Could AI Tools lead to the demise of SEO?
AI technology has been at the centre of countless conversations over the last year, with particular attention given to the myriad ways it could potentially impact almost every sector on a global level.
Concern amongst search engine marketers has been rising, however, I’m not convinced that it’s all bad news. So, let’s take a deeper look into exactly what’s going on.
AI and ChatGPT isn’t the first big new thing that has come along to “threaten” search engine optimisation. Social media platforms, smart assistants, voice search technologies and the metaverse have all been named as things that could eventually lead to the demise of SEO. We are also now seeing AI SEO tools promising to optimise sites.
But, well. we’re all still here, aren’t we?
The same thing happens every time something new emerges on the horizon.
Firstly, we are inundated with literally thousands of articles, think-pieces, blogs and case studies written by people professing to be experts in said brand new thing.
Next, all the major publications share an article declaring that SEO is finally on its way out.
And then. SEO actually ends up becoming more important and more relevant than ever before.
The thing is, search isn’t going anywhere.
We are always going to need a tool that allows us to find specific pieces of information in what is already a vast internet that is only going to continue expanding.
What can and will continue to change are the ways we search for information, the devices we choose to use to conduct those searches, and the ways in which we want information to be presented to us.
But searchers are always going to want to complete their search tasks as efficiently as possible, and in order to deliver the best processes, search experts are always going to be needed to develop and shape those processes.
So, here’s the big question.
Is search going to be replaced by AI?
The short answer is: I can’t see it happening. Rather than replacing search professionals and search engines, ChatGPT and other AI technologies are more likely to become valuable tools that can be used to enhance the online experience for everyone.
Yes, AI technology will help search engines to understand both the content and context of web pages in greater detail. Naturally, in response to this enhanced understanding, SEO strategies will need to evolve in order to keep up. But this is something that has been happening in the world of SEO since it was invented.
So, rather than worrying about whether SEO will be completely taken over by AI, it is more helpful to take an optimistic viewpoint. After all, AI can help SEO to evolve which will result in an even more data-driven and highly sophisticated experience that delivers optimal technical optimisation elements as well as the highest quality results to every search query.
So, what’s going to change?
While the details of the changing search landscape aren’t easy to pin down, it’s safe to say that all SEO professionals should let go of the notion that algorithms can be tricked by a handful of fresh tactics.
The reality is – and has been the case for some time already – that it is impossible to create a robust SEO strategy without also considering elements of digital marketing. After all, in order to secure top ranking positions, it is now necessary to demonstrate an understanding of user personas, market conditions, and the intent that motivates every search.
Will AI ultimately be able to perform those tasks and make SEOs redundant?
I’d say that’s highly unlikely, and here’s why..
It is true that AI technology can automate elements of SEO, namely things like data analysis and keyword research.
But AI cannot think as strategically and creatively as the human mind can. So, SEO professionals are going to need to step up to the plate here and develop the innovative strategies required to consistently drive better outcomes for both businesses and searchers.
So, AI isn’t going to take your job, but.
This doesn’t mean that you get to sit back and coast on the skills you already have.
Because AI is going to become an integral tool to every top quality SEO. So, this means that you need to actively work to learn how you can use AI technology to drive better outcomes. If you don’t, you will be out-performed by another SEO who does know how to utilise AI.
Every day I see SEOs trying to use AI technology in ways that it simply isn’t designed to be used. Let’s not forget that language model AI technology isn’t drawing its answers from an index or knowledge graph because, unlike search engines, they don’t store information.
Instead, language models respond based on the information with which they have been trained, which is why they have the ability to both provide excellent responses and simply make up answers that don’t have a basis in truth or fact.
So, while it is technically possible to ask AI to cite its sources, it is incapable of performing that request accurately. And by that, I mean it will simply make up the information you’re asking for and present it in a way that it thinks you want it to be presented.
In the future, this might change, but models require huge amounts of information, resources and time to train. So, don’t hold your breath.
But aren’t Bing, Google and You.com already working on exactly this?
And by that I mean citing sources is possible, but this technology is searching for keywords and queries, then asking AI to summarise the information contained on the web pages that are returned for that query.
Token limits mean that this isn’t something that anyone other than a search engine has the ability to do.
So, won’t AI simply have the answer to every question and replace SEO?
The role of search and SEO is to help people to complete an action. So, it’s down to search professionals to provide users with the tools to do what they want to do easily and efficiently.
There is currently no data to suggest that audiences prefer auto-generated content over unique articles written by and curated by humans. Instead, audiences actively want easy access to the new insights, ideas and opinions that only other humans can offer.
So, while the SEO landscape is going to continue to change and evolve, often very quickly, search and SEO is here to stay for the long haul.