In an AI-content world, will (quality) human content still boost SEO?
Since ChatGPT burst on the scene with a bang in November, I have been flooded with questions about the implications for SEO strategy. And one question that is usually accompanied with a deer-in-the-headlights look of panic is this:
Will investing in high-quality content still provide a return on investment by boosting my company website’s SEO? Or will AI-content-integrated SERPs no longer direct traffic to high-quality, human created content?
I understand that business success (not to mention the livelihood of writers) hangs on the line. Hey, the great Google even initiated a “Code Red” when ChatGPT launched! But panic isn’t helpful. So here are 3 takeaways about what this does (and does not) mean for your company’s strategy to boost SEO through high quality (human generated) content.
Takeaway 1: Bing, an early adopter of AI-content integration into the search engine experience, cites its sources (high quality content!) really well.
When Bing revealed its AI-chat as part of its search results, it included robust direction to sources of the information. First, a searcher can hover over a segment of the answer, then click to the source of the content (when there is more than one source, the options appear, and the user can click their choice). Second, every piece of information is annotated with a superscript, and the notes (with links to sites!) are at the bottom.
Big picture: This is a really good thing. It means that AI-generated content is directing users to high quality publisher created, (highly likely) human generated content.
So traffic to quality content from Bing’s SERP will not evaporate. The fact that Bing (and Microsoft) is a thought leader in this area also means it has the potential to set a precedent for other uses of AI-integrated search engine experiences.
Takeaway 2: Google has a history of valuing high quality content, but we are still waiting to see how Google’s AI chat “Bard” directs traffic to source content.
Let’s be honest: It’s great that Bing is acting as a helpful thought leader in the SERP AI-content space, but what about Google, which provides the vast majority of traffic to content from its SERPs?
Although Google announced its AI chat function “Bard” in February, it honestly still looks like wet paint. In comparison to Bing, they were definitely scrambling. So to prepare for the future, we are really looking at Google’s m.o. for treating content in the past and the early versions of Bard.
First: Google’s m.o.: In the past, Google has time and time again worked to elevate high quality content. Specifically, content that demonstrates the qualities of expertise, experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. They re-iterate this commitment to this type of content in their blog “Google Search's guidance about AI-generated content”.
So that should provide some hope for content creators and is a point in favor of investing in high quality content for the good of SEO.
Second, the early versions of Bard: When it first launched, Bard (Google’s AI chat) was not citing sources or directing users to source content. Which is legitimately disturbing. There were listings under a “Read more” heading, but that is really small potatoes.
Google got a lot of backlash for this. So there is good reason to think that they will direct more traffic to high quality content in the future. Should we still keep a very close eye on this? Absolutely. There is good reason to think links (citations) will be devalued to some degree. But we don’t need to start shutting down our content shops yet.
Takeaway 3: Stay curious about changes, adapt, and keep writing.
SEO has never been a stagnant formula. It has changed at a rapid pace since the rise of search engines, and we will always need to change with it. But the ultimate goal for search engines has always been to answer searchers’ questions in a helpful way.
And in order to do that, there needs to be high quality content.
As AI-integrated search engine technology develops, we may find more useful approaches to creating or presenting high quality content, but the need for high quality content will not evaporate.
In fact, one of the biggest short-term concerns with AI-generated content is presenting nonsensical answers out of context. The AI-generated content will improve, of course, but for now many people will be looking to source content to verify the value of AI-generated content.
So as AI-integrated search content continues to develop, take a big, deep breath. You shouldn’t give up now on producing content that answers your audience’s questions and meets their needs. But you should stay curious and adapt your SEO content strategy to changes as they unfold.