SEOpinions Q1 2023 – E-E-A-T, AI & ChatGPT, & Algorithm Changes

SEOpinions is a quarterly newsletter by Brainlabs to cut through the cruft, inform you of important SEO updates, and predict upcoming changes so you can prioritize your SEO roadmap accordingly. Read the last edition here

2023: The Year Pandora’s Box Opened for AI in Search

There has been *so much hubbub* in the SEO industry since the release of ChatGPT less than two months ago on November 30th, 2022. And with all that noise, it can be hard to know what to prioritize in your SEO roadmap. 
Rest assured (Google and boss), this article was *not* written by generative AI, but not for lack of trying! After many attempts of trying to generate something in ChatGPT, it was clear that my experience and expertise were going to be the only things to stitch together my scattered thoughts.

Double E-EAT This For Lunch

In a previous SEOpinions, I discussed the importance of E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness), how you can leverage it to see better content performance, and how Google is shifting its algorithm to prefer content written with E-A-T in mind.

To address shoddy content—especially in a world of generative AI content—Google has updated its search rater guidelines to include an extra E for Experience in what is now “Experience-Expertise-Authority-Trustworthiness” (E-E-A-T).

This extra E highlights the effort Google is making to ensure that ranked content is written by an author with experience, and is of appropriate quality for the topic.

See Google’s guidelines on E-E-A-T here.

Experience, Expertise, and Authority all bubble up to higher levels of trustworthiness, which is stated as the most important criterion by Google.


Keep in mind topics classified as Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) require a higher level of trust than other topics—and this can vary on a page-by-page basis so it is essential to have well-researched, expert-driven content for any topic that may veer into the YMYL category. Google states:

“You’ll also see clearer guidance throughout the guidelines underscoring the importance of content created to be original and helpful for people, and explaining that helpful information can come in a variety of different formats and from a range of sources.”

In regards to YMYL, there may be instances where content is entirely left to experts in the field rather than folks with experience. Google provides this helpful example in the search rater guidelines (page 28).

And lastly, are your website pages authored?

Another addition to the search rater guidelines asks the raters to attempt to understand the author of the page. This addition shows Google’s attempt to get to the bottom of who is writing content.

On page 15, Google states:

“Start by finding out who is responsible for the website and who created the content on the page… Then, look for information about the website and/or content creators on the website itself.”

If it’s unclear, you may say goodbye to better rankings! To make authorship easier for Google to understand, it is best to, A) provide clear and linked citations, B) clear and robust author bios, and C) use schema markup when applicable. 

Action items: 

  1. Share your unique story. Product reviews sharing the experience of unboxing will outperform those written by a non-product user. Review content should be spoken from a unique experiential point of view. 
  2. Create multimedia content that highlights experience. Multimedia is your golden ticket to success in taking up more real estate in the SERPs. But it’s also a unique way to show Google that you have E-E-A-T as it is more challenging to use generative AI to produce video, infographics, interactive content, etc.—though, there are many companies trying!
  3. Have obvious authors with bios for the website and page. Google is now tasking quality raters with identifying who wrote the page. Having clear authors makes it easy for Google to connect the dots between brands, authors, and topics.
  4. Know when to fold ‘em. If you are in the YMYL category, there may be some topics that are increasingly challenging for your brand to be an “expert” in, depending on how Google interprets the brand. It’s worth testing into more expert-based content, especially if you have subject matter experts on hand, but know that there may be more juice to squeeze in other topics.

Takeaway: Unique and helpful content that engages E-E-A-T will continue to outperform content that doesn’t have these elements. Consider changing your content briefs to include author bios and subject matter expert pull quotes/involvement, and ensure to invest in multi-media content.

AI is here to stay: ChatGPT, Content, and the Value of Human Experience

Using AI content is not new. In fact, GPT-1 (short for Generative Pre-trained Transformer)—OpenAI’s language model—came out in 2018. Even before then, using semantic SEO to generate content was common for larger retailer and aggregator sites like Zillow. Companies like Jasper AI and Copy.Ai have been around for several years. 

Nevertheless, ChatGPT—built on GPT-3.5—opened Pandora’s box of interest in generative AI content when it was released and I suspect that interest will continue to grow. The two important differences today compared to 2018 when GPT-1 came out: 1. the accessibility and knowledge of generative AI is more vast, and 2. the quality of content produced is better (but still not stellar). 

  1. As can be seen using Google trends data, AI is a lot more mainstream than it was in 2018. In my own experience, I’ve been asked more about AI in the last 6 months than I have in my previous 10 years in marketing.

Source: Google Trends

2. GPT-3 is capable of a far better content output than GPT-1 simply due to the number of parameters available.

Source: Semrush

Nevertheless, ChatGPT and GPT-3 are still not accurate and, in the case of ChatGPT, don’t provide clear citations for the sources of information. This leaves us with an overly confident output that can misinform en masse. In fact, ChatGPT even provides a clear list of limitations on the dashboard homepage.

My POV on AI content:

I’ll cut to the chase from my experience working with a large retail site with tens of thousands of SKUs where AI-generated content was the best way to scale efforts:

  1. AI-generated content will rank, but it won’t rank competitively. 
  2. To improve AI content’s chance to rank in a competitive position (top 5), it requires human review and optimization. 
  3. More importantly, to avoid common errors with AI content, content needs to be reviewed and edited. In fact, CNET is in hot water regarding AI content that didn’t have an appropriate level of human review (Futurism).  
  4. As with most content, there is a correlation between dofollow links to the domain and ranking performance for AI content as well (Kevin Indig). 
  5. AI content is better served for simple, utility content like product descriptions and FAQs rather than thought leadership content. 
  6. AI content performs better in some industries/markets than others, as can be said for any content.
  7. In my opinion, generative AI is just heating up and will continue to make a splash in 2023 and beyond. Those who learn to integrate generative AI into their workflows will be far ahead of those who don’t. However, those who entirely rely on generative AI may see initial success, but will eventually be on the wrong side of search engines.

Quick FAQs about AI content:

  1. Can Google differentiate AI content from human content?
    • Yes, Google knows when content is “AI content” (SEO Roundtable).
  2. Does Google penalize AI content?
    • No, Google does not automatically penalize AI content. It penalizes unhelpful content generated for search rather than humans (SEO Roundtable). 
  3. Is/does AI content make the internet worse?
    • Yes, AI content will make the internet messier—and already has (The Verge). Winning is going to boil down to originality and leaning into stronger branding.  
  4. Will ChatGPT replace SEO jobs?
    • No, AI content will not take over your job as an SEO but is likely to change it (Search Engine Journal). 
  5. Will ChatGPT replace search engines like Google?
    • No, I don’t believe ChatGPT is going to eliminate search engines (Algolia). But I do think that the UI/UX of search engines may change (as they have over the last decade).  
  6. What is the difference between Jasper AI, ChatGPT,, and other generative AI companies?
    • Most generative AI tools are built on GPT-3 and create UI/UX wrappers around GPT-3 to produce generative content outputs. The user experience, brand, and pricing are the largest differentiators but you will notice slight variations in output between them depending on how they’ve stitched their tool up to GPT-3. 
  7. Are companies using AI content now?
    • Yes, companies have been and will continue to invest in AI content. Bankrate is a notable example of this with them stating that specific articles have been written by AI. AI-generated content will rank, but it won’t rank competitively. As has been true for a long time, search engine optimization and human editing is required for content to perform well.

Action items:

  1. Valuable, unique content needs to have human involvement. I don’t envision a world in the foreseeable future where difficult content that is generated via AI performs well in SERPs without human intervention. 
  2. Brand voice matters more than ever. With the influx of content that generative AI models enable, brand voice and consistency are going to be a unique way to build trust with users and search engines. Think of brands that do this exceptionally well—Headspace, Apple, LEGO—and find a way to build that branding into everything you do. Even low-consideration markets (like hospitals) benefit from building strong brands.  
  3. Difficult content will get an upper edge. Content that is difficult to generate via AI—like thought leadership content, videos, and interactive content—will be easy proof to search engines that your brand is investing in unique, helpful, and experiential content. Using subject matter experts either through bylines, pull quotes, etc., is a differentiating way to show value. 
  4. Invest in new workflows. Ask anyone on my team and they’ll tell you I love a good process. Your content development workflow should include the use of AI in smart ways (creating briefs, conducting research, writing utility content) alongside the involvement of subject matter experts.

Takeaway: AI content is here to stay and here to disrupt marketing plans in 2023 and beyond. Test using AI in your workflows, while also adapting your content workflows to incorporate more subject matter experts to create valuable content, will serve as a boon.

 Build for the future: Algorithm changes to expect

Google has changed a lot over the last year, and it’s not slowing down in our lifetime. Here are some algorithm and SERP changes to expect in 2023 so you can prioritize your SEO roadmap.

  1. Links have less value than they used to.  
    • While links still play an important role in SEO success and strategies, the weight of their impact is declining over time as Google improves its algorithms to understand content context, according to John Mueller (Search Engine Journal). I believe digital PR will always remain important, regardless of the link, but linking schemes will continue to lose their authority (rightly so). 
    • Action item: Invest in digital PR, but care less about the dofollow links and more about the referral traffic, brand influence, and exposure.
  2. Desktop results are now scrollable
    • Mobile results have been scrollable since Oct 2021 (Google), and now desktop results are scrollable (Search Engine Land). This is a big change for Google and ends the age-old SEO joke that “dead bodies are hidden on page 2.” Still, it’s not a surprising change considering consumer behavior has adjusted to continuous scrolling thanks to social media. Below is an example of what this looks like from Search Engine Land. 
    • Action item: Keep an eye on your organic click-through rates, impressions, and clicks, and know that this could benefit keywords positioned 8-20.  
  1. As retail media rings in the money, product feeds are getting easier to implement via Google.
    • Google has released a new way for e-commerce brands to add shopping products to product feeds via Google Search Console (Search Engine Journal). Google has dramatically changed what the transactional SERP looks like, in part to hedge its bets against Amazon, as discussed in SEOpinions Q4 2022. This is because retail media continues to break records and be a huge growth opportunity for the search giant. 
    • While Google is making product feed integration easier than ever, with more marketplaces throwing their hats in the ring—Walmart, Target, Instacart, etc.—product feeds are hardly getting easier to manage. Investing in product feed management is certainly a priority for any e-commerce brand. 
    • Action item: Take advantage of Google’s product feed ease, but also invest in robust product feed management to diversify your performance.
  2. Featured snippets are only going to become more important as Google tries to fight misinformation and AI search engines attempt to give “one result” sourced from many different sources. 

Zero-click results have been on the rise for a while, and even in my own search experience, I’ve noticed more information being provided by Google in the SERP. An ex-Googler argues that Google has been doing this to make results better and more trustworthy (Search Engine Journal). I don’t know if I agree with that being the sole reason, as there is a lot of money involved in Google owning the search experience, but I do agree that misinformation has been and will continue to be something Google needs to combat—especially with the rise of AI content. I suspect that zero-click results will continue to rise as search engines attempt to answer more informational queries in the SERPs. According to a Semrush study released in Oct 2022, over half of search queries result in either a zero-click, google keyword refinement, or a click to a google-owned site (google flights, weather, YouTube, etc.). Only 45% of search queries result in organic clicks. This is consistent with other zero click studies showing less than half of traffic yield and organic click. 

Action item: Invest in robust content that will own SERP featured snippets, as this can bolster brand awareness and performance regardless of a click.

Takeaway: Google’s algorithm is always changing. And while we don’t know exactly how it will change in the future, we can use contextual clues to understand how we can future-proof our strategy. 

That’s all for this SEOpinions newsletter! As we’ve always said in SEO, the only constant is change. 2023 is going to be a year filled with even faster change. I’m confident that as long as we continue to invest in continuing education and testing, we’ll be able to stay on top. 

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