Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

How SEOs can make AI work for them

By Manley, CEO of Corigan

With an annual volume of approximately 2 trillion global searches per year (source: HubSpot Blog) Google has its work cut out serving the right content to the right internet users.

It is hardly surprising, then, that the tech giant’s algorithm-based rules of search engagement seem to get stricter every year. And that means – at least up to this point – the life of an SEO practitioner has been made more difficult as time has rolled on.

Fortunately, AI is not just there for the nasty things in life like underpinning Google’s anxiously awaited algorithm updates. More and more, the technology is being harnessed to change the way SEOs work – helping them ensure Google gets it right with their content.

The outlook for SEO is sunnier than expected

Gartner[1] reckons 80% of emerging technologies will be based on AI applications by the end of 2021. So now is the ideal time for those at the sharp end of SEO to understand the implications of this rapid roll-out, and how to put it to use.

Unless you’ve been lost in cyberspace for the past few years, you’ll be well aware of sensationalist stories predicting an end to mass human employment brought about by the ‘rise of the robots’. Some observers claim up to half of all current positions will be gobbled up by rapacious AI[2].

This aligns with a wider industry issue we term The SEO Dilemma: a flood of available tools but a general misunderstanding of what they mean, and how to get the best from them.

SEOs, market researchers and analysts agree with this summation, finding that no single SEO platform currently meets most of marketers’ needs.  Reports beseech providers to deliver strategic innovation and commence consolidation.

Knowing which technology will get the job done for you – and how AI fits into the SEO ecosystem – is key.

Firstly, ‘AI’s going to eat your job’ certainly is not our experience of the technology so far. There will be a balancing effect whereby required human input for some tasks will actually grow – so the net effect of AI on employment is likely to be much closer to zero than the gloomiest of suggestions.

The SEO industry is a good example of this. Sure, AI is coming – in fact, it is already here – and we will get to the benefits in a moment. But it is important to note that one of the greatest effects new technology will have is to revolutionise day-to-day remits.

Simply from a workflow point of view, software will subsume many menial tasks conducted by expensive team members. That means they will be more available to focus directly on value-adding outcomes that boost UX and ultimately build brands.

Secondly, as the scale of organisations’ web operations grows so too does required resource. There are only so many people you can have working on SEO before it becomes totally unmanageable, unaffordable, and the whole thing falls over.

Automation removes some of that pressure from the system, becoming the foundation for scaling in a more sustainable way, and helping firms combat the law of diminishing returns.

AI’s role in rebalancing Google’s power

But how does this help SEOs circumvent the strictures of Google?

Well, the search giant’s product aims to return relevant results based on a user’s search intent. It stands to reason, therefore, that having a better understanding of that intent is the only way to really know what users are after, and also what Google is looking for.

Recently, we have seen Google paying more attention to the way content is created on-site. It has been rewriting meta descriptions to better suit the information users seek based on the intent of their search. The content displayed in results will thus become more important, as will the way Google crawlers consume content, in a bid to suit user demand.

In response, AI-driven tools are coming on-stream that allow brands to take control of their search performance at speed and scale, without needing to grow their team. The tools serve the function of SEO specialist, analyst and content writer in one, helping organisations to:

  • prepare SEO operations by creating keyword suggestions based on Google results intent, and content it chooses to display
  • implement reliable first-party data and industry-leading keyword suggestions
  • reduce hygiene effort and cost, scaling teams without the need to hire
  • ensure brands stay ahead of the competition with tools that keep track of rivals, and changes in their search strategies and results

As organisations seek to solve The SEO Dilemma, AI-based solutions will be a strong option in their toolkit – and a sure-fire way to leverage Google’s authority over content and its consumption as a whole.