21 years after it was founded, Google has evolved to be several times smarter than it was at inception. Artificial Intelligence just like many other advancements in technology has greatly impacted SEO. Moreso, Google algorithm, which handles search results, undergoes countless major and minor updates every year. Therefore, increasingly, SEO specialists have a lot of work to do in order to catch up with the various update.
Among many factors that have influenced the numerous changes over the years, artificial intelligence and machine learning hold a prime position. In 2015, when Google introduced RankBrain as part of its algorithm, this was when the impact of AI in SEO first became visible. RankBrain enabled Google to not only rank web pages based on their content, but also whether it fit the context of the query.
In essence, it shifted the focus to search intent rather than exact match keywords. This revolutionized SEO has caused many to revamp their content strategy to fit Google’s new conditions. However, now there more upcoming issues in SEO being influenced by artificial intelligence and machine learning.
It is perhaps no longer news to you that half of all online searches would be voice-based by 2020. This can be attributed to the rise of digital assistants and smart home devices. With voice search becoming increasingly part of our daily lives and internet usage, search engines would also have to make major changes to suit the upcoming new dynamics. For example, voice searches tend to be more conversational rather than keyword-based like traditional searches are.
Besides, estimations show that by next year as well, 30% of all website sessions would be conducted without a screen. This means the desired search result can be gotten without having to scroll through a list of several websites in search of the most relevant. Voice search results are rather one-off since the search intent is usually the completion of a certain action.
Consequently, voice search would make SEO more competitive, since, instead of the luxury of being a first page choice among others, only one result takes the prize. Relating to voice search, John Hughes of Storm ID has the following tip: “… you’ll want to focus on hitting the key points and answering questions concisely, so your content will appear on both mobile and desktop SERPs.”
How can you optimize your website for voice SEO?
- Incorporate long-tail keywords in your content to accommodate voice search’s conversational tone. Do not only rely on short, traditional keywords and phrases.
- Create featured snippets, which contain summaries of entire web page content.
- Localize your content. 40% of voice searches are done with local intent. Optimize your content for specific locations.
Visual Content Optimization
Pinterest introduced its Lens feature early in 2017. By introducing an algorithm that could recognize objects and texts from images, users could begin to search directly from images rather than entering a text query. Just tap on a part of the image, the algorithm identifies what you tapped on and displays results right away.
Pinterest Lens. Credit: Pinterest
It turned out that Pinterest only just beat Google to it; the search engine (Google) unveiled its own Lens feature months later, firstly as an app for its Pixel phones, and later as a Google Photos feature.
Google Lens. Credit: https://play.google.com
Technology giants are coming to terms with the fact that image search would be a major driver in searches for years to come. Indeed, statistics show that 62% of millennials prefer visual search to other technology. This is evidenced in the rise of social media platforms that are heavily visual content-based, such as Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest. Video content is likewise booming, considering that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world.
As a result of these factors, search engines led powerfully by Google, are beginning to improve their image recognition capabilities and analyze video content better in order to return more relevant results, in whichever format they appear. It only remains for SEO specialists to do their part.
According to Joei Chan of Linkfluence, “just like how content writers had to learn to optimize headings and keywords, visual artists will have to start thinking about SEO when creating visual content like images and videos.”
- Search engines still yet use robots that can literally view images and watch videos. However, they can determine what a photo or video is about through its alt text and descriptions. It is necessary to update them with relevant keywords so that they can show up in searches.
A sample alt text code is similar to what is below:
alt=”A football” />
AI-powered Insights and Analytics
Artificial Intelligence is not only changing how search engines curate results, but also how SEO specialists track data. The work of an SEO analyst involves tracking several volumes of data in the hope of finding useful insights to improve their strategy. Many tools assist in this though the individual still has to do much of the work of extracting insights.
However, AI does better than humans in analyzing and interpreting data. Some of these platforms include Bright Edge, Can I Rank, Pave AI, WordLift, Alli AI, etc. They are already incorporating machine learning partly or wholly to assist customers better.
Jim Yu, the founder, and CEO of BrightEdge puts it aptly, saying, “look for a tool that uses the power of AI to curate the most relevant topics and keywords to go after.”
The advantage of Artificial Intelligence is in the fact that it helps to automatically identify trends, observe algorithm changes, track competitors, audit sites, and suggest changes, etc., based on real-time data. This helps SEO specialists focus primarily on their SEO and content strategy rather than mundane, repetitive tasks. Besides, these insights can be used to target users/customers with personalized content that would even attract them more.
- Leverage AI tools for keyword research in order to follow trends and determine the best keywords and topics.
- Use AI to automate your workflow so that you can focus more on content optimization.
What then are the primary advantages of all these changes?
- First, SEO specialists should be on guard, because the SEO space is about to get much tougher, as it has increasingly been since its advent. With voice search and smarter analytics tools, the competition would get even stiffer.
- In addition, the changes would eliminate much of the current black hat SEO strategies such as keyword stuffing, illegal content duplication, link farming, etc.
- Another real advantage here is the overall improvement in search engine user experience. Internet users would get more quality and more relevant results for their searches rather than irrelevant articles simply filled with keywords. This is what RankBrain is set to achieve.
The immense possibilities of Artificial Intelligence in Search Engine Optimisation are still largely untapped, given that the technology is relatively still in its infancy. That means there is still a lot of room for more innovation to come in.
Alex Chris of reliablesoft.net has the following to say: “AI does change the way Google is ranking websites but SEO wise, the recipe of success is pretty much the same: Great content, Avoid keyword stuffing, Add related keywords to the content and title, strong incoming links from highly trusted websites.”
AI is set to change our approach to SEO placing customers at the center of every strategy, rather than just wanting to rank higher. AI in SEO, if properly leveraged by all stakeholders, is a win-win for everyone.