AI and SEO: what you need to know

Feb 2, 2018 by
AI and SEO: what you need to know

If you work in SEO or marketing, you may not realise that you work with AI (Artificial Intelligence) everyday. 34% of marketers feel unprepared for AI technology, yet Search Engine Optimisation means Google, and Google means AI. How do we, as SEO pros, stay relevant in a world ruled by robots?

First, let’s talk about Hummingbird. Back in the dark ages, Google used to search based on strings of words. This wasn’t always reliable as the result wasn’t always helpful or accurate. In the past, you may have searched for ‘pineapple’ expecting the fruit, but instead got the history of an American hand grenade. Fast forward to 2013, and the Hummingbird update changed that by being able to understand human speech, intent, and improved local searches. So now, when you search for a Mexican restaurant you get results near you and not all the way in Mexico.

Then we entered The Future with RankBrain. RankBrain, which runs alongside Hummingbird, is an algorithmic learning AI that helps the search engine make sense of ever more complicated search queries. By breaking up words in a search into ‘clusters’ that the machine can understand, the AI can interpret unknown word streams. With Hummingbird, Google understood that ‘pineapple’ is a thing in the world, but it may not understand completely that it is a fruit. RankBrain does understand, having learned how and what people search for by actually reading the search queries, and can now give results about fruit and grenades.

ThoughtSo how do you use this to your advantage? The short answer: sound human. With the usefulness of keywords diminishing, links and quality content for the algorithm to pick up (and learn from) is now more important than ever. Keep your content natural, keep it frequent and, above all, human sounding. RankBrain responds to full, human sounding content and only gets confused if something sounds like it was written by, well, a robot! How RankBrain will change over the course of the years through updates we don’t yet know (and Google isn’t know to share that info to the public), but knowing the workings of the system is an essential tool in the business.

Now that we know what’s in the present, let’s see what the future may look like. If you were to ask RankScience what the future holds, they’d tell their AI is coming for some of our jobs. RankScience is a fresh new start-up who’s software-as-a-service automates the process of running thousands of A/B tests in order to see which changes will improve the Google ranking of customers web pages in organic searches. Essentially this could put SEO consultants and in house staff out of a job. “Ultimately that’s who we do see ourselves replacing,” says founder Ryan Bednar. “It is an industry that I think we can disrupt,” he continues. “Humans are tweaking and measuring and changing, and software is really where things are going — and we think this is the start of that.”

RankScience requires customers to route their web traffic through their CDN in order to run thousands of concurrent split tests on their behalf. Their AI wouldn’t just conduct analytics, but automate them and conduct changes to the customer’s content for the best search optimization. Of course, you’d have to be comfortable handing over that level of control to an AI. There are other software with SEO anaytics in mind (such as BloomReach), but RankScience is the only one that actually does the work for you in terms of ranking and set-up.

The platform launched in May 2017, and hasn’t done a lot of marketing. Right now they don’t have much of a presence in the UK, being mostly active in the US and Taiwan. We think we will be hearing a lot from RankScience, and other emerging AI software, as the year goes on.

2018 is shaping up to be an interesting year in SEO and AI. Whether you want your content to be more human than human, or just let a program do the work for you, AI in SEO is here to stay.


The Next Web
Seo Expert Brad