We’ve been hearing a lot about robots and their impact on the workforce. In some industries, smart machines are already a reality; self-checkouts at retail chains, apps taking orders at restaurants, and autonomous vehicles (ahem, Tesla) are becoming commonplace. There’s even a machine doing what three baristas can do in one hour, all on its own.

Here in the SEO world, robots (or what we usually refer to as artificial intelligence) have also been assuming new roles. Predictive analytics and programmatic technology have been in use for years, helping us deliver targeted messages with incredible efficiency. Google’s RankBrain, which uses machine learning to deliver search results, has been one of three major ranking signals since 2016. We are not strangers to AI; however, given its pervasiveness, it’s fair to ask the question, “Are robots a threat to SEO professionals?”

I’ve been in the industry for more than 20 years, so I’ve been fortunate to live through the introduction and evolution of many of these technologies. It’s an exciting time to be working in SEO, but it also has some – even veterans – concerned about the future of our work. It’s time we had a frank discussion about AI and the impact it could have on SEO.

Here’s the way I see it playing out.

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The Robots are Here – But Not Necessarily for Our Jobs

In some respect, robots are already handling some of the SEO tasks once performed only by humans. Computers can write your ad copy for you, suggest content topics based on keyword research of competitors, or predict who your next buyers are likely to be. AI technologies like these have allowed us to improve our marketing efforts, yet they have replaced some of the people formerly required to do those jobs.

That being said, if robots continue to assume the roles currently held by humans, are they a threat to SEO professionals as a whole?

It’s kind of difficult to look at that and see anything but a threat, yet the good news is we do have control over the degree to which we utilize AI. Of course, we will adopt the technology that makes sense for our work – partly to remain competitive and partly to enhance our services – and that may look different for each of us. Not every SEO professional has the same needs, or the same budgets, or the same types of clients. We do need AI, but we don’t only need AI.

In addition, SEO is an incredibly time-consuming line of work. AI, or robots, will provide great support where we need it, so we can do the human-only jobs that much better. Here, I’m thinking of marketing strategies, or any of the highly creative or empathic work that machines haven’t achieved yet.

Without Humans, There Can Be No Robots

Robots are only robots because humans created them. Humans will always be needed to control and calibrate these technologies, and humans are the source of information from which they learn. In SEO, I still see AI as a support rather than a replacement, because we will still need people to do certain jobs and to monitor the information provided by AI. We are not at a place where we can take robots’ output at face value with no oversight by humans.

We Determine How Much Robot We Want

While AI technologies in SEO will become prolific, it’s not as if every company will just implement every technology available. Just as we do with every marketing technology, we will try it out, test it, and determine if the results are worth the investment. If they enhance our work, then perhaps we keep it; if not, then we can choose to eliminate it from the plan.

As SEO professionals, we are in control of how much we want robots as part of our workforce. Granted, I do think some application is inevitable (and necessary to remain viable), but it’s up to us to strike the right balance for our own businesses.

The Verdict

So, are robots a threat to SEO professionals? I think they certainly stand a chance to take over some parts of our work, but I don’t necessarily feel it’s a bad thing. In my experience, it is up to us to determine what is best for our clients, based on what’s available. If that technology can enhance what we’re already doing and help us do the rest even better, then I am looking forward to becoming a better SEO professional by signing up for a course in Advanced Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Certification Program.

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