Angelo Sorbello runs a portfolio of influential brands, digital platforms, and strategic partnerships that work together to connect millions of people with expert advice.
Angelo Sorbello runs Astro Capital, a portfolio company that invests, manages, and operates online businesses. Over the years, he sold several content sites in different niches, from health supplements (exited on EmpireFlippers in 2021), to pets and business software.
We are excited to share with everyone his thoughts on the booming AI and its impact on the SEO industry.
How did you manage to hire and run a team of writers and make partnership deals while a student? What help did you have?
It just came naturally!
Back in high school, my main website GamerWorld ranked for some high-traffic keywords on Google in Italy, like ‘video games reviews’. Since I was receiving an overwhelming amount of video games weekly, I couldn’t possibly review all of them on my own. I started to have a team of writers passionate about video games that were willing to write in exchange for the games, everyone was happy… After all, who doesn’t want free video games?!
My parents hated the fact that I was not focused 100% on my studies. The thing is, I’m very pragmatic. I need to see a practical application to give me a compelling reason for doing what I do.
For me, it’s always about creating new things and making my ideas a reality. It’s not about the money or the status.
I don’t overthink stuff which is both a blessing and a curse. I wanted to get partnerships with major companies, so as soon as I had some good traffic on my site, I just cold-emailed them.
When these big multinationals didn’t reply to my cold emails, I cold-called their offices and asked to get connected to their PR department. I was 14 and didn’t have a deep voice yet:) It was a confidence trick, and it worked.
You sold the portfolio including the video games site in 2013. Who did you sell to and how good was the deal?
It wasn’t a crazy exit, the whole portfolio went for around 5 figures. I was 18 years old and I’d been accepted at a top university. It was an excellent opportunity for me, so I decided to sell my whole portfolio to focus on my studies.
My content sites weren’t managed that well back then. I was still young and didn’t really understand what I was doing, but I’m happy that opportunity got me into the game. It gave me the confidence to follow a different path from most of my peers.
When did you first develop an interest in SEO?
I like to write and want people to read my content, so it was inevitable that I learned SEO. After that, I realized I liked the business side of things more.
SEO is a good combination of the things I naturally like such as sales (getting outreach links), writing and reading content, and finance (i.e., capital allocation.)
Experts predict that AI will destroy Google search. Why would they suggest that and how relevant are their statements?
Of course, it seems easier to use AIs, like ChatGPT, to answer your questions and get a personalized answer. Nevertheless, I believe that there will always be a need for expert advice and content. The AI needs to be trained on something and retrieve information from somewhere.
For example, we run a cyber security website. The leading content writer and editor has a degree in cyber security and years of experience with some of the most well-known consulting firms in this industry. While he sometimes uses AI to overcome writer’s block, there is no way that pure AI could have his level of understanding of the subject matter.
That’s also why I don’t think AI will destroy SEO — or that SEO specialists will disappear.
It can be easier to search for personalized recommendations using Bing chat, but a complete article with in-depth expert guides can still be a better solution and will probably always be.
There is plenty of discussion online regarding AI, and, in particular, the impact and use cases for tools like ChatGPT. You mentioned that people have ‘extreme opinions’ about these tools. Could you give us some examples?
When there’s hype about something, people tend to have extreme points of view like: “Crypto is going to become the new gold standard” or, in this case, “ChatGPT is the end of Google!”
I think the truth is probably in the middle.
While ChatGPT saw an incredible adoption rate and is a game-changer, I don’t think that there will be a drastic change in how we do searches online. Generally speaking, the way we search for information online will not change abruptly or immediately.
We are still in the early stages of AI and its use in digital businesses. What do you predict will happen with the mass adoption of AI tools?
It is already clear how generative AIs are a huge game changer for productivity.
The fact that it quickly reached mass adoption has allowed thousands of professionals to overcome writer’s block.
The use cases are potentially infinite, but it requires a very high level of accuracy before they can be deployed extensively.
For example, consider applications like law. ChatGPT can already help lawyers find information quickly, for instance, difficult-to-find legislation (I’m not a lawyer, so I’m guessing here), summarize texts, and write faster.
But, until the level of accuracy reaches, let’s say, 95%, it cannot stand on its own. But, it can help speed up a process.
To use a metaphor, it’s more akin to switching from manual machines to industrial semi-automatic machines than it is to go fully automatic.
So far, I don’t think we’re close to going fully automatic with knowledge work.
It’s kind of like self-driving cars. The technology has been there for years, and it’s already very advanced, but it’s that 1-5% error rate that can be catastrophic. That’s the reason it cannot be deployed (and perhaps will never be fully deployed).
How is SEO changing in 2023 (with the adoption of AI?)
I’m experimenting extensively with ChatGPT on some of my minor projects.
It can definitely save a lot of time and resources but, for my main projects, I still only use expert writers.
I think it’s a great tool, but like many other powerful tools, it’s a double-edged sword.
Is a tool like ChatGPT useful for every online business model?
Business means creating value and having customers trust that you will deliver that value consistently (branding in a nutshell). As I mentioned, people often fall for the hype because they’re looking for a shortcut.
I believe that, in business, we need to always focus on the question: “Is this activity going to create value for our customers?” or “Is this helping us create a long-term brand that people trust?”
Pure ChatGPT content will hardly create any value. If you don’t create value, sure, you can make some money in the short term, but in the long run, you will lose against those who’ve invested in building real trust with their audience.
Still, as Google’s guidelines confirmed, it is possible to use AI to help us overcome writer’s block or find information quickly, but the focus needs to remain on adding value to your audience and customers.