort to create repeatable processes that help you move toward your achieving your objectives (and not just implementing AI tech because it’s cool, even though it is).
Here are some different ways to start using AI to support your SEO efforts while maintaining quality.
Generating fresh content topics can feel like trying to catch lightning in a bottle, especially when dealing with a competitive industry.
With a generative AI tool, you can dig deeper into your target audience’s pain points to uncover potential topics or iterate on a subject until you find a unique spin. You can also use an AI tool to find gaps in your content strategy or suggest articles related to those you’ve covered but from a different angle. Check out these writing prompts to get started.
I’m a fan of using ChatGPT for content creation. But I do have to note that an AI content creation tool is not sufficient for creating quality content — you also need to add human insight to take your content to the next level.
ChatGPT and other generative AI tools are great for synthesizing what is known. With a bit of prompt engineering, they can also provide predictions. But ultimately, these tools create patterns of existing text. They distill the information they’ve been trained on to provide something similar, not something new. To maximize these tools, you’ll need a subject matter expert who can add their unique analysis. These insights will elevate your content in a sea of generated content.
Think of generative AI as your sous chef — and make sure you have a great head chef that can create those unexpected flavor combinations and add just the right touch of spice.
Content optimization often requires integrating keywords in a way that’s unobtrusive. Using a generative AI tool can help expedite this process and provide you with multiple options. Whether you need to create hundreds of meta descriptions, include semantically-related terms in your copy, or link content, AI can expedite the process.
SurferSEO does a great job of sharing semantically-related keywords to include in content. Its latest feature provides optimization suggestions by highlighting where terms can be included. It’s a little hit or miss, but it can speed up optimizing existing content with new semantically related terms.
You can use ChatGPT or another generative AI tool to craft meta descriptions, page titles, and h1s that feature your primary keyword. With creative prompting, you can quickly get lists of potential meta descriptions for one page or twenty.
As of writing, I’ve seen a couple AI internal linking tools hit the market. These tools advertise that they make short work of internally linking your important content. There are also WordPress plugins (like Yoast SEO and Rank Math) that provide internal linking recommendations on blog posts. If you have thousands of pages on your site, this could make managing your internal links easier. For smaller websites, though, it probably won’t save you much time.
While current AI keyword research leaves a lot to be desired, there’s a massive potential for better integrating NLP with existing keyword tools like Ahrefs and Semrush. The latter use clickstream data to create keyword indices. They crawl the web and collect information about rankings, backlinks, search intent, keyword difficulty, and more. By combining that information with NLP, they can enrich their current keyword research tools and help users build keyword themes centered around semantically-related terms. Honestly, I don’t think it’s a question of “will they integrate AI” but “when will they integrate AI.”
To date, Surfer SEO has proven a reliable tool for identifying NLP keywords that can naturally be included in blog posts. Other tools I’ve tested often highlight barely related terms that sometimes have different search intents or just don’t work for my audience. As with a lot of AI tools — your experience may differ based on your industry.
If you’re just looking for seed keywords and planning to run them through a keyword research tool, quiz ChatGPT about what a person might search if they need to find xyz.
Google uses AI (RankBrain) to power its algorithm, so can we use AI to power our SEO audits? To some extent. Some audit tools now highlight their AI functionality, and I’ve seen new tools that claim to automatically update code and metadata based on crawls, address page speed issues, and even assess website accessibility. At writing, we don’t have any recommendations for specific tools. However, if you have the resources, you can also fine-tune one of OpenAI’s models via an API to help analyze parts of your website.
If you do opt to use such tools, I’d advise implementing a system to double-check findings before implementing fixes. Technical SEO isn’t just about crawling a site and auditing it for potential issues. It also requires analyzing those issues to prioritize fixes and deploying those improvements. While AI can help create code and assess information, an SEO with knowledge of the organization’s resources is better suited for creating an implementation plan.
If you’re looking to add schema to your site, ChatGPT and other generative AI tools may be up to the task. Be sure to expressly state the type of schema you want it to create and provide the appropriate parameters. Once you’ve tested it, you can easily add it to the appropriate page.
AI’s data management capabilities are invaluable for comparing, compiling, sorting, and organizing large amounts of data, making it easier for humans to parse. Whether you have two sets of code or two pages of copy, AI tools can help you spot differences, determine which is more complete, or find opportunities for improvement.
When it comes to the “analysis” part, though, things start to get a little murky.
AI can help explain particular data sets, but whether it should be relied upon to analyze them is a separate question. This is especially true when there are multiple reasons for data variation or mitigating factors. When the data is related to technical functioning — when it’s describing how well a website is performing or the different error codes for all the URLs — then AI will likely be a reliable tool for quickly identifying problem pages in a sea of data. When dealing with more nuanced data, like that for user engagement, that may involve a variety of factors like copy, UX, and design, AI may not be as helpful.
I also want to note that some AI tools may display biases. The data sets AI algorithms are trained on human-made and often include bias. It’s no surprise, then, that AI duplicates that bias.
Challenges and Limitations of AI SEO
Just as with any emerging technology, AI has limitations. Understanding its shortcomings can help determine how best to integrate any AI tools into your SEO strategy and what safeguards you may need to protect your website performance and build robust processes.
Ethical Concerns of AI in SEO
The ethics of AI is an evolving topic. A couple of months ago, an AI image app trained on the work of different unpaid artists caused a stir on Instagram. Users were posting their new avatars that featured styles clearly derived from the original sources. By using copyrighted work for its training without the express permission of the creators, the engineers behind the tool may have violated the creator’s rights. Should those users be held accountable for posting the derived AI images? What about all the text ChatGPT has been trained on?
We’re only beginning to see the tip of the AI iceberg, and there’s a lot of icy, murky water obscuring the ethical concerns beneath the surface.
Risk of Overreliance on AI
You run an analysis on a website, and your AI tool spots an issue. Without double checking, you go ahead and address it only to find out later that the true problem was a compatibility issue with the tool and website’s CMS.
We expect a lot from our tools, and AI tools, with their predictive nature and aura of rationality, give off an air of expertise we can take for granted.
AI tools should never replace our better judgment. They aren’t without fault and can produce errors. Relying on them without safeguards could lead to costly mistakes. Ensure the way you use specific tools aligns with their capabilities and limitations.
If you’ve tried using an AI tool to improve content, you know different tools can miss the mark. From Grammarly suggesting you change a preposition to one that doesn’t make sense, Surfer SEO attempting to integrate NLP keywords into your copy unnaturally, or ChatGPT spitting out dysfunctional schema — sometimes AI leads to poor-quality copy or code. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, AI tools may display bias.
If you integrate AI into your SEO, implement measures to double-check any AI inputs. This could be as simple as hiring an editor or running schema through a structured data testing tool before adding it to a page. Create processes and expectations for your team around the responsible use of AI to decrease the likelihood of mistakes or the implementation of AI “hallucinations.”
Staying Up to Date on Evolving Tech
With tech’s lightning-fast innovation speeds, it can be hard to stay abreast of the latest developments. Here are my three go-tos for staying in the loop.
- Newsletters: If you have particular tools you rely on, sign up for product update emails to be the first to hear about any updates that may impact their functionality. Since these tools tend to offer beta testing to their subscribers first, you may get early access to time-saving features before they’re widely available or advertised, giving you leeway to experiment and identify the best way to add them to your workflow.
- Google Alerts: If there are particular tech developments you’re concerned about, set up a Google alert to get pinged on any upcoming news stories.
- RSS Feeds: I’m a fan of using Feedly to monitor blogs for popular content marketing, SEO, and tech blogs to get all my feeds in one place. (And yes, you can add the Victorious blog to yours!) This helps me read the latest on algorithm updates, AI developments, and lots more.
Whatever method you choose, select a cadence for checking in and make it part of your routine. Change won’t come all at once, so incorporating this into your routine will allow you to catch the incremental updates you might miss otherwise.
Make the Most of SEO
At Victorious, we take a measured approach to innovation. Testing and iteration are key to our process — we want to provide data-driven insights that make use of the best tools available. Simultaneously, we understand that both tech and SEO are evolving, and what works today may not work tomorrow. Our strategic approach to SEO allows us to remain flexible, adapt to change, and prepare for the future. If you’re ready to take your SEO strategy to the next level, reach out for a free consultation today.