Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) came onto the marketing scene with the rise of Internet search engines like Google. Website owners want their pages to load on the first page of results, and they achieve this by optimising these pages in accordance with what the search engines look for in a quality piece of content.
It’s always been a complicated process, and the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) just made it way more complex. This article looks at how Internet users are altering their search behaviours, the importance of natural language in the new SEO arena, and how AI is changing SEO by focusing on user intent.
Moving from text to voice search
Performing search engine optimisation on a website used to be ‘easy’. You’d research keywords that people were using to search for related content, and insert these throughout the headings and body copy on your website pages.
Then came phrase-match SEO, which replaced single keyword optimisation with phrases that people type into search bars to find the solutions to their problems. These phrases are most common in the form of why, how, where, when, and what questions.
Today, AI has made voice searches possible, with a whopping 65% of people aged between 25 and 49 using voice search at least once a day. Holding your thumb on a small microphone icon and verbalising your search query is much easier than typing out a string of words.
However, people rarely speak the same way as when they type, which offers a new set of challenges for search engine optimisers.
The rise of NLP
Natural language processing (NLP) has come into the SEO spotlight since the announcement of Google’s BERT algorithm update in 2019. As the world’s leading search engine, Google suggests that SEO professionals place more focus on ensuring that content is written in a natural way, as if an employee were speaking to the reader verbally.
Google’s AI-powered web crawlers now assess a piece of online content based on how ‘human’ the text is, which means that sales speak – like buy-1-get-1-free, 100% money-back guarantee, and click here for your free e-book – will now be detrimental to a website’s ranking potential.
So, the challenge then becomes about crafting quality content that is written as one might speak it, while ensuring that keywords and phrases relating to the topic are sprinkled throughout.
AI and searcher intent
Another challenge for search engine optimisation professionals that is posed by the rise of AI is searcher intent. The last thing Google wants to do is serve a browser a piece of content that might have all the right keywords in all the right places, but that is not what they were looking for.
This issue was common when keywords and phrases were all that the algorithm used to match queries with pieces of content. Today, artificial intelligence is able to discern the searcher’s intent based on a number of factors – including their search phrase, their location, their search history, and other factors.
SEO professionals now need to look at the content they are optimising, and ask themselves whether or not it is what a searcher will want to see when searching a specific phrase.
For example, you might write a blog article on the best time to post on Facebook in South Africa. If you optimise it for the phrase best time to post on Facebook, and it’s the best article about that topic online, there’s a good chance that people from other parts of the world will find it.
The article won’t be relevant to them because they do not live in South Africa. Their intent is to find information relating to their geographical location, but because they have searched for the exact phrase you optimised your article for, your content was served to them. This is only one of many intent issues Google’s search algorithm will remedy using AI.
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