Using AI for SEO marketing? You could be doing more harm than good

AI tools like ChatGPT are all the rage, but using them wrong can hurt your marketing strategy

The use of generative artificial intelligence tools has become all the rage for companies and consumers alike as early adopters hail their capabilities for saving time and assisting with tasks. But don't hand your search engine optimization over to ChatGPT just yet.

Frank Sanchez, managing partner of Elk Marketing digital marketing agency, warns that the rules of the game appear to be changing and that jumping on the AI bandwagon for SEO strategies could be a mistake for some companies.

woman typing holding AI symbols

Using generative AI tools can cut the cost of digital marketing in a big way, but experts warn there are risks with leaning too heavily on the emerging technology. (iStock / iStock)

"I think this is happening so fast that even Google is kind of on the back foot right now," Sanchez told FOX Business, noting that the narrative has changed multiple times since ChatGPT came out as to whether the search engine titan could – or would – penalize users for AI-generated content. "It very much seems to be in limbo."

Sanchez, who co-founded Elk in 2016, says companies that already have a solid SEO strategy that is working well should tread carefully because they have the most to lose if the rules of the game change and companies are punished for AI-generated content.

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"It really comes down to where you're at in the business cycle with your own SEO strategy," he said. "If you've got a great domain authority and you're writing content that is really engaging with your customer base and you're really happy with the results and you're keeping things moving at a profitable standpoint, then don't mess with it."

Frank Sanchez headshot

Frank Sanchez is managing partner and co-founder of Elk Marketing.

On the other hand, he says, lean start-ups seeking to make moves to compete with the big guys and get content up quickly "have little to no risk" by using AI, and in fact, "it's all upside" at this point.

Sanchez says that for the past few years there has been essentially a content arms race for page-one results on Google. But with the emergence of generative AI for public use, the cost of generating content is now pennies on the dollar.

Beyond SEO, Sanchez says there are other reasons companies should take pause before relying too heavily on AI tools, and relying on the accuracy of their results is a big one.

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For example, he says, it would be a huge mistake for any brand to rely on a tool that gives bad health advice that actually causes harm to a potential patient or to someone doing research or due diligence before taking a medical treatment.

He says companies also run the risk of diluting their branding by using AI-generated copy in place of articles written by humans, particularly if the business has a defined brand voice.

Sanchez acknowledges that AI tools can play a role in improving efficiency in myriad ways, but he warns never to trust it and to be sure to verify the results. He said, "AI can do a lot of stuff, but I still think you're going to need eyeballs on the content."

Regardless of whether a company uses AI or not, Elk advises clients to stick with traditional SEO best practices like identifying high-traffic keywords related to their industry, developing high-quality content, maintaining a user-friendly website and using local SEO whenever possible.

Bing, OpenAI, Microsoft and Google logos

Expert warns that search algorithms could change as competition heats up between Google and Microsoft with their respective AI-powered search engines, Bard and Bing. (Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images / Getty Images)

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The online marketing expert says his advice is for companies to be slow, steady and cautious in integrating the use of AI for SEO because there is the potential that significant changes to the algorithm could be coming to the industry as competition heats up between Google and Microsoft.

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He said, "I think the core messaging here is it's almost too early to really get your hands around the mass impact of how this plays out."