Digital Transformation Media Measurement Artificial Intelligence

AI in SEO: Treat it like a new team member

By Eric M. Hoover, Organic Search Director for Earned Media



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February 15, 2024 | 7 min read

AI can reduce workload and deliver great results for those working in SEO, says Eric M. Hoover at Jellyfish. Here's how to use the technology for the best search solutions.

A Persian cat looks through a window

AI can help generate search terms for topics such as 'Persian cat', say Eric M. Hoover

A client recently asked me what I thought of AI as a tool to analyze search engine optimization (SEO) performance and provide recommendations. Simply put, AI is like having a new team member come on to your account. A fresh set of eyes unshaped by months or years of focusing on a specific brand’s scope. It comes up with novel keywords, unique strategies, and analysis from a wider perspective.

Generative AI, or gen AI, like ChatGPT and Google Gemini (formerly Bard), can help marketers understand where to begin with keyword research and competitive analysis. These tools, and even search 'chatbots' like Google’s SGE (Search Generative Experience), summarize the landscape in milliseconds. This is an assignment that traditionally takes search-engine optimizers hours. AI is, in many ways, a starting point for getting the initial keyword landscape research going.

Many ways to search a Persian cat

Let’s start with a simple keyword phrase example: 'Persian cats'. First, if you can’t picture a Persian cat, immediately go to a search engine. After spending a few minutes crying tears of joy over their beautiful faces, come back and read on.

When I prompt ChatGPT to “give me several keyword categories around Persian cats” I am given six subheadings covering everything from ‘breed characteristics’ to ‘personality and behavior’. Under these subheads are lists of keywords phrases, including ‘long-haired cats’, and ‘training Persian cats’.

Gemini provides similar responses with very cute photos under each category that are also source links. In both cases, a short prompt gives you a great starting point for keyword research. From there, you can continue prompting and receive more targeted examples based on your needs. Keywords become “long-tail” phrases, hinting at how gen AI search is already leaning toward a more conversational tone.

Marketers can scale initial ideation in this way. They can then prompt AI tools to dive deeper into each category, creating more granular sub-categories. As well as use them to identify related keywords based on a website’s existing content. Google Trends can show how searches for a particular keyword have changed over time, and plug in tools such as Google Search Console or Semrush to see rankings for specific keywords versus competitors, along with the traffic attracted.

The numbers show that AI works best in tandem with people

Gen AI for keywords is about more than just initial research, too. Recently, a joint-study by Princeton University, Georgia Tech, and The Allen Institute of AI and IIT Delhi researched the impact of 10,000 search queries generated by AI tools. It found that optimizing website content specifically for gen AI searches – such as via Google SGE, Bing Copilot, or Perplexity.AI – can help lower-ranking websites appear within these types of results.

Several optimizations across multiple topics (business, facts, history, people and society, law and government, science, etc) were compiled to help sites rank better. Changes made included the modification of content to make it more persuasive, the addition of credible sources and the simplification of language for better comprehension – along with the added use of technical language where appropriate.

It is still important to understand what users look for when searching for terms. That’s where insights into search intent come in, which help when creating targeted and effective content. Analyzing search results and user behavior shows the wider landscape outside your basic top-performing keywords or pages. AI can funnel millions of datasets into easily digestible categories for marketers to begin building on.

AI-driven SEO tools can perform comprehensive competitive analysis, uncovering the keywords and content strategies that have propelled competitors to success. Marketers can then use this information and refine their keyword targeting and content development. AI tools can assist in conducting content gap analysis, identifying topics and keywords that are underrepresented or completely missing from a website's content.

AI is not taking over but simply delivering another advanced tool that can assist with developing conversion-driving pieces. In a study by Pencil AI, CEO Will Hanschell shared that ad copy written by gen AI had a 19% click-through rate (CTR) improvement over human-created content, but with combined AI-created and human-edited copy, that improvement shot up to 26%. Hopefully, AI will help marketers move quickly beyond the mundane, allowing us the mental capacity to be more creative, and open up new ideas that we can explore as both SEOs and content marketers.

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Digital Transformation Media Measurement Artificial Intelligence

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