Is SEO with GPT-4 a remake of Singin’ in the Rain?
I recently searched for the phrase, “SEO with ChatGPT,” and found several informative articles ranked at the top of Google’s SERPs, including:
- “6 Ways SEO Pros Are Using ChatGPT Right Now” by Brian Frederick, which was published by Search Engine Journal on Jan. 11, 2023.
- “ChatGPT for SEO: 9 Best Use Cases (And 4 Suboptimal Ones)” by Si Quan Ong, which was published by the Ahrefs blog on Feb. 22, 2023.
- “ChatGPT and SEO content: Where do we go from here?” by Bruce Clay, which was published by Search Engine Land on Feb. 22, 2023.
So, what can I say about SEO with GPT-4 that hasn’t already said?
Well, I can address three of the questions that Google says people also ask:
- Can you use ChatGPT for SEO?
- How does ChatGPT help with SEO?
- What does ChatGPT mean for SEO?
Or I can point out that the articles that currently rank well in Google were all written before GPT-4 was released by OpenAI today. Now, GPT-4 is “a large multimodal model (accepting image and text inputs, emitting text outputs) that, while less capable than humans in many real-world scenarios, exhibits human-level performance on various professional and academic benchmarks.” So, I can update some of the advice that other SEO experts have already shared, which was limited to the earlier versions of GPT-3 and GPT-3.5, which operated in one modality, text.
Or I can tip my cap to my colleagues in the SEO industry, who have all written helpful content for the rational members of the SEO community. But I can point out that your target audience probably isn’t other SEOs. It’s customers in other industries, who also have emotional responses to multimodal content.
And as Justin De Graff observed in “How consumer needs shape search behavior and drive intent,” which Think with Google published in May 2019, “The truth is, decision-making is not a rational process, but one driven mainly by how people feel. The rational brain layers on reasons for our choices only after they’re made.”
Then, I can encourage you to watch Singin’ in the Rain, which is often regarded as one of the greatest films ever made. It offers a lighthearted depiction of Hollywood in the late 1920s, when movie stars attempted to manage the transition from silent films to the “talkies.”
And in today’s transition to GPT-4, you don’t want to end up “Out of Sync.”
Or I can attempt all the above.
Can you use ChatGPT for SEO?
So, can you use ChatGPT for SEO? Yes, you can.
As my colleague Brian wrote in Search Engine Journal, you can use the AI-powered chatbot for:
- Creating content.
- Keyword research and analysis.
- Content strategy development.
- Better understanding of search intent.
- Generating good SEO titles.
- Composing and managing analytics reports.
So, what can I add? Well, GPT-4 enables you to use Multimodal AI to tackle all the above for the videos, images, news, and other types of content that have been blended into Google’s SERPs along with web pages since Google launched “universal search” back on May 16, 2007.
Ironically, it may take the advent of GPT-4 this week to prompt many SEOs to finally seize an opportunity that began almost 16 years ago when the era of 10 blue links ended.
Now, most SEOs have optimized the images on their websites. But many SEO managers haven’t used Google Images in a dog’s age to search for, oh, their company or client’s CEO.
For example, I just searched for Neal Mohan, the new CEO of YouTube. And the top results are photos from Wikipedia, news sites, and the investor relations page for 23andMe, where he’s a board member. Now, I guess this is okay – if your SEO team is working closely with your PR team. But that’s not the case at most organizations. The vast majority of SEOs have never met with their company or client’s PR people – either in person or on Zoom – to collaborate on optimizing news or multimedia content.
So, how big is this opportunity?
Well, there’s been a dearth of critical data on universal search integrations over the past five years. The most recent study on universal search was published by Searchmetrics in 2018. And their analysis was based on the search results on Google.com for 500,000 keywords in the U.S. during 2017.
Back then, videos were integrated into 23% of the mobile results in the U.S., images in 16%, news in 9%, and maps in 4%. Perhaps the advent of GPT-4 will finally encourage the departments and groups to start breaking down the silos within their organization.
But they should have started collaborating in April 2022, after Google introduced multisearch, an entirely new way to search using text and images at the same time. With multisearch in Lens, you can go beyond the search box and ask questions about what you see.
Oh, well. Better late than never.
How does ChatGPT help with SEO?
So, how does ChatGPT help with SEO? Well, Si Quan (SQ), who is a Marketing Manager at Ahrefs, has done a great job looking at the best use cases, including:
- Constructing a regular expression (regex).
- Creating automations.
- Whipping up quick snippets of code.
- Writing click-worthy titles.
- Creating quick outlines.
- Suggesting seed keywords.
- Generating short-form content.
- Rewriting sentences.
SQ has also done a good job of examining the cases where you shouldn’t use ChatGPT, including:
- Creating long-form content.
- Conducting keyword research.
- Classifying search intent.
- Tackling local SEO.
Like SQ, I’m also a huge fan of Kurt Vonnegut. (The author of Slaughterhouse-Five briefly taught my creative writing class at the University of Michigan until he left unexpectedly to finish writing his seventh novel, Breakfast of Champions.) So, what can I possibly add?
Well, the book, Pity the Reader: On Writing with Style, which Vonnegut co-authored with Suzanne McConnell, his friend and former student, urges us to “Write like a human being. Write like a writer.”
And coincidentally, Google urged us to create “original, helpful content written by people, for people” in a post on the Google Search Central Blog entitled, “What creators should know about Google’s August 2022 helpful content update,” which was posted on Aug. 18, 2022.
Yep, three-and-a-half months before the launch of ChatGPT, Google said its helpful content update was aimed at rewarding “content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience,” while penalizing “content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations.”
So, how can you ensure that you’re creating helpful content? Well, by following their long-standing guidance on building high-quality sites, which was first shared in May 2011 after the “Panda” algorithm change, as well as the Google Search Essentials that make your web-based content (web pages, images, videos, or other material) eligible to appear and perform well in Google Search.
Google added, “People-first content creators focus first on creating satisfying content, while also utilizing SEO best practices to bring searchers additional value.” Okay, so how do you do that?
Seven months ago, Google provided half a dozen questions that you could ask yourself to figure out of you were on the right track with a people-first approach. Anticipating today’s debut of GPT-4, I’ve updated Google’s questions, so you can tell if you’re heading in the right direction when creating video, image, and audio content as well as text. Hint: You should answer “yes” to the following questions:
- Would the existing or intended audience of your website, blog, YouTube channel, or podcast find your content useful?
- Does your content clearly demonstrate your author or creator’s first-hand expertise and depth of knowledge? For example, have they actually used your product or service, or visited your place of business or travel destination?
- Does your website, blog, YouTube channel, or podcast have a primary purpose or focus?
- After consuming your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to complete their task or achieve their goal?
- After reading, watching, seeing, or listening to your content, will someone leave feeling like they’ve had a satisfying experience?
- Are you keeping in mind Google’s advice for core updates, which was updated in August 2019, as well as the best practices for writing high-quality product reviews, which were updated on Feb. 17, 2023?
Now, a lot of this advice appears like it could have been cranked out by Kilgore Trout, a fictional character, who appears in several of Vonnegut’s novels. Trout is a prolific, but unsuccessful author of sci-fi novels, who could only seem to get his science fiction published in smutty magazines.
This led some literary critics to see him as the author’s alter ego. But Trout is a character in Slaughterhouse-Five, which also has a narrator, who clearly identifies himself as Vonnegut, when he says, “That was I. That was me. That was the author of this book.”
So, don’t mistake the tactical advice on creating helpful content, which was written for SEOs, with the strategic insights that you need to turn into people-first content for your target audience.
No, you don’t need to write as well as Vonnegut to create “original, helpful content written by people, for people.”
But if you’re targeting automotive customers, then you need to create content like “Hyundai x BTS | For the Earth 60 sec,” which got 106 million views and 233,000 engagements (e.g. likes, comments, and shares) by creating a new Global Hydrogen Campaign film to celebrate Earth Day in 2020.
If you’re targeting B2B buyers, then you have to create content like “Hyundai x Boston Dynamics | Welcome to the Family with BTS,” which got 22.3 million views and 189,000 engagements by sharing a surprise visit from Boston Dynamics’ Spot and Atlas and showing off their moves in an epic dance-off.
If you’re in the retail industry, then you must create content like “The BTS Meal | McDonald’s,” which got 21 million views and 993,000 engagements by showing Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V, and Jungkook order the BTS meal in the Philippines. Yes, the South Korean boy band was also in the Hyundai video.
And if you’re in the travel and tourism industries, then you had better create content like “Feel the Rhythm of Korea with BTS – BUSAN BLUES,” which got 106 million views and 327,000 engagements by showing the magnificent night view of the famous Gwangandaegyo Bridge.
These four videos provide examples of content that leaves audiences in different industries feeling either they’ve learned enough about a topic to achieve their goal, or they’ve had a satisfying experience.
Either way, the brands have succeeded in creating people-first content.
What does ChatGPT mean for SEO?
This bring us to the question, “What does ChatGPT mean for SEO?”
And I’m happy that Bruce tackled it. Why? Because I’ve known him for more than 20 years. And he has the experience as well as the expertise, authority, and trustworthiness to provide a perspective that is well worth reading.
And his article in Search Engine Land does a great job breaking the primary question down into digestible elements, including:
- What is ChatGPT?
- What’s Google’s stance on AI Content? Does it matter?
- What are some benefits of ChatGPT for content creation?
- What are the drawbacks of ChatGPT for content creation?
- How will ChatGPT impact SEO content creators?
I concur with Bruce’s tips for using ChatGPT for content creation. And I totally agree with his conclusion: “ChatGPT is a tool, not a solution.”
So, if I were speaking on a panel after him – as I often did at approximately 50 Search Engine Strategies (SES) conferences that both of us spoke at from 2003 to 2013 – then what could I add?
Well, SEO has fundamentally changed over the past 20 years. We still need to optimize our titles, headers, and subheaders. But we now need to create high-quality content, images, and video, as well.
And if SEOs want to create more engaging content for their audience, then they should probably read, “What Is A Content Marketing Matrix & Do We Need One?” Spoiler alert: A content marketing matrix is a planning tool that can help you generate ideas for creating engaging content for your target audiences. Here’s what one looks like:
As you can see, this content marketing matrix has two dimensions:
- From awareness to action on the horizontal axis.
- From rational to emotional on the vertical axis.
Based on my experience over the past 20 years, most SEOs are better at creating educational content that’s rational and builds awareness. But there are three other quadrants where many SEOs need help from talented writers or content creators to produce entertaining, inspiring, or enlightening content for their website, blog, YouTube channel, or podcast. Maybe GPT-4 will provide them with some help. But it’s still just a tool, not a solution.
By the way, SEO-PR doesn’t offer a solution, either. But we do offer training.
For example, I taught a class last week entitled, “Engaging audiences through content.” It’s part of the Social Media Professional Program offered by the New Media Academy. Since most of my students are from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), I showed them examples of entertaining, inspiring, educational, and enlightening video content from that country.
The example of entertaining video content that I asked them to watch is entitled, “Dubai Presents: A Five-Star Mission | Visit Dubai | Zac Efron | Jessica Alba.” Produced by Dubai Tourism, “Dubai” stars Jessica Alba and Zac Efron, and was directed by Craig Gillespie (‘Cruella’, ‘I Tonya’). Uploaded on Aug. 5, 2021, it now has 65 million views.
The example of inspiring video content that I asked my students to watch is entitled, “See you at Dubai Expo | Emirates.” Emirates airline uploaded this video on Jan. 14, 2022, and it got 1.6 million views and 28,700 engagements in the first 7 days, and now has 4.8 million views and 82,900 engagements.
The example of educational video content that I also asked my class to watch is entitled, “We did it again | Emirates.” Uploaded on Jan. 17, 2022, this behind the scenes look at how the airline took an A380 for a spin around the Burj Khalifa got 5 million views and 95,900 engagements in the first 7 days. And now has 13.5 million views and 207,000 engagements.
Finally, the example of enlightening video content that I asked my students to watch is entitled, “A Winter Through My Eyes.” The video’s description asks, “Can a country be truly enjoyed by someone who cannot see? As the United Arab Emirates, we believe in making what seems impossible, possible. And this winter, we gave a young child, Clara, the opportunity to experience and enjoy the World’s Coolest Winter in the UAE.” Uploaded on Jan. 27, 2022, it now has 9 million views.
Now, the population of the UAE is only 9.4 million, of whom only about a million are Emirati citizens. The rest are expatriates, including millions of Indians and Pakistanis, and smaller numbers of Europeans and Americans. This makes the UAE slightly smaller than Michigan and slightly larger than New Jersey.
So, most SEOs and content marketers working within or for enterprises with at least 1,000 employees should be able to create content that’s just as engaging for American audiences as the Emiratis have.
What’s the biggest obstacle they face? Well, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s recently released Enterprise Content Marketing: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – Insights for 2023, 64% of enterprise content markers say communicating among internal teams/silos is a challenge.
So, you should follow all of Bruce’s advice. But the advent of GPT-4 impacts your colleagues in content marketing as well as the people at your organization’s outside agencies. Multimodal AI is bigger than a breadbox, as my mother used to say.
So, if you plan to use GPT-4 for content creation, then you should break down the silos and invite some of the talented people on other internal teams and at outside agencies to tackle this dramatic new opportunity together. Otherwise, your success may be limited to just one out of four quadrants.
How to do you leverage GPT-4 for SEO?
As you can tell from some of the advice that I’ve already shared, I think the advent of ChatGPT-4 can help SEO managers to do their current jobs more efficiently and effectively. But if you really want to leverage GPT-4 to get a seat at the big table, then you need to get out of your comfort zone.
Is the reward worth the risk?
Well, let me update some of the critical data that I shared in my article, “Why There Are So Few Vice Presidents of Search Engine Optimization,” which Search Engine Journal published on Nov. 18, 2020.
According to Indeed, the average base salary for an SEO manager in the U.S. is now $71,102. The average base salary of a director of marketing is currently 95,364. And the average base salary of a vice president of marketing is $167,859 these days.
So, yes, the reward is worth the risk. If you can successfully manage the transition.
Now, you don’t want attempt to fake it and to end up looking like Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) does at the end of Singin’ in the Rain. “No! No! No!“
You want to manage the transition to SEO with ChatGPT like Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) does – with “Dignity, always dignity.”
Or you want to leverage the opportunity that the advent of GPT-4 represents like Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor) does. How? Well, you can always “Make ‘Em Laugh.”
Or you can get everyone in SEO, PR, and content marketing to come up with an idea for content like Lockwood, Brown and Kathy Seldon (Debbie Reynolds) do in the scene where they sing and dance together in “Good Morning.”
But whatever you decide to do, I believe that the best way to successfully manage the transition from search engine optimization as we’ve known it for the past 20 years to utilizing SEO with GPT-4 today is to imagine that you’re embarked in remaking Singin’ in the Rain.