The fast emergence and adoption of artificial intelligence has undoubtedly left a lasting impact on many industries. Within the SEO agency and freelancer community, opinions on AI seem to be polarized. Some consider it a revolutionary technology, advocating for its widespread use, while others view it as a tool incapable of producing original content and not to be trusted. Others see it as a threat to their jobs and livelihood.
As the AI landscape evolves, here are five anticipated transformations in the SEO and content marketing industry I expect to see over the next 12 months.
1) Content Creation Explodes
As SEO agency owners, we’ve probably all sat in a meeting with a founder or executive who didn’t understand the value of content marketing and what it could do to grow their business. All they knew was it meant hiring 2-3 employees or retaining a marketing agency to produce something they didn’t understand.
While that will still happen from time to time, tools like ChatGPT are bringing content development to mainstream attention. The mass availability of AI tools is lowering the entry barrier for more companies to invest in content creation with little to no risk. Just like WordPress themes opened up online marketing and website design to a host of new companies (how many legitimate companies don’t have a website today compared to 15 years ago?), AI content tools will let companies who previously couldn’t afford content creation begin to try it and see its value.
This increased demand, combined with time and cost savings, offers the potential for SEO agencies and freelancers to use AI tools to more quickly generate content and perform basic subject matter research. What was once very labor-intensive and time-consuming can now be accomplished 20-30% faster.
2) AI Content Creation Becomes Widely Accepted
I’ll admit to being extremely skeptical of using AI tools to write content for our agency. While I don’t believe they can generate good content from scratch, they do provide a massive headstart.
AI content generators such as ChatGPT are just the beginning and will only get better. As these tools develop their natural language processing (NLP) abilities, their writing will become more acceptable for companies. Companies will eventually train LLMs with their own content and documentation. In the very near future, websites won’t need to staff their chat support round-the-clock because a chatbot will be able to intelligently answer common questions instead of feeding users dozens of how-to pages and FAQs.
I see AI automation replacing a lot of technical writing, whether that is Q&A-style blogs, support documentation, or technical user guides. That being said, good writers will not become obsolete or lose their jobs. On the contrary, the surge in content creation will mean more copywriters can focus on the content they’re experts at and produce it at a higher volume.
3) High-Quality Content Strategy Becomes a Premium Skill
As content creation becomes more accessible through AI tools, the demand for content marketers who offer expert strategy will increase substantially. While generating new SEO content is a huge part of growing organic traffic, the strategy to know what to write is where real success in SEO lies.
Strategy skills like technical SEO, keyword research, understanding search intent and marketing strategy, building backlinks, tracking algorithm changes, and optimizing content will be assisted by AI tools, but those capabilities won’t replace humans who can do the job. In fact, humans who know how to use AI SEO tools and AI content generators will be in high demand.
Agencies and freelancers should quickly move beyond “SEO content” as it will be replaced by AI, and instead, focus on creating content strategies that address every part of the buyer journey.
4) Websites See a Decrease in Organic Traffic
One of the primary types of SEO content ChatGPT will replace is very top-of-funnel information, such as “What is ____”. These types of searches bring in a large volume of organic traffic visits to many websites, but there’s no reason an AI tool can’t answer basic questions we currently use Google for.
Many websites that built their SEO strategy around ranking for featured snippets, Q&A, and high-volume/low-competition keywords will see a dip in organic traffic as people use AI tools to get this information instead of search engines.
Agencies should align their client’s content strategies and move away from these types of very top-of-funnel content which likely didn’t drive a ton of conversions anyway.
5) Search Engine Optimization Gets More Competitive
As content creation expands, I predict search engines like Google will massively fine-tune their algorithms to spot and de-rank low-quality AI-written content. If a company decides to use an AI writing tool to create content for them without research, strategy, original thought, or editing, the content is unlikely to get better rankings in the long term.
Google has been firm on its stance that content that ranks must meet their E-E-A-T standards for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
Companies that use AI-generated content purely to manipulate search rankings will not see lasting results, while brands that focus on delivering helpful, quality content will thrive. This will make SEO extremely competitive and require a premium-skill level to succeed.
6) Companies Hire For AI Skills
I’ll stretch a bit on this one, but I think AI will lead to small and medium-sized companies hiring for in-house AI roles, similar to the way they hire for digital marketing and web development jobs right now.
I think we’ll also see more agencies evolving their team structures, replacing entry-level content writers with strategy experts and editors who can train AI tools and perfect expert content.
Should SEO agencies be worried?
No. In fact—and I don’t say this lightly—the opportunity for more SEO professionals and SEO content writers is higher than ever provided they heed the warnings above. AI writing and AI-generated content writing aren’t going to “steal” jobs any more than WordPress themes put designers and developers out of jobs. If anything, it expanded their market because more people wanted help.
However, if you are concerned, here are some practical tips you should start doing this year to prepare your agency for AI:
- Learn to use AI SEO tools like an expert. It will make you better at your job and more valuable to your client
- Focus on your skills as a true content strategist and use new tools to make your process better and more efficient
- Train writers on tools like ChatGPT and hire great copy editors to handle content optimization and editing