Generative AI chatbots like Microsoft’s OpenAI or Google’s Bard have been portrayed as a threat to publishers’ established search traffic. The worry is that the chatbots will answer search queries without referring people to the sites that host the content they mine to answer queries. But the AI-risk has only encouraged some publishers to use AI to support SEO.
- The value of purely SEO-driven content has decreased recently, as Google has introduced algorithm changes in line with its Helpful Content Update. The changes are designed to avoid content created to attract clicks and direct users to content that really answered their queries.
- The focus on useful content aligns with publisher objectives to build brand loyalty, foster relationships and convert free-readers to paying subscribers. Publishers like Bustle Digital Group are actively moving away from SEO-driven content to focus on ‘original stories and visuals’ that bots can’t replicate.
- However, Digiday is reporting that other publishers look to be doubling down on using generative AI technology to bolster their SEO strategies. This includes using AI to optimize headlines and keywords for search and for identifying trending topics that will attract increased traffic.
It is early days for most generative-AI experiments and it is not clear if using the new technology to support SEO efforts is delivering clear improvements. However, at Digiday’s Publishing Summit, some publishers have shared early results.
- Ingenio, publisher of Horoscope.com and Astrology.com, has been experimenting with using AI to support SEO for longer than most, but it is still unclear on the success. It has published more than 11,000 articles using AI to create content around popular search and although it is still to see higher search rankings, traffic has risen.
- Sports and entertainment publisher Team Whistle makes 30 to 50 TikTok videos a day, and uses AI to identify the best keywords to get them surfaced by TikTok’s algorithm. Generative AI is also helping Team Whistle research the best-performing topics across social media to help them focus their video creation efforts. They also use an extension tool called Glasp to generate summaries of YouTube videos which can then be optimized for SEO.
- Larger publishers like BuzzFeed and Gannet are also experimenting with generative AI to support SEO. Even as Buzzfeed news is wound up, commentators are speculating that AI will be used to fill the gap in content production in the future. Newspaper publisher Gannett is in the early stages of testing AI technology for SEO for processes like keyword research and data analysis, although the technology has not been implemented in newsrooms yet.
It is impossible to say how AI will develop in relation to search, but for the moment, SEO professionals are sure that ‘the days of tricking the algorithm’ are long gone. Writing on Search Engine Journal, Ryan Jones, VP of SEO at Razorfish, said:
SEO has been slowly morphing into digital marketing for a long time now. It’s no longer possible to do SEO without considering user intent, personas, use cases, competitive research, market conditions.
That means for publishers, while generative-AI can be a helpful tool, an understanding of the audience remains their most valuable asset.