Artificial Intelligence (AI) has revolutionized the way we think about and produce content. But is this transformation truly effective? What are the consequences for marketers? Before we fully embrace or reject AI, we must take the time to understand how AI helps content adapt to Google’s ever-changing algorithms and how it can be responsibly leveraged as a tool to execute your digital marketing strategy rather than being the strategy itself.

The Changing SERP Landscape

In the early days of SEO, the focus was primarily on grabbing the attention of algorithms rather than pleasing users. Marketers used shady tactics like keyword stuffing, hidden text, and duplicate content to catch web crawlers. Prior to 2012, Google mostly operated as a lexical search engine driven by matching strings of text. Over the past 12 years, however, the search engine has dramatically evolved into a semantically driven entity with a focus on concepts rather than keywords.

Thanks to advancements in AI and machine learning, search engines like Google have learned to understand user intent to deliver better and more relevant results. Today, the emphasis is on providing real value to users, with search algorithms highlighting content that aligns with search intent for a truly enhanced user experience.

In May 2024, Google announced the rollout of AI Overviews, formerly known as Search Generative Experience (SGE), to all users, but not all searches. AI Overviews uses generative AI to understand complex queries and provide concise answers by synthesizing information from relevant content. This change to the Google SERP signifies a major shift in how search results are presented and highlights the growing influence of AI in the SEO landscape.

Google’s mission remains to deliver the most relevant and reliable information, maximize access to information, and present it in the most useful way.

Adapting Content Strategy to Algorithm Updates

As the SERP landscape evolves, so must content strategies. The shift from keyword-centric tactics to more helpful user intent reflects the ongoing changes in search algorithms. When strategies focused heavily on targeting high-volume keywords to drive traffic, success was often measured by increased sessions and rankings. This led to a numbers game where quantity outweighed quality.

Today, effective content strategies require a true understanding of user intent and a commitment to providing genuinely helpful and trustworthy content. SEO content writers must address the questions and needs of their target audience as human beings looking for reliable answers. Google now values the expertise and authority of the content creator, emphasizing reliability and engagement over sheer quantity. The goal for content writers now is to align their work with Google’s quality guidelines: Expertise, Experience, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness, or EEAT. These guidelines are meant to elevate the quality of results users see at the top of their SERP.

This shift in strategy parallels the evolution of AI content generation. AI tools like ChatGPT and Jasper have streamlined workflows and boosted productivity, yet human oversight must remain in place to ensure quality and relevance. AI without human writers and editors can lead to content that lacks authenticity and fails to resonate with audiences.

Leveraging AI Responsibly for Content Production

In the last few years, AI has quickly evolved to reshape the landscape of content creation, empowering users to generate content with unprecedented efficiency. Despite these advances–or maybe because of them–misconceptions about AI persist. 

While AI can expedite tasks and generate initial drafts, we still need human input to ensure high-quality, relevant content that appeals to real-world users. Unedited AI-generated content may boost rankings for the short term but can’t deliver the sustained performance required to keep up with Google’s SERP changes. Algorithm updates prioritizing helpful content over keyword density will quickly render AI-generated content obsolete–no more keyword stuffing. Moreover, relying solely on AI content neglects the human element that breathes life into compelling and unique narratives.

For long-lasting content strategies that build trust with consumers, businesses must learn to balance human expertise with AI-driven automation. AI should be integrated into the early stages of workflows, particularly for tasks like data synthesis or generating meta descriptions.  From that point on, human beings should take over the content process so that nothing falls through the cracks, raises red flags, or bores consumers with repetition or irrelevance.

Building a Sustainable Content Strategy with AI

Developing a sustainable content strategy with AI involves several key steps. These steps should align closely with the foundational principles of content marketing, with AI only enhancing them.

1. Set Goals

As with any content strategy, start by establishing clear business goals. These goals should be aligned with your overall business objectives and will help prioritize your content efforts. Remember to balance generating demand with capturing demand. Upper-funnel content might seem less attractive due to tracking challenges, but it builds relationships with your audience. Brands that are comprehensive in supporting users throughout every stage of their journey are more likely to be favored by Google. If you want to be there when customers are ready to buy, you need to also be there when they’re ready to learn.

2. Research

A large part of digital marketing is understanding your audience, competitors, and the current SERP landscape. AI tools can help you do this more efficiently, which in turn gives your team the time to do more research to stay competitive. For example, you can use AI to summarize key pain points and selling points in product reviews, which gives you valuable audience sentiment data in minutes. 

3. Audit Content

Regular content audits ensure your content remains relevant and effective. In the world of AI, auditing now means going beyond just your website. It now means including platforms like YouTube and TikTok, where your audience might also be searching for information. Tools like MarketMuse streamline the auditing process, allowing you to quickly assess your site’s topical authority and identify gaps. An audit like this will help you understand how your current content is working so you can make adjustments in real-time.

4. Content Strategy Logistics

Developing a balanced content strategy involves considering the logistics and resources at your disposal. Use a lift vs. reward matrix to prioritize content topics and tasks. This means evaluating the potential impact of each content piece against the effort required to create it. Consider your team’s expertise, budget, existing content, and competitive landscape. 

5. Execution

Executing your new hybrid content strategy requires a mix of AI tools and human oversight. Use AI content generation for early-stage tasks like initial drafts, data analysis, and generating meta descriptions. Let humans handle the creative process and actual content creation and editing. This way, you leverage the efficiency of AI while maintaining the voice of authenticity that only human expertise can provide. 

6. Stay Adaptable

Regularly revisit your content strategy to incorporate new insights, tools, and technologies. As AI evolves and changes, try new ways of using it. Keep experimenting to find the best fit for your needs. Above all else, maintain human oversight to keep your content strategy aligned with SEO best practices and Google’s EEAT guidelines. 

7. The Omnichannel Approach

Given the variable nature of user journeys, it’s important to adopt an omnichannel approach. This means creating and distributing content across multiple platforms, including blogs, social media, and video (which you should be doing anyway). Be present wherever your audience searches for information to increase your chances of engagement and conversion. AI can help manage and optimize content for different channels so you maintain a consistent and effective message and voice across your entire digital presence. This not only helps customers find you, but it also builds trust for the long term as users learn to confidently identify your brand.

A Smarter Use of AI

AI’s impact on content creation is undeniable, but human expertise remains the only way to craft authentic, engaging content. Leaning too heavily on AI can lead to poor and irrelevant content that leaves a bad taste in readers’ mouths and disparages your brand. By integrating AI for efficiency with human writers and editors for quality,  businesses can build sustainable content strategies that deliver meaningful results.

Learn more about Silverback’s SEO + Content services and how we can help you navigate the evolving landscape of SEO and digital content strategy.

Annie Madden

Annie Madden is an SEO content strategist with experience in helping brands thread the needle between SEO best practice, business goals, the changing landscape, and audience needs.

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