SEO is, by default, a longer-term digital marketing channel, and this can challenge the patience of SEO professionals – and that of important stakeholders.
Discipline and a high level of knowledge are often needed to see it through to success for companies and their clients.
I can’t understate the importance of being patient, disciplined, and focused right now.
With news emerging weekly about new ways search engines are integrating AI technology and how it will reshape search, SEO pros have a lot to think about.
And we should think about them, and start incorporating AI into our SEO strategies and processes!
But until AI fully takes over the algorithms and search results, we also need to stay focused on what works today – and that’s not a basic or simple checklist of things to do.
Getting our strategies right, aligning with our own goals, knowing our audiences and competitors, and focusing on the top priorities of what matters most right now for our SEO plans is still very much important.
Whether you’re concerned about being able to keep up, what the future of SEO might look like, whether it’s still worth investing in, or just want some perspective on what to do right now, I hope this article helps provide some reassurance.
I will unpack eight things right now to focus on and prioritize as we balance the AI boom with our current environment and reality.
1. Know Your Goals & Objectives
SEO can be a big waste of time and resources if it isn’t guided toward specific goals.
There are so many tactics and things to “do,” but it can all be done in vain if you don’t know what you’re targeting and why you’re doing it.
You can spend less time doing things manually and turn your processes over to AI, but if they are misguided or misaligned with your goal outcomes, then you run the risk of not achieving the results you want.
Whether it is a set of goals tied to conversions, traffic, exposure, or aligned with thought leadership and a customer journey – you want to set goals so you can work toward them in an organized fashion.
2. Have A Set Process & Standard Operating Procedures
If you’re integrating AI deeper into your methodology, you’re now introducing new technology and processes.
Innovation is great, and I support it 100%.
However, you can get loose with processes and practices if you don’t have a set process from which you’re starting.
My team is working on enhancing our standard processes and operating procedures, not just in how we do SEO, but across our entire agency.
We’re utilizing Systemology for this, but there are a number of different ways and approaches.
Regardless of how much you’re adjusting and adapting, if you have a team of more than one, or want to be able to hand off or delegate in the future, you should have things documented and standardized as much as possible.
Plus, you’ll want to have a handle on what’s working and what isn’t.
3. Be Adaptable & Embrace Change
If you’ve been doing SEO for a long time, you know that change is a constant.
From big algorithm or ranking factor updates to ongoing core updates to machine learning being built into the algorithm, changes will occur, and you will inevitably need to pivot – even when you’re firmly established where you want to be in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Even if you’re skeptical or want to take a “wait and see” approach to how AI will truly impact the SERPs and change SEO in the bigger picture and longer term, I encourage you to use AI today to automate processes and leverage those increased abilities to increase efficiencies.
4. Leverage What Works Today
It can be all-consuming to test new things, adapt processes, and engage AI within them.
While my point above encourages such exploration, don’t take your focus too much off of what works today and what the current ranking factors are.
Keep a human, user-first approach when it comes to using AI to generate content.
Yes, you can use multiple AI tools to get a good score, regardless of whether the content was generated by AI or a human.
However, even if you get rankings and traffic to your site, if your goal is conversions or something deeper than that, you may not be hitting the right level of resonance with your audience.
Focus on your user, even if you’re using AI, to ensure that you stand apart from any level of commoditized AI-generated content or low-quality content (even if human-generated) in your industry.
Focus on solid technical, on-page, and off-page ranking factors that are tied to strong SEO strategies and tactics right now.
5. Implement Today With An Eye On The Future
Am I contradicting myself at this point? I don’t think so.
While you focus on what works today, my message and recommendations are all about balance. While you’re implementing your current strategy, you can’t fall behind.
Know how ChatGPT, Bard, and other aspects of AI are being used by search engines and integrated into search results. Develop an understanding of how SERP feature changes are going to influence how we do SEO.
Be ready and willing to adapt and adjust as you go.
We’re definitely in a balancing act right now; Those that don’t adapt will be left behind.
Those that get distracted by the new shiny object today and stop doing what works today will lose ground and momentum.
6. Stay Active & Keep Momentum
A constant since the beginning with SEO is the need to take a long-term and ongoing approach to it.
Sure, you might see a bump from doing a round of optimization tactics.
Yes, you can stop actively working on SEO and might not see an immediate or drastic drop in traffic.
However, my recommendation hasn’t changed: You need to have a plan – phased out, ongoing optimization built into it – and stay the course.
Even if the SERPs change and the things that work today are totally different in SEO next year, you want to keep going and not get lax. Momentum is important in SEO strategies and in getting where you want to be with your goals.
The search engines aren’t the only things changing.
Your marketplace and competitors are extra variables to contend with.
7. Don’t Write Off SEO Easily
SEO has gotten harder in some ways over the past few years.
As the ongoing squeeze of real estate continues at the top of the organic results, we can see high rankings but lower traffic from those.
Looking at my historical Google Search Console data, I can attest to that.
SEO can be hurt by not having the resources – internal or external, soft or hard costs – beyond people with SEO titles to see success. Content is fuel for SEO; Dev, UX, and IT teams all have a part to play.
Your overall marketing strategy and ensuring things work together across multiple marketing channels can provide insights and lifts in SEO.
There are a lot of reasons why SEO doesn’t work.
Don’t silo it and have unfair expectations.
Don’t write it off without fully trying it.
A three-month investment isn’t enough. It takes time and additional resources, but if the return on investment (ROI) math works, it is worth sticking with so you really know whether it can be successful or not for your brand.
8. Keep SEO Integrated With Other Channels & Efforts
Naturally, SEO and paid search have a lot in common, seeking the same audiences and trying to land traffic coming to a SERP.
Other digital and traditional marketing channels that involve content, websites, and customer journey mapping can provide insights and work “with” SEO, versus separately from it.
Don’t set SEO apart from the overall marketing plan and strategy. It can benefit greatly from being plugged in.
And as you work on leveraging new technologies, it can be a testing ground to find areas where previously time-consuming and inefficient processes can be improved.
I’m excited about how technology will improve SEO.
My team is fully testing and already leveraging AI for internal processes and content outputs. We will continue to do this.
However, we’re still in the day-to-day process of optimizing client sites and implementing strategies within what works today to reach goals.
The key to any big change in SEO has always been to balance the here and now versus what is to come.
This might be one of the biggest waves of distraction and disruption we’ve seen, but the need for balance remains – and might also be more important than ever as we rapidly advance tech and AI.
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