In a world where even your toaster wants to discuss AI over breakfast, SEO professionals are currently mastering how to integrate it into their strategies – especially their content strategies.
For those who are still trying to grasp the concept of how AI and SEO can work synergistically for content, this article is for you. I’ll discuss:
How Google feels about AI
Search engines know the power of AI. Technology like ChatGPT (a Microsoft partner) is an asset to Bing and a threat to Google.
That is why Google has been testing Search Generative Experience (SGE).
At the same time, Google has been getting clearer with the SEO community on how it feels about AI content. Just see Google’s guidance about AI-generated content.
In that guide, Google says it will focus on “the quality of content, rather than how content is produced,” but that “using automation – including AI – to generate content with the primary purpose of manipulating ranking in search results is a violation of our spam policies.”
The bottom line is that using AI content is fine in your search engine strategies so long as it is original, helpful and demonstrates expertise, experience, authority and trust.
It is Google’s job to weed out the garbage. And, if AI creates a problem with the quality of its search results, Google will likely find a way to address it. But more on that next.
How Google’s generative AI might impact content and SEO as we know it
The organic search results as we know them today are a byproduct of the fact that Google cannot have 1 million experts on staff. They have to get the data from somewhere.
As I see it, Google will not be the single point of truth. It’s not in anybody’s interest to have Google be the expert – including Google.
So, websites and their content will always be there, and Google will always leverage others’ expertise.
So how will it work when Google starts to integrate more fully its AI functionality?
As it stands now, Google SGE will continue to pull information from expert sources across the web.
Google is testing its AI feature to display at the top of the search results, with the normal search engine result page underneath it, so people can still access the results that way.
As the AI generates answers, it cites the links of its sources so people can click through to the original sources.
Will this impact organic search traffic to your site? Definitely. For better or for worse? That remains to be seen.
Dig deeper: Preparing for Google SGE: Essential guide for marketers
Let’s now talk about the quality of the search results. If everyone starts using AI to generate answers – what happens to the integrity of the search results?
Using AI to create content outlines often brings up ideas for topics and research that the writers may not have considered. This gives them a new launching-off point.
So, in theory, if you are following a process that integrates AI-generated content in a way that doesn’t cut out the human writer and/or editor, the content can be of higher quality than before.
Now, if people are simply using AI tools to generate massive amounts of content without regard to quality, and those pages end up ranking, we could have a problem.
Many writers look to the top-ranking pages in the search results as part of their research process before writing the content.
You can task AI tools to pull answers from the search results, too.
So if 90% of all content in the search results is substandard AI-generated content, then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that whatever AI says becomes the truth. (And we all know that AI is flawed.)
The silver lining in all this is that Google’s algorithms are pretty good at knowing today which websites out of millions deserve the top spots in its search results.
If you continue to differentiate through your content (being average won’t help you), you can continue to be viewed as an expert source that rises above the rest.
Ultimately, it’s the job of the search engine to ensure that AI garbage doesn’t dominate the search results.
And it’s the website publisher’s job to continue putting all their efforts into creating quality content.
How AI content is changing SEO skillsets
AI isn’t just for content creation.
AI-powered tools are helping SEOs do their jobs better in many of their day-to-day tasks, eliminating some of the more mundane and manual tasks they’ve been used to.
When it comes to content creation, the newest skillset for SEOs is understanding which AI tools are out there for content, and how to properly use them – whether you’re using the tools yourself or working alongside a content team.
A major portion of the time spent using these tools will be creating and perfecting the prompts for the AI tool.
The magic lies in the prework. Get this right, and you will spend less time editing the content.
I say “less” time because there will still be time spent editing (at least until the tools get even better).
Most SEOs don’t want to be AI content editors, but you are ultimately responsible for the work you turn into clients. So even if you work with content editors, you sign off on the content.
That means that another emerging skill set will be to view AI content with a critical eye before passing it to the client.
Because not every SEO will feel natural as a content editor, having a checklist for what quality content should be is helpful. (If ever in doubt, see what Google says about creating helpful, reliable content.)
You should also be able to bring a deep understanding of the brand(s) you serve so you can align the content with both search quality guidelines and client expectations.
Dig deeper: How to survive and thrive in a Google helpful content world
The challenges of AI content
AI-generated content does present challenges.
Redundancy, bad grammar, a lack of personal experience and an overall “generic” approach to the content can rear its ugly head.
And because AI programs lack a human touch, there isn’t anyone to verify facts, figures or statements.
It can be challenging to differentiate between content that adds genuine value versus long, but ineffectual articles (and AI certainly can ramble). Again, this takes a keen eye.
This is exactly the reason that AI content needs professional editors.
All AI-generated content should be considered a “rough draft.” The most effective approach to using AI tools today is combining them with human review.
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Integrating AI content into your SEO strategy: Five steps
It’s no secret that SEOs and the companies they serve are finding success with artificial intelligence-powered articles.
Creating a system to leverage AI is key.
When done right, AI can help boost your online visibility faster because generating article outlines and first drafts via AI can save significant writing time.
After much experimentation, we have found a process that currently works for generating AI content for brands that aligns with SEO goals for search engines and search engine users.
Now, I’ll outline the steps we take to make AI content work, including:
- Persona identification
- Keyword selection
- The prewriting stage
- Content editing
- Content optimization
1. Persona identification
It may come as no surprise that you should still lean heavily on traditional marketing tactics before you create your content.
This means having an understanding of the persona that you are targeting with the content.
Some companies may already have their personas ready to go. In the absence of that, SEOs will need to do some of the legwork, which many already know how to do.
You could also use an AI tool to help you identify the persona(s). For example, you could feed an article to an AI tool and ask it to help you identify the target audience for that topic.
2. Keyword selection
Another traditional step in content creation for SEO that is not going away is identifying the search queries that the target audience is using.
You still need a target as to what you will write about and what other topics are related to that topic.
This helps with the next step, which is an outline.
For example, you could use an AI tool to take a particular keyword (a.k.a., a topic you want to write about) and generate things like:
The goal is to then take that list and organize it into a preliminary outline of topics that you want to write about.
The SEO and/or the writer will decide which out of all the keywords / topics generated are worthy of being included in the outline.
You should now have an outline to feed to the AI tool.
3. The prewriting stage
This is where the rubber meets the road. SEOs need a solid process for how they will prompt the AI tools to output the content.
This is typically where the most thought will go into the process in terms of how you want the AI-generated content to be.
Depending on the AI tool, the prompt may vary, but some ideas include:
- Indicate what type of persona the author of the content is.
- Confirm who the target audience is for the topic.
- Discuss the tone of voice you desire.
- Talk about how you would like the article formatted.
- List any other parameters that you would require to be quality content.
For some AI tools, you may want to ask, “Do you understand?” to get confirmation before moving on to the next step.
Then, the next step is to ask the tool to create an article using the outline you generated in the previous stage of the process and with the prompts that you clarify.
The whole process from start to finish, once you have the prompts down, should take only minutes, usually under 10 minutes.
You now have a rough draft that goes into editing.
Dig deeper: Perfecting prompts for SEO content development
4. Content editing
Here’s where you need a skilled editor. Ideally, the editor is not only a good editor but also is up to speed on the brand(s) that the content is being created for.
Bonus points here for editors who have subject matter expertise in the thing that is being written about.
And please note that not all writers are natural editors – writing and editing can require different skill sets.
All the basic facets of editing will need to be covered here, including:
- Tone of voice
- General flow
- Asking: Does this actually make sense?
- Sticking to any brand guidelines
Expect one to two rounds of editing on average before you get it to completion, depending on the technicality of the subject matter.
5. Content optimization
During the process of creating the outline and generating a first draft, you will have an article or page that is naturally optimized for the topics you want to talk about.
Where the human element comes in is to further optimize the webpage beyond just the topics and keywords.
This is where the SEO will perform all the best practices for optimization that need to happen for that webpage as they normally would.
Dig deeper: AI-generated content in 2024: How to excel and where to exercise caution
It’s time to adapt again
SEOs are no stranger to adapting to changes, and AI content presents a massive shift that we must all adapt to.
If done right, AI content presents opportunities to deliver the content that clients need while saving time. money and upholding quality.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.