Skip to main content


Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

Does AI spell the death of SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is changing. Fast.

Ever since Google released RankBrain, the artificial intelligence (AI) machine learning algorithm, there has been a shift in how search engines rank websites. Some of the old rules of SEO no longer apply, but does AI really spell the death of SEO?

It might seem intimidating to the average SEO practitioner, but a more intelligent search engine algorithm can only be of benefit to SEO professionals. There is a lot of buzz around AI within the community and we can be certain that in the next few years we’re going to see rapid advancements in what this technology can do, and how smart it can get.

RankBrain has already become privy to the types of tricks that some websites will use to get on the front page, but these tricks are hardly admirable, and unnecessary when the content being produced is high quality. It classifies websites as either good or bad according to what Google’s developers have fed into the machine. This means that websites with a lot of varying information are more difficult for RankBrain to classify, and have a harder time ranking in Google’s engine. Sites may start becoming more niche-focused to ensure they have a better chance of achieving the rankings they need.

While some of the older factors, like keyword density no longer hold as much importance in rankings, things like context, and value-adding content are now becoming the focus. As a result, we’ll see less spam and black hat tactics being used to game search engines. The way to get your content in front of the largest audience will be through taking the time to invest in engagement with your audience and other influencers within your niche. The short-term gain from dubious black hat practices will start to become a thing of the past. As AI becomes more advanced at determining the value of the content, we will see a drop off in “SEO-friendly” articles.

But while AI does change the way google is ranking websites, the recipe for success for good SEO remains the same. Create great, original content, use strong links from trusted websites, and ensure you’re adding related keywords to both the content and title. What this really means is listening to what people are asking for, and providing useful content. Rather than trying to fit as many keywords as possible into your blog post. The primary takeaway here is brand presence and trust are now king.

Aside from these changes to the way search engines will handle written content, we can expect AI to significantly change the optimization of visual content too. Google has started getting better at analysing what visual content is about, this will mean a focus on better optimisation for videos and images, including the length, tags and the related description.

The best way for SEO professionals to deal with the increasing role of AI within search algorithms is to research. Identify what parameters different AI software is using to rank sites, and then ensure your development incorporates the factors the AI uses to rank sites.

There’s been a big push towards AI in search, especially thanks to the growing prevalence of intelligent digital assistants like Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa or Siri on Apple.

The impact of voice searches shouldn’t be underestimated. Currently, over forty percent of adults and fifty-five percent of teenagers use voice search daily, with these numbers growing larger all the time. Previously when typing search queries into google we would abbreviate to keywords. However, when we’re using voice to search, we tend to use natural language and full sentences. For SEO the implications of this are obvious. Keywords will need to become more conversational and content will need to include appropriate phrases to properly optimize for voice.

The way that RankBrain processes its results are constantly changing as the algorithm continues to learn. Solid, ethical SEO practices have become more important now than they have ever been. The key is to optimise your content, phrases and keywords in ways that will help your audience find your brand organically.

SEO has never been about picking one strategy and sticking with it. In fact, doing this is a sure-fire way to fail. SEO has always favoured flexibility, and its vital practitioners adapt their strategies to accommodate new technologies and trends.

Search engine optimization is not dead, it’s just evolving as long as SEO professional understand exactly how and why it is changing they can develop the right techniques and strategies. The algorithms powering search engine results will change, and while it’s possible that SEO may become obsolete in the future. The more likely scenario is that the field of SEO will become more technical, as analytics and big data begin to play a larger role. For those SEO practitioners unfamiliar with these methods, then now is the time to catch-up.

If you would like to contribute an article to Cornell React, please email us.
Skip to toolbar