How to use AI in SEO

We’ve all seen the headlines. Either AI is going to save the world or it’s going to put us all out of jobs. It’s either going to take over the planet, or make us all quicker and smarter human beings. There will be places where AI can help and there will also be areas it can potentially harm, depending on the intent behind the people who are using it at that moment in time. Regardless of where your position is in this global debate, the fact is that the tech is here to stay.

How to use AI for SEO is an important thing to learn, as this will help you use your time more effectively, speeding up some time consuming but necessary tasks. The end result is you’ll get some work done faster, giving you capacity to focus more on your overall SEO strategy.

Google’s search engine and AI

Before we get into how you might use AI for SEO, it’s important to realise that AI will also soon affect the results we see within Google. Google is looking to integrate AI into its search results pages through something called the “search generative experience”. While this is still very much in beta and only available to selected overseas users, the expectation is that this will be rolled out globally at some point in the near future.

  • This will change the front page of Google to offer up a generative AI section at the top for some search results. 
  • The AI will suggest further reading, which will be good for websites. 
  • Product questions will be answered with AI-generated suggestions. 
  • Local searches will get a comparative angle to them.
  • Generally the new AI section we’ll try to answer more questions without you having to navigate away from Google. 
  • Expect ads to still be a prominent feature, blended into the AI results, and in many cases to still appear above the AI results.

Initial tests from beta users of the search generative experience show that websites will still be featured in the AI results, and it’s the sites that can answer the query in the most efficient way that will be selected as part of the AI response. 
It seems likely that having great user-focussed content that demonstrates the best possible E-E-A-T signals is the best chance of appearing in the AI section. But making further optimisations to your content for AI results will be something that you may need to consider in the future, once more data is known.

Getting AI Smart

So with this new dawn of AI, how do we get AI smart? With a new tool launched almost every day, there are a few key ones that you do need to get your head around for SEO AI. The key is to think about areas where the technology can make you more efficient and perhaps assist with time-consuming but essential parts of SEO.

AI content generation

Firstly, as a warning, don’t just use AI to churn out long form content. This is because AI content creation out of the box and fully written is generally rubbish. Just look at the comments on this reddit to demonstrate what I mean.

Reddit comments

A study on the effectiveness of AI generated content was run by Neil Patel across 68 websites, where they published 744 articles. Half of the articles were written completely by AI, and the other half were fully written by a human. And 94.12% of the time the human written content outranked the AI created content!

Study of AI generated content vs human written content

Why is this you might ask? A generative AI such as ChatGPT is powered by a LLM (large language model). And this LLM has been trained using the internet. Therefore essentially AI “regurgitates” existing content that has already been published – so you won’t get anything unique. And we all know if your content isn’t unique, it will be very hard to rank.

It’s also important to note that the free version of Chat GPT’s data source is from January 2022 therefore a lot of its references will be out of date. It can also make up data through what are called “hallucinations”. There are many examples of where it has outputted content which is very believable in form, but when you fact check it it’s completely incorrect.

And one of the main challenges with using AI for writing long form content is that out of the box, generally the AI will write in a very bland and robotic tone. Meaning it won’t represent your brand voice, which is super important to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Also in Google’s recent core update there were a number of changes focussed on content quality, particularly in bulk AI generated content. This resulted in hundreds of websites being removed from search results. A study revealed a strong correlation between deindexed sites and the use of bulk AI-generated content, suggesting Google’s ability to detect and penalise use of this at scale.

So in summary – don’t use AI to churn out full pieces of content without any human intervention. The content generally won’t cover anything unique or be particularly useful. However, there are lots of ways it can help in other SEO Processes to help improve your time and ability to focus on other key tasks.

The 3 main AI SEO tools

The three most obvious AI SEO tools to talk about are ChatGPT, Gemini and Co-pilot.  These are generative AI tools that are free to use and access (with more features available if you want to pay). 

ChatGPT is owned by OpenAI, an artificial intelligence research laboratory. OpenAI was founded by a group of influential people in the tech industry, including Elon Musk and Sam Altman, with the goal of developing safe and beneficial artificial intelligence. While it started as a nonprofit, it transitioned to a for-profit structure in 2019. At this point Microsoft also invested into it. ChatGPT is available for free with some limitations, but there’s also a paid tier, ChatGPT Plus at $20 per month, that offers access to more powerful AI models for better performance.

Gemini is an AI model developed by Google. It is trained on large amounts of publicly available data and can communicate and generate human-like text in response to a wide range of questions. The paid version is $19.99 per month and offers access to more powerful AI models and integration with Google Workspace applications like Gmail, Docs, Sheets, and Slides.

Copilot is Microsoft’s answer to generative AI. You can access it in different places, such as the Copilot website, Windows sidebar and Bing Search. It is also planned to integrate into Microsoft 365 applications like Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint. The free version can also generate images, something that the other two competitors are unable to offer for free. Copilot Pro offers more power, speed and creativity at £19 per month.

AI prompt principles

If you’re going to use any of these tools for SEO support then it all comes down to the prompt. Becoming an expert at prompting will ensure you get a better quality output. 

Think about the prompt as a brief. In real life, if you were to brief a designer with a few lines of text would you expect the output to be any good? However if you were to provide the designer with a fully detailed brief, then the output would be expected to be much better. This same theory applies when you’re prompting generative AI tools.

A useful concept is to think about developing prompt principles from where you can build a detailed enough prompt. We have provided some in the table below. Ultimately the better your prompt is, the better the output will be for whatever task you are getting the generative AI to do.

PROMPT PRINCIPLES
Provide clarityState the intent – “The purpose of this piece is to…” instruct / persuade / entertain etc.
Background infoSupply context – relevant data or background information will give more precise output.
Tone“The tone should be…” informal / formal / informative / comedic etc.
FormatSpecify the required format (dialogue, debate, bullet points, an outline etc).
Target AudienceIndicate the demographics or interests of the expected audience.
Adopt a personaAdopting a role or perspective will help tailor the output. “You are a medical student…” 
ScopeDefine the breadth or depth of the topic in question to avoid straying off-topic and maintain focus.
ConstraintsDefine a word count, or any limits.
IterateIf the output wasn’t great, continue the chat by providing feedback and suggesting to try it again.

You should seek to provide clarity: give as much background information as possible and specify a target audience. Provide a scope and any constraints that you don’t want the AI to include. You might also want to experiment with the tone and specify the format. Asking the AI to adopt a persona can also help improve the output.

But remember – if the output isn’t great, you can iterate. The AI will remember what’s been previously said on the thread and therefore you can continue your chat with the tool by providing feedback, further context, and suggesting it to try again.

In fact, iterative prompting can often generate better results. Let’s say you are investigating information around climate change. Asking the AI “what is your verdict on biodiversity loss” will certainly generate a response. But try iterative prompting such as the below:

  1. Please can you talk to me briefly about biodiversity loss?
  2. How does biodiversity loss link to resource depletion?
  3. What are the main things to consider when evaluating the impact of biodiversity loss?
  4. Based on what you know about biodiversity loss, what is your initial assessment or conclusion?
  5. What is your verdict on biodiversity loss?

By iterating you will be able to generate better answers for logical questions, minimise sweeping statements, and ensure more factual responses.

SEO tasks that AI can help with

So we have advocated that you shouldn’t be using generative AI to write long form content. But there are still many use cases where it can help with SEO tasks. Here are a few.

Ideation

If you are unsure of a topic and want to come up with ideas that you can write about, then AI can be useful to help generate ideas. By placing a detailed prompt into the tool such as the one below the AI can brainstorm angles or approaches, and give you some ideas which you then may want to take forward into your content plan. Try testing different generative AI tools with the same prompt and you’ll get multiple different suggestions. Note that by asking the tool to cite sources this will reduce the risk of hallucination.

AI SEO for ideation

Clustering

AI is very good at classification tasks across large data sets. This prompt helps you cluster an entire blog into semantic topics, just using the article titles from the blog. This could help give you a top-level view of what your blog (or a competitive blog) is writing about. It will categorise the main topics and it may highlight areas that are missing. This will lead to ideas for areas that you should write more about in order to make the blog more topically relevant.

SEO AI for clustering

Semantic analysis

Another great use is harnessing the power of a Large Language Model in semantics, and the relationship between words and meaning. One such example is in deconstructing a topic into a complete list of related sub-topics. We have built a tool for this called the topical mind map generator. Add your central theme and the AI will branch out from there, connecting all related topics visually. This could be useful when designing a site structure, menu layout, or ensuring all relevant topics are covered on your site.

Semantic analysis AI SEO

Keyword categorisation

Let’s say you’re dealing with a thousand-plus keywords for your SEO project. To help you see the wood for the trees and formulate a content strategy you will need to categorise the keywords based on search intent. Using the prompt below you can get an AI to categorise all of the keywords, and provide the search intent back in a simple tabular format. This can save a lot of time rather than doing this manually.

Using AI SEO to categorise keywords

Schema mark-up

AI tools are very good at doing technical tasks, such as writing formulas for Excel spreadsheets or even writing code. One technical task related to SEO is generating schema markup. It can often be quite a time consuming task if you need to generate this for a lot of FAQs. The prompt below will help you generate the FAQ schema markup for a list of questions and answers saving a lot of time.

SEO AI for schema markup

Persona Development

Having a clear understanding of who you are writing for is important for any piece of content. There may be multiple audiences, or subsets of a main audience, who all have different questions and contexts. The closer you can get to understanding this, the better your content will be. We’ve built an AI tool called Persona Plotter that can help with this. Just enter your topic and the AI will reveal a series of personas, along with their common pain points and frequently asked questions. Here’s an example for electric car buyers:

Using AI for SEO persona development

Content outlines

If you are planning on writing about a specific topic, you could ask the generative AI to work to create an outline and a structure for that page. The prompt below gives the AI a detailed command, asking it to create a content outline for you along with FAQs and semantically related keywords. This could be a good starting point from which to plan out a piece of content – however, it’s important to do your own research as well and not just take this verbatim.

Content Outlines SEO AI command

Competitive Insight 

Sometimes you might wonder why a competitor’s page is ranking above you. This may be down to the differences in content on the page, or other off-site or technical factors. If you think it is content, you can ask ChatGPT to analyse the differences between the content on your competitor’s page and your own page. This will highlight topical differences between the two pages and may uncover areas that you can build further in your own content.

AI SEO tools for competitive insight

Using AI in SEO: the bottom line

Human expertise remains crucial in SEO, but AI can be a powerful assistant. Rather than leaning heavily into AI SEO, you should focus more on AI-supported human SEO.

Knowing how to use AI is important, but you should also know what not to use AI for. It can harm your site if used to churn out lots of low quality content, as can be seen in the recent algorithm updates. Paul Friend, our Head of SEO, puts it best:

Paul Friend, Head of SEO

“As an agency, we believe that AI tools offer the most benefit when used for specific tasks to help augment our human-curated SEO strategies. By utilising AI in an optimal way, we can unearth niche trends and spot emerging search patterns before everyone in the industry jumps on them.”

Paul Friend, Head of SEO, The SEO Works

By identifying the areas that it can assist, AI will help save you time in some of your manual SEO jobs. Which means you can be more strategic in your focus, whilst having more time to create great content for your audience.

FAQs about Artificial Intelligence in SEO

What is AI SEO and how does it work?

AI SEO, or Artificial Intelligence SEO, is the practice of using AI (Artificial Intelligence) tools and techniques to optimise your website and content for search engines. There are several places it can be used, and some key examples have been highlighted in this article.

Using AI you can automate some tasks and gain deeper insights to help optimise your website. But it’s important to remember that AI is a tool, and human expertise is still crucial for understanding your target audience, crafting high-quality content, and developing a holistic SEO strategy.

What are the benefits of using AI in SEO?

AI can help you to work smarter, not harder, in your SEO efforts. It can automate some tasks, freeing up time for other elements of work. It can also provide valuable insights to help shape a campaign strategy. When used correctly it’s a powerful tool, but it should be used to support human expertise for optimal results.

Can I use AI to write all my website content?

AI can be a great starting point for researching a topic, but human expertise remains crucial for writing compelling and effective website content. Creating all of your website content with AI content generation is a risky strategy: Google’s recent algorithm update fully deindexed numerous sites that had been created entirely with AI content. And generally 100% produced AI content will not be unique or adhere to E-E-A-T guidelines.

Can AI completely replace human SEO experts?

AI will not completely replace human SEO experts in the future. While AI is a powerful tool, it lacks many qualities that are important in delivering a holistic SEO strategy. 

SEO requires strategic thinking, understanding user nuances beyond keywords, crafting high-quality content with a human touch, and navigating ethical considerations. SEO AI is unable to offer a lived experience, quotes, or nuance of recent or cultural contexts. A key part of SEO is also in communication and relationship building. AI is unable to deliver on all of these aspects.

How much does AI SEO cost?

The cost of Artificial Intelligence SEO can vary depending on several factors, including the type and range of AI tools you are using, the scope of your SEO needs, and whether you are using an agency or an in-house model. The tools we have mentioned above are all free, so getting started with AI SEO can cost nothing. You can use AI SEO tools yourself, or hire an SEO agency such as ourselves that utilises AI alongside their human expertise. 

Is AI SEO safe for my website rankings?

This totally depends on how you are using AI in your SEO workflow. AI SEO is generally considered safe for your website rankings as long as you still follow Google’s guidelines and focus on creating content that demonstrates E-E-A-T.