One of the most exciting technologies to influence SEO is Artificial Intelligence (AI). This simply refers to advances in computing where machines are able to perform many actions that previously would have required human input. This includes processing of visual input, decision making (particularly making predictions), and natural language processing (think voice search and translation).
It’s important to understand that AI isn’t new—Google announced that AI would play a significant role in ranking search results back in 2015 (Wikipedia: RankBrain). AI had matured enough to be able to identify content that was high quality and relevant.
In terms of SEO, artificial intelligence offers a lot of promise. Let’s look at some of the interesting ways AI can help us, both now and in the near future.
Keywords are an integral part of SEO. In addition to our own intuition, we have access to great tools like Google’s Keyword Planner and Google Trends. But tools liked these are based on examination of data collected from previous searches. As AI improves, the focus will increasingly be on making accurate predictions. For small businesses and marketers this means:
- identifying future trends
- predicting new product and service niches
- and new and untapped markets.
The management of keywords in Google Adwords ad campaigns will also benefit directly. AI will give us the ability to predict which keywords will give us the best results—the best reach, the most relevant audience, and ultimately, the best conversion rate. Extending this idea further, it is entirely possible that AI will be able understand your business so well it will be able to choose your keywords for you!
We’ll also see improvement in how we pay for our campaigns too. AI will choose the optimal settings for us—the best format (display or search ads), the best times to post content, the optimal duration for campaigns, and whether to pay by click or impression. At the moment, we need to explicitly choose these ourselves based on guidelines and our own experience.
AI has already started shaping improved user experiences. Algorithms are becoming highly adept at matching user intent with the most relevant content. Those same algorithms are also determine which websites are likely to give the best user experience in terms of such things as navigation, structure, presentation, and mobile-friendliness (responsive design and page load time). These are the very aspects we have to optimise for in SEO if we want our content to rank prominently in search results.
AI will also drive advances in personalisation. To achieve this, the algorithms will draw on all of the data associated with the end user or customer, including their purchasing history. The idea is to predict what the customer needs, perhaps even before they know themselves! This will enable extremely relevant, personalised ads which, in turn, will mean higher conversion rates and less advertising costs.
AI chatbots are another facet of artificial intelligence that have become increasingly popular. These can be incorporated into messaging clients and provide intelligent responses to the users’ questions. Again, we can expect to see improvements in the way they can anticipate what the user is after, offering suggestions before the user has even asked.
One of the most powerful advances in AI over the last couple of years has been the way audio can be processed. Natural language processing has enabled accurate voice search to become a reality for mainstream use. Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon all offer voice assistants. This means that we now need to optimise our content to support voice search. In the near future we can expect to see even greater accuracy and adoption by our target audiences.
One of the most exciting promises of AI is in the way visual media can be processed. In current SEO, we need to include meta descriptions to help search bots interpret and categorise images and video. Soon, AI advances will be able to do much of this for us. Google’s Cloud Vision API is going to open up a lot of new options to optimise content for:
- facial recognition
- label, brand, and logo detection
- improved optical character recognition for text
- landmark and location detection
- better identification of image attributes
- and the ability to search for similar images
The most significant improvements will be with static images but eventually this will extend to video content as well. This will allow marketers to use visual content in new and exciting ways.
I’m keeping a very close eye on the latest AI developments and I’ll share future developments with you.