How To Engineer Better AI Prompts for Your SEO Content Strategy

Bernard Huang
Table of Contents

    Join our newsletter

    Get access to trusted SEO education from the industry's best and brightest.

    In 2023, 75% of chief marketing officers (CMOs) reported that they’re expected to achieve more despite lower budgets as companies curb their marketing spending.

    For many marketers, this means turning to free artificial intelligence (AI) tools like ChatGPT or Google Bard.

    Using AI as a tool to support your content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) processes can enable your team to work more efficiently.

    However, when using AI tools, especially chatbots like ChatGPT, the quality of the output you get depends on how well you craft requests and questions. This is known as prompt engineering.

    Keep reading to learn how to improve prompt engineering for your SEO content marketing strategy so you can save time and do more with less.

    What is prompt engineering?

    Prompt engineering refers to the process of designing questions or requests to interact with AI tools that use natural language processing (NLP), like ChatGPT. Engineering better prompts involves writing your directions or questions in a way that helps the AI tool give you a better result by adding details about the ideal response, such as word count or information about your target audience.

    Your prompts shape the behavior and outputs of the language model, so improving them enables you to get more accurate and relevant responses. By using carefully crafted prompts, you can customize the output of the AI tool to give you what you’re looking for.

    AI may be able to do many things, but mind reading isn’t one of them. Here’s a look at how changing a prompt can give you more useful output.

    Prompt engineering example

    Say you want to use ChatGPT to help you come up with ideas to name a new dog. The most basic prompt may look like, “Can you list dog names?”

    ChatGPT output for “Can you list dog names?”

    With the basic prompt, ChatGPT doesn’t have many instructions to use, so it provides a long list of commonly used dog names.

    You can engineer this prompt to give specific responses by adding context that tells the AI how to provide better names. For example:

    • “What are five names for a cute brown dog?”

    • “What are ten names for a small female dog?”

    • “What are unique and fun names for a new puppy?”

    • “I have one dog named Luna; what are some dog names that go with that?”

    Let’s take the first prompt and see how the results change.

    ChatGPT output for “What are 5 names for a cute brown dog?”

    After engineering the prompt, you get a shorter list that’s tailored based on the specifics of the dog, and you get names that weren’t in the first response that only listed common names.

    Getting specific with the way you phrase your AI request enables the tool to provide more helpful and actionable output the first time around. Let’s look at the different pieces of a prompt to see all the ways you can engineer better questions.

    The 4 components of prompt engineering

    AI prompts are composed of the following four components:

    • Instructions: What you’re asking the tool to do, such as generating a list of dog names.

    • Context: Additional information or descriptions you provide to get more relevant results. For example, describing the dog as brown and cute.

    • Input data: The data you want AI to process, such as a paragraph you want it to summarize. Input data isn’t a required element if you don’t need the AI to process text. In the dog names example, the AI didn’t have input data since it was asked to generate new ideas.

    • Output indicators: Structural requirements for the output, such as limiting the list of dog names to five. You don’t need to include output indicators in every prompt, but using multiple indicators can help you get a more helpful response from the AI.

    How to do prompt engineering

    A good prompt should clearly describe what you want the tool to do instead of providing vague instructions that the AI can interpret in many ways. For example, “Tell me ten breeds of dogs that are good with kids” is a clear request.

    Tips for engineering better AI prompts.

    Here are some tips to follow for more effective prompts.

    • Start with the instructions: When writing prompts, use the instructions as your starting point and then follow up with context, input data, and output indicators.

    • Use formatting to separate input data: Using “ ” or ### to separate the input data from your instructions clearly tells the AI model what it should be processing. For example, if you want the AI to summarize a paragraph, put the paragraph in quotes to identify it as input data.

    • Add multiple descriptors: The more context descriptions you add, the better the results you’ll get. For example, if you’re describing your target audience, the phrase “small family-owned businesses” is more descriptive than “businesses.”

    • Use output indicators: AI tools tend to overachieve if you don’t specify output, which means you can get lengthy responses and long lists when you use basic prompts. Output indicators like list limits and word count ranges can help you avoid overwhelmingly long results.

    • Eliminate vague language: Don’t use phrases that aren’t specific. Examples include some, a few, fairly, somewhat, around, and a bit.

    • Focus on “what to do” instead of “what not to do”: According to Open AI’s best practices, it’s more effective to describe what you want instead of what you don’t. For instance, you can request “family-friendly” output instead of saying, “don’t include ideas that aren’t suitable for children.”

    • Follow up to fine-tune your results: If you don’t get exactly what you want the first time around, ask the AI to adjust the output and give it more context.

    Before we dive in and look at how you can use these best practices specifically for SEO prompts, let’s talk about the limitations of using AI for SEO content marketing.

    Disclaimer: Limitations of AI chat tools for SEO

    Limitations of AI chat tools for SEO.

    AI chat tools, like ChatGPT and Google Bard, have the power to significantly change marketing and SEO processes. One survey found that 61.4% of marketing professionals already use AI in their operations.

    That said, it’s crucial to understand the limitations of AI, so you’re not relying on it to perform tasks that it can’t do well. In terms of SEO, AI is not a replacement for an SEO expert. Any advice given by an AI comes from its training data, not from actual experience.

    While it may be tempting to ask AI chat tools to generate entire blog posts for you, it’s not recommended since they may confidently present outright incorrect information as factual.

    One article from Open AI (the makers of ChatGPT) mentions, “ChatGPT will occasionally make up facts or ‘hallucinate’ outputs,” reminding users that this product is still a research preview. ChatGPT also doesn’t cite sources you can use to check its accuracy.

    ChatGPT listing Vanuatu as the only country that starts with the letter “V.”

    In the above example, ChatGPT missed Vietnam and Venezuela and incorrectly stated there is only one country starting with the letter “V.” It does qualify the response by referencing its knowledge cutoff date of September 2021, but that doesn’t explain why it’s missing two countries that have been around since long before 2021.

    Unlike ChatGPT, Bard has the ability to search the internet in real time, and it includes related Google search links to help you with your research. Still, it doesn’t guarantee 100% accuracy — like ChatGPT, it can hallucinate — and should always be fact-checked.

    Finally, the process of creating high-quality SEO content involves several tasks and requires access to real-time information about keyword search volume and difficulty. AI tools are helpful as a part of your workflow, but they’re best when paired with other tools, such as keyword research software (like Ahrefs or Semrush) and an SEO content optimization tool (like Clearscope).

    How to improve your prompt engineering for SEO content

    "Despite the wide adoption of AI, 43% of marketers say they don’t know how to get the most out of these tools. That’s where prompt engineering can help. Learning how to write better requests can improve the helpfulness of the results you get from AI models the first time around."

    Below we’ll cover several use cases for AI in SEO and provide some tips on how to engineer prompts to get better results in each scenario.

    Finding keywords

    ChatGPT and Google Bard are excellent tools to use when brainstorming keywords to target, especially for SEO content. If you want to get the most relevant keyword suggestions the first time, do the following:

    • Provide the main topic or subject.

    • Ask the AI to cluster keywords by sales funnel stage.

    • Specify which user intent you want to target, such as informational or commercial.

    • Add context about your target audience. For instance, specify whether they’re small businesses or enterprise clients if you’re a B2B brand.

    ChatGPT output providing keywords for social media marketing.

    Brainstorming topics

    In addition to brainstorming keywords, AI chat tools can help you come up with topic ideas for assets, including blog posts, videos, and white papers. It’s especially helpful for building out topic clusters since it can suggest multiple articles for a single keyword.

    Here are some tips to improve your AI prompts for SEO topics:

    • Specify the content format.

    • Ask for keywords related to each topic.

    • Describe your target audience. For instance, beginner vs. expert.

    • Ask the AI tool to come up with different angles you can take on the topic.

    • Specify the type of article you want to write. For example, a how-to or product comparison.

    Google Bard output brainstorming topics for social media for small businesses.

    Starting an outline

    Once you’ve selected topics, you can use AI to generate an initial outline. For better outlines, you can:

    • Specify the number of headings you want.

    • Define the content type (blog post vs. video).

    • List any information you know you want to include.

    • Specify the primary keywords and any important secondary keywords.

    Here’s an example of a detailed prompt:

    ChatGPT prompt for an SEO blog post outline.

    Based on the detail included in the prompt, ChatGPT generated this outline:

    SEO outline generated by ChatGPT

    From there, you can copy the outline into Clearscope and see how it stands up to the most recent keyword research. You can tweak the outline in Clearscope to include the right keywords, phrases, and related subtopics that ensure thorough coverage of your given topic.

    Screenshot of outline in Clearscope.

    Creating FAQs

    Addressing frequently asked questions (FAQs) about your topic is an excellent way to target relevant long-tail keywords. It’s also another area where AI can help you generate questions to answer in your post.

    To improve FAQ output:

    • Provide the primary keyword.

    • Specify how many questions you want.

    • Give background information about your audience, especially their expertise level.

    Google Bard generating FAQs about social media for small businesses

    Make sure to fact-check the responses AI provides to ensure accuracy. You can also edit the output to fit your brand’s tone.

    To make sure you include the most relevant questions, check your AI-generated FAQs against the questions listed in Clearscope’s Research tab.

    Screenshot of the FAQ section in Clearscope’s Research tab.

    Streamlining the editing process

    Since AI-generated content can have factual errors and tends to use generic language, we don’t recommend using these tools to write entire articles. However, AI can be a helpful editing tool for content creators.

    If you hit writer’s block during the editing stage, these tools can quickly generate different options for words, phrases, and sentence structure to stimulate creativity.

    For instance, say you can’t think of the exact wording you want to use to describe something. In that case, ChatGPT can help you come up with the precise phrasing you want.

    To write better ChatGPT prompts for SEO content editing:

    • Ask for a few options of a rewrite so you can compare them and create a version that you like.

    • Describe the type of language you want in the output. For instance, casual vs. formal or funny vs. irreverent.

    • Provide a sample of your writing that you like and ask ChatGPT to emulate it. (Put the sample writing in quotation marks.)

    ChatGPT rewriting a sentence in two ways.

    When you feel stuck in one style of writing, AI is an excellent tool for branching out and showing you alternate phrases and sentence structures that can help you fine-tune a piece.

    Supporting background research

    Thorough research is essential for writing comprehensive content and building trust with your audience. That said, it can easily become a time-consuming part of your workflow.

    Since Google Bard can search the internet, it’s helpful for finding reports and statistics you can use to support your research. When using Bard to find reports, it’s helpful to specify how recent you want the information to be.

    For example, you can ask it to only list resources that were published in the last year.

    Google Bard finding reports on the topic “headless CMS.”

    Instead of scrolling through Google search results for relevant information, you can search for the results that Google Bard provided and save time.

    AI tools can also help you understand complex topics faster. Here are a few tips to get the most out of AI during your research phase:

    • Ask AI to rephrase a technical article using conversational or beginner-friendly language.

    • Ask follow-up questions about your given topic.

    • Request some examples.

    ChatGPT rewriting a paragraph in beginner-friendly language.

    Asking for rewrites of a reliable resource is one way to avoid getting factual errors in your output. That’s because the AI is simply processing the text that an expert wrote instead of going to its database to generate a response.

    Generating lists

    Listicle articles are useful in an SEO strategy, and ChatGPT can help you create these faster by generating ideas. For instance, you can use it to generate lists of quotes, books, blogs, companies, or websites.

    Here’s how to write better AI prompts for SEO listicles:

    • Describe your target audience.

    • Tell the AI how many items to include in the list.

    • Add qualifiers to your list items, such as business books or inspirational quotes.

    • Ask it to provide related information. For example, you can ask to include authors with a list of books.

    • Specify if you want diverse results. For example, in a list of quotes, ask the AI to include both men and women.

    ChatGPT generating a list of books for entrepreneurs.

    Writing social posts

    You can use ChatGPT to generate ideas for social posts that you can use to promote each of your content pieces. Request multiple ideas so you can pick and choose from a variety of phrases.

    For the best social post results:

    • Include your keywords.

    • Specify the word count.

    • Specify the tone of the language.

    • Tell ChatGPT to include links in the post.

    • Request conversion language (such as “keep reading” or “learn more”).

    Five Twitter posts generated by ChatGPT.

    Generating titles, meta titles, and meta descriptions

    ChatGPT and Google Bard can also quickly generate titles and metadata that can help you break free from writer’s block and think more creatively.

    Here’s how to get the best titles, meta titles, and meta descriptions:

    • Specify character limits.

    • Include your primary keyword.

    • Provide descriptors for the tone, such as urgent, calming, or informative.

    Google Bard generating article titles.

    Final thoughts: How to use ChatGPT prompt engineering for your SEO strategy

    With AI, you get what you give. In other words, the more clear and specific you are when creating requests, the more relevant the output you’ll receive. As you start implementing these tactics for writing better prompts, you can take your efficiency to the next level.

    For optimal content quality and higher search engine rankings, combine ChatGPT or Google Bard with AI content research and optimization tools like Clearscope. If you’re ready to unlock the potential of your SEO content, explore Clearscope today.

    Written by
    Bernard Huang
    Co-founder of Clearscope
    ©2024 Mushi Labs. All rights reserved.
    Terms of service, Privacy policy