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Using AI to write website and SEO content – should you and how?

Copywriting, SEO

13 minute read

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using AI to write seo and website content

Me:Should you use AI to write content?

AI content writer:Using AI to write content can be a helpful tool, but it comes with both advantages and disadvantages.

There you have it – from the (virtual) horse’s mouth. ☺️

Should I use AI to write website and SEO content?

Using AI tools to create website and SEO content has its advantages. It can speed up the research process, generate ideas and help overcome writer’s block. But AI writing is not always accurate and is often bland and uninspiring. It can’t (yet) match human writers in creating engaging and brand-enhancing content.

As a brand manager and copywriter, I’ve had years of experience in content marketing. It’s fair to say that 2023 has been a game-changer! While it’s been on the radar for many years, AI’s natural language processing (NLP) ability has finally come into its own and has transformed the way we approach content creation.

Whatever your thoughts on it, the AI universe is developing at an unstoppable rate. It’s a huge learning curve, and at Targeted SEO, we are still experimenting with how best to harness the power of AI content generators like ChatGPT.

It’s important for us to be transparent about what we do and how we do it. So here is our take on AI content writers so far, which we hope you find enlightening. As always, if you have questions, just drop us a line, and we’d be happy to chew your ear off about all things AI and SEO.

What is an AI writing tool?

An AI content writer is a piece of online software that uses artificial intelligence and natural language processing (NLP) to generate written content. Tools such as ChatGPT were designed to help content creators and business owners with the writing process and are commonly used to write material ranging from short social media snippets to lengthy blog articles.

How do AI content writers work?

AI content writers work by combining data analysis and NLP. Their source material consists of websites, books and articles, and also, information supplied by the user. Once prompted, the AI tool will scour its knowledge base and use NLP to generate relevant content that mimics human writing.

Are all AI tools the same?

While ChatGPT is the AI tool on everyone’s lips at the moment, not all AI tools serve the same purpose. In the context of content creation, there are a couple of other essential AI and NLP tools used by online marketers and website owners:

  • Grammarly is your scholarly sidekick, programmed to correct your spelling and grammar. It can also make suggestions on improving the quality, structure and tone of your copy. Download the browser plugin for the best results.
  • Surfer SEO is another staple for website content creation using NLP. It uses artificial intelligence to analyse top search engine results and provides recommendations on relevant content, keywords and structure. The aim is to optimise your content to improve performance in search results.

Will AI content tools replace human writers?

Let’s address the elephant in the room!

In all honesty, when it was first suggested (by my far more tech-savvy colleagues) that I should use an AI writing assistant regularly, I was… Resistant. Defensive. Angry, even.

I’m one of those annoying types that love their job, and the seemingly overnight arrival of AI writing software blindsided me. As a creative, the thought of my work becoming more automated was really dispiriting. But my response was due to more than just professional pride (I promise!).

I was concerned about quality. The Targeted SEO brand and our professional reputation have been built on high-quality content creation, just as much as it has technical SEO skills.

Would we really be able to create the same standard of quality using AI? Without the human element, how could an AI tool understand user intent, never mind the nuances of a brand?

Then there were ethical issues. AI is only as good as the existing content that feeds it, and the internet can be a murky place. If used for blog posts, for one, could you trust its accuracy, and two, would it be biased?

My biggest concern was the impact of AI-generated content on human creativity and originality, as no good writer wants to be thought of as inauthentic.

My AI epiphany

My initial panic was soon tempered when I started to experiment with a well-known content-writing tool. I soon realised that depending on how you prompted it, it was just like using search engines; it just generated a more articulate and targeted response.

Hang on – you mean, instead of dredging through page one of Google for the answers I need, I can prompt AI to summarise the key points? The more I played with it, the better I got at prompting to get the results I was after. Hmm, I was warming up to the idea!

From the get-go, it was clear that a straight copy-paste was never going to be the solution when it comes to AI-written content. Not for this word geek, anyway. It’s most definitely a two-way street, with AI doing the heavy lifting of information gathering and me bringing the empathy, nuance and quality that only a human writer can. Well, for now anyway…

So, I’ve gone from rejection to curiosity, panic to acceptance and uncertainty to enthusiastic awe. Advocacy even! But, as with all advice, it pays to hear both the good and the bad.

What are the benefits of using AI content writing tools?

Let’s start with the positives of an AI content writer, as any good marketer should.

Cut down research time

Consider an AI content generator as the best assistant you’ve ever had. Give it a proper brief and clear instructions on the outcome you expect, and it can be very helpful. For example,

“List the top ten largest countries in order of size” – at least a few minutes saved there. But how about:

“List the top ten largest countries in order of size, along with their capital city, unit of currency, area in km2 and national anthem in table form.” – Bingo! There’s half an hour of your life back.

Google’s Bard has the added advantage of reading websites in real-time, so it can summarise page content to cut down hours spent reading and researching. If it could make me a coffee at the same time, my life would be complete.

Time-saving for repetitive jobs

There’s no denying that AI-generated content is FAST. It can knock up 1,000 articles in less time than it takes to tie your shoelaces. But it’s problematic for various reasons that we’ll get to shortly. That said, if you write a lot of technical or repetitive content, AI writing tools could potentially reduce your working hours. Just factor in plenty of time to review and edit the output.

Idea generation

While lacking an authentic human touch, AI writers can be useful to spark ideas for further development, e.g. blog topics and FAQs, ideas for social media posts, product names or even inspiration for fiction, poetry and lyrics.

If you’re in the mood for a laugh, try “Write a song about SEO in the style of Eminem”.

Overcome writer’s block

We’ve all been there. One minute the words are flowing, and then you hit a wall. Sometimes, all you need is to ask AI to write a sentence or paragraph, and you’re off. Or another useful tip is to ask ChatGPT to finish a sentence that’s on the tip of your tongue.

While there are loads of good online dictionaries and thesauruses, ChatGPT is great for providing a list of words and synonyms with examples of use, e.g. “Write a list of synonyms for ‘attention to detail’ with examples of use” or “Use the term ‘tax liability’ in a sentence.”

Short-form copy

With the right prompting, AI writing tools are really useful for writing short snippets, such as headlines, product descriptions, Facebook ad copy and attention-grabbing social media captions. We recommend generating a few versions and tinkering with the outcome to put a unique stamp on it, but it is possible to strike gold with the right prompt.

What are the drawbacks of using AI content writing tools?

Accuracy

This is a biggie. AI content can sound plausible, but it is not always accurate. When you consider that AI relies on the validity of its source material, i.e. books, articles, websites, and its interpretation of natural language, it’s hardly surprising that it slips up now and again. Also, ChatGPT’s training only goes as far as 2021, so it has no knowledge of recent events. So it’s essential to always, ALWAYS fact-check any information that you’re unsure about.

And remember to include the country you’re writing about in your prompt, as there will, of course, be variations between the UK and the US. You don’t want to spend 3 hours writing a blog on Lewes, East Sussex and find that what you’ve actually written is a blog on Lewes, Delaware!

Lack of personality

While professional (human) writers are skilled at speaking the language of a target audience, that’s a big ask of an AI language model. Without human perception, a sense of context or empathy, it struggles to create authentic human dialogue that will engage a reader.

While it’s true that you can prompt AI tools to write in a particular tone of voice, e.g. ‘professional’ or ‘friendly’, the results are sketchy. For example,

Prompt: “Write a title for a UK accountancy website in a formal and professional tone of voice.”

AI: “Premier Financial Solutions: Elevate Your Business with Expert UK Accountancy Services”

Prompt: Hmm, less formal

AI: “Mastering UK Finances: Your Go-To Accountancy Resource”

Prompt: More friendly

AI: “Your Trusted UK Accounting Allies: Navigating Finances with a Smile”

Whoa there pal..!

An over-simple example, sure, but it demonstrates the limitations. A better way to achieve the right tone of voice is to feed ChatGPT or Bard with some existing brand copy and ask it to emulate it. But in our experience, it’s still a long way off being good enough.

Bias and narrative control

Whether you’re writing a blog about the virtues of wild swimming or a thesis on 21st-century politics, it requires critical thinking and a human perspective. AI doesn’t always understand the context of a subject, and given the breadth of its source material, it undoubtedly contains biased and inaccurate information. Don’t let it lead you up the garden path. Always start with a firm standpoint on your subject matter, and beware of confirmation bias. Avoid prompts like “Is it a good idea..” or “Explain why…is best at…”.

Quality

Artificial intelligence is generally very good at grammar and spelling. But, when it comes to the quality of writing, it is very hit-and-miss, especially in long-form content like a blog post. It often creates content that’s dull, repetitive and generic. Which is hardly going to inspire your reader to action.

AI is also very keen on producing numbered and bulleted lists, which, if used too often, can cause the reader to become disengaged (it’s also a real tell-tale sign that your content is AI generated). AI copy is also very formal and very long-winded.

AI favors AE (American English)

Why gee, of course it does. Even if you prompt it to write in British English, it’s rarely successful. While this is more of an annoyance than a drawback, it’s tedious to correct every z where an s should be. Note – for UK websites, Americanisms are a real giveaway that your content is AI-generated. So always spell-check before you publish. Download a plugin like Grammarly, and it’s an easy job.

How to use AI in creating content – it’s ALL in the prompting

Using AI technology to produce content is all about your input. Just as AI is only as good as its source material, AI content is only as good as the prompts used to generate it. Fortunately, we’re all getting better at writing prompts, and the quality of the results is improving.

As in real life, if you provide a decent brief, then you’re more likely to get the outcome you desire. So be specific. Don’t be afraid to write long prompts. Provide instructions as to the number of words, sentences and paragraphs you need, as well as suggested titles and headings. Specify which format you’d like your results in. For example,

Poor “Write a blog article about how to file a tax return” will get you a very pedestrian, generic result. And possibly instructions relevant to the US.

Better “I am an accountant working in London serving small businesses. My USPs are… My tone of voice is… My target audience is… Help me to write a blog about how to file a tax return. Include details on the different types of tax a small business owner or limited company owner has to pay. Include 5 FAQs. Write no more than 1,000 words. Include a compelling call to action at the end.”

!Caveat! This will not generate a word-perfect response, and I’m definitely not suggesting that the content will be of sufficient quality to publish. But it will provide you with a framework and some ideas to build upon, which, for many people, can be a lot easier than starting with a blank page! So consider it a good starting point, keep the reader and the brand in mind at all times and add human value.

Does AI-generated content affect SEO?

It’s tricky to gauge Google’s take on AI content, and that’s hardly surprising given the launch of its own AI writing assistant, Bard. As recently as 2022, the company stated that it favours “original, helpful content written by people, for people”. Good old Google, continuing to make the internet a better place for us all (and keeping SEO content writers in a job!).

What is certain is that Google’s infamous algorithms have always penalised thin and inaccurate content, which early AI-generated copy most certainly was. But with the new advances in NLP – and the improving skills of the humans that use it – AI content has improved dramatically.

So, when combined with human editing and the input of skilled writers, AI-generated content stands just as much chance of SEO success as purely human-written material.

In summary

AI tools such as ChatGPT and Bard can be used to great effect to aid content generation, such as website pages, blogs, emails and social media ads. They are a great time-saver when it comes to research and can be used for generating content ideas and overcoming writer’s block.

However, AI content is not always accurate, so it should be thoroughly fact-checked. And while it’s possible to prompt AI to write in the appropriate tone of voice, it’s not nuanced enough to produce authentic human dialogue. It tends to produce copy that is dull, formulaic and generic, which is far from ideal when it comes to engaging the reader and inspiring confidence in the brand.

For these reasons, it’s essential to use AI writing tools cautiously and sparingly, and always with human input for the best results

Let’s allow ChatGPT the final word:

“While AI writing tools can be beneficial, it’s essential to use them responsibly and complement their output with human creativity and judgment.”

Ironically, I couldn’t have said that better myself.

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About Targeted SEO

Targeted SEO is a specialist search engine optimisation company based in Southampton. We focus on developing websites which grow in organic traffic, resulting in more leads, online enquiries and sales for our clients.

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