In the not-so-distant past, artificial intelligence was the stuff of science fiction movies and novels. Not so anymore. The groundbreaking technology has kick-started a fresh wave of technological innovation and it sweeps across every sector.
As the digital landscape has been the most influenced by artificial intelligence, digital marketing is not exempt, especially SEO. More marketers and SEO experts report adopting AI tools and methods to outperform their competitors. That is inevitable, since search engines, led by Google triggered the wave of AI changes in SEO.
The best advantage of AI in SEO is how it makes it easier to work at scale. Some impacts on different aspects of SEO are examined below.
The most obvious manifestation of AI in SEO is in how it is changing how search queries are processed. Google itself has released major AI updates to its algorithm for text-based searches. Likewise, AI has tremendous impacts on voice searches, which are increasing rapidly.
The RankBrain update introduced the extra dimension of artificial intelligence to SEO. It was introduced in 2015 as an upgrade to the earlier Hummingbird update. With Hummingbird’s ‘semantic search’, Google could analyze the context of search queries, rather than just the exact words. RankBrain took a step further in intelligently deciphering search intent. Using machine learning, RankBrain can analyze and ‘comprehend’ previous queries to present more accurate results for even never-seen-before queries. In 2016, Google revealed that it was one of its top three ranking signals.
The 2019 BERT update is Google’s latest major effort in incorporating artificial intelligence in the search algorithm. The acronym stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. BERT uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) to improve how the algorithm processes queries. It enables the analysis of search queries by context and word relations. Before BERT, the algorithm would analyze words in a query one by one, sequentially. BERT brings computers closer to processing language like humans do, in grasping the subtle nuances that make up the meaning of expressions.
With the proliferation of virtual assistant tools and other smart devices, we have witnessed a corresponding increase in voice search, making it a strong competitor to text-based search. People write and speak differently and so many of the factors that have determined text-based search queries don’t matter with voice search, which introduces a more conversational tone. This also reflects in the length of queries, as voice queries are longer and more nuanced.
Search engines must turn to Natural Language Processing and machine learning to understand voice searches better and return the needed results. Therefore, whether you are optimizing for text-based searches or voice searches, user intent must be your prior consideration.
Artificial intelligence also has the potential to reinvent content marketing, especially in keyword research and content optimization. While there is still some gap in time until when AI-generated content can compete with human-written content in authenticity, there is a lot that marketers and professional SEO experts can gain by turning to AI to optimize their content strategy.
Text mining (also called ‘text analytics’) can be used to analyze texts to reveal SEO problems, uncover keyword opportunities, and discover new topics. It may also prove useful in analyzing the texts and content strategies of competitors to determine ways to best them.
Already, many tools used in content creation and optimization incorporate AI and machine learning capabilities, even if you don’t realize it. For instance, the editing tool Grammarly uses AI to highlight mistakes and enhance your writing. So also do many other content strategy tools.
SEO Data Analytics
SEO deals with a lot of data and reports, to the point of overwhelming as the industry gets increasingly competitive. Many big websites turn to artificial intelligence tools to boost their SEO performance. These tools incorporate smarter data analytics and intuitive reporting that allows human experts to make better insights-backed decisions.
For instance, Google Analytics includes ‘Analytics Intelligence’, a feature that enables you to make sense of your SEO data better for smarter decisions through machine learning. Users can ask Analytics Intelligence questions about their data, whether on performance, for comparison, or to chart trends.
One area of analytics that could use AI-powered insights is for deeper conversion attribution analysis. Attribution analysis helps to determine what is responsible for customer behavior, specifically conversions, by monitoring their interactions with your brand and content.
With machine learning, marketers can monitor preferences and track engagement to provide AI-backed user insights. AI data is useful for understanding user attitudes and developing more personalized content. One feature of hyper-personalization that results from AI in SEO is the use of dynamic landing pages, personalized for each user to diminish the odds of conversion. Another is that it would enable marketers to introduce an omnichannel strategy, providing customers with unique experiences across multiple channels.
Artificial Intelligence has found a viable ground in SEO and there is no doubt it would blossom. It is left to marketers and SEO specialists to adapt to the changes imposed by the influence of AI and machine learning.