Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its effect on search engine optimisation (SEO): What you need to know

Senka Pupacic-Top 10 SEO

As with almost all developing technologies, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is quickly becoming a significant force being used by global search engines. AI will assist greatly in making search results more accurate for internet users. Therefore, understanding AI and its significant influence with search engine optimisation is now a necessity for all business owners wanting to lift their game by being visible to their future clients in 2020. 

First of all – what is Artificial Intelligence? 

From Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to the practical application of the self-driving cars of today, Artificial Intelligence has almost always captivated the human mind – both in literature and in real-world constructs. But what is AI, exactly? 

Essentially, AI allows machines to learn and develop from experience in much the same way humans do. Rather than performing just one or several tasks repetitively as per a specific program, AI allows for the experience to contribute towards a machine’s future decision-making processes. Relying heavily on natural language processing and deep learning, these technologies enable computers to be trained to perform many specific tasks by recognising recurring patterns in the vast amounts of data they process.

What makes AI so important? 

As the name suggests, AI adds an ‘intelligent’ aspect to currently existing products to almost everything from consumer products to internet search engines. From a search engine optimisation point of view, the relationship between artificial intelligence and SEO not only dovetails seamlessly but improves the experience for the end-user. However, AI is generally not developed and sold as an individual product but instead used to enhance existing products. For example, Siri was added to updated Apple products rather than being made available as a standalone service. 

The combination of similar technologies such as conversational platforms, smart machines, automation, and bots, along with vast amounts of data can be used to improve a variety of applications – both domestic and professional – ranging from intelligent security systems to investment analysis products. 

How will AI help improve SEO? 

Search engines sift through numerous data points to provide the most useful and relevant web pages for their user – and Artificial Intelligence thrives on data. The more data it acquires, the more comprehensive its algorithms become, and therefore the more it learns and can predict. Just as an algorithm can learn to play chess, it can also determine which products or services a specific web user may be interested in. These algorithms adapt to each new piece of data they receive, ensuring they are always learning and applying new information to future decisions.

When it comes to Artificial Intelligence, SEO becomes significantly more adaptive and reactive to web user’s queries, learning more about each user and applying their interests to search results. This incredible level of accuracy is achieved through deep neural networks of information available from various interactions with multiple applications. For example, many people now use Google as their primary source of information and organisation. The more people use Google’s products such as the Google Home smart speaker, G-Suite, and of course, the global search engine where it all started, the more accurate the algorithm becomes.  

Due to this level of accuracy, AI is very likely to determine the entire future of SEO and associated practices in a variety of ways. Through my detailed work, discovery and working closely with Google Analytics, I have been watching how social signals were strong earlier in the year and now seem to be weakening. The way topics are weaved and expanded upon within niche markets is becoming more critical than ever before.

How videos and images will affect Artificial Intelligence and SEO 

For many years, search engines based their results entirely on text-based searches only. Although audio, video and images have almost always been essential in the online world, search engines were unable to process this media in their search algorithms until fairly recently. However, as technology is now advancing at such an incredible rate, the relationship between AI and SEO will see such media becoming more relevant and usable in web searches. 

Rather than only processing the manually inputted SEO data such as meta tags, text descriptions, and subtitles to find specific keywords, search engines will soon become smart enough to process the audiovisual signals often found in non-textual media, and rank the results accordingly. 

The ability of AI to discern the content within audio, image and video files will ultimately lead to a new type of video creator, specialising in the creation of search engine optimised video content – in much the same way traditionally text-based SEO techniques had on writers.

What will the role of AI in SEO be in 2020 and beyond? 

Naturally, search engines play the most crucial role in SEO. As search engines become smarter, so too has their level of influence increased. Because of this, SEO professionals have had to adapt and refine their methods continually. By 2020, it is estimated that at least half of all Google searches will be voice queries. The search engine giant is addressing this rise in voice search by updating their Google Assistant to increase its understanding of the natural conversation.

Not only is Google improving their voice search capabilities, but all other aspects of online search and results displaying. Context of searches and results are becoming more pre-emptive, making for a smooth search process for web users.

As Google and other search engines increase their capabilities, so too must business seeking to increase their online presence. As developments grow in artificial intelligence, SEO methods must adapt, also.  

Artificial Intelligence and SEO working side by side 

Thankfully, AI can also help with search engine optimisation. Although discovering precisely what words and phrases you need to optimise are vast pieces of the SEO puzzle, Artificial Intelligence tools can help with that, as one of AI’s greatest assets is finding patterns in huge sets of data – including search volume data.

Using AI tools can not only help you to create new content but also optimise existing content to improve your search rankings.

These days, local search is essential – especially for local businesses with a physical location. Ensuring your business is accurately displayed in local search results can be tricky. Still, with the help of artificial intelligence, this information-based issue can often be dealt with quickly and easily.

Topic clusters and pillar page creation is also a highly effective SEO method, as it helps the business to own entire areas of the subject matter by producing content based around several search terms. Although this task can be time-consuming, AI is enabling the process to become streamlined, thus increasing productivity.  

How AI and SEO can increase your business 

In the digitally-focused world, we now live in, having your business website ranked highly in Google search results is one of the most powerful things your organisation could do. As the number of potential customers turning to Google to find products and services they require is ever-increasing, having little or no web presence is now tantamount to throwing money away. By ensuring your website keeps up with the rigorous demands of search engines and web users, you can enjoy increased profits and peace of mind, as your new future clients keep finding you.

Senka Pupacic is the founder of Top 10 SEO, www.top10insydney.com.au.

How General Data Protection Requirement (GDPR) is affecting email marketing

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Marketing managers across the globe have been losing sleep since the introduction of the EU GDPR. But what is it, and how does it affect email marketing?

Ever since the European Union rolled out its email spam laws in May 2018, the General Data Protection Requirement (GDPR) has been a focal point for businesses worldwide. The introduction has also created a plethora of dilemmas for many organisations: does their business have to comply? If so, how? Will compliance affect customer acquisition and retention?

Companies will have had to work tirelessly to ensure the transition to GDPR compliance was as smooth as possible, while also affecting the way their business is conducted within the European Union. Naturally, companies relying heavily on email marketing will be especially affected.

Until recently, email marketing was a simple-to-implement yet highly effective marketing strategy. Now that the GDPR has been rolled out, it’s an area requiring much more consideration.

How does the GDPR impact email marketing today?

While personal data protection laws were already in place, the EU has effectively updated these laws to further protect consumers from unwanted digital junk mail.

The overall reach of the GDPR is perhaps the most significant change to the previous laws. It’s not just EU-based organisations that the new laws apply to, but any company storing or processing personal data of any European citizen.

So, what constitutes personal data? The GDPR states a name, photograph, IP address, medical information, or indeed anything related to an individual is considered personal data. As registering for an email account often requires divulging a wealth of personal information, an email address is a prime example of the type of personal data the GDPR aims to protect.

How many emails are being circulated globally?

In March 2018, the Radicati Group estimated the number of active email accounts worldwide to be 3.8 billion, with over 281 billion emails sent daily. According to the research organisation’s calculations, the number of daily emails will rise to 333 billion within the next four years.

Just as most households regularly receive unwanted junk mail through the post, so too do our electronic inboxes. Statista.com state that 60% of emails sent in September 2017 were spam. Although anyone who occasionally checks their spam folder could testify to this statistic, this is a significant decrease from recent years. Statista found that 71% of emails received in April 2014 were caught by spam filters – meaning almost three-quarters of emails were unsolicited digital junk mail.

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That’s a lot of emails – and exactly the reason GDPR regulators have updated their spam laws. Since the update, businesses will now require the consent of their recipients or other legal means to send marketing emails.

The new rules now stipulate that even an email sent to a specified group of recipients from a personal account is considered email marketing.

With such stringent rules in place, it’s important for all business owners to understand how they may be affected. To help your business comply with the new GDPR rules, here are some of the processes you will need to implement.

1. Acquiring permission from previous subscribers

The most often asked question regarding new GDPR laws is whether subscribers obtained prior to 25th May 2018 can still be contacted.

The answer is twofold. If your subscribers chose to opt-in to your list, then you may continue to send email correspondence. However, if your subscribers were automatically opted in – through a purchased list, a pre-checked box, or other means – then you must obtain consent again.

Thankfully, regaining consent is as simple as asking your subscribers. In fact, seeking permission then storing a record is the basis of the GDPR. Consider running a ‘re-permission’ campaign to obtain permission from subscribers.

2. Obtaining new subscribers and email permissions

Most marketers assume that prospects who have submitted their email address can be added to a marketing campaign list. While this may have been common practice prior to 25th May, it is no longer allowed.

You cannot pre-tick a box to acquire an email address, nor can you simply hide your communication policy somewhere in your privacy statement. Since the new regulations came into force, prospects must now explicitly agree to receive marketing emails or newsletters from you.

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It’s up to you to ensure you’re GDPR-compliant

Perhaps due to its convenience and relatively low cost, email remains the marketing medium of choice for Business-to-Business companies. However, you must ensure you and your organisation comply with the GDPR rules or face a hefty fine for each breach of protocol.

Despite the recently updated regulations, email marketing is here to stay. While the GDPR may appear complex, there are steps you can take to make sure your email marketing campaigns comply with the new regulations:

  • Ensure marketing emails are only sent to subscribers who have explicitly chosen to opt-in
  • Direct a re-permission campaign to existing subscribers to regain their consent
  • Refrain from using automatic decision-making methods using your subscriber’s data
  • Make it easy for your subscribers to unsubscribe from your email lists
  • Provide a method for subscribers to manage their content options

It’s important to remember that the GDPR is about managing and providing content to people who explicitly choose to receive correspondence from you. This will almost certainly mean losing a portion of your subscribers who don’t open and read your emails – although, in marketing terms, these are the people you should be removing from your lists anyway. It’s the people that explicitly opt-in that you should be focusing on, to ensure your email marketing campaigns are productive.

While these new regulations may appear intimidating, complying to these rules will lead to improved open rates and higher overall revenue. Rather than being fearful of ensuring GDPR compliance, look forward to the resulting improvement in your email campaigns.

Senka Pupacic is the founder of Top 10 SEO: www.top10insydney.com.au.