What Does 2021 Look Like for SEO?

With 2020 finally behind us, let’s talk about the trends that might impact the SEO space in the coming months.

We finally made it. Somehow. Against all odds.

It’s no exaggeration to say that for many of us, 2020 felt more like an entire millennium than a single year. Nor would it be inaccurate to suggest that many of us are still exhausted from the ordeal, and likely will be for some months to come. Just as it had a marked impact on us, it also changed the course of multiple industries.

Search engine optimization (SEO) was no exception. There is not a single industry that was not disrupted or in some way impacted by the novel coronavirus. Like it or not, SEO felt the aftershocks of that disruption. 

We’re now a few weeks into 2021. As is the tradition in January, let’s take a look forward. Here are a few of the major trends that will define the SEO space this year. 

  • COVID-19 is still here.  It’s not as if someone flipped a switch on New Year’s Eve and eradicated the coronavirus pandemic. Although a vaccine has been developed, the virus is still very much present. That means all the shifts and disruptions it created in 2020 still exist, and your marketing and SEO need to take that into account. 
  • The importance of intent. We’ve known for a while that Google is very interested in helping its algorithms understand user intent. We’ll see that trend continue in the New Year, meaning you’ll need to pay attention to it as well. You need to not only know who your audience is, but what they want, why they want it, and how to give that to them. 
  • User experience takes center stage. As of November 2020, user experience metrics are officially ranking factors in Google’s algorithms. Load time and general performance were already metrics you’d needed to consider, but add interactivity and visual stability to the pot. Expect to see ranking penalties applied to websites that can’t quite get it right. 
  • The power of artificial intelligence. Google has made great strides by applying AI to its algorithms. It stands to reason, then, that SEO professionals can do the same thing. Through machine learning and automation, you can glean insights that allow you to create more compelling content and fully optimize your customer relationship management.  
  • Voice search and conversational queries. As with previous years, 2020 saw voice search continue its steady climb to prominence. Focusing on conversational queries with your research. 
  • Schema supreme. With Google’s intense focus on context, understanding, and user intent, it stands to reason that 2021 will see structured data become immensely more valuable from an SEO standpoint. Best familiarize yourself with it now, so you can prepare for that trend.   

The above represents only what we believe is likely to happen. If the last year taught us anything, it’s that we live in an era where it’s next to impossible to predict the future with any degree of accuracy. We’d still advise readying yourself with the above in mind, but above all, the best advice we can give you is to expect the unexpected. 

How To Protect Your Website From SEO Spam Attacks

Whether or not spamdexing actually works, it can cause serious problems for your website and audience. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself.

It’s a tactic that’s arguably as old as search engine optimization (SEO) itself.

SEO spam, often referred to as spamdexing, basically has the same core goal as any other black hat tactic. Rather than working to gradually build up one’s web presence and generate revenue organically, it attempts to take a fast-tracked shortcut to make money — using someone else’s website to promote content that wouldn’t appear on the search engine results page otherwise. 

As you might expect, this has the potential to destroy both your website and your brand. 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’re safe from SEO spam injection if you’re a smaller business, either.  If anything, the fact that you’re a smaller entity makes you a more attractive target, as smaller organizations are likely to have a careless attitude or lack a proper security budget. To make matters worse, since attacks of this nature are difficult to detect, they can remain hidden in plain sight for a long time, causing exponentially more damage as time goes on.

First, by knowing the signs of spamdexing: 

  • A sudden, unexpected decrease or increase in user traffic with no clear source
  • Unexpected ads or unusual anchor text showing up on your website
  • New, spammy content appearing on your website
  • Spam being sent via your email server
  • Unexpected warnings or penalties in the Google Search Console
  • Crawl errors on your website

Note that in addition to looking for the above signs manually, you can use a tool such as Ahrefs to check your backlink profile, or a third-party scanner designed to detect the presence of SEO spam. Either way, once you’ve determined you’re the victim of spamdexing, the next step is to figure out how it happened. How did hackers gain access to your site? 

Generally speaking, it’s because of poor security. Failing to keep things updated, using weak passwords or credentials, and so on. The good news is that this means protecting yourself from SEO spam isn’t actually that difficult.

  • Audit your passwords. Ensure every user with administrative privileges uses strong login credentials. You might also consider adding brute force protection. 
  • Use a firewall. This is just basic cybersecurity. You should also use antimalware and antispam software on your website. 
  • Keep everything up to date. We cannot stress this enough. Do not slack on installing patches and updates. Failing to keep your website updated effectively means you’re leaving the door open to hackers.
  • Assign user permissions with care. No user should have permissions they don’t absolutely need. Otherwise, there’s the potential for a hacker to gain unfettered access to your site, at which point they can essentially go wild.

Maintaining your reputation and trust is more important than ever before. Spamdexing, although it’s not as dangerous a tactic as it was five years ago, can still damage both. It’s therefore critical that you’re proactive with your website’s security — because that is, and always will be the best way to keep yourself safe from SEO spam. 

Could Keywords Eventually Go Extinct?

Nearly every Google algorithm update is geared towards user intent and semantics. Is there space for keywords anymore?

Intent. Quality. Value. Authority. These are the characteristics that Google’s search algorithm now prioritizes. 

Notice anything missing from that list? 

Keywords. Back in the earliest days of search engine optimization (SEO), keywords were the be-all and end-all of search. They were how search engines understood your content and how people found your brand.

They’ve become less important over the years, to the extent that some publications have somewhat hyperbolically claimed the keyword to be dead. Such cries are nothing new. They’ve been commonplace since the mid-2000s. 

Yet somehow, keywords have clung to life. We’ll grant that they’re not the titan of search engine marketing that they once were. As Google’s algorithms have become progressively more intelligent, their focus has shifted from exact match keywords to analyzing the content itself. 

In broad strokes, Google appears to be interested in the following information: 

  • How usable is the website? Is navigation intuitive, and site content easy to find? Does the page load quickly, even on mobile? 
  • How well-written is the content? Natural language is key, as is proper spelling and grammar. 
  • Does the content match user intent? Did people find what they were looking for? Did the content provide value to them? 
  • Is the website safe? Are you engaging in any black hat SEO tactics? Have you been infected with malicious software? 

At a glance, it seems that keywords don’t really fit into the above list. They do, though — just not how you might expect. See, in order to create quality, valuable, compelling content, you first need a solid topic as a foundation.

In order to create that foundation, you need to understand what people are searching for, and why. You need to perform keyword research, then tailor your content to your audience’s search terms. That said, it is worth mentioning that today’s keywords look very different from their distant ancestors.

First, especially as voice-activated assistants grow in popularity, searches are becoming less mechanical and more natural and conversational. People are starting to search the way they talk, phrasing their searches as questions rather than individual terms. 

Second, Google has made no secret of the fact that it’s focused entirely on the end-user, entirely on providing the most valuable and relevant results possible. Google’s recent artificial intelligence-fueled enhancements to its algorithm are an indication of this, allowing the search engine’s algorithms to suss out spelling mistakes, understand subtopics, and target specific passages in written content. It also officially made user experience a ranking factor, a change that speaks for itself. 

Driven by these trends, keywords aren’t dying. They’re evolving. As Google continues to make its algorithms more sophisticated, the keyword will persist, if only as a mechanism for brainstorming and topic research. 

In short, reports of the keyword’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Shorter keywords will eventually become irrelevant. Long-tail, conversational keywords, however, are going to be with us for years to come. 

The Anatomy of SEO-Focused Content

Looking to enter the New Year with a firm advantage? Start with a solid understanding of what makes content perform in search.

Making a good first impression is vital for nearly everything. Marketing and search are no different. You need to make sure that any content you create is attention-grabbing and valuable while also avoiding the urge to stuff it with unnecessary keywords. 

Because while content may be king, it’s no longer enough to simply produce it. You need to get focused. You need to plan, optimize, and study.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is only part of the equation here. Proper keyword targeting, audience research, and content optimization are all critical, certainly. But there’s a bit more to it, as well. 

Content Structure

The more structured a piece is, the better. Both search engines and users alike enjoy structure. They like articles where it’s easy to scan for relevant information. 

Plan your content accordingly. Organize it into bite-sized, easily digestible segments, and ensure that it flows readily between your introduction, main points, and conclusion. Where relevant, break your content up with header tags and images and avoid long-winded tangents or unrelated anecdotes.

If someone is looking up a recipe or guide, for instance, they don’t want to hear about the history behind it. They don’t want a paragraphs-long story about your grandmother or brother. They want the information, period. 

Content Length

A generally-held belief is that short-form content is better for readability. However, that’s not exactly how it works. Your content should, in general, be exactly as long as it needs to be based on the topic and the depth to which you’re examining it.

There is not, for example, any reason to write a 2,800 word expose on harvesting a homemade vegetable garden. Similarly, a 400-word piece on the complexities of astrophysics will be just as far off the mark. You need to strike a balance. 

Closing Thoughts

Let’s tie things off with a few final pieces of advice.

  • Use bullet points where appropriate. This can greatly improve readability and overall engagement. Again, bite-sized chunks.
  • Preview your search listing. Consider using a tool such as https://www.portent.com/serp-preview-tool/ to see how your site looks on the search engine results page. If you don’t like what you see there, Google has published details on how you can tweak your snippet in its developer guidelines knowledge base. 
  • Pay attention to your tone and wording. Consider your audience. Will they respond better to content that sounds knowledgeable and serious, or laid-back and humorous. The wrong tone at the wrong time can cause more harm than good.
  • Look at your metrics. Pay attention to how each piece of content is performing via the Google Search Console. There are also plenty of tools, both free and premium, to help you better optimize your website. 
  • Sprinkle keywords into your headers. Keep them relevant to the content. 

Semantic Search: What Is It, And How Does It Apply To Your Website?

There’s a lot of talk about semantic search as it pertains to content marketing and SEO. We’re going to clear up some confusion you may have about it.

When people communicate, they do so with far more than words. There are myriad non-verbal cues, from facial expressions to vocal variants to tonality. Because it comes so naturally to us, we don’t really appreciate how difficult communication is without these contextual indicators. 

That’s where semantic search comes in. On a larger scale, semantic analysis is a process intended to make a topic or search result easier for artificial intelligence to process and understand certain concepts or ideas. In search, its applications are very similar.

Modern search engines are all about intent. They seek to understand not just the words a user has typed, but why they’ve typed them. But how exactly is this connected to semantics, and how can you apply that to your website.

Semantic search represents these efforts, generating results by understanding intent, context, and connections. It can be broken down into two primary concepts — semantic mapping and semantic coding. We’ll provide an overview of each. 

Semantic Mapping

Semantic mapping involves visualization of the connections between words, phrases, concepts, and entities. This is best exemplified by Schema, a semantic markup system created via a collaboration between Google. Microsoft, Yahoo, and Yandex.  By analyzing the context of a search and how it may apply to different entities — something most of us largely do subconsciously — semantic mapping helps create richer, more relevant search results, especially where voice search is concerned.

Imagine, for instance, you’re searching for a mall. As a user, you’re likely looking for directions to the mall, or the hours/location of a particular mall within your city. A search engine will account for this, and deliver results based on your perceived intent. 

The search engine understands a few things in this regard. 

  • A mall is a place
  • You as a user are probably looking for a mall within your location. 
  • How your recent search history plays into what you’re currently looking for.
  • How certain qualifiers (near me, hours, size, etc.) influence intent. 

These are all contextual elements that we take for granted because we don’t really need to stop and think about them. Search engines do. AI isn’t as formidable as the media might have you believe and requires constant guidance, learning, and information in order to grow and improve. 

Semantic Coding

If semantic mapping is the foundation of semantic search, semantic coding is the application to a website. It explains to a search engine what entities, concepts, and information can be found on a particular page. This allows more efficient, effective indexing of the website, and helps a search engine better-determine if a website matches a user’s intent. 

With semantic coding, a search engine understands not only what a particular web page says, but also the meaning behind those words. 

Typically, semantic coding is applied via HTML. Don’t worry if you aren’t particularly experienced in that regard. Most content management systems like WordPress offer plugins that take care of the heavy lifting involved with Schema markup, and there are also professional solutions such as Schema App

Google also provides a structured data markup helper that basically provides you with a step-by-step process for adding semantic coding to your site, and a structured data testing tool to make sure you’ve added everything properly. 

The Power of Semantic Search

Can you still drive traffic to your website without using Schema? Certainly. But why would you? The easier you make your content for search engines to understand, the better that content will perform. 

And at the time of writing, remarkably few brands are leveraging semantic coding. This means that using it will likely give you a considerable advantage over your competitors. And the value of such an advantage cannot be understated.

Understanding Your Audience: A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Customer-Focused SEO

Especially now, the customer is everything from a business perspective. Here’s how that impacts search engine optimization.

You’ve probably heard the term before. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short. And you likely have at least somewhat of an inkling of what it is and how it works —that it involves keyword and topic research, content creation, and so on. 

Truth is, it’s about a lot more than that. It’s about knowing your audience. Who they are, what they’re looking for, and why they’d be interested in your business.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start with a more thorough explanation of SEO before going further. 

What Is SEO? 

SEO is, as you might expect, the optimization of digital content so that it displays at the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), or as near to it as possible. Although keywords still play an important role in this optimization, a great deal has changed over the past several years. SEO as an industry is surprisingly mercurial and fast-paced, owing to Google’s regular algorithm updates.

Even so, especially given the nature of 2020 thus far, mastery of SEO is imperative if you’re to succeed in the digital arena. If you don’t increase your brand’s visibility — if you don’t do everything you can to drive traffic to your website — you’re missing out on a ton of potential sales. And particularly if you’re a small business, those might not be sales you can afford to lose.

A flexible, workable SEO strategy requires more than slapdash content and keywords, however, and there’s much more to it than ranking and traffic. 

At any given moment, millions of people are searching for what they need online. Sometimes it’s information, sometimes it’s guidance, sometimes they’re looking to make a purchase — either way, these are specific, targeted queries. And with the advent of voice search and mobile functionality, these searches are increasingly conversational in nature. 

Where Does the Audience Fit in an SEO Strategy?

Your audience is at the core of everything. Familiarize yourself with their behaviors, habits, wants, and needs. Study your competition, and stay abreast of emerging trends, both within your own industry and within the SEO field. 

As for how you can get to know your intended audience, there are a few questions you can ask yourself. 

  • What content do they want or need? While both IT administrators and general hobbyists might be interested in tech articles, they likely have a different level of knowledge and require a different approach. 
  • What search engine are they likeliest to use? Google may be the reigning titan of search, but there are other search engines out there. 
  • Who is my audience? Demographic information such as region, income level, gender, etc. 
  • What does my audience value, what do they enjoy, and what are they interested in? You’ll want to align your brand with these interests, if possible.
  • How does my audience use social media? Look carefully at what kind of language your audience uses, ideally by studying the Facebook communities of your competitors. 
  • What does my storefront tell me? Some demographic details may be collected at the point of purchase, and you can use these (with consent) to inform your marketing decisions. 
  • What search terms do they typically use to find my website? Use Google AdWords. This can provide you with a general starting point for your content, though you’ll want to branch out and brainstorm further. 

How Do SEO and Content Slot Together? 

Armed with a better understanding of your target audience and with your keyword research in hand, it’s time to start writing. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Think about what you’d want to see on your website if you were them, and how you’d want it structured and phrased.

And remember that high-quality content is everything. Write what you know, and focus on your passions. Assuming you’ve done your research and applied it properly, you’ll do just fine. 

3 Things To Understand About Holiday SEO

This will be an unprecedented holiday season. Ecommerce is going to matter more than ever. Here’s what you need to know about SEO.

This Christmas is going to be a little unprecedented. We all know that already. Although there’s still snow on the ground, festivity in the air, and plenty of Christmas cheer, there’s also COVID to worry about. 

Even so, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your while to plan out some holiday-focused search engine optimization. It is, after all, an incredibly busy time of year, especially for consumer-focused retailers. Playing your cards right means you’re potentially looking at an enormous increase in qualified leads.

Ignoring the holiday rush, on the other hand, means missing out on a ton of sales. While it won’t necessarily kill your business, it’s also not something you want to miss out on. With that in mind, here are three of the most important things to understand about holiday SEO. 

Timeliness Is Key

First thing’s first, if you haven’t already started planning out your holiday content, you need to do so. Immediately. There’s a reason most brands start pumping up their holiday marketing campaigns in November — or even immediately after Halloween. 

Start by understanding and analyzing your audience, focusing on a few core areas. 

  • What gifts are especially popular in your industry at the moment, and which are realistic for you to carry? If you’re an electronics retailer, for instance, the PS5 and Xbox Series X are incredibly hot-ticket items, but you aren’t likely going to be able to stock them. 
  • How are current market trends impacting consumer search and purchase patterns? Many consumers are likely looking to spend a bit less this holiday season due to COVID, so you’ll need to be cognizant of that. 
  • What are people discussing on social media? How does your audience feel about the holiday season? How do they feel about your brand? 

There are a few places you can search out this information. First, examine keyword data from Google Trends. Look at both your social feeds and those of your competitors. And finally, see if there are any industry-specific analysts that you can tap for additional knowledge about your market.

Armed with this information, you can begin creating your content and figuring out your keywords (but more on that in a moment).

Focus On Performance

No, we aren’t talking about performance metrics. We’re talking about website performance. About the end-user experience — ensuring your site is quick to load, easily navigable, and usable on mobile devices.

See, people are already stressed enough as it is. Holiday shopping is just one more set of stressors atop everything else. This means, in no uncertain terms, that the people visiting your site aren’t going to want to deal with performance issues like long load times or poor navigability.

They’ll simply go elsewhere. 

Performance is important for reasons beyond it just being the holiday season. As you’ve likely already heard, Google plans to fully integrate its Core Web Vitals, metrics that directly measure the user experience of a web page, into its ranking signals by May 2021

It’s better for you to get on top of this sooner rather than later. 

Choose the Right Keywords (and Content) 

Last but certainly not least, tweak your website to tap into the holiday trends and habits you’ve researched. Use your keyword and sentiment research to inform your content marketing efforts, working to create specialized, themed blog posts around the season. Make sure these are geared specifically towards your audience and their interests and do what you can to tie in any holiday promotions you’re currently running.  

Given the current climate, however, you’re going to want to ensure a few things.

  • Don’t push anything too sales-y on your audience. The last thing people want right now is to be aggressively sold to.
  • Your content marketing efforts are integrated with your other marketing channels, including email and social media. Coherence and consistency are key.
  • Keep things specific. For your calls to action, focus on a single product or grouping of products. 
  • Keep your buyer personas in mind with everything you write. 

‘Tis The Season

The holidays are nearly upon us. It’s the perfect time of year to take a focused approach with your marketing and SEO effort. By understanding current events, your audience, and your brand, you can help ensure that your business has a very merry Christmas, marked by improved traffic and better revenue.

Why Algorithm Changes Should No Longer Be A Significant Issue For SEO

Everyone who’s spent even a little bit of time studying search engine optimization (SEO) knows about the dreaded algorithm update. We’ve all heard the horror stories. Tales of how Google’s Penguin and Panda updates destroyed traffic numbers for countless websites.

In one piece published by UK News agency The Telegraph, the author explains how Google Penguin almost killed their business

Because of stories like these, Google’s constant efforts to tweak and update its algorithm have come to be a source of dread for many. And maybe, at one point in the past, that dread was founded. However, in the modern-day, if you’re doing things properly, algorithm updates should have little effect on your traffic. 

The reason for this is simple and tied largely to how search has changed in recent years. Today, Google’s focus is no longer on keyword matching or website metrics. Certainly, these still play some role in the company’s mysterious, arcane algorithms.

But more and more, Google’s focus is on one singular factor — the end user.

Google now cares less about what a searcher is typing so much as it’s focused on why they’re typing it. It wants to deliver the best, most accurate, and most valuable content to the people using its search engine. The idea is that the first page a user clicks on should be the only one they need, and should provide them with exactly what they were looking for.

You see where we’re going with this, right? Just as Google’s algorithms are focused on user intent, so too should the content you create for your website. As such, you will at minimum need to know the answer to the following questions.

  • Who is your audience? 
  • What does your audience value? 
  • What is your audience interested in? 
  • Why is your audience interested in your brand? 
  • Why would your audience look for this specific page on your website? 

Beyond that, the search engine marketing publication Search Engine Journal recommends a content-focused strategy with the following pillars to serve as guidance.

First, that you focus on Google’s E-A-T Standards. What this means is that you need to create deep, original content that’s presented in such a way that it’s easy to read and digest. Cover each topic with as much depth and expertise as possible, and do so in a way that’s both entertaining and engaging. 

Second, you need to consider, at all times, what a user’s intent might be, and keep all content relevant to that. Consider why someone might be searching for your brand. Maybe they want to learn how to use your products. Maybe they’re interested in making a purchase.

Or maybe they’re simply doing research. 

Regardless, you need to be keyed-in to both what they think and what they want. And as long as you are, as long as you create content with intent in mind, algorithm updates should present no problem for you. They’ll simply provide new opportunities for optimization, new avenues through which you can bring in leads. 

3 Ways to Tell an SEO “Expert” Doesn’t Know Their Stuff

They’ve gone by many names over the years. Charlatans. Snake oil salesmen. Politicians.

The one thing they all have in common is that they’re scam artists. They’re looking to pull the wool over your eyes and get something out of you with minimal effort. And like it or not, the search engine optimization (SEO) space is lousy with them. 

The problem is twofold. First, there’s how jealously Google guards its algorithms. Everything we know about how the search engine functions is based largely on observational guesswork — the only people who can say with certainty what the algorithm is and does are the company’s own engineers.

Second is the fact that, at least on the surface, SEO seems almost overwhelmingly complex. To a layperson, it seems like a highly technical field, one that requires years of expertise to grasp. This means that when someone comes along who claims to know what they’re doing, it’s easy to fall into their trap.

Here are a few things you can look for to help you tell the difference between a fraud and a genuine article.

They Offer Guaranteed Results

One of the first things you learn about SEO is that nothing is guaranteed. While it would certainly be nice if you could secure the highest spot on the search engine results page (SERP), that isn’t what SEO is about at its core. It’s right there in the name.

Optimization. 

It’s about making your website better. About improving it so it plays nice with Google’s algorithms, and creating better, more valuable content for your audience. The real experts understand this, so they’re not going to promise you the sun and stars.

The “experts,” on the other hand, are likely to make sweeping claims and concrete guarantees, a sure sign they’re either clueless or scam artists. 

They Claim To Possess Insider Knowledge

Remember when we said the only people who actually know how Google’s algorithms function are its own engineers? While per The Search Engine Journal, a court case from earlier this year may require the company to publicly disclose its algorithms, for the moment, the inner workings of the world’s largest search engine are functionally a mystery. And anyone who claims to know those inner workings is full of it.

Everyone who works with Google’s search engine signs a comprehensive non-disclosure agreement (NDA). And anyone violating that NDA could easily find themselves on the wrong end of Google’s entire legal department. As such, if someone comes to you claiming they have insider knowledge from Google, disregard them.

They don’t. 

They Act Like Technical SEO Is All That Matters

There was a time when technical SEO was the be-all and end-all of search. When keywords and backlinks were all your page needed to perform well. But that time is well behind us. 

Savvy SEO professionals understand that. while technical optimization still plays an important role, a page’s content is infinitely more important. If your content doesn’t provide value to its audience, then it doesn’t matter how much technical work you do — you aren’t likely to perform. 

A scam artist, meanwhile, may try to downplay the importance of content creation and content marketing. They may try to talk about buying and selling backlinks or confuse you with technical jargon. Again, don’t listen.

Seek The Right Expertise

There’s no shortage of snake oil salesmen in the SEO space. Learning how to recognize them is the first step to guarding yourself against them. We’d also advise teaching yourself some of the basics of SEO, as well —all the better to recognize when someone is trying to fleece you. 

What SEO Professionals Can Learn From Facebook’s AI Issues

Facebook’s enforcement of its own community standards leaves a lot to be desired. The problem is that the social network relies too heavily on artificial intelligence, and not enough on human intelligence. There’s a lesson in there for search engine marketing.

Facebook recently rolled out a new(ish) feature to users on its social network: suggested comments. The idea is that in order to save time and energy, Facebook can offer you a set of predetermined, bottled responses to the posts you interact with and the content you see. The problem is that the feature…doesn’t exactly work.

Most of the time, the suggested comments are either irrelevant platitudes, bizarre animated emojis, or “spaghetti.”

Yes. Just that single word. Nothing else. 

The absurdity of Facebook’s suggested comments underscores something that’s long been a weakness of the social networking titan. By all appearances, it relies far too heavily on artificial intelligence and machine learning, without putting enough stock in the human side of things. Nowhere is this more apparent than in its enforcement of community standards.

In spite of repeatedly announcing its intent to ban hate speech and crackdown on white supremacy, Facebook has done relatively little in this arena, reports The Guardian. Certainly, it has, as The Wall Street Journal notes, banned several of the most prominent sources of bigotry and vitriol. But elsewhere, white supremacists and other bigots operate freely and openly.

The problem appears to be with the AI that manages Facebook’s community standards. It frequently makes bizarre, often nonsensical decisions when determining what content is acceptable and unacceptable. Moreover, it’s incapable of recognizing context, often painting hate speech and the frustrations expressed by marginalized individuals with the same brush.

But what does any of this have to do with search engine optimization? 

Simply put, while AI-driven SEO tools can be an excellent tool for keyword and topic research and on-site SEO, it cannot replace human expertise. An AI platform can quickly discover keyword opportunities, carry out competitor analysis, provide you with information on searcher intent, and improve the content you create. I can even drive hyper-personalization, as noted by the marketing publication Search Engine Journal

But it cannot do any of this without human input and human insight. An AI platform is only as good as the effort you put into it. It is only as effective as the information it is fed.

Perhaps a day will come when AI eclipses human intelligence. Perhaps a day will come when SEO is handled entirely through machine learning, leaving content creators free to do what they do best. But that day is still in the far-flung future.

For now, AI should be treated not as a panacea for all your problems and challenges, but rather a tool that you can use to make your life simpler.