By Paul Schmidt
Using AI for SEO is exciting, but make sure you’re managing your expectations and know what you’re doing up front. If you’re not confident you’re doing those things, we’ve got you! Let’s cover some basics.
AI for SEO 101
What is AI for SEO, anyway?
AI for SEO refers to the art and science of using artificial intelligence tools to boost a website's search engine results page ranking.
How can AI tools improve your SEO strategy?
AI tools can improve your SEO strategy by helping you automate data analysis, pinpoint user behavior trends, and discern content optimization suggestions. It can also save you time, giving you more bandwidth to dive deep into strategy.
Of course, to realize these benefits, you’ve got to have the right tools.
What are the best AI for SEO tools—and how do I use them?
As accessible AI has arrived on the scene, it has kick-started a veritable gold rush of new AI for SEO tools and tactics—but it can be hard to tell which strategies are worth implementing.
We’ve got you covered.
AI for SEO: Dos and Don’ts
Here’s our team’s take on what to do (and what not to do) with AI for SEO.
Do manage your expectations.
One could argue that AI’s been a part of SEO since 2016, when Google started using it to power its ranking algorithm. But it’s only been the last year or so that most people have been able to play with accessible, coherent AI.
Translation? We’re still in the Wild-West infancy of this tech. New applications for AI are being discovered every day. New AI for SEO tools are launched every week.
That’s exciting, but don’t feel pressured to try everything—and don’t expect instant results with anything. Stay focused on what works for you.
Don't use AI for SEO without a road map.
AI needs clear goals and guidance. It’s powerful, but it’s not doing anything on its own.
As you start using AI for SEO, set specific SEO objectives and KPIs for your AI tools. Upload datasets. Toggle the advanced filters in your tools. Invest in your prompts. If you’re working with generative AI, give feedback to tailor the output you receive.
Do use AI for SEO to save time.
After you familiarize yourself with your AI tools, using them can give you time back in your day. Here are a few examples:
- AI can help you analyze your SEO data. Platforms from Google Analytics to ChatGPT can sift through data, pinpoint patterns, and identify trends you might not notice (or could spend hours looking for).
- AI can help you create great-looking graphics with that data in seconds. Tableau is a good AI-powered data visualization tool, but there are many others.
- AI can help you predict how SEO fixes may perform. Check out tools such as ClickFlow to run tests, see predictive analytics, and figure out your next worth-it SEO task in minutes.
Don’t forget you have other high-powered SEO tools.
SEO heavyweights such as Ahrefs, Moz, Screaming Frog, and Semrush are popular for a reason. These tools and your other go-to business resources, such as HubSpot, may be quietly rolling out game-changing AI-powered tools—including a Content Assistant ready to help you upgrade and optimize your content in real time.
These SEO and content solutions may even have capabilities that more AI-centric tools have yet to leverage, such as the ability to scrape the web in real time.
Just remember this: There’s a big difference between using Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool as an integral part of your SEO plan ... and asking ChatGPT last-minute to deliver 20 relevant keywords for a blog post you want to write anyway.
Do use AI for SEO to see what’s working.
AI can't resist A/B testing.
Use your AI tools to generate slightly differing versions of content headlines, metadata, content structures, and more. Then, run tests to see what makes Google (and your users) happiest.
As with many SEO aims, there’s an AI tool for that: You can use a solution such as Optimizely or RankScience to streamline your A/B testing. Or, if you enjoy tinkering with prompts on your own, generative AI can also help you get the job done.
Don't ignore your own learning.
Machine learning may be the topic at hand, but your learning is far more important.
To invest in your ongoing education, stay aware of what’s happening in the wider worlds of SEO and AI. Read your SEO blogs. Take time to learn the often-confusing language of AI. Level up your prompt engineering skills—and always try to understand your AI tools’ recommendations and outputs.
Pro tip: If you’re using a generative AI platform, simply ask the AI why it gave you a specific output. It’ll tell you!
Do use AI as a starting point for content.
AI won’t write you a perfectly optimized Shakespearean sonnet. (Or at least, not a good one.)
What it can help your content team with is avoiding blank page syndrome. Consider using generative AI to outline or structure your SEO-minded content to keep you organized and focused, or check out HubSpot Content Assistant’s ability to help you ideate and generate keyword-optimized content directly within the HubSpot ecosystem.
Have your AI tools recommend schema markup, assist with ways to word things if you’re stuck, or give you a paragraph that you can rewrite and edit as needed for your unique goals.
But don’t rely solely on AI for great SEO content (or analyses, plans, research, or anything). AI can help you save time and streamline your process, but you should always provide a human touch to ensure accuracy, creativity, empathy, and context.
Don't use a set-it-and-forget-it approach with your AI for SEO.
AI isn’t a magic wand to instantly boost your SEO rankings. It's a data-driven tool that can help you make informed decisions and streamline your process.
After you’ve taken the time to tweak settings and establish good baseline results with your AI tools, monitor their performance over time. Change your strategy if you need to. Your ability to assess what’s happening and pivot as needed to adapt to real-world circumstances is an incredible (and human) trait. Use it.
After all, the AI itself isn’t a marketing or SEO expert. That’s your job.
Do use AI for SEO to learn about your audience.
AI for SEO tools can help you get incredible data about your target audience.
- AI tools such as MonkeyLearn can assess audience sentiment behind online reviews, social mentions, and more to help you understand how your brand is perceived.
- Google Analytics and similar solutions can help you track and analyze user behavior on your pages.
- HubSpot’s ChatSpot connects generative AI directly with customer data from your CRM to help you learn about (and create marketing materials for!) your unique audience.
- You can use platforms such as Adobe Analytics to leverage AI to create strategic audience segments based on past user behaviors—and predicted future user actions.
This information allows you to tailor your SEO strategy and content to meet your unique audience’s needs.
Which brings us nicely to our last point ...
Don’t forget why you’re investing in SEO in the first place!
SEO is technical. We know that. We do it professionally. Optimization inherently involves a lot of numbers, analyses, tiny tweaks, and dense reports. It’s true that AI can help us streamline a lot of that heavy lifting.
But if we zoom out for a moment, we can remember that the endgame of great SEO is to provide real information to real people. (Google agrees.) That won’t happen if we simply delegate SEO to AI.
Instead, we need to see this as an opportunity. We have an unprecedented way to use cutting-edge AI for SEO tools to make what we deliver unimaginably valuable and personal. Now that we have that opportunity, it’s time to make the most of it. When your team leverages AI for SEO, remember the very real people you’re creating information for. Wield your SEO tools accordingly.
Interested in knowing where to get started with AI for great SEO? Here’s a free worksheet to help you keep your eyes on the prize.
About the author
Paul Schmidt is a director of client services at SmartBug Media. He works with clients on SEO, analytics, lead generation, sales enablement, customer success and inbound marketing strategy. He previously worked at HubSpot, helping develop inbound strategies for over 200 clients. His past clients include: Travelers Insurance, Unilever, and the SABIAN Cymbal Company. Paul studied percussion in Las Vegas and got his MBA in marketing in Boston Read more articles by Paul Schmidt.