Let’s begin with defining artificial intelligence (AI). AI focuses on the creation of “intelligent machines that work and react like humans.” The digital world is constantly introducing new and better innovations to be implemented into our daily lives. For example, devices and software that use semantic cues and voice search to assist in search. The masterminds behind these digital inventions can be expected to come from the large search engine companies. Today’s information will focus on their research and development and how these companies plan to further hone their search engine optimization strategies by utilizing AI in the future.
Hummingbird was released in August 2013. This new update, as it were, was a complete overhaul of Google’s core algorithm. Hummingbird was created to return even better results than what consumers used to get. This new search algorithm would still sort through all relevant content and keywords to find searchers the best results. So, what made it so new and different? Google introduced what they call “conversational search.” This is where people use voice searches, opening the digital world to have a conversation with the consumer.
In the classic search engine, a consumer might type “Starbucks near me.” The search engine would then focus on the keywords Starbucks, which is expected. The game-changer with “conversational search” is that the search engine understands what you’re saying. There’s a good chance Hummingbird will know where “near me” is if you have location settings turned on. It knows you want a Starbucks store to go to. By better understanding what the consumer’s needs are, the more accurate the results will be. Google stated that this was possible because they want the entire query to be analyzed and searched not just keywords.
Hummingbird impacted two search engine factors more heavily than the others. These were knowledge graph and semantic search. Google released its knowledge graph development a year prior to Hummingbird. This knowledge graph provided SERP features that deliver quick, rich snippets related to the search query. For Google to truly understand if this would match consumers’ search needs, it then needed to implement the semantic search factor. Semantic search’s goal is to accurately match the SERP results to the language being searched beyond specific keywords. Semantic search focuses more on the intent of a search rather than giving literal results. Hummingbird brought the concept of semantic search to reality, allowing results to deliver relevant and helpful information.
How Does AI Affect SEO?
Implementing AI doesn’t negatively affect search engine optimization. Granted, companies may need to update their SEO strategies to keep up with the changing market. However, having AI offers opportunities to improve SEO. Three areas that we’ll be focusing on below are insights, automation and personalization.
Artificial intelligence is created to be human-like, right? The answer is yes. This allows AI to be able to process and analyze data trends. This is done at a level that would be extremely difficult for humans to replicate, making AI a vital tool in the future of SEO. AI software can sift through all the “noise” and present clean results that allow companies to make knowledgeable decisions. A few examples where AI can assist in SEO insights are website performance analysis, pay-per-click spending and market trend analysis. But how does a company use AI for SEO insights? Companies need to ensure the content is crawl-able; they map intent to content; they understand the customers’ journey and needs; and they recognize content opportunities.
Managing SEO is no easy task. SEO professionals find themselves spending large amounts of time on managing SEO. This is not something that can be left to its own devices. Paying close attention is required, and it’s a long-term project. Imagine if this part of the job could be automated. That would leave time to focus on content creation and strategic skills. Automation would be able to take over search engine optimization in the following categories:
- Tag Management
- Content Optimization
- Keyword Research
- Internal Linking
In these specific cases, the AI software does replace humans. In the long run, this is a strategic decision so time and effort can be better spent on more difficult tasks of SEO strategy. To implement AI for SEO automation, a company will need to consider which tasks have potential for automation, find a balance of AI and human labor and, as always, focus on user experience.
Personalization is how a company customizes to each individual consumer using relevant content. AI would greatly assist in making personalization a household name in search engine optimization. The best example of a large personalization strategy is the way Amazon conducts business. Amazon has the capability to recommend items to customers based on what they’ve previously ordered, creating a personalized shopping experience.
To make this AI opportunity successful, marketers need to make sure they know their target audience. When they know them, they will easily be able to reach them anywhere and anytime. Companies can utilize AI for SEO personalization by:
- Creating content for individuals, each customer journey stage and delivery options
- Improving user experience and conversion rates
- Nurturing leads across search and social
- Publishing content at ideal times to maximize reach
The Future of SEO
In all fairness, the future of SEO is in artificial intelligence, but that doesn’t make SEO obsolete. As more and more AI products begin to be developed and introduced to the market, SEO will be important to gather and deliver content to the immediate needs of consumers. We have already begun to see the beginning phases of this type of future with the introduction of the Amazon Echo. The consumer asks Alexa a question and she responds immediately, relying on semantic cues. Alexa now offers more by creating lists, ordering products from Amazon, making calls and playing your favorite music, making voice search queries an increasing trend.
According to Rachel Stephens, an SEO analyst at Totally Promotional, search engines are focusing less on keywords and will continue to move in that direction. As an alternative, they will be able to recognize quality signals and deliver results with the customer’s intent. In the future, Stephens believes that organic search will fade away in some sectors because paid search will lead the click-through rate. However, she states that paid will act almost like organic as the search results will not go to the highest bid, as we are all familiar with currently. Instead, the highest bidder with content that matches the searcher’s intent and great user experience will prevail.
The future of SEO will also require SEO professionals to rethink how they’ve always done things. This often is intimidating to these professionals because how they do their job now and produce good results will change drastically. This is because the playing field is changing. Currently, SEO revolves around what search engines want. They want relevant keywords, link building and content. The future of SEO will ask professionals to have SEO revolve around the person doing the searching. Not to say that keywords and link building aren’t important, they are. Just not as important as being able to serve consumers relevant content to what they’re intending to find. And that’s where AI comes in to decide the rankings.
As mentioned above, bidding on keywords and building an abundance of links will not be the main focus anymore. What will marketers need to be successful in this new SEO generation? Content. Quality content. Search engines will still need to pull information and that’s when companies and marketers need to make sure they’re ready. Content is expected to become more precise, so the search engines can deliver results quickly. And searchers won’t need to be sorting through a list of possible matching results, rather they’ll be given a direct answer immediately. Optimizing content to be more exact will be crucial, but it won’t be the only factor. Quality content will be key, as it is now, but in a different form. Content will be similar to that of what traditional marketers create, but online. Visuals, videos and interactive content are a few examples. Link building will also be enhanced by transforming into relationship building and networking.
It’s clear that AI will take the SEO game in a new direction. What the world knows now will be very different in the near future. As AI developers continue to introduce new ideas and capabilities to the market, SEO professionals will need to evolve with the changes to ensure they continue to be successful. What they’ve always done will not produce the same results as it once did. By focusing on insights, automation and personalization, SEO professionals can begin to integrate the future into their strategic plan. AI will benefit SEO by tailoring to the searcher’s needs directly by understanding their intent and semantic cues. Professionals can then help their searchers by having a great user experience and content that delivers exactly what they were looking for. This is the basis of how we can expect AI to assist SEO in taking the SEO game to the next level.