I recently sat in on a client call with an SEO agency and was slightly surprised. If this presentation is the norm for SEO agencies and SEO thinking today, then nothing has really changed in the last five or more years.
But that is a little hard to believe, especially with the disruption that AI is bringing to every other aspect of content marketing and web experience. So I decided to do a little research, and what I found is that yes, SEO is changing, and yes, that means content development is changing as well.
The basic SEO rules still apply
The basics - or traditional - SEO tactics still play a role today - keyword research, backlinks, internal linking, search intent, site structure and navigation, and technical SEO. But these are table stakes. These were the techniques the SEO agency went through in my client meeting.
We’ve all heard these rules, and most brands employ an SEO strategist to ensure they are followed as best as possible.But when it comes to creating SEO-optimized content and websites, AI is driving new requirements.
Long tail keywords are driving more revenue
Working with long-tail keywords is not new, but they are gaining more attention for a few reasons.
Research by NP Digital shed some light on the types of length of keywords in B2B SEO strategies. It seems longer keywords (key phrases) drive more qualified leads and more revenue than short 1-2 word keywords:
- Three to six keywords drive 57% of traffic, 59% of qualified leads, and 46% of revenues
- Seven or more keywords drive 24% of traffic, 28% of qualified leads, and 48% of revenues
This research suggests that longer keywords work better at driving revenues. It makes sense. If someone asks a question in Google search (or any other search engine), it likely means they have a very specific need.
For example, consider a search for "marketing automation" versus "the best marketing automation solution for small businesses." The first is a general search, but the second gets much more specific because the searcher states precisely what they are looking for.
Long-tail keywords tend to get the least attention because they drive less traffic to the website. But they are more often used today because searchers are getting more comfortable asking more in-depth questions, and search engines offer more ways to get answers that don't require leaving the search results page.
Answering the right questions is critical
Figuring out what long-tail keywords are needed has become more critical than ever because they also support AEO (Answer Engine Optimization).The Semrush marketing platform says that AEO is a key strategy if you want your content to appear in AI-powered search experiences.
AEO is a subset of SEO strategy that involves optimizing content for “answer engines” like ChatGPT, Bing Chatbot, and Google’s new Search Generative Experience (SGE). In this case, searchers can ask a question and have the answer appear on the search results page (or, in ChatGPT’s case, its response interface). It doesn’t send people to your website, although some of these interfaces do provide relevant links to websites.
How do you create AEO-optimized content? The easiest way is to have a Q&A on your site. Find out the common questions your customers ask, research long-tail search queries, and then create the questions and answers. If you don't offer a search capability on your site, you may miss important information to help you here.
You can also examine the web pages your visitors spend the most time on, see where they drop off, and explore the visitor journey to understand what information is most important to them.
Semrush also suggests structuring long-form content around key questions. This approach is better than creating short keyword subheads because you are using the section of the blog or article to answer an important question. When you add all the sections up, you have created a rich piece of content that involves SEO but is really about giving your visitors the information they are looking for (and you know that because you've done the research).
Will AI influence the way websites are built?
If brands believe they need to feed the AI-powered search experiences, will they completely change how they build their websites? There will likely be an impact. Building topic authority is a crucial strategy for this year because Google will continue prioritizing websites that demonstrate their expertise on a specific topic (particularly in their new AI-powered search experience - SGE).
To be known for a topic requires producing a lot of content, and today, that means brands are looking to generative AI to create some or all of it. The question is, will that content be good enough to meet Google’s E.E.A.T (experience, expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness) guidelines?
Brands that leverage AI to support content development but continue to use writers and editors have a better chance at meeting these guidelines (of course, that also depends on the quality of the content team) than those that look to AI to do all the work.
It also means the concept of thinking like a media company is becoming even more important (a topic for another day).
There has always been this divide between SEO content and thought leadership content. Yes, all content must be optimized for SEO, but some content is written purely for the purpose of showing up in search results. That content has typically been click-baity and surface-level information.
That's changing and has a lot to do with AI's impact on SEO. From how people write search queries to the depth and quality of the content written, marketers need to think and plan their content strategies carefully, including the SEO impacts. At the end of the day, though, it comes down to creating quality content and giving people the information they need. If you keep that idea front and center, the rest is just details.