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August 25, 2017

AI Bots are here, but SEO is here to stay

What we, the consumers, love the most about the internet is probably what most tech service providers hate about it: the internet is constantly changing, evolving to behave smarter and perform faster. Tech pioneers are always releasing breakthroughs and designing products that aim to make the internet more efficient, in turn making the user’s life simpler.

But why is this a nightmare for service providers? Because it means that they have to always stay on top of their game and evolve with the internet, or risk going the way of the dinosaurs: extinct. And with the advent of AI Bots, silent whispers of SEO going obsolete are getting louder by the day. But, is this really the case? Let’s take a look.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization, in simplest words, is the art of writing your website content organically optimised with targeted keywords and use strategies that increase its authority on the web to help it rank higher on search engines like Google and Bing. Search engines use bots, called ‘spiders’ that crawl the web constantly. They go over every website and their content and categorize data and webpages based on ‘keywords’. When a user searches for information on a search engine, the search engine simply looks for webpages with keywords that match the users search text, sorts them up in accordance with relevance and shows them on the SERP (Search Engine Result Page).

Is AI a Threat To Current SEO Methods?

The greatest drawback of current search methods is that search engines list tens of thousands of related webpages by connecting keywords, but there’s no guarantee the top listed webpages are what the user is really looking for. The keywords have definitely matched, but whether the rest of the content is relevant is not certain.

For example, there can be two bloggers writing about ‘how to make popcorn’. One uses eloquent English to describe exactly what ingredients to use, in what quantity and how flavourful the popcorn will be, but does not add extra keywords because they don’t go with the flow of his article. The other blogger does a poor job and writes an incoherent article, one that is not at all helpful but he makes sure to optimise the article by constantly adding keywords like ‘how to make popcorn’, ‘popcorn methods’ and ‘make popcorn at home’ throughout the article. Now when a user types in ‘how to make popcorn at home’ on Google, guess whose article shows up on top? That’s right, the not so useful one. This is not necessarily a flaw, because google serves to give you results, not cherry pick the best answer. But as a consumer we view this to be a flaw.

In addition, the number of results returned are always in the millions, because that is how large the internet is today. A user does not want to go through the hassle of perusing a hundred different popcorn articles before finding what they exactly need.

Enter AI and Chatbots

In all honesty, Artificial Intelligence, or AI, has been around for ages. Your email platform’s Spam filter for example works by sifting spam mails from genuine mails and as you mark spam mails as safe or inbox mails as spam, the platform ‘learns’ to set new rules and adjust to your preference. But for a few years now, programmers have been incorporating AI into more platforms and it has now found its way into the messaging stream in the way of Chatbots.

Chatbots are independent messaging apps or integrated into existing messaging platforms like Facebook’s messenger. These Chatbots have a giant database of information and they scour the internet to keep it updated. When a user types a search in these messengers, they check their database for the most relevant answer and returns the result. A Chatbot looks exactly how you think it does: like a chat window. If you log in to a shopping website and tell its Chatbot ‘I want blue running shoes from Nike’, the bot looks for the exact product and returns it to you. If you typed the same sentence on Google or Bing, you would be hit by a thousand webpages and it would be your responsibility to go through and find the perfect match.

You now see the impact AI is going to have on internet searches? It is massive.

So what does this mean for SEO?

Will optimizing your content be a waste since AI bots seem to have a different database and algorithm to provide results? The answer is no, SEO’s are not going obsolete. Chatbots and SEO content serve different purposes and target a different audience. When you go to Amazon to pick a blue and white chequered Ralph Lauren shirt, you want the search bar to show you exactly that product and not a thousand pages of different shirts and options. Chatbots are the answer here.

If you want to read about the ‘American Civil War’ or ‘How do Chatbots work’, one word or paragraph answers will not suffice. You will require multiple articles so you can go through relevant topics and stitch together the information you need. Google search is the answer here and in turn means SEO articles. This can only mean one thing. Both AI and SEO are here to stay. They will continue to serve different categories of search methods and become kings in their domain without interfering or affecting the other.

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