Machine Learning

Machine Learning is Changing SEO – How You Should Adapt?

The words ‘machine learning’ have started appearing in conversations more and more over the past few years – especially in the world of SEO. Machine learning is not a new concept, it has actually been around since the 1950s, it is changing and developing so rapidly at the moment that we must learn how to adapt quickly if we wish to take advantage of this new technology.

What is machine learning?

In Toby Segaran’s book ‘Programming Collective Intelligence’ book he defines machine learning as a subfield of artificial intelligence concerned with the algorithms that allow computers to learn. He further goes on to define artificial intelligence as the science of making computers perform task that require humans to use intelligence to do.

How is machine learning affecting SEO?

Google, the largest search engine, has shifted its concentration to focus on understanding users intent when they search for things – something we have seen in the past few algorithm updates. They want to know how to look better at things and provide searchers with the answers that satisfy their intent.

This means that if the websites that will rank highly on SERPs in the future will be websites packed full of content which adds value to users, and gives them a positive experience when they are on your website.

 How does this affect us as SEO’s?

Content has always been important for SEO, and it is only going to get more so in the future. With the introduction of ‘RankBrain’ Google is sending a clear message that their focus is now on content more than it has ever been. They are telling us that they want to provide searchers with relevant and useful content across every channel they choose to search on – be that mobile, tablet or laptop.

Content should therefore be optimised around intent, ensuring it provides a high-quality experience for searchers wherever they are on the customer journey. Writing content can be difficult with many people struggling with questions such as:

  • What to write about
  • What topics are trending?

This is where having a strong content strategy and keeping on top of content development is key to finding the topics that people are talking about, and developing content that helps people with a particular problem they have at the moment.

Will technical SEO still be relevant?

Technical SEO is still important but more and more technology is being developed that means it will need less and less interaction. It is highly likely that Google Search Console (GSC) will soon be run completely on machine learning technology with little to no human interaction at all. This can be seen in the crawl error messages that GSC sends out at the moment, and we don’t think it will be long before Google fixes the issues for you as the machines involved get smarter and smarter. This almost removes the need for any human interaction at all, so what is left for us as human SEOs to do?

Structured data can help

We can’t stress how important structured data is enough – it is vital for allowing the search engines to better understand the content you are sharing, and allowing them to return a more informative result to searchers.

Using structured data to give the search engines what they want in a way they can understand it will not only increase your websites visibility and slot on the SERPs, but should also have a positive impact on click through rates as well. This can also help rankings as well, as having high click through rates is a signal to Google that your content is popular and that readers are engaged with it.

Are On-Page Optimisation and Links still important?

Many SEOs believe that on-page optimisation doesn’t have the same impact on rankings as it used to. If you take a closer look at some of the pages that are ranking highly, they don’t have the keyword in their main body or any of the other important elements. Yet they are still ranking highly for competitive keywords without these once vital SEO elements.

 Links, on the other hand, are still important but we need to focus on the quality of these links rather than just going for quantity. If we want to rank highly on SERPs than not only do we need to be posting quality content but we also need quality links to this content from other highly ranked sites.

User Experience should be the Priority

As well as content, Google is also focusing on page speed – meaning it wants user experience on your site to be as painless as possible. Pages should load in two seconds or less, otherwise there will be a lack of user engagement which will have a negative effect on your rankings.

What Content Formats are Important

The answer box is a fairly new appearance on the SERPs and they seem to be something that is here to stay. Answer box optimisation is therefore important if you want to dominate the SERPs. Voice search results are also pulled from these answer boxes and so if you can get your site to appear in these boxes it is likely that your company will appear as answers to voice searches as well. This is important with the vast growth in voice search that we have seen in recent months. 


Machine learning is already having an impact on SEO and will continue to do so in the future. It is important for companies and SEOs to focus on helping to connect searchers with the right content at the right time, to deliver them the best content experience on the web.

Data-Driven Development

What Does the Future of Data-Driven Development Hold for SEO?

There are lots of hot topics in the SEO industry at the moment, from voice search to machine-based learning – and these are all topics that we will cover in the coming months. However, we’d like to start by looking more closely at data driven development, and the impact it has had on SEO so far, and what the future may hold.

Data is everywhere these days, and some people may say we are almost at a point of complete information overload. As search marketers we can look on this huge amount of information as either a blessing or a curse – after all, how much data is too much? We could spend days and days sifting through all of the data available to us – but will add any benefit to our clients at the end of the day?

We take SEO seriously, it is our job after all, and so it is important for us to track our efforts to see what is working and what isn’t, but you have to draw a line somewhere. You can’t track everything just for the sake of it, as you will end up with more data than you know what to do with. Instead we should all focus on tracking the things that are important to our clients.

Is Information Knowledge?

There is a lot of confusion within the SEO world about the definitions of information and knowledge it seems, with many people believing they are one and the same – but they are not. Just because we are uncovering more and more information through what we are tracking, this does not mean that we are also uncovering more knowledge at the same time. We are encouraged every day to spend money on tools for analytics or tools for data discovery, but are these tools worth it – and will they increase our knowledge in the end? The answer is probably no for the majority of them.

At Dale Street Digital we break it down like this:

  • Knowledge is what we achieve when we have broken down the available data to give us a clear and thorough understanding as to what is happening on our client projects
  • Information, on the other hand, is just the data that we get from analysing these projects – the raw facts if you will.

What Information can data give us?

  • Target Demographic. The more information you can get on your target audience the better as this will allow you to tailor your products and services to them. You should look at things like device usage and peal traffic times.
  • Keyword Research. Data can also help with keyword and competitor research as well  

What impact has data development had on SEO?

As a team of search professionals, our main aim is to increase the visibility of our clients brand or website through the use of organic and paid search, and to therefore increase the number of customers that they have the opportunity to engage with. The actual nitty gritty of how we do this can be very complicated, after all Google itself takes over 200 things into account with its SERP algorithms. Add to this a ton of complex information in the form of data, and we could easily end up getting tangled up in ourselves and failing on our number one aim.

That is not to say that we are advocating that we ignore data. It is extremely useful to us, as long as we stay focused on the important pieces of information that we need to know and keep our client projects goal in mind. Every client campaign is as different as the businesses they involve, and so each campaign will have different metrics we need to track and different information created that we need to analyse. By focusing clearly on each projects goal, we will be able to manage the amount of data that we consume and keep on track with the work that we need to do to make the clients project a success.

Data development in this digital age is amazing, and has given us access to the sort of analytics that can really help us to streamline our campaigns and keep them right on track, but we need to be careful not to be overwhelmed by it all. We can do this by sticking to the old adage: ‘quality not quantity’ and by using data on a ‘need to know’ basis and not a ‘nice to know’ basis. At the end of the day, this is what is going to help us to drive results.