How AI-powered search will shake up SEO (and how to adapt)

How AI-powered search will shake up SEO (and how to adapt)
Jun 23

David Jenkin

Let’s face it, there’s no stopping the progress of AI technology. One can only learn to adapt. SEO is one of many industries being impacted in a profound way. Marketers are having to adapt to stay relevant, but capitalising on the advantages AI brings is sure to pay off.

The emergence of AI-powered search

“As AI technology advances, it is poised to revolutionise the future of SEO, transforming the way search engines operate and how businesses optimise their online presence,” Alex Bider writes for Forbes.

Indeed AI-powered search engines are arriving in force, with Microsoft’s Bing Chat and Google’s Bard. But AI isn’t completely new to the world of SEO. Back in 2015, Google rolled out RankBrain, which used AI algorithms to rank content, and the technology has been steadily evolving ever since.

Easier searches, more accurate results

Perhaps without realising it, we’ve become accustomed to Google understanding what we are searching for instead of simply matching our query with some keywords. That’s because AI algorithms can massively improve the accuracy of search engine results since they’re better able to crawl, index and then rank content based on relevance and authority.

The ability to comprehend the meaning of words and advances in natural language processing (NPL) mean that algorithms are better at “understanding” a query and delivering a personalised response specific to the user’s intent. SEO professionals have been meeting these advancements by focusing on structured data markup to assist search engines as they try to comprehend the content of their pages.

AI can offer a better user experience by analysing user behaviour and preferences and delivering personalised content recommendations accordingly. Image search accuracy is also set to improve dramatically as search engines become better at recognising objects in images, making it easier for users to find what they’re looking for.

AI’s ability to comprehend natural, conversational speech has made voice assistant technology the preferred way for many users to search the web. According to Google’s Mobile Voice Survey report, at least 27% of the global population is using voice search on mobile devices every day, and more than 58% of US users say they have used it at least once. Voice search is therefore an essential part of modern SEO, requiring publishers to focus on long-tail keywords and natural phrasing.

Answering questions online is also becoming more convenient and efficient. Where once content would need to include the question users were asking on a FAQ page, so-called “People Also Ask” or PPA questions, now AI can answer the question directly. While this means a likely drop in traffic to FAQ pages and forums, the process now sends users straight to where they need to be – the content that answers their questions.

AI-powered tools for SEO

There are also AI-powered tools to help marketers and publishers optimise their pages. The technology can be used to automate and improve keyword optimisation and to write meta content, page headings and other crucial on-page SEO elements. It can make recommendations to improve page visibility, such as adding a video or resolving technical issues, and it can offer recommendations to tweak content that has resonated to get even better results from it. Predictive AI tools can even identify search trends and anticipate user behaviour accordingly, allowing marketers and publishers to stay one step ahead.

Ensuring more ethical SEO

With AI-powered search, gone are the days of cutting corners with unethical “black hat” SEO tricks. That means more rewards for those that actually put the work in to offer a good user experience rather than spamming and taking shortcuts. That’s because AI makes it much harder to manipulate the algorithm, which is good news for ethical publishers and users alike.

What remains to be seen

There are some unresolved questions around AI search engines which have caused some trepidation among publishers and Search Engine Optimisation professionals. Since, when answering a query, AI allows Google and Microsoft to keep users in their own walled garden without clicking on any links – think featured snippets taken to the next level – will publishers see a drop in traffic overall? Will they get due credit for providing the information that an AI algorithm scrapes for its answers and presents as authoritative?

Hopefully, a solution to the question of attribution is in the works since search engines have a symbiotic relationship with their publishers. For now, the best thing to do is focus on optimising for a new level of search engine sophistication by nailing authenticity and relevance and delighting users with fast-loading, media-rich online experiences – the sort of thing Google and the like have always sought to reward.

Embracing an AI-powered future

More than ever, the SEO game is about building authority and credibility, earning quality backlinks, driving engagement, and investing in the user experience. But AI tools can be used to guide the way and serve as valued members of the content team, helping to ensure that any output is fully optimised, topic-focused and of the highest standard.

A team that embraces AI, both by using and optimising for it, will be best placed to effectively connect with their target audience in this new AI-driven era. At League, we pride ourselves on keeping pace with new technologies and new ways of doing things, so speak to us about a tailored solution to modernise your SEO.

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