By: Ajesh Nair, Associate Business Director, Experience Design, Publicis Groupe

Did I use ChatGPT to write this piece? At first glance, what seems like a simple question becomes more complex the deeper you dig. For several years now, we’ve witnessed the continuous rise of various automated tools and software purporting to do what humans do – only better than humans themselves can.

The latest in this onslaught has been ChatGPT, produced by the research laboratory OpenAI. Defined as a “large language model” that has been trained on vast quantities of content from the internet, the tool’s stated purpose is to assist with so-called ‘natural language processing tasks’. This ranges from answering simple questions and generating text based on entry cues, translation, and summarising text.

This is controversial since people have started using ChatGPT to write emails, create resumes, and even answer college exam questions. The more we hear, the more miraculous it seems: will there ever be a need for human writers anymore?

Well, that’s a complicated question: but the short answer is – Yes.

What is OpenAI? 

OpenAI is a research laboratory (some even call it an institute) founded in 2016 by Elon Musk and several others to investigate and develop AI-based applications with the stated goal of “promoting and developing friendly AI in a way that benefits humanity as a whole”. 

It aims to lead to the development of what’s been called Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) and use it for the broader benefit of humanity. Among others, OpenAI researches robotics, machine learning and language processing models – ChatGPT belongs to the last of these.

How is AI relevant to SEO? 

The key to SEO is ensuring the content is relevant to users’ queries. Usually, this is done by human copywriters and content teams, leveraging various tools that find essential keywords or key terms. This is where the gnarly question of AI comes in: if a bot or tool can do this by itself, what further needs human intervention?

How AI and ChatGPT can help with SEO – and will they take over?

Services like ChatGPT, at first glance, appear capable of handling tasks like SEO. But can they handle the entire process? No. AI cannot – at least in its present form and for the foreseeable future – come up with the whole list of requirements to complete the optimization process. It still needs human intervention to tell it what to do and what not to do. We at Experience Design in Publicis Groupe MENA employ over a dozen SEO tools to gather real-time data to support our optimization. This also requires a certain amount of intuition and creativity – facets that no tool can replicate, at least currently.

What can ChatGPT not do?

At the very outset, ChatGPT has several limitations. Primarily, it is a language model – not an independently operating, thinking creation. This means it has been trained on millions of pieces of human-generated content so that the system can mimic and generate human-level language. It only knows what it has been taught – it cannot think for itself, have opinions, or share original ideas. These are some of the limitations of text generators and AI tools that create images, for example. They cannot create something truly original – they can only mimic what’s already there. 

Next, such models have no real-time access to the internet. ChatGPT’s database, for example, was frozen in 2021 – it knows nothing of the natural world after that date. So, it cannot mine real-time data to give you the desired output. Finally, it cannot generate an informed, specific strategy based on user intent, which the best SEOs do daily. GPT-4 – the paid version, released in March’23, is advanced in three key areas, creativity, visual input, and more extended context. 

ChatGPT’s FAQ forum explicitly states “that outputs may sometimes be inaccurate, untruthful, and otherwise misleading. We’d recommend checking whether the model’s responses are accurate. If you find an incorrect answer, please provide that feedback using the “Thumbs Down” button.”

What does Google say? Does their algorithm support AI-driven content? Can they detect such content? Can websites get penalized? 

Google updated their content guidelines in April 2022, which forbid using AI-enabled tools to generate content for SEO purposes. Such techniques are against their policies and are now classified as manipulation to influence search rankings. 

Today, Google’s system may be unable to detect AI-generated content without human supervision. However, as it has done in the last two decades, Google’s algorithm will only improve with time. Google’s first PANDA update, launched in Feb 2011, was focused on low-quality and thin content. Over the last decade, over 300 (major and minor) panda updates were rolled out to Google search algorithms to fight content quality issues. Biswanath Panda, a Google engineer behind the algorithm’s namesake, stated that Panda is also a machine learning algorithm. There you go, it’s coming!

And YESSS, once the content is detected as low quality and AI-generated, the website will be penalized. 

In Feb’23, Google announced BARD, an experimental conversational AI service powered by LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications). Google announced that it would soon be rolling out AI-powered features in its search results, providing users with a new, more intuitive way to navigate and understand the web. These new AI features will help users quickly understand the big picture and learn more about a topic by distilling complex information into easy-to-digest formats. 

Should SEOs use AI tools?

Yes, why not? After all, when services like Canva or WiX came out, there was much hand-wringing that designers and web developers would go out of work. So far, that has not happened – these have become valuable tools to help us do even better.

We need to think of ChatGPT precisely in the same way: a tool that allows us to optimize specific processes, speed up others and streamline various cumbersome steps. It will never take over entirely to the extent that a human will never be required. 

We can use over 70 GPT prompts available today to retrieve required information; AI tools should be considered an additional source of information but not a single source of truth. 

And oh, by the way, this article was written by a human. (Trust me. No, seriously!)