Supercharging your SEO with AI: Insights, automation and personalization

Recently, I had the pleasure of presenting at SMX London on Supercharging your SEO with AIand thought I would share some of the insights with Search Engine Land readers.

Google made global headlines with the demonstration of its new Duplex at this year’s I/O developers conference. This artificial intelligence (AI) system can “converse” in natural language with people to schedule an appointment at a hair salon or book a table at a restaurant, for example.

To pass the Turing Test, AI must behave in a manner indistinguishable from that of a human. To many, Google Duplex has proven that it can pass this test, but in truth, we are only seeing the beginnings of its future potential.

This particular use of AI made headlines because people are drawn to applications of AI that can mimic human interactions, whether in science fiction or in real life. While that response is driven by fascination, it is also host to an element of fear.

Can AI replace people?

As marketers, we typically encounter two perspectives on this. Either AI will take our jobs and render us obsolete or it will complement our skills and make us more effective.

According to a study by the Economist,  75 percent of executives say AI will be “actively implemented” in companies within the next three years, so this is more than a hypothetical discussion.

As hype turns to reality, we are realizing that the second perspective is the likely outcome. This would certainly be the most beneficial outcome, with PricewaterhouseCoopers predicting that AI will add $15.7 trillion to global GDP annually by 2030.

Moreover, AI is already all around us, embedded in products and services we use every day, like Netflix and Pandora.

Perhaps most pertinently to us as marketers, AI is deeply embedded in search, and it opens a raft of new opportunities for SEOs that embrace this technology early.

The role of AI in search

Artificial intelligence is making search more human. Although search does not yet “speak” to users in the same way the Google Duplex demo could, its objective is very similar.

Google’s RankBrain technology uses machine learning to understand the meaning of the content it crawls; it infers intent from ambiguous search queries; and it uses feedback data to improve the accuracy of its results.

In other words, it listens and it learns.

Though we may not always have visibility over these processes, we do see the outputs very clearly. Research by BrightEdge (my company) into a dataset of over 50 million keywords revealed that 84.4 percent of queries return universal search results. This occurs as Google uses AI to match the layout of search results pages to the user’s intent.

There are now 37 different search engine result page (SERP) categories, a number that will only increase over the coming months and years.

The potential for personalization has not yet been truly tapped, but Google’s Sundar Pichai recently made public its goal to be an “AI-first” company. As such, we should all expect the search landscape to change dramatically as AI takes center stage in the way it has already done in products like Google Photos and Google Lens.

As co-founder Sergey Brin put it:

“AI touches every single one of our main projects, ranging from search to photos to ads.”

The pace of development on this front is accelerating, as Google is all too aware that AI can simply deliver better, more personalized experiences for consumers. However, search marketers need to pay close attention to these technological advancements if they are to avail themselves of these opportunities for SEO.

How to supercharge SEO with AI

There are three key areas in which AI can improve SEO performance:

  • Insights.
  • Automation.
  • Personalization.


Artificial intelligence can process and interpret patterns in data at a scale people could simply never replicate. This makes it an essential complement to any search strategist, as AI can deliver the information we need to make informed decisions out of noisy, unstructured data.

Some common tasks where AI can aid search engine optimization (SEO) performance include:

  • Market trends analysis.
  • Site performance analysis.
  • Competitor insights.
  • Customer intent reports.
  • SERP performance.
  • SEO and pay-per-click spend management.

In each of these scenarios, AI can surface new insights that may otherwise have gone unnoticed. As search moves beyond the traditional SERP and becomes a multidisciplinary channel, this will be increasingly important. New developments like visual search are bringing to light the central role of AI in processing new types of media, too.

Pinterest uses deep learning to interpret the content and context of images, opening up new opportunities for retailers to capitalize on “discovery search.”

Google Lens plans to use augmented reality to blend the physical and virtual worlds, using objects as queries rather than typed keywords.

Of course, these developments will lead to the creation of invaluable data, with each interaction revealing something new about our audience. As marketers, we should employ AI to ensure that we capture, process and use this data correctly to shape our search strategies.

How can you use AI for SEO insights?

  • Understand underlying need in a customer journey.
  • Identify content opportunities.
  • Define opportunity space in the competitive context.
  • Map intent to content.
  • Use structured data and markup.
  • Invest in more long-tail content.
  • Ensure content can be crawled and surfaced easily by all user-agents.


SEO is a labor-intensive industry that requires a huge amount of attention over the long term. Where we can automate tasks to receive the same output we could produce ourselves, we should make this a top priority. The time saved through automation can be applied to the areas that require our skills, like strategy and creative content.

The chart below shows the average amount of time spent on the essential but at times repetitive task of keyword research based on the size of the site in question.

Here are some of the tasks that are ripe for automation in SEO:

  • Technical audits.
  • Keyword research.
  • Content optimization.
  • Content distribution.
  • Tag management.
  • Internal linking.

In these instances, computers do replace people, but we are in control of what they do, and it is a logical decision to hand over such tasks to artificial intelligence. In the process, we can free up valuable time to take on the more challenging aspects of SEO strategy.

Some tips to get started with AI for SEO automation:

  • Break down tasks into sub-tasks, then score their potential for automation from 0-10.
  • Use rule-based automation to handle simple but time-intensive jobs.
  • Find the right balance between human labor and automation.
  • Feed ML algorithms the right quality and quantity of data.
  • Focus on user experience and speed monitoring and alerts; engagement rates will only increase in importance.


Personalization allows marketers to create relevant, useful experiences for each individual customer. Achieving this at scale requires technological assistance, with AI an integral part of this process.

Amazon has long been regarded as the market leader in personalization, as it takes user data to suggest new products based on their historical activity. This allows Amazon to surface products that do not typically receive much visibility, based on their relevance to each individual consumer.

Search marketers can take a number of lessons from this approach.

By mapping content to different states of intent, we can capitalize on these opportunities to cross-sell additional products.

This starts to move beyond traditional SEO and into the realm of vertical search optimization. We can see this trend in Google’s recent announcements, namely the integration of Assistant into Google Maps and the upgraded Google News app.

Content discovery is no longer limited to the search results page, so marketers must truly understand their consumers to ensure they can engage with them, anywhere and at any time.

Artificial intelligence is of vital importance at every stage of this journey. The field of predictive analytics, which makes predictions based on patterns in historical data, can help marketers to plan their content to meet consumer demand states.

How can you use AI for SEO personalization?

  • Create content by persona, customer journey stage and delivery mechanism.
  • Enhance user experience and conversion through personalization.
  • Use semantically specific pages to associate query and intent.
  • Use personalization and audience lists to nurture leads across search and social.
  • Use AI to help publish content at the right times on the right networks.


The artificial intelligence revolution is already upon us, and sophisticated marketers are taking advantage!

Most AI systems are invisible, but that does not lessen the significance of their inner workings. The search landscape is in constant flux, and consumers are creating vast amounts of data, all of which can be turned into insights.

Automation can help us make sense of these insights and free enough time for marketers to develop innovative, personalized strategies. There can be little doubt that the tech giants have gone AI-first. Marketers who follow suit can supercharge their SEO strategies by using AI in three core areas: insights, automation and personalization.


Nimble Ushers in the Age of CRM Automation

nimble feature



Nimble is a game-changer, forever altering the landscape of how CRMs support marketing and sales professionals.

Over the past few years, small business use of marketing automation solutions have skyrocketed. It’s no surprise, really, as these solutions automate “significant aspects of customer acquisition such as lead generation, qualification and nurturing activities”.

In other words, marketing automation enables you to save one of your small business’s most important resources: time.

While many marketing automation solutions include significant customer relationship management (CRM) features and functionality, that side of the equation remains the least automated of all. Yes, every interaction with a lead is recorded and tied to their contact record however, beyond that automatically captured information, you and your staff must populate each contact record manually.

In other words, your CRM activities, from data entry to data mining, still consume a lot of time. This is exactly the pain point that Nimble was created to relieve and they’ve done so by focusing on three key features.

Key Feature #1: The CRM that Builds and Maintains Itself

“The problem with CRM is that it’s a database where you’ve got to type stuff in and it’s too much work for a human being,” says Jon Ferrara, the founder and CEO of Nimble.

Ferrara believes that traditionally, “CRM stands more for Customer Reporting Management, rather than Relationship Management because relationships happen in Outlook address books and Google contacts. Those are your relationship managers.”

However, even those contact managers don’t save a lot of information and they certainly don’t aggregate it into one easily understood and usable contact record.

Ferrara contends, “You need a complete view of what’s going on with a person. You need connections to calendars and email and social signals to make that happen.”

And that’s view is exactly what Nimble has built. As you can see below, a Nimble contact record contains everything from social media profiles to education, social messages, email messages and more. Most importantly, this content record was automatically compiled by Nimble once we imported our Twitter contacts into their system.

nimble review

As Ferrara puts it, “The most important thing you can have in a CRM is data, and if you have contacts and insights, that’s 60% of the work that any businessperson has.”

Importing is where everything begins. Nimble can pull your contact records from a variety of systems including Google Contacts, Gmail and Twitter. Once the platform has the information, it builds your contact records by matching information from many disparate systems. The result? A complete view of each contact, no data entry required.

“Your calendar activities, messages and social interactions are all connected to the record automatically,” says Ferrara. “Nimble builds each contact record so you understand where they’re from, where they work, where they went to school, what they’re influential in, whether they’re an investor, all that stuff.”

What’s more, Nimble actually brings the data down so it’s yours to own, as it should be in a CRM solution. They also update your contact database on a daily basis, bringing new and changed information into the contact record automatically.

“What people love about Nimble,” says Ferrara, “is that it’s the first relationship platform that works for you by building itself.”

Key Feature #2: Anytime, Anywhere Context

Once Nimble builds your contact records, you can use its browser plugins to access your records as you work online.

“If you’re sitting inside of your CRM,” says Ferrara, “you’re not engaging with customers. You need context and insights on everyone that you’re engaging with — Nimble give you the ability to ‘Nimble’ anyone anywhere.”

This powerful feature is a game-changer, forever altering the landscape of how CRMs support marketing and sales professionals. Here’s an example that, in Ferrara’s words, “Just might blow your mind.”

Access Your Contact Records Anytime, Anywhere

Let’s say you’re working on LinkedIn, nurturing your connections and looking for new ones. Using the Nimble sidebar, you can pull up the details of anyone on LinkedIn:

nimble review

A view of the Nimble sidebar on a LinkedIn profile. In the interest of showing the full view, we’ve broken the sidebar into pieces moving left to right.

As you can see, Nimble has built a profile for our LinkedIn connection on the fly, including information that did not originate on LinkedIn. If we want to add the contact to our in Nimble, all we need do is click the, “Add To Nimble” button.

Now, we have some context however, Nimble enables you to dig deeper as well as take action right there and then.

Deeper Context and Taking Action

As you can see below, Nimble’s sidebar offers a number of super-handy features:

nimble review

  1. Dig deeper into a contact’s record using this menu. “This way, I can see the history of conversations, the history of interactions,” says Ferrara. “I can see what this person’s saying to the world and interact with them.”
  2. Schedule or record an action by clicking on the circled plus icon.
  3. Send a message via connected channels by clicking on the envelope icon.

With all this context and functionality at your fingertips, your marketing and sales efforts just got a lot easier to manage. Or, as Ferrara succinctly put it, ” The most important thing is to be able to follow-through wherever you’re at.”

Key Feature #3: Automatic Segmentation

As shown below, Nimble offers a number of ways to slice and dice your contacts (i.e. segmentation):

nimble review

This is basic CRM functionality but as with many of it’s features, Nimble is about to take segmentation to the next level.

“Using the data we pull behind the scenes,” says Ferrara, “we’ve built a new segmentation engine (rolling out soon) that let’s you use any of that data and we’ve pre-faceted your contacts.”

As you can see, this new feature will enable you to search on a number of useful data points, all built for you automatically (note the black boxes near the top of this photo):

nimble review

Here’s an example of one of these drop-down menus built by Nimble using the data they’ve pulled from our contacts:

nimble review

Using this functionality you can really dig into your data. For example, if you wanted to find all contacts who are CEOs of Chicago-based companies who are interested in SEO, this new segmentation engine would make doing so a snap.


While we’ve explored three of Nimble’s key features, there’s a lot more under the hood including tags, integrations with other types of solutions and group mailing/tracking functionality.

Perhaps the most compelling facet of Nimble is its ability to give you a whole view of each of your contacts. As Ferrara put it, “Your CRM system needs to be both professional and personal because that’s how relationships grow, by forming connections to the person, not the contact record.”

Images: Nimble