Artificial Intelligence and the future of SEO

Posted by Noah Rue on 23 Jul, 2020
View comments SEO
AI is here to stay, but SEO is far from dead. Learn how your SEO needs to adapt in a fast changing world.

AI and SEO

“Artificial intelligence is the future of SEO,” said Senior SEO Analyst Tyler Thursby of Zion and Zion back in 2017. “Tremendous strides will be made in the realm of AI as these tools find more universal application, improving search by predicting results and adding more personalization.”

AI technologies look to do more for SEO than many other fields. Search engine providers like Google use AIs like RnkBrain to populate searches with relevant results, while optimizers use data analytics and similar tools to ensure they climb to the top of those rankings.

To remain competitive in a world of growing AI utilization, SEO content needs the analytic and decision-making power offered by AI.

With AI in search engines and its place in SEO and digital marketing, the future is here now. We can’t overlook the ability of artificial intelligence to shape the way we search as well as understand what our customers and readers are searching for. With AI tools, the future of SEO is all about data use and personalization on levels we could never match without it.

Here, we’ll take a look into how AI is already being used in search engines, how AI requires improved SEO strategies, and the inevitable future of this tech in the world of SEO.

Here’s what you should know.

AI in Search Engines

When it comes to the use of artificial intelligence tools within search engines, arguably nothing is more vital than Google’s RankBrain system. RankBrain is an AI-powered update originally implemented to Google’s Hummingbird algorithm in 2015, and it still holds up as the “third-most important signal” that makes up the results of a search query. This system features machine learning and word vector elements to improve the results of the over 3.5 billion searches Google processes every day. The volume here makes it clear how essential AI is to search—there is simply no way a human could process and improve on data results at that scale.

Machine learning and word vectors (Word2Vec, in Google’s terms) are the key AI processes currently utilized by search engines, and great indicators for where the future of AI in SEO is headed.

Machine Learning

There are all kinds of artificial intelligence, but search engines require some aspect of machine learning in the AI that finds and displays SERPs. Put concisely, machine learning enables a computer to act without explicit programming. This is the kind of intelligence enabled by technology like neural nets that adapt and respond to data, teaching themselves over time to better answer queries.

Machine learning gives search engine administrators less direct control over results. However, these neural nets produce accuracy beyond human capabilities, and the freedom self-adapting search engines give developers enables them to focus more on scale.

"Increasingly, we're discovering that if we can learn things rather than writing code, we can scale these things much better,” said John Giannadrea, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Machine Learning and AI Strategy.

This scale and power is the future of search engines, where AI will be able to intelligently better their own responses to queries without the need for extensive developer input. It’s the direction AI is headed and the direction SEO is headed.

Word Vectors

Word Vector models plot semantically linked words and phrases through available data models on the use of those words by repeated use in context. This is one of the key functions of Google and other search engines, as content is presented based on relevance in terms of the interpreted meaning of content as it frequently appears.

This is the aspect of AI that enables you to Google “dessert recipes” and have chocolate cake baking instructions populate on SERPs. It’s all about connective semantic tissue, not direct content. The prevalence of this technology is what has allowed SEO to move beyond keyword stuffing and more into content focus because search engines can now understand relevance without the need for high keyword density.

The future of SEO will trend even more in this direction as Word Vector AI models continue to improve. With the prevalence of voice search and smart home systems, the way people search will continue to adapt and SEO with it.

AI for Better SEO

As search engines adapt with better and better AI technology, SEOs need to adapt as well. From voice to visual search, you’ll need quality content that can meet the needs of a changing medium.

Here’s where AI is demanding the betterment of SEO:

1. Optimizing for voice search

Voice searches are an increasingly common and useful method of accessing information. With the emergence of smartphones and assistants like Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, quickly running a search using only your voice is changing the way we think about SEO.

DBS Interactive reported that in 2019 58% of consumers found a local business through a voice search. This makes thinking about voice search in SEO and marketing essential for any business.

These searches tend to be more conversational, posed as one might when asking an acquaintance. They often differ from desktop and mobile searches and require natural language and highly optimized content. Any SEO strategy should keep this in mind when looking at the future of SEO.

2. Optimizing visual content

“Search engines are getting good at knowing what a video, audio clip, or image is actually about,” says Sam Mallikarjunan of HubSpot Labs. AI has enabled search engines to better predict, label, and connect visual content based on accumulative models. This means visual content creators will need to think about SEO more prominently in their work.

Already, there are aspects of SEO in visual content creation. Factors like descriptions, video length, and keyword tagging are useful in gaining traction on YouTube and other visual content sites. With better AI, content creators may need to adjust specific visuals for quality and algorithm selection. Optimizers should keep these developments in mind.

3. Focusing on quality

Improved AI reinforces the need for quality content. Already, this is one of the most essential factors in effective SEO. As AI-powered search engines are better able to weed out weak content with high bounce rates and poor readability, optimizers will have to put more effort into quality content and backlinking.

The future of SEO depends on quality as AI is getting smarter. Every metric could count against you, so quality will increasingly be key. Grow for the future with social media marketing that reflects a high standard and commitment to authenticity. Build email messaging and targeted ads that display individualization and showcase your brand. In every aspect of your online marketing and SEO strategy, content should have strong personalization and engagement features that keep customers interested.

Improved AI necessitates improved SEO strategies. But marketers can also use AI for assistance with SEO content. Everything from content creation, chatbots, email correspondence, A/B testing, and more is possible with the help of AI and machine learning techniques.

Ethical considerations

While some might point out the ethical concerns of AI in marketing, these tools can be highly beneficial for a marketing strategy while maintaining the security and privacy of customer data. Creating and implementing an ethical AI and data strategy helps build trust in your brand and is just as useful for online marketers as it is for the search engines that display their content.

In a future where AI is prevalent in SEO, an ethical approach to its use is best determined sooner rather than later.

The Future of AI in SEO

Artificial intelligence is already a staple of search engine crawling and optimization. With machine learning and Word Vector programming improving all the time alongside a changing environment of smart devices and voice searching, SEO needs to adapt with the machines that are teaching themselves through big data.

SEO is far from dead. Optimization strategies will be necessary as long content is being created, but to maintain efficiently optimized content, strategists will want to focus on voice and visual searching along with a renewed commitment to quality.

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