If content is infinite, does content matter?
We’re not there yet.
It’s somewhat comforting to say that, isn’t it? But is it true? Right now, the tools exist to create 7,000-word blog posts with just a few instructions. They’re not great reads, but neither are the blog-factory posts businesses have been deploying for years; just good enough that Google can see them as semantically valid.
If that sounds bleak, that’s only an indication we are neck deep in the change stream. AI is going to affect the way we do SEO, but we don’t yet know exactly how.
The biggest change will be to our assumptions around SEO.
Keywords/phrases that we could effectively capitalize have always been limited. Generative AI now removes those limitations almost entirely. For early adopters, this could translate to a windfall; but in the longer term, doesn’t it just define a new base or entry point? What is missing from this conversation is how Google (or whatever comes after Google) will eventually respond to a hyper-inflated content environment. Will Google expect to see a page optimized for every variant on every imaginable longtail on every site in a market, or will it learn to ignore the background noise?
Another wildcard with unknown effects on SEO is Google’s experimentation with leveraging AI (Search Generative Experience) to transform how it provides search results. Although currently positioned as a late-comer, chasing Bing AI and ChatGPT, this trial technology looks more like Google’s future. Will SERPs become less like a directory where we compete for top spot, and more like a committee meeting where the boss pulls your idea and puts it in their presentation? Right now, it seems that way, but we can’t really imagine Google shaking their own tree this vigorously.
What is certain is that your return on effort applied to keyword-based SEO activities will go down, as your competitive space becomes more and more saturated with AI-generated content. Said another way: You will need more content but you will get less out of it.
Adaptation in the Works
How will Google react to ensure SERPs stay relevant? We have some hints in place already. Unsurprisingly, they are based on what SEO practitioners already know about building websites for humans.
In addition to the well-known acronym EAT (Expertise, Authority, Trust) Google has signaled increasing emphasis on a new E: Experience. When they crawl this page, before they give us a pile of gold traffic tokens, they’ll look around and decide if InteractOne should even be talking about SEO. Google will need to find other content signals on our site that indicate we’ve been involved in the strange science of internet traffic for more than a minute.
Another Google-centered bit of technology is something they’re calling “information gain.” This is a twist on the idea that content should be unique – as in not using manufacturer descriptions for your item descriptions. Information gain takes it a step further; did you bring something new to the topic? This will mean less emphasis on aggregation or “skyscrapering” tactics for your brand or for your most important keywords and phrases. Instead, this means building completely new and unique content around the products you sell. (Pssst … AI doesn’t do “new” well.)
For eCommerce merchants, information gain won’t be all about blog posts. Category and item descriptions should also get special attention to fit users’ specific, ultra-longtail searches – and their individual search history.
Off-page SEO should also make a resurgence, says Google, as AI content forces SERPs to look elsewhere for uniqueness. Off-page refers to SEO tactics found outside of a website to improve its ranking – chiefly links. Links to your site from other authoritative sites have always been a great traffic conduit; they’re going to get even more emphasis. Guest posting is another off-site tactic, but it’s also one of the most direct ways to build strong links. Social media marketing is tough to execute well, but look out because AI is making it even more cluttered.
Same Old Same Old?
Google’s reactions so far to how they and SEO can adapt to AI feels a lot like older advice from Google, promising rewards for good behavior and good user-centered pages. In the past, however, Google has fallen short of these noble goals. Instead, their algorithm awarded the traffic to gigantic pages cobbled together by the biggest brands. Skepticism aside, this time might be different because AI represents an abrupt and enormous shift in scale, not a loophole or weakness in Google’s algorithm.
At the detail level, we still need our meta data in tidy shape, page titles that make sense, category descriptions that match what we sell. The basics may sound simple, but eCommerce businesses are fast moving and clarity isn’t always the top priority.
Google will continue to identify and “ding” obvious AI-generated content, so think of it as a first step, not a finished product. Apps already exist for Magento and Shopify that will take base info from your existing product detail page: attributions, size, color, etc. and generate description content. You still need to tweak it!
Companies who use AI to create content will risk a ranking penalty in the same way as content stuffing “always” has. If the content is junk, i.e. if it doesn’t make sense, is not at all unique, or sounds like AI, then both human visitors and Google will penalize it in their own ways. At the same time, Google says that good content that happened to start as AI-generated content won’t be penalized, and why should it be? The key difference is human involvement; always check AI-generated content, even for simple tasks. More and more, Google will be looking for unique and authoritative/expert elements in the content.
So, What Should You Do?
Should you explore or deploy AI as an SEO tactic? In short, yes. We think it’s inevitable and probably a good thing, overall. Perhaps ironically, AI’s presence in the room could serve to clear out some of the lingering half-truths and contradictions that the practice of SEO has abided for years.
InteractOne provides internet marketing services to our clients – we have for many years – and our emphasis has always been on the techniques that you won’t have to disown three years down the road. That part won’t change, at least.
AI will always be artificial. In a competitive space like eCommerce SEO, you can use these tools for productivity, but you’ll always need human brains monitoring and managing quality, and fostering creativity.
Contact us to learn more about how to optimize your eCommerce site.