How Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Influence Search Engine Optimization – And How You Can Still Win At This New Game
King Solomon’s wisdom is the stuff of legend.
As one story goes, two women arrived at his court with a newborn infant, to settle a dispute over whose baby it was. After listening to both parties, Solomon called for a sword so that he could split the baby into two parts, one for each ‘mother’.
One woman cried out: “No, don’t do that. Give her the baby. Let him live.”
The King declared her to be the true mother – and ordered the other one to jail. This widely lauded Judgment of Solomon is often held up as an example of his profound wisdom.
Today, to crack Google’s ranking algorithm, win at SEO in 2019 and gain top slots on search engines, you need Solomon’s wisdom, too.
But Isn’t SEO Dead?
If you listen to some marketers and infopreneurs, you’ll think so. They’ll tell you the best, most reliable way to get web traffic is to pay for it. More often than not, these marketers will also have a program for sale, teaching you how to do this!
Personally, I’ve been getting free traffic from SEO for over 15 years online. The biggest benefits from this are:
- no ongoing expenses
- higher profit margins
- longevity of business
Sure, there are bound to be some ups and downs as search algorithms evolve and change. But the only way to ensure a steady flow of traffic is by spending money for consistency – and that may not be sustainable, either.
Look, my websites have received over 5 million visits. If I paid even 20 cents for each of them, I’d have a traffic budget of $1 MILLION. With SEO, I get to keep that money! Plus, I’m insulated against rising costs of paid traffic as competition heats up.
What if PPC costs grew to 50 cents per click? Or a dollar? Even $5 – or more?
No, paying for web traffic isn’t an easy walk in the park. It comes with risks and costs as well.
But isn’t SEO difficult?
Well, the days of easy ‘checklist SEO’ – where you tick off boxes on a list – are definitely over. We’re now in the thick of a…
Battle Between Man And Machine
In 1997, a chess competition between IBM’s Deep Blue computer and world champion Garry Kasparov – the ‘Man vs Machine’ challenge – caught the world’s imagination. After a gruelling fight, the champ beat Deep Blue – but only with great difficulty.
In a return match a year or so later, the machine had its revenge… humbling the chess mastermind through sheer computing prowess.
As webmasters and bloggers, we’re engaged in a war of wits against Google. And Google is constantly evolving.
‘Machine intelligence’ works incrementally, but grows steadily. When you go head-to-head against a data processing machine, you will definitely lose… in time.
Yet to some marketers, SEO is still about doing that. They remain purely tactical, following step by step instructions and working from a list of items to check off as they “optimize” a website, such as seeing how to upsell products on it.
Now, don’t get me wrong. That works. No question about it.
But it won’t work forever. Tactical SEO is short-lived. It is effective today, but NOT future-proof. More dangerously, it carries the danger of destroying trust and credibility.
In order to beat Google’s filters and get consistent traffic for the long term, you must be intelligent.
The Secret To Future-Proof SEO
Google took over as the most popular search engine sometime in 2000. Today, over one half of all web traffic comes from organic search – and 62% of it passes through Google, which boasts over a TRILLION searches every year!
In the early days, when Google’s algorithm was primitive and ranked websites on a set of standard criteria, one of my best-selling programs was an easy-to-rank set of readymade niche minisites. They were ideal for Adsense income.
That was nice for as long as it lasted – but now it’s just a fond memory.
Google’s ranking system has grown infinitely more complex, with more than 500 algorithms guiding the way that it ranks webpages in its gigantic index today!
Over the years, I’ve taught hundreds of students how to beat the earlier system through a combination on on-site SEO tweaks and tactical link building. In fact, here’s 90% of what went into my $250 or $1,000 courses on SEO –
- Identify the right keywords (high traffic, low competition)
- Keep your keyword density at 2% to 2.5% of your web content
- Use your keyword in the front of your TITLE or HEADLINE, in H1 tags
- Use your keyword in the first paragraph of your content
- Bold your keyword once, italicize it once, use it in a hyperlink once
- Make your content at least 400 words in length
- Use images with the keyword in ‘alt’ tags
And then, do the conventional SEO stuff for link building:
- Get links from .gov, .edu websites
- List your website in online directories
- Link out from your site to a few authoritative websites
- Post blog comments linking back to your site
- Publish guest posts on leading blogs in your niche
- Submit articles to a few directories
- Create a video and post it to YouTube
- Design an infographic and distribute it online
That was once enough to ensure a high ranking on Google – if you picked the right keywords.
In fact, it will even work today. Don’t blindly trust me on this. Test it out for yourself, if you want.
- Pick a product on the Clickbank marketplace.
- Buy a domain on NameCheap with the product’s name and ‘review’.
- Get cheap web hosting at Hostgator.
- Pop up a blog or 5-page minisite.
- Do the things I’ve listed above.
In 6 to 8 weeks, your website will rank at or near the top of Google – and even get some traffic, make some sales, or earn you a modest profit.
But… Is that effective SEO in 2017 and beyond?
Drive this message firmly into your mind…
Tactical SEO has ended.
Got it? Good! Now we can begin the ‘reset’ process that will get you thinking about permanently dominating Google – the RIGHT WAY!
We’ll approach your SEO retraining in 4 stages:
- Study trends
- Understand what Google wants
- Know what Google does
- Partner with Google
Before that, let’s begin with a core philosophy of modern day SEO:
Don’t write for machines any more… Create for humans.
Google understands many things. For sheer memory and recall, you can’t beat machine intelligence. But (for now) artificial intelligence has limitations.
Google can tell
- what most people who visited a website are looking for
- what else they’ll search for
- whether they are satisfied with what they find, and
- which factors on a website deliver a great user experience
However, Google cannot predict or assess ‘soft’ variables such as the uplifting of a human spirit by a purposeful dream, or the inspirational value of a well-written article or the heart-warming comfort of hearing a story that resonates within a reader’s soul.
Those still remain the realm of “human” feeling and emotion.
Make that your ‘secret SEO advantage’.
Why Writing For Humans is a
Killer SEO Strategy
When you touch a human being, you move them to take action. They will:
- Share your content.
- Link to it.
- Join your email list.
- Buy your product.
- Be your affiliate.
Over time, this growth in reach and impact will translate into more obvious effects like more inbound links, longer time on site, and positive social signals. Google’s robots will notice, and give you a ranking boost because ultimately the search giant wants a better experience for its users.
Consistent, well-planned action, taken with empathy and concern for your visitors, will achieve this.
Be Like SOLOMON for SEO Success
I didn’t just use King Solomon’s name to indicate that you’ve got to be smart for SEO success.
SO-LO-MO is also the acronym for an SEO trend that will attract your share of the staggering 3.5 billion searches per day happening on Google!
SO – LO – MO : Social – Local – Mobile
The triad of Social networking, Local search and Mobile technology is behind more searches made on mobile devices than on desktop computers since 2014. And mobile search hasn’t even peaked yet! Globally, mobile data traffic is predicted to grow 26 TIMES over the next five years.
- Net-savvy mobile users seek opinions and advice, find discounts and deals, and make purchase decisions using smart phones and tablets.
- Shoppers happily benefit from technology to collaborate with friends, experts and peers when they choose, decide and plan.
- A young man in an electronics store inspects or tests a new gadget, snaps a photo of it using his mobile phone, and posts it on social media – where his friends comment or advise him.
It has become quick, easy and inexpensive – from anywhere in the world. And that drives the next trend
Google’s focus is on delivering search results that are relevant to WHERE the user is. After all, if you’re hungry in London, you don’t want to see a list of pizzerias in Rome or Barcelona!
Just a couple of years ago, inserting location and address geo-tags to your listing on Google Places was all the local SEO required to rank high. But today, local SEO has become brutally competitive.
The ‘secret weapons’ in this high-stakes fight are social signals like customer reviews, stories and testimonials – the final “social” component of the SOLOMO trend. Increasingly, consumers are counting on the “wisdom of crowds” on social media to help them choose right.
SO-LO-MO optimization is about more than just better presentation or creating a prettier, pixel-perfect website. It is about understanding a visitor who arrives at your site from a search on Google, Bing, Yahoo or other search engines.
It is about tapping into the conversation already going on inside their heads.
It is about figuring out which of their problems your product can solve.
It is about highlighting this immediately as they arrive at your site.
- Talk to them.
- Engage them.
- Impress them.
- Gain their trust.
- And then, eventually, convert them into customers and fans.
None of this is formulaic. There’s no “one size fits all” template. To be effective, modern SEO needs to be unique, customized for every business’ needs, and focused on your target audience.
It is also no longer “set and forget”. To be effective, your SEO needs constant tweaking and improvement.
How To Read Your Prospect’s Mind?
King Solomon was widely regarded a wise and fair judge. He was a very powerful ruler who could just as easily have imposed his will by force and through fear. Yet he didn’t do that. Which is why his people loved and respected him for his wisdom.
And that came about because Solomon could read people’s minds!
No, he wasn’t a mentalist. He was wise enough to observe, study and learn from human nature.
- What motivated his subjects?
- What scared them?
- What kept them loyal?
- What did they really want?
Amazingly enough, to succeed in SEO today, you need a similar approach.
You’re King Solomon in your virtual empire – and the hordes of prospects ‘out there’ are your (potential) subjects. To attract them, impress them, and gain their respect… you must seek to first UNDERSTAND them.
- What do they want from you?
- What are they finding on other websites?
- Are you providing whatever they can’t find out there?
- Are they happy (even delighted) by what they find on your site?
You must ask and answer these questions – because Google is compiling data about that, as well.
- Who’s clicking what
- How much time visitors spend on a page
- What they do next
- Do they buy, and from whom
But why should Google bother with all this trivia? That’s because it all ties in with…
What Google Wants!
Google’s lifeblood is advertising revenue. If searchers lost trust in their results and left Google, who’ll click those Adwords ads?
That’s why Google is fanatical about delivering a GREAT user experience, where users find what they are searching for… regardless of who they are, where they are searching from, or what device they use.
If 9 out of every 10 visitors to your website leave without any engagement, then Google knows you’re not giving users what they want!
It’s using that data to tweak and improve its algorithm… and ranking YOU based on how well you answer a user’s questions!
Yes, YOU Are Being Assessed!
Google’s powerful tools are semantic search and the knowledge graph, as well as Trust Rank. Trust rank has been a topic of discussion for long, recently trumping Page Rank in importance. But an often brushed aside element of the discussion is what my friend Kurt Melvin calls “YOU Rank”.
It’s Why Google Built G-Plus
It appears as if Google was late to join the “social” party. But Google Plus wasn’t planning to beat Facebook at its own game. No, G+ had a different focus – to do with search!
By tying together all its services – including social networking on Google Plus, and mobile/local data from its Android apps – Google compiles data on millions of users. Google then uses these bits and bytes to formulate a ‘You Rank’ or assign a “trust score” based on:
- People it knows
- Data it can mine
- Social platforms it owns and controls
It is already practically IMPOSSIBLE to manipulate, game or cheat this system using low-quality content, spam commenting, fake testimonials or self-built (or paid-for) backlinks.
And it will only grow more comprehensive, building a composite picture of the REAL ‘you’. Larry Page believes the ‘knowledge graph’ is barely 1% of where they expect it to be shortly!
Yes, truth is really stranger than fiction! I read a fascinating novel – Dave Eggers’ ‘The Circle’ – which was scary in showing just how much data about you a tech company could compile. But Google’s recent moves make me wonder if that kind of thing doesn’t happen only in storybooks after all!
So how can you future-proof your SEO?
Obviously, not by trying to fool the “intelligent machine”. That’s a mug’s game – and Google will come down hard on you, if you try.
Google already has access to domain registration data, web hosting information, your email messages – including their content – if you use Gmail, your online social activities on G+ and data shared from apps on your mobile phone. To ‘hide’ from the Big G is a full-time job… and you still may not succeed!
Take the opposite route – and make yourself blatantly visible.
Do the right things – for the right reasons. Adopt the mindset of giving value, helping your audience, and doing it in an overwhelmingly positive way that blows your competition away.
Be the most responsive, least expensive, customer-obsessed, widest choice provider in your marketplace – and let your customers vote for you.
When they do, Google will watch – and reward YOU.
How To Partner With Google
The future of effective SEO lies in establishing trust. Your magical ‘YOU rank’.
It will define and impact everything – the links you build, the content you publish, the comments or reviews you post, everything. Once Google knows how to identify YOU reliably, the rest becomes child’s play – and can be handled algorithmically, automatically.
That’s why you must change the way you think about SEO.
- Instead of ‘where’ you can get links from, think about ‘whom’ you should get them from.
- Rather than ‘what’ content to create, consider ‘who’ should be your content producer.
- And you should understand user intent – and become customer-centric. “Keywords” and “link building” become secondary to “knowing what people want” and giving it to them.
Your SoLoMo plan must reach out to prospective customers, engage them, provide value, gain their trust, win their attention, and convert it into sales.
- Reviews on ecommerce websites.
- Likes and +1s on social networks.
- Ratings on shopping carts.
- Time users spend on your site.
- Your bounce rates.
- Shares with friends.
- Use of mobile apps and devices.
G ties all of this to the stuff that YOU do.
- What company you keep online.
- The activities you engage in.
- Tactics and techniques you use.
- Areas and markets you appeal to.
It throws all this data into a complex algorithm which chews, grinds and processes it all into a blend that’s spread over the user’s search results page.
Where your site will be seen by your audience – or not!
Be Like King Solomon – And You’ll Win At SEO
Solomon was wise. Solomon was just. Solomon was respected, loved and admired.
Your Social-Local-Mobile (SoLoMo) SEO strategy must embrace this great man’s core philosophy and approach.
You cannot hope for tactical checklist SEO to work for long… even if it seems extremely effective today. You also cannot shun SEO altogether and choose to pay for your traffic, because as competition heats up, your budget will quickly wither away.
That point, when you’re desperate for traffic and short of funds, is a bad time to start re-thinking your SEO strategy. You’ll only make bad decisions that will further compromise your personal ‘trust rank’ with Google… and punish your websites.
Worse, the smart search marketers who follow a SoLoMo SEO strategy from today will reach an unassailable position by then – because their YOU rank has peaked… and you’ll have no gimmicks or tricks to put up against it.
Solomon’s wisdom can create an SEO fortress for you that grows stronger day by day, is protected against ‘gaming’ in a way tactical SEO can never be, and leverages machine intelligence while bridging gaps in it by making human connections with your target audience.
Get Social. Focus Locally. Be Mobile-friendly.
And your SEO strategy will let you dominate Google – forever.
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