There’s No Easy Button For SEO: Not Even AI | Ep. 39

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Trust the process. You’ve heard this before, and it applies to so many things. French cooking? Be patient and trust the process. Buying a car? Be patient and trust the process.
 
What we’re talking about when we say, ‘Be patient and trust the process’ is SEO. We’ve been doing what we do for a long time, and we’ve seen a lot of shortcuts taken when it comes to SEO. We can tell you, that it’s a mistake.
 
SEO includes a lot of tedious details and on-going maintenance that go along with it, but it pays off big dividends as a long term strategy.
 
In this week’s Trades Secrets, we help you navigate through the pitfalls of using AI as a shortcut for SEO and how to avoid bad decisions that could hurt your your business.
 
Dive in with us to learn more about the ins and outs of SEO and how to use it as the foundation of your marketing efforts.
 
Episode Covers:
  1. Why AI is not a good idea as a substitute for your SEO strategy?
  2. What does good content look like?
  3. Why putting your SEO on autopilot will sabotage your business’ success?
  4. Many more applicable insights…
 
 
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Transcription: 

Amanda Joyce:

In today’s episode, we are going to cover why there is no easy button in SEO even with AI.

Devon Hayes:

Yes, it has been argued and we’ve seen some rumblings online that you can replace traditional SEO services with AI. And in today’s episode, we’re going to tell you why that’s just not true and why there should be symbiosis, not substitution with AI and SEO.

Amanda Joyce:

Awesome. And be sure you stick around to the very end because we’ll cover some really quick wins, some quick tips for SEO.

Devon Hayes:

Welcome to Trades Secrets, where we demystify digital marketing to help contractors get the most bang for their marketing bucks.

Amanda Joyce:

This is for you if you’re a contractor looking for actionable marketing insights.

Devon Hayes:

Learn from home services industry experts to elevate your business through simplified marketing strategies.

Amanda Joyce:

Let’s dive into today’s Trades Secrets.

Okay, this is a fun topic because this is something that Devon and I have chatted about offline a lot of times. We see what’s being discussed out there on the web and sometimes we’ll see a claim made that we’re like, “That one doesn’t sit well with me.” And so we’ve discussed this a number of times. And so we’re excited to just dive in today and share with you guys our take on where SEO is today, the vital role that AI does play. And I know we’ve covered this in other episodes. But why if you’re finding yourself wanting to just hit the easy button on your SEO and maybe turn it over to an agency that says, “We’ll do a one-time setup and we’ll crank content for you and you can check out,” we’re here to tell you that there’s no silver bullet and that’s not going to solve your problems.

Devon Hayes:

No, there really is… SEO is, it’s a long-term strategy. And it should be exactly that, a strategy. You can’t say this is going to be my plan for the next 12 months, and implement it within three days, and then never look back at it until 12 months from now. That’s not how strategy works. That’s not…

Amanda Joyce:

How any portion of anyone’s business works that’s working. Any portion of your business that you’re paying that little attention to, when you go back and look at it, you’re probably going to be like, “Man, I missed the boat.” And it’s the same with your marketing and your SEO.

Devon Hayes:

Yeah. I mean, you could preload all of your social media posts for the next 12 months. Do you think that’s going to be effective? I mean, it’s kind of the same thing with SEO. There’s things that change within your business, tones that change. And if you are just trying to check out on these marketing tasks, it’s not going to work, at least not in the way that maybe you anticipate that it will. So that’s what we’re talking about today.

So we have seen some rumblings online that, “Hey, we will have AI write close to 300 pieces of content loaded up into your website and have it set to publish five articles or pieces of content per week for the next year.” And we’re just going to dive into what’s problematic with that theory. And we are certainly not saying that AI doesn’t play a role in today’s SEO. It definitely does, and it’s very helpful. But again, it’s symbiosis, not whatever I said before, substitution.

Amanda Joyce:

Substitution.

Devon Hayes:

Yeah. Okay. So let’s dive into what we’ve outlined here. I don’t know if we even needed to start with this first one or if I jumped around too much, but the first thing… So we asked Bard. Bard is Google’s chatbot. It’s their version of ChatGPT, except for theirs works in real time, which is a little bit… so you get more up-to-date information versus what we’ve got going on with ChatGPT. So we asked Bard, we’re like…

Amanda Joyce:

And it’s also just good too to know that it’s coming straight from Google. So sometimes, talk about a good spot to go if you’re questioning what you’re doing with your SEO, Bard is a good place to go ask because you’re going to get an answer straight from Google engineers.

Devon Hayes:

Yeah. So we asked Bard, the Google engineers. We’re like, “Should AI or can AI content replace traditional SEO services?” And it was like, “Oh goodness, no.”

Amanda Joyce:

Yeah.

Devon Hayes:

Shocker. Shocker. So there’s a number of things here. First and foremost, content is always great. Good content is good content. We’re going to dive into what that looks like a little bit further in the episode. But step one is, outside of content, where’s that content being originated from? It should be through keyword research. And AI cannot replace a good solid keyword research effort. There is more to it than picking a keyword and just running with it. There’s so many algorithm updates each year. There’s 10 major ones, but there’s hundreds of updates throughout the year that we just don’t see because they’re not a blip on the Google volatility radar.

And so for example, I think we’ve used this in other episodes, but it’s a great one. It really shows you the difference. So at one point, if you were to search roof installation as a keyword, you would be served up with all kinds of roofing companies. Well, a little algorithm update, and all of a sudden, roof installation, the search engine results were featuring DIY videos and replacing your roof by yourself, and they were not showing any roofing companies. So had you just done a set it and forget it blog post on roof installation, you would be missing the mark in your post, it wouldn’t be doing what you want it to do. It’s not effective.

So you have to think of how Google is viewing the user’s intent with each search. And their AI works smarter and learns more every day. There’s like 8.5 billion Google searches a day, and their AI is learning more and more every single day and trying to match the results with the user intent. So if you have this set it and forget it, load them all up one time, have one keyword or whatever it is, whatever your thought process is behind having all these blogs stocked up for the year, it doesn’t align with how Google views the user’s experience. So you’re going to get penalized in those SERPs.

Amanda Joyce:

Absolutely. Yeah. And it’s like, one of my favorite things when we’re doing content planning is going and looking at search console data, looking at hrefs and figuring out what our current pieces are ranking for. And sometimes, we’ll write something and we have one keyword focus on it, and suddenly Google does like it, the Google gods are smiling upon it and we’re showing up for all these related search results, maybe longer tail keywords that do have some good volume on them. And yeah, maybe we’re at 60th position, but we’re slowly making it up the rank. I can pick that keyword and be like, “Dang, that is a good one. We can write a new piece that compliments what we already wrote, link them together.”

And that’s just another example of ongoing keyword research that’s part of a living breathing strategy that’s not going to happen if you, like you said, just slapped it all up there and check out until you need to do it again next January. That seriously makes my palms sweat to think about it.

Devon Hayes:

I know. And think about updates to things that are happening around like your products and services. Say there’s a new rebate that comes out for EV chargers. If you have preloaded your content and you try to check out for the year, you’re not going to have the latest information that your customers or potential customers are looking for on those rebates. Maybe something changed with your business with a manufacturer. Maybe you no longer work with somebody. Maybe you’re having a hard time getting supplies. Maybe some glowing article you wrote about a certain product turns out that product is defective and now it’s loaded in your blogs and you’re waiting to publish it and tell everyone how great it is. There’s too many things that change throughout the year within your business to really just set it all up and call it a day.

Amanda Joyce:

And as a user or consumer, we can tell what’s stale. The stuff that we’re even going to be drawn to is going to be what’s happening right now, things that are trending, things people are talking about, what’s going on. Even with social media posts, you’re going to just scroll past that same stale stuff that isn’t resonating with what’s going on in the media, what people are interested in in your particular industry, maybe new trends and styles. There’s so many things that if you’re actually writing, if you’re creating a strategy that’s living and breathing with your business throughout the year, your content is going to be so much stronger. People are going to want to consume it, you’re going to enjoy producing it more. There’s just so many levels of why it’s problematic to try to take that other approach.

Devon Hayes:

And usually the content that gets the most engagement is the content that’s most, I don’t know, personal about your business, like new hires, or people that have been promoted, or really cool project profiles, the before and after pictures, those sort of things that you can’t really preload. Those get the most engagement, they get the most viewership on your website, but also within social, there people are engaging and commenting on those types of posts, which is a signal for SEO and your positioning. So I mean, the best content isn’t preloaded, and you can’t just load it in September and have it published in June and think that it’s going to do anything for your ranking.

So a couple other things on what Bard told us. So of course, Bard is like, “Wait a minute, what about keywords research and user intent and consumer behavior and their search behavior?” Because how we search has changed month over month, let alone year over year. Link building. So quality link building. Backlinks are one of the highest ranking factors. And I’ve heard it being sold that you can just buy citations and those citations will work as your backlinks and you can call it a day. Just because you run a citation campaign does not mean that those citations are going to be indexed. And a citation is just like going to yellowpages.com and your business is listed there. That counts as a citation.

But if it’s not unique, there’s no chance that it’s going to be… There’s some possibility it’s going to be indexed by Google, but there’s no guarantee. So you can run a campaign and pay for 150 citations, but it doesn’t mean that Google is going to store that information or be indexed is another way to say that. So you have to consistently be working on even making those citations unique and finding other quality backlinks. So it is as much about quality as it is about quantity when you’re looking at backlinks. And then something else, in our experience, that you can’t replace with just content preloaded for the year in a quick initial SEO setup, your site architecture and structure, your content structure, all of those things, you can’t just set it one time and think it’s done.

Amanda Joyce:

Absolutely. Because it speaks, again, to… For some of our clients, we go in with a certain site architecture and maybe some blog themes. And then suddenly, a few blog themes just really start kicking. And that’s what people are responding to, new rebates available, whatever it is, there’s a lot of chatter online. And then we can suddenly deviate from what we thought we were going to do. A lot of times, for us, even mid-month, we’re writing this month for stuff that’s going to get published in November. Sometimes on the 20th of the month, some big storm hits or there’s a change to a rebate program, and suddenly the content we’re finishing writing in the month of October has to change that quickly to be published in November to make sure that we’re writing and publishing content that makes the most sense for our clients’ businesses.

So again, it just goes back to the ever-changing world we live in that makes life interesting and you just want to make sure you’re tapping into it.

Devon Hayes:

Yep, absolutely. Let’s move on here to the next. And we touched on some of this already, but the algorithm updates, they happen all the time. We said there’s 10 major ones per year on average. That’s what there was in 2022. But there’s literally hundreds of updates all of the time. And so with this… I’m reading through our bullets here, forgive me. Just I’m reading through, because I think we really covered this in this last one. There is…

Amanda Joyce:

Yeah. But it’s just the point that they changed the rules on us. It’s a moving target with Google from month to month. So we can’t even create a strategy at the beginning of a quarter and not have to deviate from it a little bit. It’s suddenly Google caress about X and doesn’t care about Y or we’re getting punished for location pages or whatever the heck’s happening. Every time one of those, especially the more obvious ones come out and we start seeing dips, we got to change. And so if you’re checked out and you’re just doing the whole hit the easy button, “I’ve got an agency covering this. I’m going to get back to business. I know my SEO is in place. I’m good to go.” And you’re not touching base with them to discuss these changes and how they’re… Maybe some of these people are uploading all this content and then supplementally creating a couple new pieces when something big happens. But there’s just too much of a risk with your online presence to just invest in SEO a little bit and check out.

Because as we all know, SEO just takes so long. You can lose so much ground if you check out for a year and the strategy you signed off on didn’t end up giving you the results you wanted. I guarantee you two or three of your competitors were on the incline while you were either staying flat or going down. And it’s going to take you a long time to make up that ground. So it’s just so critical that you’re staying up on those or that your agency is staying up on those algorithm updates and keeping you apprised as to how it’s impacting the direction they’re taking your content and all of your SEO strategy.

Devon Hayes:

And another major point along with that in the algorithm and how it works, and it’s this massive equation that we’re all trying to solve for, is if you throw and you publish 20 pieces of content all of a sudden, I mean, there’s a standard deviation of what everybody else is doing within your field. And if you fall outside of that standard deviation, you are going to get penalized. So if you think the answer is just posting and publishing more content than anybody else, that’s not the name of the game. It is quality over quantity. We’ve seen markets, some of the most competitive markets here in the US where a website will have six pages and they are crushing websites with 30, 40, 50 pages of blog posts. So it really is not quantity, it’s quality.

And again, you have to think when you try to hit that easy button and you just go gangbusters, you went from zero to now 200 pieces of content, you are falling outside that standard deviation and you are now going to push yourself even further down the SERPs because now Google doesn’t know what’s going on with you. It doesn’t trust you. You’ve gone haywire. And so now you’ve lost your trust with them and you’re now almost back at zero, having to rebuild that trust to show you’re not some crazy bot and that you can be trusted, because you have to think about the human factor and the way Google views how humans are able to work and what’s valuable. So that is something to think about too, is not going outside of that standard deviation because that is a thing and that is a ranking factor with Google.

Amanda Joyce:

Yeah. And we’ve talked about in other episodes too, like now that AI is so much more widely used, how Google suddenly has so much more to index. This is more me just surmising. But I’m like, I feel like they’re going to get to a point that they’re going to really start cracking down on people that are just introducing crap into their index because they don’t freaking have the space or time to keep crawling content that’s clearly just scraped the internet and repeated what’s already out there. They’re looking for fresh, new, engaging, interesting content.

They’re not going to rank your content that says the same thing that every other website says over those other websites just because you maybe publish more content. They’re going to be like, “Oh, you’re just another person screaming into the void without a unique perspective on this. Get out of my way.”

Devon Hayes:

Yeah. And that dives into our next major point, which is… This is, I know Amanda, as our content strategist, this piece drives you absolutely bonkers, the quality. The quality of the content, the quality of AI content. And there are some really good AI content out there. But let’s dive into the way Google looks at it with the biggest algorithm update that E-E-A-T we have talked about and content and AI. And I’m just going to let you spitball here because this is, I know, your hot button.

Amanda Joyce:

Yes.

Devon Hayes:

We’re talking about how there’s no easy button, this is your hot button.

Amanda Joyce:

Yeah, exactly. I just cannot say enough, and we’ve talked about this before, writing content that really reflects your personal IP is what’s going to make your website stand out. You are the expert in your market, whether you’re a plumber, an electrician, a roofer, a custom home builder, you are an expert and there’s a reason people seek you out to hire you, and your content has to reflect that. Otherwise, what’s the point? If someone comes to your website, your website is like your digital storefront. That’s where someone’s going to come to compare you to your two biggest competitors and decide if they’re going to hire you.

And if your content is lackluster and doesn’t even position you as the authority that you in fact are, they’re going to probably move on to the person who’s invested a little bit more in that content, who sat for content interviews with whoever’s writing that content and has given that unique perspective that only you can provide. If you’re leaning on a chatbot to do it and you give it a topic and a keyword and maybe even a pretty strong prompt, all it’s going to do is go out and survey the web and kick you back some probably really… It’ll read well, and it’ll probably be true, but like I was saying before, it’s just going to be a repetition of what’s already out there.

And we’re all vying for those top couple spots in the search results. And Google’s not stupid. They can tell if your content is no different, maybe you’ve added a couple extra pictures and, I don’t know, a video. If it’s still saying the exact same thing that everybody else is saying, you’re not just suddenly going to shoot up to the top of the search results because of it. You’re just noise. It’s crazy.

Devon Hayes:

And you make an excellent point. Yeah, you make a really good point. You mentioned video. That’s another thing. If you’re just having… You’re like, “Okay, spit me out a blog about, whatever, luxury homes in Omaha, Nebraska,” but you don’t have any unique pictures or unique video to go along with that, those digital assets are also what help certain things rank. So just meeting a word count and maybe having a solid structure in your headlines and subheads, that’s all well and fine. But really those images and videos are what helps make that content rank.

And there’s no easy button for that. Yes, there are AI generated images. But as a business owner, you should be showcasing your work. You should be giving readers a reason to believe and a reason to trust in you and your services, and all of the content you put on your website should do that. There was a time and a place for having content on a website for content’s sake, but those are the days of old. Now, it really should be, everything you put on your site should be speaking to a potential homeowner, it should be providing all the information they want to find about a particular topic. They want a reason to trust and to believe in you, and you should give it to them, and you should tell them why they should choose you over another competitor.

You can do that with a friendly tone. You can do that with less industry jargon, which is kind of like, I don’t know, just more of a friendly tone depending on, of course, your brand voice. But there’s just… I don’t know. In my opinion, there’s just no replacement for that friendly vibe and the friendly storytelling that you get, Amanda, when you talk to our clients and you get those content interviews and we learn all kinds of cool things that happen on a job site, that an AI bot can’t do storytelling the way things really happen sometimes because truth is stranger than fiction a lot of the time.

Amanda Joyce:

A 100%. I have a perfect example of this. So I did a content interview a couple of weeks ago with one of our clients that we just love so much. He’s extremely talented landscape… I mean, they’re engineers. They do it all. They build beautiful hardscapes, they do maintenance, all that. And they built this incredible project for one of their clients. And then I did a follow-up interview with the client yesterday to just… I wanted a couple soundbites of his experience on the other side of it. And our client didn’t even mention this to me, but he did. I was like, “Were there any unexpected challenges that popped up in the middle of this project?” And he was like, “Actually, my daughter suffered an injury and became handicapped during the project.” And he was like, “I had to go back to them and tell them that all the hardscape steps needed to go.”

I mean, it seriously gives me goosebumps talking about it. And we needed to make it so it was accessible for her. And he was like, “They didn’t even think twice about it. They changed everything. And now my entire family can enjoy the property.” I would have never known that if I didn’t have that conversation. And that’s, to me, the biggest story of the whole thing. And that makes it human. That’s what makes what our clients do so beautiful. They’re accustomed to what these people need. I mean, we’re such girls. We’re both starting to cry talking about it. But it’s just like…

Devon Hayes:

I know. I’m all emotional goosebumps.

Amanda Joyce:

Yeah.

Devon Hayes:

It’s a beautiful story. Yeah.

Amanda Joyce:

But that’s the kind of stuff that… If you’re not having ongoing conversations with your agency, or maybe whoever’s writing your content isn’t chatting with the people that have boots on the ground, maybe you’ve got someone internally writing your content, but she’s just sitting alone in a booth in a little cubicle and not talking to the people in the field, you don’t get that stuff. So that’s the content that tells a story, that’s going to rank, that’s going to do really well in social, that’s going to give people a reason to believe in you and know that you’re going to be there with them throughout a project, and that no ask is too big or too small. So you’re trying to humanize your brand and your company and your service offerings through your content, and no bot is ever going to do that.

Devon Hayes:

Absolutely. Now, there are ways, and we’ve had previous podcasts about that. Check out the show notes, we’ll have links to those. But there’s definitely a place for AI in your SEO strategy in your business a 100%. So you can use it to brainstorm some of those topics. If you have writer’s block and you’re like, “I want to reach customers talking about this.” Or, “Our project was about X, Y, and Z. How can I get started writing it?” I mean, it’s good for writer’s block to get you going.

Amanda Joyce:

100%.

Devon Hayes:

It’s great for creating outlines for a topic that you have an idea on and that you want to be really comprehensive. But…

Amanda Joyce:

Yeah. Exactly. Or just like to your comprehensive point, making sure that you are hitting on everything that… You can scrape the web and make sure like, “Oh yeah, these are the seven things I got to make sure I get across that is educating this reader, but then I’m going to add my own IP in it.” Instead of the five things you need to do, make it seven, and make sure you add just those two extra little nuggets that are your own.

Devon Hayes:

That only you know about. Yeah.

Amanda Joyce:

Exactly. And make it tie to your market. Maybe everyone else is talking about… Maybe you’re a roofer and one of the things that everyone’s hitting on hail, and you’re like, “I’m actually in a market where wind is a way bigger thing. Hail is not really a thing for us. It’s few and far between. I’m going to barely touch on hail and I’m going to make a big chunk of this about wind damage and how to spot it.” Because you know that’s going rank in your market or it’s going to resonate with your readers.

Devon Hayes:

Yes, absolutely. So the key takeaway today is symbiosis, not substitution with AI.

Amanda Joyce:

Oh, one other tip. I also love it for, write your whole piece, throw it back through there and ask it to proofread it for you. It’ll find any of your spelling errors, any of your missed commas, any of that. That’s a great way to use it at the very end. Because me, as a content writer, one of the things I run into is, when you go back and read something you wrote, a lot of times you read it the way you meant for it to be written. And maybe you are saying shingle… Maybe you put single instead of shingle, but you don’t even… your brain goes straight past it because you know how you mean for it to read. So it’s a really quick, easy way to throw it in there. And maybe you didn’t hyphenate something. But then you can make sure that you can rest easy because if there’s one thing these bots do do is spit out perfectly grammatical content, so they will clean up your content for you.

Devon Hayes:

That’s beautiful. Just don’t forget to add your internal and external links back in there because that’ll get stripped out, and that’s massive. It’s an important factor in SEO. But yeah. So I think that covers it. Symbiosis, not substitution.

Amanda Joyce:

I do too. And I would say one more. We told you guys to hang out for a good tip at the very end. One of the tips that we hear from industry experts everywhere is that you should be spending 50% of your time on your SEO content refreshing old content. So you can use AI to maybe review it. Say, “Help me refresh this.” And it might provide a couple of changes. And then on top of it, again, lean back on your own IP. There’s certain things that will update. Maybe there’s a piece of content we wrote for somebody about a major storm event. And we wrote it in 2022. And then a huge storm hits in ’23. We can update it for ’23. Put the details of the current storm in it, make sure that we go through, and if maybe we’re talking about the cost of building materials or things like that, we update all of that so it’s all updated to 2023, and then maybe lean on the bot for a little bit and then republish it.

So that can be a way to make the process a little bit faster and make sure you’re really zhuzhing that piece of content and not just changing two sentences. The bot can help you get it across the finish line, but make sure that a lot of that effort you’re putting in is refreshing that old content. You don’t need a blog with 500 pieces of content on it. If you have some pieces that have been working for you historically, rework those before you go back and reinvent the wheel. And you’re maybe making the same point, but it’s just with a new piece. Take the old piece, zhuzh it, move on.

Devon Hayes:

Zhuzh. Zhuzh it up.

Amanda Joyce:

Zhuzh. Zhuzh.

Devon Hayes:

Zhuzh. Okay. Well, thank you so much for listening. Check out the show notes for links to previous AI episodes. And yeah, share this with anyone who you think might find it helpful. And thanks for listening. See you next time.

Amanda Joyce:

Thanks guys. That was today’s Trades Secrets. Thanks for listening.

Devon Hayes:

Did you find this helpful? We’re just getting started.

Amanda Joyce:

Subscribe, and don’t miss our next reveal.

Devon Hayes:

Until next time.