AI and SEO: The Productive Partners

We’ve done it for AI in digital marketing, we’ve done it for AI in paid media, and we’ve done it for AI in web development… so place your bets on what we’ve got for you this time?!

Yep, we know you’ve seen the title and already know it’s going to be AI in SEO, but make sure you don’t go anywhere. This one might be our most tangled discussion to date.

Why do we say this?

Well, because AI has been perceived by many to be an almost existential threat to not only SEO professionals, but also the future of the industry as a whole.

Obviously, there have been plenty of attempts to debunk this fear, but the fact that this topic is still being discussed a good year or more after ChatGPT first became a household name shows that it has some serious staying power.

So, what do we think?

Stick with us as we dive into what’s been happening, what the landscape looks like right now, and where we are finding legitimate, lasting success.


TL;DR: Depending on only AI for your SEO and content writing is extremely unwise, and could damage your brand and your digital performance in the long term. It’s much better to use AI to complement and streamline your manual efforts, as it frees you up to safeguard the value of your content and preserve your unique voice.


Table of Contents:

Is AI Coming for SEO?

There’s no denying that AI is extraordinarily powerful, and can do certain things within a timeframe that would put even the most productive person to shame. There are even tasks that AI can flat out do better than a human being.

People have been forced to face up to this truth over the last year or so, and we completely understand why this has led many to panic. After all, when you have such a resource at your fingertips, why would you take the risk of entrusting your SEO to a fallible person?

Because AI is fallible too!

Using AI exclusively for SEO is a massive risk, and only a trusty human hand on the steering wheel can mitigate that risk.

Take the most basic of examples: content creation.

When ChatGPT took the world by storm last year, lots of businesses saw an opportunity to step up their content creation.

We’ve all been there, right?

You’ve got your blog set up on your website, and have so many great ideas that could set your fingertips whirring over the keyboard… if only you could find the time.

In stepped ChatGPT, capable of generating whole articles from scratch using a simple prompt system. Many businesses jumped at the opportunity to suddenly be able to crank out a whole month’s worth of blog articles in an afternoon. Some of those businesses have even had some success after doing so, but there’s an elephant in the room that’s being neglected.

That elephant’s name is Value.

Let’s get this straight; Google is not going to invariably penalise you for using AI content. In fact, Google’s Helpful Content guidelines have been updated to embrace AI content, provided that the generated content in question is:

  1. Valuable
  2. Transparently portrayed as being AI-written

However, if providing value is the goal of your SEO content writing, then why would you rely solely upon AI?

Think about it:

  • How can you provide a unique perspective if the information in your article is entirely curated from existing – and often outdated – databases?
  • How can you adopt a tone of voice that’s 100% “you” and 100% what your customers want and need to hear if your speechcraft goes to the same school as everyone else’s?
  • How can you be a thought leader if your thoughts are cherry-picked from all the other opinions out there by a hand that’s not even yours?

Don’t mishear us; we’re not saying that you should never use AI within your SEO.

We think that this approach is a product of misconception, and is actually rather misguided. The AI genie can’t just be put back in the bottle; it’s out, and you’re going to miss out if you pretend it’s not happened. However, we are saying that you should be careful.

How We’re Using AI in SEO

Even big brands like CNET have been caught out for leaning too heavily on AI content, losing not only the traffic gains they’d made, but also a bit of face.

In more recent months, there were documented instances of people falling foul of Google due to a reliance upon too much AI-generated content, with the so-called “great SEO heist” being the most infamous example. Google is ready and willing to crack down on blatant abuse of AI to create spammy or unoriginal content, as the March 2024 Core Update shows.

However, as we’ve already said, the answer isn’t to bury your head in the sand and adopt an AI boycott. You certainly won’t have any problems if you try a few more nuanced approaches. In fact, you’ll benefit from them.

Here are a few of our current favourite ways to use AI in SEO.

  1. Condensing Content – sometimes, we have so many interesting facts to pack into our content that it ends up being very long. This isn’t always great for user experience, and can create big problems when an overly-crammed page design actually dissuades users from engaging with it. When you’ve already poured your heart and soul into your content, cutting it down can be quite tough, especially if you don’t want to sacrifice any of the essential information. This is where AI is so helpful. We can instruct it to retain all of the unique information, but trust that it will quickly (and dispassionately) give us ideas to cut the word count down.
  2. Tech Health – SEO has a lot of overlap with web development, but (spoiler alert!) not many SEOs are as well versed in development as an actual full-time developer. These are related, but entirely different skill sets. Many SEOs therefore depend on dev teams to validate certain technical health errors that SEO tools flag. That’s all well and good, but dev teams are usually very busy. Once again, it’s a case of AI to the rescue. Using AI to provide a handy initial verdict on unfamiliar technical fixes can sometimes remove the need to bother overworked developers, or at least provide a starting point for their investigations.
  3. Markup Research – we covered this example in more detail within our article on AI in web development, so we won’t offer a full recap here. However, it’s worth mentioning again that writing JSON-LD markup can be time-consuming, and requires an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the massive schema library. With AI’s help, the time that it takes to research and write code can be drastically cut down, letting you do even more with your SEO time.
  4. Keyword Research – we love doing keyword research the old-fashioned way, but there’s no denying that some customers work within very specialist niches. We’ve all been there; sometimes, just trying to understand what your customer does is like trying to clear your garden of Japanese knotweed using a pair of scissors. But have no fear, because AI is here to lend you a handy chainsaw! It can analyse the content of a page to suggest target personas, key themes, and even initial keyword ideas. You can then take all of this information and plug it into your SEO tools (or review it against the competition) to validate things like search volume. It’s also great for tangential SEO (also known as tertiary or ambient SEO), as it can speed you on the path to identifying other useful keywords that resonate with your target demographic. The AI doesn’t end up doing the work for you, but it can certainly streamline your processes.

Standing Out From The AI Crowd

From the above examples, you’re probably spotting a few common themes, like AI’s ability to speed up or streamline certain tasks. This is where we think AI is an absolute godsend.

We persistently work to maximise our partners’ budgets, packing in as many impactful ideas as possible to ensure productivity and value across every aspect of marketing. This is especially true within SEO; leveraging AI, we unlock the potential to accomplish even more, turning an abundance of innovative ideas into reality within the constraints of time and budget.

In short, AI lets us do more work within the same timeframe.

What’s more, it does the legwork, so we can get more experimental and have more fun. It lets us shift the deliverable of work to something that’s as valuable as possible.

We’ve been around the block a fair few times, so our approach in the face of this AI flood has been cautious. Even when our competitors were pumping out AI content en masse, we noted the risks and made sure that there would be no need for our partners to engage in future damage control.

We’re custodians of our partners’ brands and are proud to be so.

Rather than using it negligently, we’ve made sure to use AI with responsible, sensible, strategic SEO heads screwed firmly on. When content becomes devalued because of AI, what do you think is going to rise in value?

Yep, you guessed it: unique content.

Content is always going to be a focal point for traffic generation within SEO, and that’s why it needs to be safeguarded as we sail into the AI seas of the future.

As with everything new and shiny, some people will always jump in with both feet, especially if the new shininess is perceived as putting their jobs at risk. This is why we’ve all ended up swimming through a flood of AI-generated content that has put the authenticity of storytelling at risk. And make no mistake, most people know it’s happening, or why else would roundups of AI detection software be getting so much traction? Let’s face it, the influx of US-English content with recurrent phrasing isn’t always subtle! But, even if Google tolerates AI-generated content, the time is coming when many premium brands won’t.

A new market is springing up that requires greater legitimacy.

Rather than looking for short-term solutions that break all the rules, many brands want to invest in actual good work that sets them up for success. They want to establish a long-term partnership with the people who use their services, rather than just seeing them as pound signs. And consumers want to actually engage with unique content and ideas. After all, if a brand doesn’t take the time to write carefully–crafted content, then why on earth should a consumer take the time to listen to them?

We don’t look for short-term wins or rely upon one-size-fits-all strategies, but instead introduce solutions that burnish the value of your brand to a lustrous sheen. If you bet all your SEO chips on AI, then you’re going to pay the price. However, if you disregard it completely, then you’ve also got a major worry on your mind. You’ve got to strike the right balance, and we can help you to do just that where your SEO is concerned. Drop us a line if you want us to set your SEO efforts on the right course.

Further Reading

Written by
Joel Perkins
Joel Perkins

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