Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are core components of search engine algorithms. Understanding the new technologies and how they influence the search landscape is becoming increasingly important in SEO.


What is AI in SEO?

AI in SEO is not new. Artificial intelligence, such as LLMs (large language models) have been used for decades in search to improve search result relevancy and user experience.

In 2019, Google introduced BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) to search ranking. BERT meant words could be understood in the context they were used – encouraging users to use longer, conversational queries to get more relevant information.

Later, came MUM (Multitask Unified Model) a more powerful large language model that can undertake multiple different tasks, in multiple different languages, simultaneously. For Google, this meant having the ability to organise information in new ways and connect relevant and related topics (even if not explicitly mentioned by the user).

And now, with dramatic developments in generative artificial intelligence (such as ChatGPT and Bard), we’re seeing generative AI being used as an output in the SERPs too.

What is generative AI in SEO?

Generative AI describes algorithms capable of generating new content such as text, images, audio, and more. Machine learning is used to produce this new content based on user-given prompts. Examples of generative AI applications include ChatGPT, Bard, and DALL-E.

A key difference between traditional AI and generative AI is that generative AI produces new data. Traditional AI systems we’re already used to seeing in search have only ever analysed data to make predictions.

What is Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE)?

Google has begun experimenting with generative AI through a new program called ‘Search Labs’. This is where they’re rolling out and testing Search Generative Experience (SGE) to select users.

Google’s Search Generative Experience uses generative AI capabilities to answer more complex or multi-step searches. SGE provides ‘AI-powered snapshots’ to searchers in an effort to offer a comprehensive overview of a topic.

SGE will also offer a ‘conversational mode’, allowing users to ask follow-up questions and further explore related content and resources.

Is AI going to change SEO?

The development of AI and LLMs has improved the relevancy of search results, provided more personalised results for individuals, and enabled better analysis of user behaviour and search intent.

As generative AI and SEO merge, we expect to see a huge shift in the way users interact with search engines and how they engage with content online.

Many SEO experts are predicting we’ll see searchers asking new types of questions. And we could also see users asking more follow-up questions and having a natural conversation with search engines.

For searchers, they might find they’re able to get more information on a topic quicker than before, without the need to explore multiple resources.

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