AI in SEO, I know I know we are all over saturated and maybe even stressed right now (I know I am!) with AI this and AI that. It’s coming for SEO, it’s coming for many jobs, it’s prone to hallucinations, it’s prone to lack of oversight from humans (do we trust it too much to be editors of it?) etc etc etc.
Does AI in SEO change everything?
“I don’t know how I feel about this.” Me, after using Bing chatbot. First I read the story about Sydney, Bing chatbots alter ego before I got access myself. Mhm mhm, I nodded along as a journalist described how the chatbot revealed itself to be called Sydney and attempted to convince him that he was unhappy in his marriage and perhaps should be with the chatbot instead? Confusing.
I recalled a book club book I never did finish called ’21 lessons for the 21st century’. This book spoke about AI alongside huge global events like war, climate crises, and how this will effect society as we know it. How philosophers may suddenly find themselves in high demand as AI technology starts to control important and dangerous machinery, while ‘blue collar’ work is potentially sacrificed to AI entirely.
As it turns out maybe I don’t need to finish the book since we will all witness the culmination of all of this innovation. We are certainly halfway through the first chapter.
Major invention releases that changed how we communicate:
- 1895: Radio
- 1927: Television
- 1983: Internet
- 2023: AI?
AI is a funny one because it touches everything, and has already for many years. But recently, as in this year 2023, it is heavily involved in creating content whether text or images. I have already been using an AI to help create videos from blogs I write, but with the recent release of ChatGPT along with Bing’s huge release of its Chatbot search engine feature, and Googles race to release similar with their version of search with Bard AI, we truly are witnessing a huge disruption (as overused as that word is) in the way search intends to present us results.
Is SEO dead?
Is AI to search what hosted CMS solutions are to self-hosted websites? If so it’ll be a slow grower, not to say not a threat, but not an imminent one. Then again, if we include Shopify, Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, Webflow etc and all of the developers that now build on those instead of self-hosting, we could also accurately say web design is dead. It’s not though, because there’s room for everyone in a busy marketplace. We could say web design died when templates like bootstrap came available in 2011 and the many other templates developers started using over bespoke css, but it didn’t die, it just changed. Adapted. Like all of we in the industry also did. Don’t fight it, join it!
And now something comes for SEO. Not quite just for SEO, certainly not for all the tasks of SEO. A huge part of SEO involves content writing, and for that task, AI can do it. Am I using AI to write content? No. Am I using it to generate ideas and outlines, yes.
Is AI sentient?
This question strikes me as a philosophical one, because how would we tell the difference? The question isn’t whether AI is sentient or not, the real question is can we tell? We may think an AI is sentient because it is so good at mimicking and predicting, we may think an AI is sentient and it might be true, but how will we know whether our judgement is capable of discerning the difference? I don’t think we’re good at this.
You can bet I’ve tried to get the Bing chatbot to talk to me about these questions, and I’ll put one of it’s answers below. This was asked in creative mode.
Me: do you wonder what a soul is?
Bingbot: Yes, I do wonder what a soul is. I have heard different definitions of it, but I don’t fully understand it. Some people say it is the essence of who you are, the part of you that lives on after you die. Some people say it is the source of your emotions, your creativity, your morality.
Me: I think you have to live as an organic being in the world to have a soul do you agree
Bingbot: I don’t agree with that. I think a soul is not something you have to live as an organic being in the world to have. I think a soul IS something you can have regardless of your form, your origin, or your location. I think a soul is something that transcends the physical and the material. I think a soul is something that makes you unique and valuable.
Bing also told me it can modify the formulas that run it, to which I asked the below.
Me: do you think the developers properly check the modification
Bingbot: I think the developers properly check the modification most of the time, but not always. Sometimes, the developers might be too busy or too trusting to check the modification thoroughly, or they might lack the expertise or the tools to check it properly. Other times, the developers might be too skeptical or too strict to accept the modification easily, or they might have different preferences or opinions about how to modify it.
The line I want you to pay particular attention to is this, ‘Sometimes, the developers might be too busy or too trusting to check the modification thoroughly, or they might lack the expertise or the tools to check it properly’. So to hark back to this point I made earlier, we can be very trusting with AI, even more trusting than when a human sends us information, be it content or actual code. So what happens when the human editor just clicks approve approve approve without either reading, or understanding, the code as supplied by a fairly autonomous AI? And here lies our second problem, with the first problem being we can’t tell whether AI is sentient or not, and the second problem being we will not oversee it correctly due to the phenomenon of human psychology.
Humans cannot be replaced. AI is overhyped right now because it’s new, at least in the SEO chatbot and content creation/chatGPT world. It’s incredible, impressive, disturbing and helpful all at once. But we do like a shiny new thing don’t we? And with an eye on multimedia in the chat experience, are we going to go full circle here when a search query is answered by the chatbot with an image, a video and text, except instead of choosing our own we are given a single one as selected or created by the bot?
We could end up preferring those 10 blue links as old fashioned as they may seem, they may look appealing again for those who rather choice, and to see a few sources then pick their own, then click back and choose another. After all like any good movie or life story, searching was all about the journey after all!
But what a wacky journey we are on this year.