Artificial intelligence (AI) is the simulation of human intelligence by machines. Once a thing of science fiction, AI is now a part of our everyday lives. We use it in ways we might not even realize — through digital assistants like Siri and Alexa, facial recognition that gives us access to devices, and “smart” household appliances.
We even see AI-powered writing in action when Google (and the like) finish sentences for us as we write emails.
But what about AI-generated content for marketing? Can machines generate quality digital content that engages real human customers?
The short answer: yes. The long answer: it’s complicated.
There’s no doubt that AI-generated content marketing writing is getting smarter and more “human” as time goes on. In fact, we have all probably read articles written — at least partly — by machines without even knowing it.
But if you ask me (and Google, and many content marketing industry experts) we’re still a long way off from AI replacing human writers. There’s an X factor — empathy — that even the smartest AI-powered machine writers just can’t replicate (and likely won’t any time soon).
That said, there are ways AI-generated content marketing can be used by companies to make their content strategies more informed and efficient.
In the sections that follow, we’ll explore AI-generated content marketing from all of these angles. We’ll cover:
- The definition and history of AI-generated content marketing
- Google’s take on AI-generated content
- Why humans are still so important to content creation (and will be for the foreseeable future)
- Ways to use AI-generated content tools without sacrificing quality
Let’s dive in.
- The release of OpenAI’s GPT tools has powered huge growth in AI-generated content marketing.
- Google considers AI-generated content to be in violation of its Webmaster Guidelines and thus categorizes it as spam.
- AI-generated content tools can generate content that sounds human, but they cannot capture unique brand personalities or write with empathy for the customer.
- GPT and similar tools are powerful for enhancing content creation and strategies, but are not suitable to replace human writers.
AI-generated content: definition and brief history
What is AI-generated content?
As its name suggests, AI-generated content is content created by AI-powered tools. Founded in natural language generation (NLG) technology, AI-generated content mimics human writing with its ability to scan the internet for data (existing content) and summarize it the way a human writer would.
For a long time, we heard about the pending emergence of AI-generated content marketing, but it was slow to take. OpenAI’s release of its Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT) tool in 2018 changed that. With only a small amount of input, the GPT tool can generate large volumes of sophisticated AI-generated text.
Every version of the GPT tool brings new capabilities and higher levels of intelligence. The biggest jump occurred with the release of GPT-3, when the tool achieved its most significant jump in skill and accuracy.
Image Source: SEMRush
The evolution of OpenAI’s GPT tools
GPT-1 proved that AI-generated content could be created with zero-shot performance — in other words, the tool could classify data it hadn’t seen before in training models, then use it to carry out tasks. GPT-2 expanded on this with a larger dataset and more parameters to make its language processing capabilities (like translation and summarization) even stronger.
What made the GPT-3 model so much more sophisticated than those that preceded it is its massive size — with more than 175 billion parameters, it was 100X larger than GPT-2. This gave it an unprecedented ability to generate unique content that reads like a human wrote it.
Here’s a visual of how that number compares to other NLG tools:
Image Source: TechTarget
Now, to give you an idea of how much more advanced GPT-4 is expected to be, it will have 100 trillion parameters. It hasn’t been released yet, but is expected to be here some time in 2022.
So what does this all mean to us regular folks without technical knowledge of AI?
Basically, each GPT tool has expanded the knowledge base on which it operates — the datasets it has stored and the variables (parameters) by which it draws conclusions and “learns,” — and thus the sophistication level of the content it produces has gone up with each new version.
The question remains then: at what point will it get to the same sophistication level as actual humans?
An obvious place to turn for insight here is Google. For content marketers, Google is very much the master of our fate in many respects. It determines what ranking factors will place our content at the top of SERPs and evaluates what we publish with near-human ability. And as we already know, Google cares most about content being human-first.
If any doubts were arising about that with the emergence of GPT tools, Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller put them to rest in a recent Google SEO Hangout, where he discussed this very subject.
Let’s examine what he had to say.
What Google has to say about AI-generated content
Google’s SEO Hangout: A Recap
John Mueller’s remarks about AI-generated content were sparked by a question about his recent comments on a Reddit thread, on which he said creators should not be using AI to create content.
Reddit moderator Rohan Chaubey asked him to expand on the topic, to which Mueller said:
“[For] us, [AI-generated content] would, essentially, still fall into the category of automatically generated content. Which is something that we’ve had in the Webmaster Guidelines since almost the beginning . . . for us, if you’re using machine-learning tools to generate your content, it’s essentially the same as if you’re just, shuffling words around, or looking up synonyms, or doing kind of the translation tricks that people used to do.”
“My suspicion is that maybe the quality of content is a little bit better than the really old-school tools, but for us it’s still automatically-generated content, and that means for us, it’s still against the Webmaster guide. So we would consider that to be spam.”
When asked if Google was capable of recognizing AI-generated content, Mueller said:
“I can’t claim that. But for us, if we see that something is automatically generated, then the web spam team can definitely take action on that. And I don’t know how the future will evolve there, but I imagine, like with any of these other technologies, there will be a little bit of a cat-and-mouse game, where sometimes people will do something, and they get away with it. And then the web spam team catches up, and solves that issue on a broader scale.”
“But from our recommendation, we still see it as automatically-generated content. . . . Currently, it’s all against the Webmaster Guidelines. So from our point of view, if we were to run across something like that, if the web spam team were to see it, they would see it as spam.”
You can find John Mueller’s full remarks about AI-generated content in the video below around at the 22 minute mark.
So — a pretty clear position on the subject. It’s not totally surprising, given that Google has continually emphasized the importance of putting your human audience before any attempts to please the algorithm. It’s why keyword stuffing is so heavily penalized, and why Google has released guidelines like E-A-T/YMYL and the Page Experience update.
Google wants its users to have a positive experience on their site. To them, that means finding content that has been authentically created — by a human. And according to these recent comments, this human element is not negotiable and won’t be any time soon when it comes to the way Google evaluates content.
Empathy: the X factor content marketing will always need
If GPT tools (and others like them) are becoming so good at writing content that sounds like a human, why can’t they actually replace humans?
It really comes down to one essential factor for making content marketing successful: empathy.
Content marketing is ultimately about helping people. Content helps people solve problems and address needs. It provides value before a user ever makes a single purchase.
It creates a connection that makes people want to know more about your brand — and then eventually become paying customers — because their lives will in some way be made better (or at least easier) from doing so.
In the age of information overload that we live in today, this ability to empathize with users and make them feel understood is key to standing out from the crowd.
Right now, AI-generated content marketing tools can assess all of the existing content in the world and spit out pretty high-quality (and yes, human-sounding) original content based on what’s already out there.
But these tools don’t know your customers, or the nuance that goes into making content resonate just for them. They don’t know your brand personality, or how to maintain the voice and tone that makes you original. These are the things you still need humans to do.
Without humans, you risk publishing accurate but generic (or worse, tone deaf) content that misses the mark for your unique audience.
All of this said, there are several ways you can utilize these powerful tools to make your content strategy more efficient and give your writers a launch point for creating the content you need.
Let’s explore 4 of these valuable use cases.
Using AI-generated content marketing tools (without sacrificing quality)
GPT tools can be utilized to help generate ideas around the topics you know are most important to your brand. You can give the tool starting information, such as focus keywords, and ask it to generate blog titles or ideas for other content pieces based on other content that already exists on the web.
If skyscraper content is part of your strategy or you’re looking for a way to edge out competitors on certain topics, AI-generated content marketing tools can help you do it at high volume and in very little time.
Here’s an example of an inquiry I made in the tool for blog post ideas about content marketing. You can see the simple query at the top — “List of blog post ideas for keyword ‘content marketing’” — and the 10 ideas it generated for me in just seconds.
Image Source: Marketing Insider Group
One place where I’ve found the GPT tool to be somewhat limited is in the generation of long-form text. While it can generate content that’s grammatically sound, it isn’t as nuanced as long-form content created by a human.
However, I can see this as a helpful tool for giving writers a starting point and asking them to expand on an AI-generated draft with more brand-specific content (like real-world examples and expert takes on a topic).
AI-generated content marketing tools can help you quickly scour the web for statistics related to the topics you’re writing about. I made a quick inquiry for “List of statistics about content marketing in the SaaS industry” and this is what the tool came up with:
Image Source: Marketing Insider Group
The one limitation I found with this use case is that the statistics don’t come with sources. That said, I was able to easily find the original sources for most of these stats with a Google search.
This use case may not be the most original (or the most necessary) given that word processors automatically edit spelling and grammar as you write. Still, it’s important to note that you can ask the tool to edit text you’ve written and it will do so in just seconds.
To test it, I pasted the intro to this blog post with intentional spelling errors, and the tool caught them all.
Fighting writer’s block
The use case perhaps most appreciated by human writers is the ability for AI-generated content marketing tools to help combat writer’s block — that dreaded feeling that often comes along with a blinking cursor on a blank page. If you’re writing about a topic and you don’t know where to start, you can enter your keywords and/or title in the GPT tool to generate an intro that gets you started. You can even enter it a few times to get some different ideas.
Putting it all together
I think the big takeaway when it comes to AI-generated content marketing in 2022 (and for the foreseeable future) is that it should be embraced, but only as a tool — not as a replacement — for human writers.
AI tools clearly have the power to help brands generate ideas at scale and better understand competitive content. But they can’t capture unique brand personalities, messages, and audience needs. Depending on them to do so puts you at risk of not only being dinged by the search engine powers that be (AKA Google) but of failing to resonate with your customers.
Over to You
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