Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not science fiction anymore. But instead of scary robots that want to overthrow the human race, intelligent machines are helping us carry out our everyday tasks.

AI is not something new, but it’s getting more advanced and changing how things work — and search engine optimization (SEO) is not an exception.

But before we dive deeper on how AI impacts SEO, let’s cover the basics of AI first.

 

What is AI?

AI refers to smart machines that could perform tasks that once would require human intelligence. They are capable of learning, reasoning, self-correction, and problem-solving.

Our lives are surrounded by AI. Personalized Facebook feeds, video recommendations from Youtube, and even interacting with Siri are made possible by intelligent machines running in the background.

Generally, there are three types of AI: narrow, general, and super. 

AIs that we know today are all part of the narrow type, which means that they could only perform one single task. General AI — which could perform various tasks — is still in development, while super-AI is still out of our reach.

 

AI in SEO

Back in 2015, Google dropped a big bomb by announcing RankBrain, the latest machine learning-based engine algorithm that helps to filter search results and ranking. To top it off, this algorithm is also one of the top three ranking factors besides content and links.

A few years before RankBrain, Google also released two major algorithms known as Panda and Penguin to counter black hat SEO practices (strategies that go against Google’s guidelines).

With AI involved in search engines, it’s not surprising that they reshape the way webpages rank and how marketers and advertisers work.

Content Is Still King

Although the algorithm is always improving, the underlying principle is still the same: Google wants to give the best search results for its users.

To do so, RankBrain crawls through webpages and gives them a score between 1 to 10. The higher the score, the more relevant the content. 

Besides the quality of the content, your webpage will also be ranked based on user behavior. You’ll get a higher score if users spend enough time on your site and browse around in single visit. 

So don’t focus on RankBrain to rank high, but pour your effort in creating informative content that users will be attracted to. Avoid keyword stuffing, write bite-sized sentences, and add visual elements.

 

The Emergence of Niche-Focused Sites

Back in the day, a website can contain various topics you can think of. But that’s no longer applicable now if you want to rank on the first page of SERP.

Try to search for any keywords, and you’ll see that the results are dominated by high authority sites (reputable sites for particular topics). For example, WebMD will likely be on top of the list if you search for medical keywords.

Why so?

To get the best result, RankBrain has to get a better understanding of good sites and bad sites for particular search environments. So if a website repeatedly presents themselves as an expert in, say, the beauty industry, RankBrain will take notice and ranks it high for search phrases related to that particular topic.

 

End of Black Hat SEO

In 2010, an algorithm called Panda was released to track websites producing low-quality content and remove it from SERP. Then, the second algorithm known as Penguin came in 2012 to catch sites that buy links or engage with other manipulative link schemes.

Now, RankBrain is not designed to target those unethical practices, but it doesn’t mean that this algorithm won’t fight them.

Remember, the ultimate goal of RankBrain is to provide the most relevant results based on the users intent. So if websites still continue their black hat practices like spamming and keyword stuffing, they will be marked as irrelevant. 

 

Link Building Is Not Everything

Google suggests in one of its patents that the tech giant is paying more attention to unliked mentions, a type of online mentions that do not link back to your site. Those “linkless” mentions will be used to determine the site’s quality and authority. 

So, unlinked mentions could be just as strong as regular links. To adapt to this change, brands need to develop more online footprints by launching PR campaigns that generate social media buzz.

 

Personalized SERPs

Did you know that if you search for certain keywords, the results might not be the same from person to person? Yep, it’s possible thanks to SERP personalization.

To make a personalized SERP, Google uses the data it has about the user. This includes location, browsing history, demographics, device, and other Google apps that you use.

So what does this mean for brands?

Well good news, you can rank higher in search results of those who click on your site and engage with it. So by being active on various platforms and encourage people to go to your site, you have every chance to get more exposure on SERPs.

To Sum It Up

Artificial Intelligence has quickly changed the SEO landscape. We never know what’s the next algorithm will be, and the practices that we do today might not be applicable in years from now. Stay alert to recent AI developments and how it impacts SEO, and you’ll be ahead of your competitors.