The SEO industry likes to jump on a bandwagon, or, at least, give everything a go.
In such a competitive market, where the rules are never really 100% known, it’s no wonder.
We’re always looking for that one thing that might give us an edge.
It is therefore no wonder that SEO people have been following the whole chatbot explosion very closely, trying to figure out how it might affect their profession.
In this article, I’ll try to give a sober, balanced look at the effect chatbots have on the SEO industry and to give SEO professionals a few facts to keep in mind (mulling over later is optional).
Not all chatbots are the same
Before we get to the nitty-gritty of chatbots and their effects on SEO, we should say a thing or two about the state of the chatbot industry today. One of the most important things to remember is that not all chatbots are the same.
They will vary greatly when it comes to how they are built and what their potential is. For example, some of them will be little more than decision tree hierarchies, while there are those whose learning capabilities make them much more.
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They will also differ in how they are deployed. Namely, you will find out-of-the-box solutions that you will add to your website and customize to your exact needs. There are custom-built solutions that will require much more tinkering and training before you can get them live.
Unfortunately, in most cases, when we are talking chatbots that smaller organizations will deploy on their websites, we are talking about chatbots with limited capabilities. The more advanced solutions tend to be out of the price range of most businesses.
Chatbots will have little to no direct effect on your SEO
Chatbots will have almost no direct effect on your SEO. When you think about it, that’s totally expected. Figuring out how to crawl and index content that is generated “randomly” (in the case of more advanced chatbot models) would be impossible, and considering the fact that chatbots are supposed to serve the needs of individuals, having them affect the search results of random people makes no sense.
In essence, Google will not consider the content chatbots serve up as part of your content, making them pretty much inconsequential when we are talking direct SEO value.
Google folks don’t think much of chatbots
It’s been a while since we heard from the horse’s mouth, so to say, but in 2017, Google’s John Mueller said that he (and probably Google in general) doesn’t see chatbots as something that makes websites better. He mentioned the low quality of the solutions that are generally deployed and the haphazard way in which most webmasters approach this.
He does mention the possibility of doing it the right way, which is what I’ve been buildingup to.
Chatbots > Good UX > Good SEO
The best (and currently the only) way to actually use chatbots for SEO is to deploy them in a smart way that will improve the experience of your site’s visitors. By doing this the right way, you can increase the clickthrough rate and lower the bounce rate for your website (and individual pages), which will play a role in the way Google evaluates your website and your pages.
For instance, a well-deployed chatbot can be a great way to re-engage people who have come to a specifically-designed commercial page that may have a high bounce rate.
Maybe it’s difficult to explain all the good things about your product/service on a single screen and you want to deliver additional content or the ability to reach it? A well-written chatbot can do this, especially if your target market segment is younger and wants a more conversational experience. Before, they would just bounce from your page and try to find another solution, but with a chatbot, you can keep them on your website.
This will lower your bounce rate and let Google know that you are really serving the search intent well.
A good chatbot can also be used to serve additional content from your website. For instance, let’s say that you are doing SEO for a travel agency and you have a great article on a particular location. As the visitor reads the article, at precise points in their session, your chatbot asks them if they want to find out about restaurants in the area, the best places to rent cars, etc.
Yes, the point is the same as having links, but often times, people only remember to ask those questions later and usually open another tab to search for the answers. This way, you are reminding them of what else they might want to know, in a conversational manner that only adds to the experience.
With a chatbot, you can better customize your offer of additional content, especially if it is a more advanced type that gets better and knows what this type of visitor usually wants to see next.
As a result, your clickthrough rates will go up and you might even be able to set up entire converting journeys that are helped along the way by a clever little chatbot.
A good chatbot can also do amazing things for your customer support, speeding up service and freeing up your human support agents for advanced issues. This can lead to more and better customer comments and testimonials, and we know how much Google loves those.
A few words of warning
As you can see, chatbots CAN be deployed in a way that will indirectly improve your SEO. That being said, if you do this wrong, you can produce the opposite effect.
The most common example of this is when brands go crazy with their chatbots, filling up the screen with an absolutely pointless chatbot experience that only gets on people’s nerves.
In such situations, bounce rates go up and clickthrough rates go down.
Because of this, you have to be extremely careful about how you approach this. As has been the theme of the SEO industry for some time now — always think of what the customer is getting from it.
If your chatbot really serves a purpose and helps users have a better experience — then use it. Test it, analyze it, improve it.
If you are just doing it because of the hype, don’t.