Is ChatGPT Going to Replace SEO Content Writing?
8 Minute Read
SEO content writing has long been an exclusively human endeavor. Qualified, experienced writers have been the engine behind engaging, search-optimized marketing content. Historically, this is because AI-generated content has always been so awful (not to mention hilarious):
Most writers have scoffed at the idea of robots writing as well as humans. For better or worse, however, recent developments in AI have made them question this stance.
ChatGPT has broken records as the fastest-growing app in history, accruing 100 million users in approximately two months. Google recently announced Bard, an AI chatbot designed to stand out in an emerging marketplace.
For marketing agencies, an uncomfortable question is emerging: Why would businesses continue to invest in SEO content writing when they can turn to an AI chatbot to create web content for them? SEO writers have been sounding this alarm bell for months, and it’s time to tackle the issue head-on.
Despite the advantages AI chatbots seem to have over human writers, a successful SEO strategy is still driven by human beings. Before you drop your SEO content writing in favor of a bot, consider this.
Marketing Is Personal
The quality of the AI-generated content is what sets programs like ChatGPT apart. Like a chicken who can beat you at checkers, people are amazed that a robot can draft a response to a question that seems so … lifelike.
And the content is good, which is to say it’s well-written. Like all AI programs, ChatGPT assembles its answers based on a corpus of existing data. The data on which it draws seems to be remarkably robust; we’ve seen more-than-decent articles and videos on everything from SEO to environmental issues to video game theories—all proudly bearing a disclaimer such as “This content was written by AI.”
Inevitably, this has fed the old anxieties about machines taking over. The arrival of Bard and other programs to the chatbot scene has also led to the nerdiest members of the SEO community salivating over the prospect of “robot wars” between OpenAI, Google, and other players.
What everyone seems to be missing from the conversation is the fact that AI-generated content is boilerplate. It might be great at crafting descriptive text worthy of a Wikipedia and authoritative excerpts that seem tailor-made for the featured snippets on Google (seemingly a factor in the catastrophizing about Google’s viability in the wake of ChatGPT and other challengers). We’ve even seen it implemented effectively as a tool for writing titles and descriptions for PPC ads. But none of it reads like SEO content a writer would create specifically for a particular audience.
Marketing is all about personalizing the message to the consumer. Chatbot AIs don’t create content with the ineffable qualities of branding and key messaging in mind, nor do they understand the intent or mindset of the person entering a query.
What you get is regurgitation, not creation; a bland summary of facts that is technically accurate but lacking in the emotional drivers that push people to engage, convert, and remember your brand. It’s the difference between a C-student doing the bare minimum to pass a book report and a world-class writer creating the great American novel.
Content Needs to Be Targeted
There is absolutely no shortage of information on the internet. And yes, the newest chatbots can survey a vast body of information and break through the uncanny valley to deliver content that feels right.
But is what we see from these programs really all that impressive? Educators have raised many concerns about students turning in essays created by AI bots. While this is a genuine issue that schools are being forced to contend with, it raises a controversial question: How valuable is an assignment to a student’s education if a robot can get a passing grade?
The American education system has long been criticized for “teaching to the test.” In the worst examples, recall is often prioritized over reasoning. Students (and, now, their AI cohorts) can make the grade just by repeating what they’ve learned, rather than applying the principles to make a point and show what they know.
Content without context is the best chatbots can do because they are programmed to draw upon an existing knowledge base and deliver a response that is most appropriate for the prompt. Businesses in industries with well-established information underlying their products and services (such as legal, medicine, etc.) may find value in using AI to create content that delivers well-established facts, but the information is going to be effectively the same as what their competitors are doing.
Successful SEO content writing isn’t about delivering commonplace information and hoping that users find you in the search results. It’s about understanding your audience and delivering the information they need to know to visit your page, feel informed and empowered, and—ultimately—make a purchase decision.
The Limits of AI—An Example
We decided to see how good ChatGPT is at understanding nuance. As a goof, we used the simple, loaded phrase “things to do in Denver when you’re dead.” The results were less than impressive:
Sure, this is a pretty good list of fun activities in and around the Mile High City. But, at the risk of belaboring the joke, they are decidedly things only a person who is alive can do.
ChatGPT seemingly ignored the “when you’re dead” part of our query. The bot also didn’t seem to catch the allusion to Warren Zevon’s excellent song or the 1995 cult classic film of the same name.
There are probably countless posts and screenshots where people crow about “stumping” ChatGPT or mocking subpar results. For us, however, this example demonstrates the limitations the AI has when it comes to understanding the intent of someone searching for information.
Understanding Search Intent
We’ve written before about the importance of pinpointing what users mean when they search for keywords and phrases. This has always required human understanding and ingenuity, and we don’t believe chatbots have gotten to the point where they can suss out intent and create content effectively.
AI chatbots rely on database information to respond to users’ questions. Every time someone enters a new query, the database gets a little bit bigger. (So, if you’re worried about AI taking jobs away from marketers, stop using it!)
SEO content writers, meanwhile, draw on multiple sources to create content specifically for clients. First and foremost, we perform extensive research and consistently seek to expand our knowledge of different industries. We also write content that conveys the client’s unique identity and value proposition. Finally, we draw upon our knowledge of SEO best practices, making use of sophisticated analytics and reporting to inform our content.
Now ask yourself, which of these options sounds better to you? Option A (chatbots) might be perfectly fine if you just want your website to contain basic, well-written information. But the most successful businesses need robust, personalized brand messaging and content that is geared toward the audience they serve (option B).
A Lesson in Discretion
Twelve Three Media is proud to have a number of elite lawyers and law firms as our clients. Over the last year or so, we have seen “emotional distress” and related terms make up a significant chunk of the queries users are searching.
As industry experts, we know that the vast majority of these searches do not represent viable cases for lawyers whose goal is to handle more serious and catastrophic personal injury cases. We have dutifully excluded these terms from our content planning, focusing our efforts fully on queries that align with the cases our attorneys want to drive.
Now, imagine if you relied on an AI chatbot for content. Someone at your office or agency has to feed terms into the program, and a person without a background in SEO likely wouldn’t give a second thought to what the queries are and what they mean for your business. A law firm in this situation would end up with a lot of content on emotional distress, which in turn would result in a bunch of useless leads.
Here we see another advantage of an SEO and content strategy helmed by humans: discretion. While an agency will be in tune with what your business needs to succeed, chatbots don’t know any better.
You—and Your Customers—Deserve Better
Content writing driven by AI has reached a key milestone. However, we predict more teething troubles than triumphs ahead.
Right now, businesses may be enthusiastic about the quality of the material and the potential to produce decent (albeit formulaic) content at scale. However, there will likely come a point in the not-too-distant future where the shine will wear off. Businesses that bought into chatbots as a time- and cost-saving measure will soon realize that AI-generated content does not provide them with a competitive advantage.
Tim Sprinkle, Founder and Chief Strategist of Denver-based Layup Content, offers probably the most even-handed assessment of ChatGPT:
ChatGPT is absolutely a better-than-average research assistant, and it may very well eliminate some of the scut work involved in digital content writing. For writers and agencies whose only focus is providing basic, high-level content for an indifferent audience, AI chatbots may indeed pose a threat.
For now, however, writers and marketers who take the time to produce customized, thoughtful content will rule the day. You don’t hear big, iconic brands shouting from the rafters about how AI is going to save them millions on marketing and advertising. While this is in part likely because they have a lot of money wrapped up in their current initiatives, it is also because they recognize that employees who care about the work they do are in the best position to help the business advance its goals.
Quality SEO Content Writing by REAL People
At Twelve Three Media, we are not using AI programs to create content for our clients. We say this proudly because we believe that search engine optimization only works when people with knowledge, experience, and skill are committed to creating unique, compelling content for our clients.
Our mission is to help our clients thrive, not just survive. It is easy for businesses to get caught up in the grind of marketing and ads and look for technology to take on some of the burden. But the only solution for success is to build a brand and develop content that is optimized to your customer’s needs, concerns, and goals. This requires creativity and inspiration—something that, unlike basic writing skills, AI chatbots have yet to counterfeit effectively.
Learn what sets our SEO content writing services apart and how our experts can help you reach your goals. Contact Twelve Three Media today to get started!