Leading search engines are much less interested in how content is created, but rather in whether it addresses user needs accurately. AI is a welcome addition to the SEO tool belt but it’s not a silver bullet solution.”

Six months on from the launch of ChatGPT and the publishing world is starting to come to terms with the new era in which content can be created with a click of a mouse

So far we have seen interesting AI-content experiments from publishers like BuzzFeed and Sports Illustrated and there has also been a flurry of startups delivering content that is in the main AI-derived.

Yet one of the key questions that it seems no one in the content industry fully understands is ‘how much impact AI systems like ChatGPT and Google’s Bard will have on SEO?’

Will companies be promoted or penalised for creating content that is wholly or in part created by AI? Is the production of evergreen content by humans for mainstream media companies now a waste of resources? And is that role now best left to the algorithms?

Kaspar Szymanski, the ex-Google employee who is co-founder of technical SEO agency SearchBrothers (who is also an MX3 Collectif member see here for more details) is well placed to provide some insight.

Over the coming months as part of our MX3 Collectif content offering Kaspar will be taking a deeper dive into the way that SEO is evolving to meet the challenge of AI. Here he answers some basic questions about his career and the way that he thinks SEO is changing.

Who are you and what is your role?

My name is Kaspar Szymanski and I’m one of the two former Google Search employees who together founded the technical SEO agency SearchBrothers. In my previous role working for seven years at Google Search I had the privilege to gain valuable experience and insights about the inner workings of Google. The scope of my responsibilities at the time included investigating website signals, applying and lifting penalties as well as spearheading webmaster outreach. Along with my SearchBrothers clients I continue to benefit from this unparalleled experience. Together with my long-term colleague and ex-Google engineer Fili Wiese we apply our expertise to aid our clients with Google Search challenges and to grow their websites visibility on organic search.    

Outline what the main tech companies are offering in terms of AI and content creation?

There’s currently quite a lot of hype around AI, especially in the context of content generation. On the one hand the currently available tools are impressive in comparison to any previously generated content. The quality of the output, even for rather complex queries, is often adequate. AI-generated content is unlikely to win literary awards but it’s good enough to pass basic quality standard tests. This opens interesting possibilities in terms of relevant content production, especially for websites that are both text content heavy and cover a generic niche. In other words, publishers can explore this new opportunity. When paired with human editorial oversight, AI-generated content represents a yet larger opportunity.

On the other hand, we have to acknowledge that content generation, AI-based or otherwise, is neither a strategy nor a coherent SEO strategy. Generating and publishing content isn’t an end in itself. It must represent a unique selling proposition and address actual user needs in order to attract relevant, converting user traffic. This is why from an SEO perspective AI tools such as ChatGPT must be seen as one potentially useful tool among many. 

What do you see as the main implication for SEO generally of the arrival of these AI products?

The hype and excitement in the SEO industry aside, the impact over time will remain limited. Leading search engines are much less interested in how content is created but rather in whether it addresses user needs accurately. As outlined in my previous answer AI is a welcome addition to the SEO tool belt but it’s not a silver bullet solution.    

Does this mean that media companies should look again at evergreen content?

All publishers, regardless whether they are media companies or otherwise, should focus on evergreen content, if they can. Not every niche is well suited to publish evergreen content. For example, news outlets by their nature are poorly positioned to rely primarily on evergreen content. The specific type of content best utilized by a specific publisher depends on the respective vertical or topic and the unique selling proposition the website represents.   

How should these tools impact the way that media companies go about creating their content?

The extent to which AI or other automation tools can be used is efficiency improvement, where possible.

Should mainstream media companies be embracing these tools? Or might there be an SEO penalty at some point in the future?

There already are both manual penalties as well as algorithms specifically geared toward detecting and tackling low-quality content. That’s not to say that utilising AI-generated content is considered an offense in every instance. Whether AI-generated content may pose a policy violation and therefore a serious SEO liability depends on the quality of the content published. Publishers in need of guidance are well advised to embrace Google Search’s guidance about AI-generated content.

Are you aware of many media companies already creating content using the tools? Or is there no way of telling?

At this point it seems that fellow SEO professionals are the most proficient users of AI tools.

Do you think that the tools create opportunities for media startups? If so, in what way?

In my experience tools are tools. They don’t represent a particular reservoir of business opportunities. It’s new ideas that initiate new start-ups. 

Explore Further

For more insight into the future of content creation and the role that AI will play in it join us at FIPP Congress 2023 – more details below

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