The Interview: Caitlin Hathaway – Navigating the Intersection of SEO, Audience Growth, and AI.

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Progressing with our series, this segment shifts focus to the intersection of SEO and AI through the lens of Caitlin Hathaway’s expertise. As an Audience & SEO Strategist, Caitlin has a unique perspective on leveraging AI to refine SEO strategies and foster audience growth. Through this interview, we aim to explore the symbiosis between AI’s analytical capabilities and the nuanced art of SEO, offering insights into the future of digital workspaces and content optimization.

This Week’s Insight: Caitlin Hathaway Unveils the Fusion of SEO, Audience Engagement, and AI’s Role

Caitlin Hathaway Unveils the Fusion of SEO, Audience Engagement, and AI's Role

Caitlin Hathaway‘s SEO career started in 2019 after graduating in Business Management & Marketing from Nottingham Trent University. Initially in software sales, selling enterprise SEO software, she quickly grew passionate about SEO. Her dedication to learning and practical application evolved her into an SEO specialist, with experience in agencies, startups, and publishing. Now an Audience Development Strategist, she combines SEO, data analytics, and content publishing to forge meaningful brand-customer connections, with a keen interest in integrating AI into SEO for innovative approaches to workflows and automation.

This week, we shift our focus towards the integration of AI in SEO and audience growth with Caitlin Hathaway, a recognised expert in the field. Caitlin brings her rich experience in leveraging AI for SEO optimization, challenging our preconceptions and showcasing innovative strategies. Our discussion will dive into the nuances of content visibility, the evolution of search engines, and the ethical considerations of AI in digital marketing.

Integration of AI in SEO Processes: How do you integrate artificial intelligence into your SEO processes to enhance organic search performance?

CH: I mainly integrate AI in my workflow, and have seen the biggest successes in the form of time-savings, automating tasks and improved recommendations.

AI has changed a lot about how I approach my content optimisation processes. One of my current processes includes reviewing content for its helpfulness, and how well it adheres to Google’s E-E-A-T principles. Google has specific guidelines it released about demonstrating E-E-A-T on your site, and in your content.

One of them includes the Search Quality Rater guidelines, a 160+ page document which details how to judge webpage and search result quality, focusing on understanding webpage purposes, distinguishing between high and low-quality content, and assessing content based on user needs.

This document is so lengthy, that it’s difficult to quickly assess how your content adheres to the guidelines, unless you have read the entire document, and were able to recall its specific examples.

I experimented and created a Search Quality Rater GPT to act as an assistant resource to this process. Its trained on the lengthy guideline doc, with instructions to read the content as if it were a Search Quality rater, and offer areas of improvement and recommendations by the guidelines. 

I started feeding it pages and was pleased with the outputs – alongside my manual review, it proposed areas I had missed and went even more in-depth with sensible recommendations to improve the content, quoting the guidelines to backup its reasoning. 

Since, I have created other GPTs to assist me with content optimisation:

  • Review Analyzer GPT: GPT analyses according to Google’s High-Quality Review guidelines, as well as the Search Quality Rater Guidelines
  • EXP Boost GPT: GPT that gives recommendations on how to better showcase the ‘Experience’ of your content. It’s built with the search quality rater guidelines and Experience examples in docs to form its knowledge base.
  • Entity Analyst GPT: Performs entity analysis on search queries (identifying nuances of queries, entity names, types, and the relationships between these entities) using Google’s patent ‘Methods, systems, and media for interpreting entities in search queries‘.

This is just the surface and an area I’m hugely passionate about. With more time, I’m hoping to experiment even more and create GPTs with the ideas I have.

AI Tools and Techniques: Can you share examples of AI tools or techniques that have significantly improved your approach to SEO, especially in terms of audience development and analysis?


I love exploring how AI can be used alongside my current processes.  I test out multiple platforms and find unique and helpful ways to extract valuable insights into areas such as audience interests, trending topics, and the audience’s content preferences. 

I’ve written up about these in detail in my guide to building a content strategy using LLMs.

Here are a few examples I’ve found, focusing on audience research:

CoPilot within the Microsoft Edge browser allows you to gain insights about a website, such as monthly traffic trends, top referring countries, and how visitors found the site. This has really helped me understand a website’s audience, the audience’s behaviour, and also identify potential competitors.

Google Gemini can be used to find breaking news and trending topics within a specific industry or niche. This can help create relevant content that resonates with your audience’s interests. I feel more work needs to be done to integrate Google’s products such as Google News and Google Trends but when this happens, it’ll be a real game changer! 

I’ve also used Gemini to suggest relevant subreddits based on your audience’s interests. You can then scrape these subreddits for common questions and discussions, providing insights into content topics that would engage your audience.

You can also use GPTs to help you craft detailed user personas – my favourite GPT is the AI User Persona Generator by FeaturedGPTs. It can help create detailed user personas by analysing your website and generating personas with information like pain points, challenges, motivations, and user stories. 

Pros and Cons of AI in SEO: From your experience, what are the most significant advantages and challenges of utilising AI in SEO practices?



As mentioned before, you can achieve huge time savings by automating very manual SEO tasks through AI, and better spend your time on tasks that bring more ROI. You can scale these solutions through AI than a human could, and complete tasks much faster in some cases!

Not even specific to an SEO workflow – but with the introduction of AI, there are plenty of opportunities to evaluate your workflow and where there may be very manual processes.

I ask myself these questions when looking at how I can optimise a task or a current workflow:

  • What is my most manual task?
  • How long am I spending on this task?
  • Can AI possibly help me to automate one part of the task, or even completely automate it?
  • What’s stopping me from experimenting and building my own solution?

I then block out a couple of hours and start exploring solutions through multiple platforms, from ChatGPT, Gemini, Claude, CoPilot and more. Every single time, I have found a new way to do something better, and had so much fun discovering how!


Unfortunately, with the introduction of AI, there are now much quicker ways to do certain tasks than before, such as producing content. This sounds great, but in reality, entirely offsetting your content processes to AI can be harmful, as the content can be factually incorrect, misleading, and plagurised from original sources. 

The internet has been increasingly flooded with completely AI-generated content, as this is now incredibly easy to do with ChatGPT (recommend reading the infamous SEO heist that angered the SEO industry). You only need to prompt it to generate a ‘blog post’ on any topic you wish, and it will output a huge chunk of text that can then be copied and pasted on your site (do NOT do this, please!! 🙁 )

Over time, this new AI content has been hurting the quality of the search results, as search engines haven’t developed sophisticated enough systems to decipher between AI content and authentic content written by humans. Now, lots of spammy content is ranking well for lots of competitive queries.

This issue is not just present across search but social platforms too, including Reddit and social media. With OpenAI’s Sora announcement, AI video content will likely soon flood video platforms when its launched to the public.

Google has very specific guidelines about AI-generated content. If you were to offset content creation completely onto AI, with the goal to perform well on search, Google would consider this as spam, and treat your site as such. But again, Google is not so good at detecting AI content as it should be yet.

This is a huge challenge SEOs are currently facing with AI – as it can be used irresponsibly to generate masses of content that hasn’t been human-reviewed, likely duplicated, or plagiarised from other sources.

Adapting to AI-driven Changes in SEO: How do you stay ahead of the curve in adapting to AI-driven changes in search engine algorithms?

CH: I recommend keeping ahead by reading up on the ongoing developments, as it will pay off in the long term 🙂 

As an SEO, I’m always keeping tabs on how Google and Bing are integrating AI into search products. Google has their Search Generative Experience (SGE) and Bing has integrated CoPilot into their search.

While Google SGE and Bing Search with CoPilot are a long way off from becoming the norm in how we search, it’s advantageous to test them out and understand how they’re developing. AI will inevitably transform search products, as well as how people search in the future, so keeping informed is more important than ever. 

To better prepare for an AI-driven Search landscape in the future, I also like to analyse Google Search patents using my Patent Analyser GPT. I feed it the latest patents that Google has submitted, get it to translate the patent into a much simpler language, to uncover potential changes coming to Google search.

This is a recent discovery I found: 

Radar Recognition-Aided Search – to understand not just verbal search queries but also non-verbal cues like gestures or physiological states to refine search outcomes.

For example: 

Starting the Search: You’re walking down a street, looking for a café to grab a coffee. You ask your smartwatch, “Where’s the nearest café?” This verbal query starts the search process.

Gesture Recognition: As you speak, you also naturally point towards the end of the street you’re heading towards. The smartwatch, equipped with radar-based gesture recognition, detects this pointing gesture. The system understands that you’re not just looking for any café but specifically one in the direction you’re pointing.

Physiological Data Analysis: Simultaneously, the smartwatch monitors your physiological data and notices an elevated heart rate, possibly indicating that you haven’t had your morning coffee yet and are in a hurry. It might also recognise the slight tremor in your hand gesture, further emphasising your urgency.

Refining Search Results: Using this combined information—the verbal query “nearest café,” the direction you’re pointing in, and your physiological state indicating urgency—the system refines the search results. Instead of showing a list of all nearby cafés, it prioritizes one that is directly ahead on your path and known for quick service. Your smartwatch then tells you, “There’s a QuickCup café about 200 meters straight ahead. They’re fast, and you’ll have your coffee in no time!”

If this patent comes into play, this would massively change the local SEO landscape!!!

If you’re interested in analysing patents yourself, here are some resources:

From this, I’ve learned of the potential transformations on the horizon, and helps me better prepare 🙂

AI’s Role in SEO Performance Measurement: How has AI transformed the way you measure and report on SEO performance and organic traffic growth?

CH: One of my first projects where I used AI was when I built a way to automate a lengthy process we had. It was the first time I really used ChatGPT and realised its huge potential. has massively helped me build much better systems to monitor performance and reporting.

I use a lot of dashboards and Google Sheets to monitor site performance and keep tabs  Before AI, this used to be a very manual process of creating the sheets, and crafting the right formulas which took up too much time.

When ChatGPT launched, I used its free version to find a way to automate one aspect of our reporting. It was incredibly productive and I used it as an assistant to help me create a complex monitoring system, which I still use to this day.

Since then, I’ve heavily relied on ChatGPT to help me build more monitoring systems which has helped me spot opportunities and issues more quickly, and work more reactively across all of our sites. 

To this day, I use ChatGPT to upskill on scripts, formulas, as well as programming languages including SQL and Python, to help me build more sophisticated systems in the future.

Future of AI in SEO and Audience Development: What are your predictions for the future role of AI in SEO over the next few years?

CH: I don’t think traditional search as we know it is going anywhere for the time being – there’s currently no better solution.

Saying that, people have generally been complaining about the quality of the search results for some time now, and finding new ways to search using different platforms:

  • Users started appending Reddit to their search queries (myself included)
  • The new generations are preferring to research on social media such as TikTok (source)
  • 73% of consumers prefer short-form videos to learn about products or services (Hootsuite)
  • More people are also using ChatGPT to answer their informational queries instead of sifting through search results

I’m about to make a very big statement – but I believe a new competitor will enter the search market and shake things up massively. 

Google has had a hugely dominant 90%~ market share for the longest time and I feel a shakeup is on the horizon, I believe AI is the catalyst for this.

I envision there will be a distributed shift across all the above platforms I mentioned. If a new competitor can somehow integrate all or some parts of the above, they will likely win a large amount of market share in the future.

Wherever your audience go – I would advocate focusing on methods that authentically engage your audience, approach AI sensibly and be transparent about any use of it on your platforms or sites. 

My current stance is to prioritise human-created content, or to heavily review any AI-generated content with human experts in their field – and make sure to signpost this.

Final Thoughts: Envisioning SEO and AI’s Collaborative Path with Caitlin.

NL: Engaging with Caitlin Hathaway has provided a profound dive into SEO’s evolving realms, AI’s integration, and the strategic pivot towards audience-centric approaches. Her forward-looking perspective sheds light on the nuanced shifts within the digital landscape, emphasizing the pivotal role of AI in crafting future-ready SEO strategies. This dialogue reinforces the notion that the synergy between human ingenuity and AI’s analytical prowess is key to navigating the complexities of modern digital engagement, urging a thoughtful embrace of technology that aligns with authentic human values and creativity. Big thanks to Caitlin for her invaluable perspectives, reminding us of the critical balance between human creativity and technological advancement.

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