February 1, 2023

How AI Tools Are Affecting SEO

By: Mary Hiers

AI tools are becoming everyday technologies at a rapid pace. Tools that can “read” and digest as much information as the human race can generate have the potential to revolutionize both business and ordinary life. 

Reactions to these tools range from enthusiasm to skepticism to fear and distaste. How can we ensure that we use these tools responsibly? How can we prevent bad people from using them toward nefarious ends? 

Artificial intelligence is already used in SEO, online search, and content generation. There appears to be no stopping it. Here’s what SEO practitioners are doing with their AI tools and how the technology may be used in both good and bad ways.

The Good of AI Tools

AI tools that could, for example, read the entirety of a field of medical research could potentially aid physicians in diagnosing rare conditions and drug developers in creating novel therapies. 

Likewise, the speed of artificial intelligence can make the SEO process faster and more efficient. But they’re not ready for prime time because they can’t replace a human SEO content creator yet.

Keyword research, content optimization, and measurement of SEO performance are prime ways companies use AI tools in their content strategies. 

Topic and Keyword Research

Keyword research tools already abound, but AI tools can take it to the next level. Dispassionate digestion of relevant articles can yield insights that human biases miss. 

Using AI to discover keywords and generate new topics for blog posts is a “safe” use of the technology – as long as you don’t take everything it spits out as gospel. In fact, the current level of sophistication in AI generally requires a human “sanity check” to be effective.

Content Optimization with AI Tools

You probably already use AI tools in content optimization. For example, chrome extensions like Grammarly use artificial intelligence to keep spelling, grammar, and usage in check.

Many creators of website content also use SEO optimizer tools that use AI. These tools help you get the right word count, keyword distribution, and other characteristics that optimize content for search engines. 

However, if you’ve created content for any length of time, you know that even AI tools occasionally get things wrong. That’s why human intervention is still essential to excellence in content creation. 

Measuring SEO Performance

Tracking a web page or website’s ranking for specific keywords can be arduous, especially with large, frequently updated websites. AI tools, however, can take over this task, freeing the content creator to tackle other tasks.

Additionally, artificial intelligence can be used on websites to identify technical problems like broken links, missing tags, or other problems that could affect search engine rankings. Many of these tasks are tedious when you do them yourself, and it’s easy for humans to make mistakes. Any tools that take the grunt work off of your plate can be a welcome addition to an SEO team.

The Bad

Artificial intelligence is not always right. After all, it learns from what humans have produced, and humans make mistakes. To make AI tools work best for SEO, we must prepare to occasionally call these tools to task.

Error Propagation with AI Tools

Throughout history, many errors have slipped through the cracks out of sight and stopped influencing future research. When AI tools have the ability to read the entirety of human content output, they are bound to pick up errors along the way. 

If nobody fact-checks artificial intelligence output, it would be all too easy for such an error to gain new life. Particularly in an optimized piece of content, a mistake could be amplified, copied by others, and propagated despite being wrong.

Leading People Astray

A January 2023 article in Moz by Miriam Ellis recounts mistaken advice generated by artificial intelligence. In these cases, the tool was ChatGPT, a tool that has infiltrated popular culture.

Specifically, ChatGPT advised the author that

  • She could create a Google Business Profiles for a virtual office (which GBP prohibits)
  • Businesses could ask people for Yelp reviews (they’re not supposed to)
  • Geotagging images could boost position in Google’s Local Pack results (it doesn’t)
  • Suite numbers help Google differentiate businesses (Google ignores suite numbers)
  • She could build a GBP for a lead-gen business (you can’t)

In other words, AI tools can make hay with incorrect and correct information. 

The Ugly

Left unchecked, AI tools can reinforce problems and make them worse. Most of us remember Microsoft’s 2016 chatbot that lived on Twitter and quickly became racist and offensive because it “learned” from tweets. 

Amplification of Biases

In 2018, Amazon ditched a recruiting AI tool that learned from the company’s patterns of recruiting and hiring to prefer resumes from men over those from women. Getting rid of such biases will be challenging. 

Larger and more sophisticated AI tools absorb social biases embedded in the data from which they learn. In fact, the bigger the language model an AI tool uses, the greater the amplification of bias, according to Stanford University research from 2022. 

Deliberate Misuse

The examples of problems exhibited by AI tools listed above depended on unintentionally flawed information. But what happens if someone deliberately puts AI tools to work for corrupt purposes? 

For example, if a company were to use AI tools to manipulate online reviews by mass-producing them with false identities, the results could harm consumers and other businesses.

Artificial intelligence could also be used to create more subtle social engineering “scripts” that could be used to steal identities or other valuable information (like login credentials or bank account information).

AI tools are like other tools in that people can use them for good (like using a hammer to put a roof on a house) or for bad (using a hammer to assault someone). It’s still up to humans to ensure that the tools fulfill their promise without inadvertently making the world unsafe. 

Use AI Tools Strategically

With AI tools emerging in so many areas of business, it’s important to be realistic when choosing to employ them. They have shown tremendous potential for increasing productivity and helping businesses promote their websites through SEO.

AI tools offer great potential for improving SEO by making it quicker and more efficient. It is important to remember that AI tools can sometimes be wrong, so as users, we must keep an eye on what the tool is doing and check its output. 

With that in mind, SEO professionals should ensure they are familiar with some AI-driven SEO strategies and products. They should also appreciate that using real experts to review their work remains essential to ensure success. 

If you are looking for assistance when building your website, our team here is ready to help. We have the experience and skills to maximize our clients’ online visibility through the strategic use of artificial intelligence. Set up a call with our team today — we’d be delighted to help you!


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