Jonathan Allen: A Discussion on Generative AI’s Impact on Content Creation & SEO

AI robot writing content

Jonathan Allen is a seasoned entrepreneur, editor, marketing agency founder, and an SEO expert. 

Jonathan Allen is the Chief Digital Officer at DETOUR, a travel startup launched in 2022. He also publishes the blog Entrepreneur Quarterly which explores local startups and the creator economy in emerging innovation hubs around the world. 

Spanning a 20-year career in digital strategy, Jonathan became an “SEO professional” before Search Engine Optimization (SEO) was considered a serious profession. 

He has founded Inc5000 listed digital marketing agencies, directed award-winning SEO publications and advised social media startups and media brands, and provided tech sector commentary for the BBC, Boston Globe, and numerous other media outlets. 

We were delighted when he agreed to talk to us about the potential impact of generative AI tools on content creation, websites, SEO, and the future of the Internet. 

Generative AI’s Impact on Content Creation, Websites, SEO, & Search Engines

Question 1: What are your thoughts about using AI to generate (or help generate) content for websites and articles?

“As someone who’s built a career writing content for websites, I see this as being a potentially problematic innovation. That said, I’ve used AI now. And I’m really impressed with the answers it generates based on the prompts provided.”

“AI goes a long way towards solving that problem every writer faces whenever they start a new article or anything else they’re creating: the blank page syndrome. Tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT-3 can structure article outlines and ideas very quickly, depending on the prompts you give them. For a writer, it’s pretty amazing because it’s giving you the insights you need to structure a piece of content.”

“Before this wave of generative AI content tools came along, I was interested in AI’s ability to summarize large volumes of content. We’ve seen that in the legal profession and other sectors where people need to read vast amounts of information in order to pull out the key details. It works brilliantly. I’ve been interested in that too, but from the perspective of long-form journalism.”

“I’m a big believer in the role of journalism and long-form content, even though there’s less of a need for it now. Attention spans are shorter. People want more snackable content, and that’s where AI can play a role in summarizing longer-form content, so people get the information they need to know far quicker.”

“So, for all of the worry over the potential economic impact, loss of jobs, etc., I’m thinking these AI-based tools will positively impact content creation for websites and businesses that rely on content to generate web traffic, sales leads, and customers.”

Question 2: In what ways could AI tools, such as ChatGPT, Google’s Bard, Microsoft Bing’s AI integration, etc., impact search engines, websites, content creation, and SEO?

“My thoughts are that these tools, such as ChatGPT, Google’s Bard, Microsoft Bing’s AI integration, Grammarly, and numerous others, are going to have a positive impact on SEO, content creation and generation, and websites.”

“Tools like this are going to make it easier to create more content in less time and summarize crucial pieces of information. AI tools also help with transcription, which has been around since ChatGPT hit the market. One tool I really like is Otter.AI: it’s ideal for transcribing voice notes, so the person receiving what you’re saying has an easy-to-use written record.”

“Because we have billions of hours worth of video and audio content (YouTube, TikTok, podcasts, etc.) being shared every day, the value of AI-based transcription services and tools is only going to increase. With so many amazing thoughts and insights being shared in videos and podcasts, transcription is a fantastic way to surface all that information and make it easier to find.” 

“Remember, search engine bots can crawl text, but they can’t crawl the content of videos or podcasts, so if you’re producing that kind of content, then an accurate AI-based transcription of what you’ve said will make your work easier to find.”

“The same applies to journalism. True journalism is about fact-finding and consensus-building, adding to the sum of human knowledge and telling people what they need to know. For journalists, recording stories is so much easier than it was. But getting those stories out there is harder, and that’s where AI tools and transcription can play a massive role. Making it easier for people to find the news and stories that matter to them.”

“I would definitely say the same goes for content and niche websites. For these reasons, I’m finding myself surprisingly positive about the use of AI tools.”

Question 3: Given that younger generations increasingly use social platforms to source news and information, how much of the above is relevant?

“In the last 18 months or so, more people are turning to TikTok and other social platforms to source news, information, and of course, entertainment. It’s got the SEO industry worried. But then again, I’ve been in the SEO industry long enough to know it’s always worried about something.”

“So, whether generative AI tools will have as much of an impact on content creation and SEO ⏤ because of the competition from social networks is a good question. However, given how AI transcription tools can turn video and audio into text summaries, I’m not too worried about whether people will stop using search engines to find what they want.”

“If anything, as we’ve seen with Microsoft’s investment in OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, and its integration with Bing, and Google doing the same with Bard, it’s clear that search engines are embracing and incorporating AI. In many ways, that shows the potentially massive positive impact of AI tools in search engines and for SEO, content creation, and websites.”

Question 4: We have already seen how AI tools can be manipulated to create fake news and spread disinformation. Are you concerned about the reliability and quality of AI-generated content, and how could we guard against its misuse? 

“One of the main problems is we can’t guard against the misuse of AI-generated content to create and spread fake news and disinformation. Social platforms are built on the concept of freedom of speech, and they are able to guarantee that through a legal immunity shield provided by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.” 

“Unfortunately, that means people can make things up and manipulate their audience, and it’s very difficult to hold platforms or users responsible. we’ve seen what damage that can cause in recent years. Despite my somewhat positive feelings towards AI now, I do think the issues surrounding the open letter requesting a pause on giant AI experiments should be taken very seriously.”

Question 5: We know that AI writing tools aren’t sentient. Humans do the thinking. Tools like ChatGPT write words – spitting out “existing knowledge.” 

Logically, if we enter ‘rubbish prompts’, we will get rubbish out. Does that mean these tools are only effective for those with enough expertise to use them? 

“When it comes to generative AI tools creating content, you have to be smart enough to know whether what these tools produce is accurate or not. If you’re putting in prompts, having ChatGPT, CopyAI, or GrammarlyGO create articles without fact-checking or editing them, you’re part of the problem.”

“However, if you’re using these tools the right way and give them the right prompts and information, then these AIs help formulate a smart, structured, meaningful response. Say you want a CV written, and you ask ChatGPT: “Please write me a CV and optimize its format and structure”, It will do that for you. It’s really impressive. In situations like that, you don’t need to be an expert to see it’s created something of value.”

“It’s also useful if you’ve got an idea you know exists but don’t know how to describe it. If you input enough information and sufficient data online, it should be able to pull together the necessary details.” 

“But, like with anything, if you put rubbish in, you’re going to get rubbish out, or if you take whatever an AI tool gives you without checking or editing it, then you could end up with content that’s not really relevant or informative for your audience. Search engines are also increasingly likely to penalize you for that, so it’s better to be careful.”

Question 6: As an experienced website owner and SEO expert, do you believe that generative AI tools will help or harm your ability to build and grow your business (EQ)?

“For those growing businesses online, I think it’s going to help. I don’t think it’s gonna harm. I think it’s safer. It’s all been incredibly useful, and it’s helped me do product development, and test out ideas.” 

“It’s helped me kind of further my thinking, and take more risks. Try more stuff. I’ve operationalized more systems to work with staff better. One thing I love about AI is that it’s taken a lot of the boring, busy work around content development off people’s plates.”

Question 7: What action should website owners take to future-proof a site from the spread of AI in content creation and search engines? 

“It’s a difficult one to answer. It’s something search engines, website owners, platforms, and the SEO industry is going to have to deal with in time. Especially for those who want to protect their online intellectual property. SEOs already know it’s always going to be a game of cat and mouse, so I’m sure a consensus or another solution will emerge over time.”

Question 8: Finally, where do you see the future of search and SEO heading now that AI tools are loose in the wild? Are there particular use cases that have not yet been explored?

“Now these AI tools are loose in the wild I find myself being surprisingly positive about the impact of them on SEO and content creation. Most likely, it will expand our ability to ask more informed questions, with AI tools helping us find the most informative and useful information better than search engines currently can.”

“In turn, that means SEOs need to make content more discoverable to AI tools, so there’s a massive potential opportunity for SEOs, website owners, and content creators. In the same way that AI-generated transcriptions can play a powerful role in making video and audio content easier to find.”

Wrapping up

Jonathan, thank you for your observations, insights, and advice. 

Anyone currently building or investing in websites and anyone whose business is directly or indirectly affected by content, content creation, SEO, and search engines is considering the potential impact of generative AI and AI-based tools. 

Three points stood out for me: 

  • With your 20+ years of experience in SEO, the media, and marketing, you are positive about the potential impact of generative AI tools. 
  • Providing we use them the right way, AI tools such as ChatGPT could prove a powerful asset for content creation, website owners, entrepreneurs, and SEOs.
  • AI tools are already proving useful for transcribing video and audio content and making them easier to find. Turning long-form content into something more findable and shareable, and that’s another advantage of these innovative leaps forward. 
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Dom Wells

Dominic Wells is the CEO and Founder of Onfolio. Dom is responsible for developing and implementing Onfolio’s long term business strategy. He is a serial entrepreneur with more than a decade of experience investing in and building digital businesses. Dom has grown Onfolio from a startup to a NASDAQ listed company. For Onfolio’s investors, Dom has built a diverse and profitable portfolio of online businesses that deliver consistent returns. Dom is passionate about entrepreneurship and regularly speaks on digital business strategy, online business investment and profitable growth opportunities. For Dom, diversification and exceptional talent are the keys to sustainable growth.

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