Since the dawn of ChatGPT in late 2022, generative AI (artificial intelligence) has begun to change many business functions and operational tasks significantly. Digital marketing is no exception.
Within marketing, one area that can benefit immensely from generative AI is SEO. By adding generative AI to their SEO efforts, CMOs and marketing teams can leverage it to reduce manual labor and time required to perform certain tasks while improving the quality of website content and search rankings.
Yet, many marketing professionals are hesitant to turn to AI. They’re unsure how to start or what tools to use, and may be reluctant to trust a technology still in its infancy. Additionally, there is a common misperception that using AI means humans will lose their jobs.
The truth is that AI—and specifically, generative AI—should complement human strategists, not take over for them. Because it can perform more mundane, time-intensive tasks, AI frees up marketing professionals to focus more on strategy, planning, and high-impact activities.
Leveraging generative AI to improve your website's SEO may sound daunting, but it’s an approach every CMO should consider. Understandably, knowing where to start may be unclear and intimidating. In this article, I'll shed light on AI-powered SEO—what it is, the benefits you can realize (and its limitations), and practical ways to put the technology to work (with example prompts).
Understanding AI SEO
AI advances rapidly. Its capabilities today far exceed what it could do a few years ago. When used correctly (and I’ll cover this further below), AI can provide significant strategic value and return on investment.
The Benefits of AI SEO: Its Power
When applied to search engine optimization, generative AI (such as Anthropic’s Claude, Google Bard, or ChatGPT) can improve a website's organic performance with various search engines. AI-powered SEO leverages artificial intelligence to unlock insights within data, and SEO teams can use those insights to optimize their websites and generate multiple benefits. These include:
- An improved user experience
- Higher rankings
- More traffic
- Increased revenue
- An edge over competitors
Additional benefits you can realize from leveraging AI include improving your marketing team’s agility and responsiveness by accelerating content creation, technical fixes, rank tracking updates, and more; and strengthening customer satisfaction and loyalty by enhancing personalized content.
In some respects, it’s hard to think of a use-case where AI could not improve the process.
The Challenges of AI SEO: Its Limits
Of course, AI also has its limits. As an emerging technology built on continuous learning models, it’s not a cure-all solution for every content or SEO challenge.
For example, generative AI is prone to “hallucinations,” referring to the tech making up results when it doesn’t have the correct data. By understanding its benefits and limitations, you can determine how to incorporate generative AI for different goals. Some of its current limitations include:
- AI has a learning curve. Training AI tools takes time and quality data, so don't expect perfect results instantly. Over time, results and content generation will improve, and so-called “AI hallucinations” will decline.
- AI gets stuck. Many prompt threads go nowhere, and experimentation is definitely part of the process. Be flexible in your approach, and have patience as you get started.
- It can produce poor-quality output. AI content or recommendations may lack accuracy or relevance or simply be too generic. Careful training data selection, quality checks, and earnest human oversight can help with this.
- Training data is essential. AI only knows what it knows—and when it comes to your company or area of specialization, chances are it knows very little. Therefore, the more specific first-party source data you can include in your prompt, the higher quality answer it will generate.
- Cybersecurity and data privacy risks. It’s essential to vet AI vendors thoroughly to ensure they take proper precautions to secure and protect your data and IP. Be sure your IT team is aware of the tools you're using, and do not put anything into AI you wouldn’t want the public to see!
Getting started: Plugging generative AI into your SEO program
In several key areas, generative AI complements the work of humans, enabling team members to work more efficiently and focus on strategic activities.
The best approach is to start small, with tools I mentioned earlier like Claude, Google Bard, or ChatGPT, and expand your use of AI as you go. Once you start seeing results, you can generate broader buy-in, expand your usage, and gain approval to spend money on more sophisticated AI and SEO tools.
Example 1: Improving User Experience
Many businesses fail to communicate a clear transformational promise or value proposition in their messaging and on their website. Tech businesses are often the worst offenders, burying their message in excessive “insider” lingo.
If you fall into this category, chances are your visitor engagement is suffering. When visitors suffer, Google notices as they fail to engage with your content.
The example below offers a quick way to use AI to improve your home page and its SEO value. While straightforward, it can have a significant impact on your site’s user experience and visitor engagement.
I prefer to split my main points with a linefeed for comprehension (mine!) For an actual example, here is a prompt I recently used for my own website:
I'm seeking concise, direct transformational promises for Boomcycle Digital Marketing (URL: https://boomcycle.com), targeting business owners, CMOs, VPs of Marketing, Sales Directors, and RevOps personnel. Our current promise is “Unlimited Visibility to Grow Your Sales” with the following explanation of how we provide that transformation: “Strategic SEO & PPC campaigns, Intelligent web designs, Google Ads, and our Marketing Intelligence System get your business booming. Ready to grow?”
I need three alternative, equally engaging and professional promises with clear, succinct explanations of how we fulfill these promises through our services.
ChatGPT’s response was not bad:
Note that as of this writing, most chat systems can’t perform many web-related tasks as they can’t “see” the internet. For the purposes of this article, I used the November 2023 release of ChatGPT 4, which can do web browsing.
Example 2: Helping Google to Love Your Website
In this example, I want to evaluate a blog article for its adherence (or lack thereof) to Google’s latest guidelines for what constitutes top-level content. This is the so-called “Helpful Content Update” (HCU).
This prompt is a multi-parter:
- You prime ChatGPT with training data. In this case, I’ll train it to understand Google’s HCU using a large PDF chock full of HCU minutiae. Attach the PDF to the chat using the little paperclip icon first, then enter the prompt.
- Provide the URL of the blog article to evaluate.
- Tell ChatGPT the phrase for which you’re trying to rank.
Here is my prompt:
Please read the attached HCU PDF document to understand the Google Helpful Content Update guidelines.
After reviewing the document, evaluate the webpage at https://boomcycle.com/right-percentage-of-gross-revenue-to-invest-in-marketing for its alignment with these guidelines, especially in terms of ranking for the phrase 'percentage of gross revenue for marketing'.
Consider factors like content quality, user experience, relevance to the query, and demonstration of expertise.
Here is ChatGPT’s response:
Since it appears to like my content, the latest version of ChatGPT is obviously highly intelligent (ha ha)! Often though, this prompt will let you know right away that your content can be improved. Try it on your own URL now!
Example 3: Data Analysis
Ever since Google Analytics 4 (GA4) rolled out, this capability is one of my new best friends. Simply export a GA4 report and ask ChatGPT 4 for some insights. This one is more free-form, which is useful when you want specific insight.
After first uploading the exported PDF, this is the prompt I used:
This is a report from GA4 entitled "Brand awareness overview". Can you please summarize the most significant data points, suggest new content topics that are not in the dataset, and make recommendations for improving website performance?
Here is the most helpful part of ChatGPT’s analysis:
While some of these “cities” are internet hubs, and we’ve yet to convert a single visitor from Faisalabad, some valuable data nuggets are hidden in this evaluation, like the engagement time and most popular pages.
The bottom line is that CMOs can take advantage of these insights, as opposed to being easily overwhelmed and getting glassy-eyed looking at a huge set of randomly arranged numbers.
With realistic timelines and phased adoption, you can transform your SEO over time through AI's ongoing optimization and automation. And by focusing on quick wins and minimal viable applications, you can see tangible benefits with modest resources and effort. Hiring or working with specialists can come later as your needs grow.
The Intelligence is Real
Make no mistake: many, if not all, of your competitors are already using AI. You should start using it, if you’re not already, to avoid falling behind and seeing your marketing and SEO efforts suffer.
The key is understanding AI's strengths—scale, speed, and personalization—and its need for quality data, learning time, and human oversight. Involve your staff early, and encourage creativity and continuous learning among members.
With patience and the right foundations, organizations can overcome initial hurdles and transform SEO with AI, giving the marketing program a powerful boost and impressing the C-Suite with a more substantial brand presence.
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