May 1, 2024

The Future of AI and SEO (With Zac Harris)

Note: The following post was generated by AI based on the transcript from this real-life conversation. You can read about the main points, but we highly recommend watching the full-length video above.

Zac Harris brings over 10 years of SEO experience to his role as the Head of Demand Gen at Copy.ai. He has worked at digital agencies, startups, and SAS companies, giving him experience on all sides of the industry.

Before joining Copy.ai full-time, Zac served as an SEO consultant for the company for 6 months. Given his deep SEO expertise and hands-on experience scaling Copy.ai's organic traffic, he provides valuable insights into leveraging AI for next-level SEO success.

Scaling Organic Traffic with AI

Zac had massive success scaling organic traffic and clicks using AI tools and templates. When he first started as a consultant for Copy.ai, they were getting around 25-30k clicks a month.

By leveraging AI, Zac was able to help them scale up to over 1 million organic clicks per month by June.

One of the experiments they ran was using AI to generate landing pages.

They created templates for things like resumes, public letters, and more. All of the copy was generated by AI and automated using Airtable and Webflow. This template section ended up driving over 320k organic clicks.

The images were even generated by an AI tool called BannerBear. So the pages were completely created and optimized by AI, starting from just keywords input into Airtable.

This demonstrates the power of AI tools to rapidly generate and optimize content at scale.

Safely Incorporating AI for SEO

There is often anxiety around changing SEO strategies and incorporating new tools. People worry it will negatively impact rankings they've worked hard to build. Zac understands this anxiety well, even as a seasoned SEO.

His approach is to test changes in a sandbox environment first.

For Zac, testing in a sandbox and small experiments like this template page approach allow him to safely incorporate AI. He warns not to make changes directly to important company pages. The key is starting small, learning what works, and scaling up from there. There's no need to disrupt all your existing strategies at once.

Defining High Quality Content

Zac explains that quality content is inherently subjective. What one person considers high-quality, another may not. He says it's important to put yourself in the reader's shoes and ask, "If I landed on this page as a user, would I feel satisfied or would I need to go back to my search results?"

While quality is subjective, Zac believes there are some key elements that can elevate any piece of content:

  • Bring in perspectives, especially those based on real-life experience. If you can work with a thought leader or conduct a roundtable discussion, include those diverse views.
  • Add data to support your perspective if you have it. Numbers and stats can substantiate your viewpoint.
  • Craft content that resonates and provides value rather than just trying to overload on word count. Think "quality over quantity" in that regard.

Ultimately, quality lies in satisfying the reader's intent and providing an experience that informs them completely so they don't have to seek information elsewhere. But combining perspectives, data, resonance, and value is key.

Leveraging AI to Check Content Quality

As Zac mentioned earlier in the conversation, he built a workflow using AI to analyze and score his own content. This was in response to recent Google search updates that seem to reward sites with authentic perspectives and high quality content.

Zac took Google's own guidance around creating helpful content and turned it into a series of questions. He then used Copy.ai to build a workflow that would scrape a piece of content, analyze it against those questions, and provide a score.

The workflow also compares the content to the top ranking piece and explains where Zac's content is missing the mark.

At first, it can be hard to receive this kind of objective feedback, but it forces you to look at your content from the user's perspective.

By building this type of workflow, you can identify gaps in your content quality and areas for improvement. Instead of just optimizing for Google, you're creating content that better serves users. This proactive approach will benefit SEO in the long run as Google continues to reward high quality sites.

Staying Relevant Amid SEO Changes

With Google's algorithms changing more rapidly, how can SEO experts stay on top of the latest updates?

According to Zac, testing is critical - having a sandbox site to experiment with potential changes allows you to see how they may impact rankings, without putting your main site at risk.

He also emphasizes the importance of surrounding yourself with a strong network. Being part of Slack communities and connecting with others who are brilliant at SEO provides constant opportunities to learn. Don't be afraid to lean on your network and bounce ideas off of people you admire.

Finally, get multiple perspectives - speak to teammates, crowdsource feedback, and consider different viewpoints.

SEO is full of opinions, so building relationships and getting a diversity of input helps separate fact from fiction. As Zac says, take what Google states as gospel with a grain of salt, and go validate it yourself through hands-on testing.

Advice for New SEOs

Zac's main advice for those just starting out in SEO is to not be afraid to ask questions and share your work publicly.

When he first began his SEO career, he made the mistake of being hesitant to ask questions because he didn't want others to think he was inexperienced. He also avoided publicly sharing details about what he was working on.

In retrospect, he says people shouldn't worry about looking like a beginner.

Asking questions is crucial for growth, and sharing your work gives you opportunities to learn from those with more expertise. Building relationships with experienced SEOs you admire can provide lifelong mentorship.

Testing and building your own sites are also critical.

Reading extensively about SEO is helpful, but you need to put concepts into practice to fully understand them. Don't just read about ranking factors - try implementing them on a sandbox site and see the results. Spin up sites, attempt to rank content, and learn through experimentation.  

Finally, grasp the fundamentals of marketing and psychology. As an SEO, you are still a marketer at your core. Understanding topics like buyer psychology will make you better at reaching and resonating with audiences. Having empathy and an audience-first mindset is key.

Avoiding Pitfalls with AI

As a new SEO, it's easy to spend all your time reading and consuming content rather than taking action. While reading widely is important to build your knowledge, be sure to also test and implement what you learn.

Spin up a site and try ranking some content, or build a few links to a page and monitor the results.

It's also key to bring in real perspectives from actual users and customers. AI can help generate content at scale, but it lacks true first-hand experience. Find ways to incorporate real viewpoints, whether through surveys, interviews, or guest contributors.

Finally, remember that even as an SEO, you are still a marketer.

Learn core marketing and psychology principles that go beyond keywords and backlinks. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience and craft content that provides value to them. SEO is constantly changing, but marketing fundamentals remain critical.

The Future of AI in SEO

The future of AI promises to continue evolving SEO and the type of content that ranks. As Google's algorithms reward sites that surface real perspectives and experiences, content creators will need to focus on bringing in diverse viewpoints.

In a world where anyone can easily create content using AI, the emphasis will shift from purely creation to crafting quality experiences for users. Standing out with standard content will become increasingly difficult.

You'll need to think about how you can make each piece better through insights, data, different media formats, and expert perspectives.

Content should aim to provide value to users in multiple ways, not just target keywords and word counts. The next wave of content will have to really hone in on time to value, quality, and giving people options to consume beyond just text. Don't solely lean on written content - incorporate some video as well.

The goal is to create content that resonates, satisfies the user's intent, and builds trust.

Watch the full video above to get all of Zac's expert tips, and follow him on LinkedIn here.

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