Feb 2, 2017

                                                                   Image Source: searchengineland.com

It’s a new year and marketers everywhere are making predictions of what’s to come. Some of the hottest topics are live video, the Internet of Things, and, of course, search engine optimization. While many industry leaders are focusing on the impacts of mobile and voice search, there’s another big player in 2017. Here’s how artificial intelligence  (AI) is changing up the game in SEO.

How Will Artificial Intelligence Impact Google Search?

It’s beneficial to touch on Google’s search algorithm before we delve into how exactly AI will impact Google search. Hummingbird, Google’s search algorithm, came into effect in 2013, and since then another Google creation, RankBrain, has taken the spotlight. RankBrain is actually part of Hummingbird and uses machine learning to constantly learn and adapt. In their initial announcement, Google said, “RankBrain uses artificial intelligence to embed vast amounts of written language into mathematical entities -- called vectors -- that the computer can understand. If RankBrain sees a word or phrase it isn’t familiar with, the machine can make a guess as to what words or phrases might have a similar meaning and filter the result accordingly, making it more effective at handling never-before-seen search queries.” In other words, it not only sorts through billions of pages to find the most adequate results, but it also looks through relevant searches when encountering a new search query to match results. So, how is AI impacting search? To begin, Google is now better equipped to handle never-before-seen search queries and to find intent behind what was searched, resulting in more accurate searches. Meaning, Google basically is a form of AI, so AI is not only changing the game, it’s integrated into search itself.

How Will AI Change the SEO Game?

                                                          Image Source: digitaltrends.com

With RankBrain in the mix, you’re apt to wonder how AI will change the SEO game. It’s also important to note that Google has over 200 ranking signals and RankBrain is only one of them. That being said, Google has also announced that it’s the third most important ranking signal, behind content and links.

As we covered earlier, RankBrain is good at finding intent behind what is searched. Rand Fishkin, the founder of Moz, said, “RankBrain is a big change for Google internally, but for marketers, this is a continuation of the advanced query parsing and interpretation that Google’s been doing since Hummingbird (and even before). It continues the pattern of Google getting better at identifying the intent behind search queries and serving up content that satisfies that intent rather than just the content that best matches the searcher’s precise keywords.” By doing this, AI and RankBrain are placing the emphasis on content quality and relevance. A secondary effect is that it encourages a selective approach to link building, in which sites profit the most if their backlinks come from similar sites in the same industry.

How is Artificial Intelligence Helpful for Search Engine Optimization?

Google is continuously updating their algorithms and modifying their rank factors. At this point the only constant with search engine optimization is that it’s never constant. With that in mind, the focus of most marketers is to adapt and keep abreast every new trend and to rise above and use it to their advantage. Things are no different for AI. RankBrain uses deep learning to figure out which sites are associated with different keywords. This translates to it being able to identify and group sites it deems ‘good’ or ’bad’ for specific keywords. Hence, niche sites will benefit as long as their content is crawlable, user friendly, and stays on topic. Another positive impact of artificial intelligence is that it makes content more relevant and reduces the effects of black hat tactics by learning patterns and associating them with bad behavior. This means that if RankBrain notices a pattern it can make a change to the algorithm on the spot to prevent it from happening again.

AI is definitely changing the SEO game. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to change your whole Google search strategy, just that you have to learn to adapt. Google has become its own form of AI, and letting it make many of the search result decisions. A better way to look at this is by realizing that AI is making search engine optimization user-friendly by understanding intent and grouping related queries for optimized search. This is good for those who focus on content and make sure to stay on topic, but not so for others who tend to veer off track. Sorry spammers, your a-game is going to be thrown off track. There are no shortcuts. To make content relevant in a smart system for maintaining your search results in a world of AI, plan for equally smart content that’s truly valuable in order to stay in the game.

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