In less than 12 months, AI has taken the world by storm, marking what is arguably the most significant technological development since the birth of the internet.
ChatGPT has become the poster child of this technological eruption, with a userbase increase of 9,990% in the first 60 days of launch. At the time of writing, it has more than 180.5 million users.
Of course, this meteoric rise has been far from subtle. In what seems like the blink of an eye, AI technology has transitioned from a point of post-pint speculation to workplace reality, embedding itself across industries. From initial research and conceptualisation to data analysis, time management and content creation, marketers worldwide are unveiling innovative uses for these powerful tools.
The danger with such a rapid adoption of new technology is that unstable dependencies are formed. SEO professionals everywhere are jumping head-first into the world of AI, for fear of falling behind.
The question, therefore, is not ‘will AI change SEO forever’, but to what extent has it already?
How Are Digital Marketers Using AI Tools?
If you were to ask a room full of marketing professionals what they thought of AI, it’s likely their answers would vary significantly. On one side of the fence are the utopians, with their boundless optimism for the technology’s endless capabilities. On the other, are the doomsayers, to whom AI tools mark the first step towards a dystopian Terminator-esque future. End of days stuff.
At Superb Digital, we’re somewhere between the two.
As far as research, data collection, analysis and reporting are concerned, AI tools are brimming with potential. They can streamline processes, smash through monotonous tasks and massively improve overall efficiency. But, don’t believe the hype; AI can’t do everything and the quality of its output is wholly dictated by the information it is provided.
Working with, and getting the most from, AI requires a clear understanding of objectives and best practices. With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the ways in which AI tools are actually being implemented by marketers at ground level.
Research And Analysis
The role of AI technology within a digital marketing and SEO context is, of course, nuanced. Where its usefulness ends and its limitations begin is frequently debated among professionals. That said, its capabilities with regards to research, data collection and analysis are undisputable.
As far as research and analysis is concerned, AI is more than capable of scouring live sites and retrieving key information such as page structures, meta data, content styles. Where necessary, this research and data can be stored and presented, for use in later stages of a campaign.
The above methodology is useful, but basic. The full potential of AI can only be realised with the correct combination of input and instruction. If, for example, AI tools are fed specific documentation and reference points, such as Google’s Helpful Content guidelines, they are able to learn from the information provided and proceed from a point of task-specific understanding. As is the case with most AI technology, well-engineered human-led prompting is essential.
You don’t have to spend long working with AI to understand its planning capabilities. After all, heavy lifting and monotonous task management is where tools like ChatGPT really come into their own.
AI can be of great use when generating content plans, brief outlines and structures, but this technology is limited by the efficacy of its instructor (there’s a theme developing here…). Generic, poorly structured prompts will lead to equally useless content.
From our own experience, working with AI requires a clear understanding of two things:
- The precise outcome you wish to achieve.
- The information from which you wish the language model to draw.
Simply instructing ChatGPT to ‘create a plan’ based upon a topic or title is sure to lead to bang-average results. Whereas, feeding the programme clear examples of high-quality work will provide insight as to the results you want to achieve. Whether this is a website quality report or long-form article outline, it is crucial that such examples are well-crafted and reflective of the results you wish to attain. This type of activity has already garnered a name: “prompt engineering”.
Now, this is where opinions begin to differ. While some AI evangelists will claim that its content creating abilities are on par with those of a human, this is simply not true. AI is capable of many things, but crafting and writing high-quality, insightful content is not one of them. If you’re looking for content that meets Google’s Helpful Content guidelines and actually reflects your brand, ethos and personality, you need a person.
But, this is not to say that AI has no place in the content creation process. As discussed above, this technology can prove endlessly useful during the ideation, research and planning phases. Here at Superb Digital, we often use AI tools for transcription and summation purposes. This allows us to extract key points from client interviews and collate research much faster. As far as the writing is concerned though, that’s all us.
Where Does AI Technology Fall Short?
As powerful as AI tools may appear, it doesn’t take a top-tier developer to understand their current limitations. Yes, this technology is cutting edge, and getting better by the day, but it is not infallible. As is the case with any software, AI language is capable of making mistakes.
Take ChatGPT, for example. The language model’s achilles heel is the pool from which it draws information. As of this point in time, ChatGPT is only trained on information up to January 2022. This means that, without the use of plugins and beta tools, it cannot retrieve up to date information from search engines.
Moreover, one of the most obvious flaws that arises when working with AI is the way in which it receives information. There is, understandably, a dissonance between the language model’s method of processing and our own human cognition. In other words, it cannot always recognise actions as we do.
It goes without saying that over reliance on this technology can be dangerous. Rather than becoming overly-confident in the abilities of AI, it is important to adopt a cohesive approach. By all means, use these tools to assist, streamline, cut down and create, but beware of leaning too heavily on their independent capabilities.
What Does The Future Of SEO Look Like?
The million dollar question: what next? AI technology has already transformed the digital marketing industry, impacting the ways in which user data is gathered, analysis is carried out and optimised content is created. If this continues, what will be left of human jobs?
The reality is that SEO is, and always has been, evolving. This industry is built on the ever-changing foundations of internet algorithms and technological advancements. Keeping up is just as important as getting ahead.
As AI technologies develop and cement themselves in our personal and professional lives, emphasis will be placed on certain skills. In particular, prompt engineering. As capable as these tools may be, they require precise and focussed instruction to achieve above-average results.
Additionally, it is worth noting the impact that AI has, and will continue to have on the ways in which individuals search for products and services. If AI assisted search tools, such as Google’s Bard, are transforming the means through which consumers browse the internet, so will the ways in which businesses and marketing experts target them. It is difficult to say exactly what this change will look like, but an increased focus on the ways in which AI platforms search for information will become a necessity.
Here at Superb Digital, AI tools are swiftly becoming an integral part of our arsenal. That said, certain processes simply cannot be replicated by computers; we place great emphasis on the value of real human input.
Yes, these tools will continue to evolve and improve. But our focus must remain on the knowledge and experience of human experts. Prompt engineering, quality control, copywriting and strategy are among the many areas of SEO that cannot, and should not, be replaced by Artificial Intelligence technologies.