By Published On: April 22, 2024

With the cat&tonic team of humans building the set and directing the show, our trusty robot stagehand—ChatGPT—is helping us create a wildly informational, up-to-the-minute blog series about its favorite topic: AI. This is the first one.

Only people with a crystal ball know how AI-powered search is going to impact SEO efforts in the future. The rest of us can only pontificate. Search companies have never been transparent about their algorithms, so they’re not going to tell us how to best optimize for AI-powered search engines either.

Our advice (for now) is two-fold. First, continue following the best practices around keyword-based content, page speed, authoritative links, and all that jazz. Second, start finessing.

Because, contrary to search algorithms, AI is built to function more like a human. And humans require context, not just content, to understand what you are offering.

According to our friend, ChatGPT, here are some finessing tactics you should be implementing now (finessed by us, of course).

Semantic enhancement

Address user intent by making the context of your site/page clear. Specific keywords will be less important tomorrow than they are today, but defining your position will be more important than ever.

Content depth and quality

Produce deeper, more useful content that addresses a range of topics around a specific question rather than shallow content that features a ton of associated keywords.

UX and engagement

the bounce rate is back. AI will be looking closer at interaction patterns, which means your internal linking structure will continue to be important.

Voice search and conversational queries

natural language for $500, Alex. Maybe we’ve all watched too much Jeopardy, but people prefer phrasing their searches in question form, and sites that best reflect those searches will gain priority.

Expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness (EAT)

The need for a site to demonstrate EAT will be exceedingly important. Be sure to include author credentials and quality links in your content. This is especially true for small sites (more on that below).

Real-time content and trends

AI’s pattern and relevance recognition skills are much better than untrained algorithms. The ability to respond to current events and conversations in real-time could be a real factor in site ranking. The next time you have an opinion on a current trend, put it out there quickly. Pro tip: Use AI to write the first draft.

Personalization and privacy

Not so much a feature as an area of concern. People are more likely to share personal information with AI using natural language, and it’ll still be your responsibility to protect the data on your site.

Those with smaller sites—it’s your time to shine

Search engine operators have been trying—and getting better at—not favoring sites based solely on the volume of links they attract. It’s simply too easy to farm link volume or pay for content that comes with a bunch of guaranteed, but low-quality links. Smaller or niche websites are easily drowned out by these larger players whose sites are heavily referenced.

The good news is AI-powered search engines do a much better job of evaluating the quality and authenticity of inbound links as well as the quality of expertise.

AI will have a major impact in favor of smaller sites in these areas:

  • Link quality over quantity
  • Evaluating content depth and expertise
  • Detecting manipulative link practices
  • Personalization and niche relevance

Meaning smaller site owners should:

  • Invest in high-quality, unique content
  • Build community and engagement
  • Emphasize content freshness and innovation—another good argument for smaller or start-up sites whose reason for existing is to put forward a unique perspective. AI responds quickly to trends and finds content that addresses them in new ways.

It may be naïve to believe AI will fully level the field for smaller sites, but by focusing on contributing to meaningful conversations, producing quality, relevant, and interesting content within a narrow topic may earn smaller players a share of voice they’ve been craving.

ChatGPT says it this way: While AI and the dominance of large entities present challenges, small businesses and niche websites have several avenues to remain competitive. By focusing on their unique strengths—such as specialized knowledge, agility, community building, and personalization—they can effectively compete in the AI-enhanced search landscape.

AI is not your evil nemesis

While you may feel like you’re competing with AI, AI isn’t competing with you. It knows it’s just a tool designed to assist you. It knows you can teach it to deliver the results you want to see instead of just handing you the messages companies want you to get. And remember, it’s been primarily trained to evaluate content created by humans. Without us, it would be nothing (for now, at least).

Here’s how ChatGPT puts it:

Currently, the creation of unique, well-researched, and engaging content that provides real value to an audience is an area where humans still excel over AI. While AI can assist in various aspects of content creation, there are several key reasons why humans remain indispensable for producing high-quality content:

Understanding and Empathy

Humans are better at understanding complex emotions, experiences, and the subtleties of human interaction. This deep understanding allows human writers to create content that resonates on an emotional level, reflects genuine empathy, and connects with readers in ways that AI cannot fully replicate.

Creativity and Originality

While AI has made strides in generating creative content, human creators possess the innate ability to think outside the box, draw on diverse inspirations, and produce truly original ideas. Human writers can weave narratives, tell stories, and create content that is not only informative but also deeply engaging and memorable.

Expert Insight and Personal Experience

Expertise and personal experience play crucial roles in creating authoritative and trustworthy content. Humans with specific knowledge or experiences can provide insights, nuanced understanding, and perspectives that are rooted in real-world contexts, which AI-generated content often lacks.

Ethical Considerations and Cultural Sensitivity

Humans are better equipped to navigate ethical considerations, cultural nuances, and context in a way that is sensitive, appropriate, and inclusive. Content creators can ensure their work reflects a deep understanding of their audience’s values, beliefs, and cultural contexts, minimizing the risk of misinformation, bias, or insensitivity that can sometimes arise from AI-generated content.

Adaptability and Intuition

Human content creators can quickly adapt to new trends, audience preferences, and feedback in a way that AI currently cannot. This adaptability allows for the creation of content that is timely, relevant, and tailored to specific audience needs. Moreover, humans can intuitively sense when a piece of content “feels right,” a nuanced judgment that AI has yet to replicate fully.

Quality and Depth of Research

For content that requires in-depth research, humans can critically evaluate sources, draw connections between disparate pieces of information, and synthesize new insights. While AI can compile and summarize information, human researchers can assess the credibility of sources, understand the broader context, and create content that adds genuine value to the discourse.

It’s a wrap

Foundational SEO practices are still relevant. But on its heels are AI-powered search engines that are looking for higher-quality content, proven user engagement, and user behavior trends when deciding on which results it will deliver. This is where your humans—assisted by generative AI—will come in handy.

One more tip: Things are moving fast. Stay informed. And adjust your strategies accordingly.

But wait, there’s more

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About the Author: cat-tonic

Born of curiosity and enthusiasm, we’re a scrappy group of smart, passionate marketers who work hard and play hard. We show up every day and fight for our clients who are making the world a better place. We listen with curiosity, explore deeply, ask hard questions, and sometimes put forth ideas that might make you squirm. Because we believe the status quo is good for growing mold but not much else. The way we see it, change is the way forward and the magic happens when curiosity, math, science, instinct, and talent intersect.
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