ChatGPT for SEO: The Pros, Cons, Whats, and HowsRead Time: 12 minutes

Open AI’s ChatGPT arrived like a comet in late 2022, explosively announcing the arrival of a new era in AI. We’d been hearing for years about how AI would change everything, but—for most of us—that talk had been mostly abstract. However, ChatGPT was decidedly not abstract. It was impossible to play around with the service without thinking: something huge was going on here.

Of course, within days, dozens, if not hundreds, of think-pieces emerged about what ChatGPT means for every industry imaginable, from law to medicine to journalism. But it was, arguably, marketers who were most excited—and possibly most concerned—about this new technology.

Long before ChatGPT, content marketers dreamt of a world of infinite content—of more and more ways in which to promote their clients. Of course, for most of marketing history, they’ve been limited by the fact that a human being can only type so many words in a single day. Not so for ChatGPT.

Unquestionably, the implications of ChatGPT for marketing in general and SEO specifically are vast. Of course, the human component still matters—in fact, in ways, we’ll get into below, it’s more important than ever—but there can be no doubt that appropriately deployed, ChatGPT can allow businesses to generate significantly more quality content in a significantly shorter time period than ever before.

How ChatGPT works

For the user, ChatGPT is startlingly simple: you just input a command (“Write me five hundred words on the history of France”; “What’s the best pizzeria in Bridgeport, CT”), and it spits out an answer almost instantly.

How ChatGPT Works

On the back end, of course, ChatGPT is a complicated creation centered on something called a generative language model. ChatGPT’s algorithm is trained on billions upon billions of language instances—found on Wikipedia, on social media, in uploaded books, and on Google—from which it learns to predict which word is likeliest to appear next in a sentence.

What that means, of course, is that ChatGPT doesn’t “understand” what it’s saying in any conventional sense—it’s closer to math than to language as we conventionally understand it.

Ways Experts Are Using ChatGPT as an SEO Tool

The uses of ChatGPT as an SEO tool are manifold, and content marketers today are, in some ways, just scratching the surface. You’ll notice, though, that none of the ideas below involve actually writing articles. The fact is that—for reasons we’ll get into below—ChatGPT is still very far from being usable actually to produce polished pieces of content. Rather, ChatGPT is useful for enhancing the process surrounding content generation and SEO immensely without automating it outright.

 Keyword Research 

Keywords, of course, are central to SEO. When a business rises in the ranks for an individual keyword, it can increase its revenue by orders of magnitude. Accordingly, finding the right keyword for a given company—one that gives them a reasonable chance of making it to the first page—is essential.

Of course—as any SEO professional can tell you—coming up with those keywords is rarely an easy process. It requires outside-the-box thinking and out-of-left-field thinking—it requires making connections that might not necessarily be obvious at first glance.

Because ChatGPT is designed to spit out predictable information, it may not be great for generating unexpected keywords. But it can absolutely get the juices flowing creatively—you could ask it to free-associate on words relevant to your business or your client’s business and then go from there.

Content Outline Development 

It’s a truism in writing of every kind that there’s nothing scarier than a totally blank screen. Often, writers find that once they get started, the process flows easily—but getting started can be difficult when you’ve got nothing on the page.

Undoubtedly, ChatGPT has real value here. By simply inputting your topic and some relevant contextual information, ChatGPT can instantly generate a workable outline that you can then fill in on your own. Even better, you can ask it to generate multiple outlines and then mix and match the ones best suited to your purposes—which has the added advantage of helping you think more deeply about the article you’re trying to write.

Content Development (Be careful, there’s a big disadvantage)

Of course, there’s a big difference between using ChatGPT to outline concepts you’ve already developed and using ChatGPT to develop those concepts in the first place. ChatGPT absolutely can be used for the content development process, but with a few caveats. The first caveat is that—because ChatGPT is literally built out of pre-existing content—you want to make sure you’re not plagiarizing pre-existing articles, especially ones that already rank high for the keyword in question.

The second caveat ties into the first. Namely: because ChatGPT is built out of pre-existing material, its creativity is limited—i.e., nine times out of ten, it’s going to respond to your prompt with ideas that are fairly predictable (i.e., obvious).

Accordingly, an over-reliance on ChatGPT and its generally surface-level insights will almost inevitably harm the business you’re trying to help. Search engines like Google prioritize the kinds of fresh, original, helpful content that people actually want to read—and while ChatGPT can facilitate the process of producing content like that, it can only take you part of the way there.

Understanding Search Intent 

In the world of SEO, there are four types of search intent: navigational, informational, commercial, and transactional. Let’s say you (or your client) run a high-end, customized, over-the-ear headphones business. You know your customers like to do research before making a purchase—they’re not particularly likely to buy straight off your site without research. So before targeting a keyword, you want to make sure that keyword has commercial intent for the people who use it.

Because ChatGPT is on the cutting edge of semantics, it can help you figure out in advance which search intent applies to the keyword you’re targeting. It won’t get it right every time—it doesn’t know, in the conventional sense, what the search intent really is—but it can absolutely help as a research tool and can save you valuable time in the process.

Composing and Managing Analytics Reports 

To this point, we’ve been talking about external-facing content—content designed to lure in potential customers. Content like that needs to meet certain standards—it needs to be engaging, fun, unconventional, etc. ChatGPT might not yet be ready to produce content like that—but internal material is a very different story.

Composing and Managing Analytics Reports

After all, no one’s looking for “flash” when they read an analytics report—they just want the facts. And when it comes to organizing the facts in a readable way, ChatGPT is very good indeed—it can boil things down to the essentials and instantly provide fluent and properly formatted reports for you to pass around to your team.

Coding

Writing code with ChatGPT comes with some of the same caveats mentioned above—i.e., it might be able to help with very simple operations, but it won’t get you very far with more nuanced or sophisticated projects. That said, there are countless daily instances where all businesses need are simple, relatively unsophisticated code fixes, and in those cases, ChatGPT is more than up to the task.

Proofreading

Grammar and spell-checking functions have been standard parts of word processor applications for decades now, but ChatGPT can take this process to the next level. Because the fact is, there’s a big difference between something being grammatical and something being readable. Here is where, in 2024, ChatGPT really thrives. It can’t write content on its own, but it can absolutely decongest the content you already have, untangling knotty paragraphs, breaking apart run-on sentences, and recommending more precise word choices. 

This matters significantly for SEO because the more readable your content is, the more likely people are to stay on the page to finish reading it—which happens to be one of the most important signals Google picks up on when determining where your article will rank in search.

 Disadvantages of ChatGPT 

Right now, many people claim that ChatGPT can supplant human content writers entirely—and this is just flatly untrue. (Of course, many have gone ahead anyway, with typically embarrassing results.) Still, because ChatGPT’s output can sometimes seem so impressive on the surface, it’s worth delving into some of its disadvantages at greater length to demonstrate why, exactly, it’s not yet up to snuff when it comes to content creation.

Limited Understanding 

This is the big one. ChatGPT is engaged in a predictive game: it doesn’t actually know what it’s talking about. Precisely because it doesn’t know what it’s saying—and possesses no real-world experience—the material it churns out is often flatly incorrect. As countless studies have demonstrated, ChatGPT is more than happy to invent facts wholesale. Simply typing a ChatGPT prompt, copying and pasting the output, and uploading it to your website is, for this reason, a huge mistake—as you may be leaving yourself open to ridicule or worse.

Lack of Emotional intelligence

Fundamentally, SEO is a human enterprise. Yes, the end goal is often a sale—but the only way to actually reel in a customer is to be human and demonstrate the normal range of human emotions in your content. ChatGPT doesn’t have those emotions—ChatGPT, being simply an algorithm, is definitionally unrelatable and remote. This quality may be less easy to pinpoint than ChatGPT’s frequent factual errors, but it can be just as alienating for potential customers.

Limited Creativity 

We delved into this a bit earlier in the article, but it’s worth hammering the point home: ChatGPT is a prediction machine. It spits out the likeliest answer based on billions of predigested bits of internet content. What that means, then, is that ChatGPT is really the lowest common denominator machine. The fact is that most SEO content on the internet isn’t very good—if it was, getting your business or a client on the front page for a given keyword would be an impossible problem instead of a difficult problem that can be tackled through the application of ingenuity and hard work. So ChatGPT isn’t only taking in the good content on the internet—it’s taking in all content, good and bad, and spitting out the average.

Good SEO and good content generation is all about creative leaps—making the unexpected connection that takes your content to the next level and elevates your content through the search rankings. ChatGPT can’t make that leap—it’s stuck in place.

Need for Humanization 

I’m going to break the fourth wall here to make a point. You’ve been reading this article for at least fifteen or so minutes now. I’ve worked hard on it, and I hope you’ve liked it. But more importantly, I hope you’ve sensed a distinct presence behind the words here. I really do care about SEO and the future of human-generated content, and I’d like to think I can transmit that passion through words.

This is something ChatGPT simply needs help to do. Read enough ChatGPT-generated prose, and you’ll start to notice some commonalities. The writing has a flatness as Siri wrote it. There’s also a tendency to structure things like a high school term paper—’ First,’ ‘Additionally,’ ‘Finally,’ etc. Fundamentally, it lacks the warmth and the nuanced interest that content writing services infused in human-generated prose provide. Can it pass in some instances? Sure. But is “passing for human” enough when trying to connect with potential customers through SEO? The answer is almost certainly no.

Lacks Expertise

This ties into the lowest-common-denominator problem mentioned earlier. Yes, ChatGPT can write you a rudimentary article about proper lawn maintenance or the history of the federal reserve. But its output on these subjects will be a little shallow. In fact, it will often read like something hastily cobbled together after skimming a few articles on Google—which, on an admittedly much larger scale, is almost exactly what ChatGPT is doing.

What is ChatGPT’s Impact on SEO for the Future?

Putting all of the above together—the good and the bad—we see that, while ChatGPT is not quite there yet for full-fledged content creation, it has many genuinely valuable uses when it comes to SEO. Whether it’s generating keywords, tidying up pre-existing content, or automating internal reports, there are countless labor-intensive tasks that the advent of ChatGPT has fundamentally altered forever. Ultimately, by freeing up all that time, ChatGPT grants SEO professionals more space to focus on the part of the job that ChatGPT really can’t help with—i.e., making creative leaps on behalf of their clients.

Is SEO Dead? Of Course Not!

With Google and other search engine companies ramping up production of AI-enhanced search engines, there is already talk that the era of conventional SEO might be coming to an end. But anyone who’s Googled anything recently—i.e., everyone—knows this is ludicrous. SEO is as important as ever and will remain important well into the future. Hundreds if not thousands of “is SEO dead?” articles have been published over the last two decades, and every single one of them has been wrong. They will continue to be wrong going forward—the only difference, this time, is that ChatGPT might assist in writing them.

Want to talk more about ChatGPT? Schedule a call with us, and we will share more thoughts and ideas surrounding this new AI technology!

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