Artificial intelligence (AI) has been the center of much discussion lately. With the bravado of a classic science fiction novel, we’re catching a glimpse of how it might look for machines to render works of art and write content in seconds, as is the case with OpenAI’s Chat Generative Pre-Training Transformer (ChatGPT).
Mark Twain is most-often attributed with the brilliant saying: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” No one is certain who said it first —but this is the perfect time to rhyme their sentiment.
Most people are just now starting to take real notice of AI in marketing, but for those who study emerging technologies, there’s something eerily familiar developing.
AI helps us do amazing things with internet searches, website optimization, and SEO rankings. It can also pull from a global library of human-generated data to composite digital paintings and compose logical, accurate blog content. Many people are concerned about whether AI might render us mere mortals obsolete.
As we look closer at the impact of AI on digital marketing in 2023, we witness the narrowing of that gap between our wondrously unique human spirit and an impressive counterfeit.
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Disruptive Technology: A Brief Glimpse at the Past
The Linn LM-1, invented in 1980, was the first drum machine to use recorded samples of real drums, allowing musicians to program patterns that replayed these sounds—even automating playback without recording to tape.
If this seems like a strange detour from AI in marketing, don’t worry—it will make sense soon enough.
Machine and Man
When recording studios purchased their first Linn drum machines, trepidation spread across the music industry: “Machines are going to put us, drummers, out of work!”
Two years later, the first compact discs arrived in Japan, ushering in the era of “CD-quality sound.” Now, sampling keyboards could recreate practically any instrument with pristine sound, allowing humans to mimic instrumentalists in revolutionary ways, with ease, threatening live orchestras, pianists, and even the existence of the music union.
Go home, folks. It’s over.
Except, something very interesting happened.
Surprise: Breakthroughs in Technology Often Illuminate Humanity’s Strengths
With the Linn drum machine, people soon appreciated just how difficult it was to mimic the feel of a live, professional drummer. Instead of ending the age of session drummers, the best talents were in higher demand than ever. Meanwhile, drum machines gave birth to dozens of radical new genres of music.
Similarly, sampling keyboards that replicated orchestras found their niche, but forty-plus years later, every movie studio doubles down on the marketability of live, orchestrated movie soundtracks.
There’s always been a common thread sewn between different art forms. Whether it’s music, cooking, fashion, painting, sculpting, architecture, or writing—the arts measure the rise and fall of civilizations by way of humanity, telling our story through sound, imagery, and word.
Art mirrors who we are—a permanent connection between the past, present, and future.
AI is the first technology of its kind with the capacity to ruminate over these human expressions, and to emulate them. We’re witnessing a technological innovation founded upon that burst of inspiration that elevates an idea: the human spirit.
AI’s impact isn’t limited to the arts. It is a transformative technology that will affect every industry—including digital marketing.
Below, we’ll take our understanding of how technology has shaped industries in the past and look closely at how AI is currently used in content marketing and its potential roles in the future.
AI Marketing in the Present
Companies that have actively pursued AI early provide a peek at how AI-assisted processes can give future-focused companies a competitive edge. In a 2017 Deloitte survey of 250 businesses that were aggressive early adopters of AI, 83% of respondents had already achieved moderate or substantial benefits from AI technology.
The Benefits of AI in Marketing
AI marketing is already assisting content marketing companies for:
- Using fast, accurate information to improve products and services
- Optimizing internal operations
- Making marketing and sales more efficient and effective
- Freeing up their workforce for better productivity by using AI for automated, repeated tasks
- Identifying new marketing opportunities with better analytics
How Is AI Helping with SEO and Search?
Our Sr. SEO Director, Tyler Brown, and VP of Product, James Straatman, weighed in on the impact of AI in SEO campaigns and search.
According to Tyler, while AI isn’t ready “to do any heavy lifting with actual keyword research,” it can be beneficial by “help[ing] organize and classify the keywords found in the research process.” Much like paid ads, AI assists in testing alternative titles and metadata for fast metrics on what phrasing yields the best results.
James adds that AI works as a valuable “starting point on content ideas/topics (particularly when faced with writer’s block).”
Resources like ChatGPT can assist in generating data for schema markup, like FAQs, product pages, and offer pages.
The following are just a few ways AI is a huge benefit for off-site SEO:
- Helping to find relevant blogs
- Sourcing influencers in a given niche
- Searching for interviewing opportunities
- Automating tasks by integrating with platforms like Zapier
AI is helpful for filtering and sorting source data, originating concepts from deep research, and as in all areas, speeding up menial, repetitive tasks.
- Finding internal link placements
- Translating keyword research into multiple languages
- Generating hreflang tags
- Offering ideas for final headline variations
- Requesting link outreach opportunities
Things That Aren’t AI’s Greatest Strengths
AI like ChatGPT works by ingesting massive, global databases as source material. This can be a huge time-saver but can also deliver results that are inaccurate, biased, and out of date. It’s imperative that humans remain the true fact-checking filter for everything AI serves up in results.
These areas will improve over time, and with that, we’ll all adapt to our best roles.
AI’s Impact on Content Marketing
Much of the recent interest in AI comes from ChatGPT’s demonstration of the ability to understand source constraints and draft impressive compositions. We asked our Creative Services Director, Jaime Theler, to weigh in on AI’s effects on content.
ChatGPT operates from the data you provide—a series of prompts that allow it to apply a sophisticated data request across millions of potential sources, quickly forming them in a logical written result.
While it’s clear AI will be pivotal in shaping the future of content creation, there isn’t a single answer for what this looks like. “Right now,” Jaime says, “AI can produce passable content, but not the type of valuable, people-first content that Google is already looking for,” as they outlined in their August 2022 Helpful Content Update.
While the best efforts of AI still can’t compete with—or replace—human-created content, marketers have a wealth of ways to leverage AI as an innovative tool to further the human creative process.
Challenges and Risks of AI in Marketing
In a 2021 Gartner survey, 80% of executives reported that their business can apply AI to any business decision. But, under a magnifying glass, we can identify some genuine challenges that come from the push to do so.
For instance, only 3% of these executives cited data and privacy as a primary AI concern, but 41% of surveyed companies have experienced data breaches resulting from their AI processes. With optimization comes new risks.
AI works by feeding it enormous volumes of specific data. When companies deal with customers and demographics, they face the responsibility of protecting personally identifiable information.
The double-sided sword of AI is the sheer amount of data shared rapidly across all departments in a company. AI is capable of repurposing data that links directly to individuals—even when that isn’t its intended use. AI is being used to an equal degree by those seeking to steal that data, making cybersecurity management that much more critical.
Plagiarism and Education
A great measure of caution and thought go into AI advances like ChatGPT, but at this early stage, it’s impossible to prepare the best limitations and safeguards to prevent plagiarism. Educational institutions now face a new complexity—how to identify when students break the rules, lying about the origin of their papers.
Beyond the classroom, the issue of plagiarism goes to the very nature of how intellectual property (IP) is used and attributed online. AI may be capable of rewording sources in a unique manner, but the way AI gathers its data may cross legal boundaries. We’re at the very start of a lengthy philosophical debate over whether AI should have an entirely new set of standards for compliance.
New technology also requires new skill sets, calling for new hires who specialize in customizing and optimizing code and datasets, internal data security, and cybersecurity protection.
AI in Marketing in the (Near) Future: Looking Ahead in 2023
Like every major technological innovation, digital marketing will benefit from AI in numerous ways, so it’s important for CMOs to understand how AI might impact audience research, operational efficiency, and data analysis for their team.
There are two primary ways that AI will assist content marketing in 2023 and long term: machine learning and automation.
AI Propels Automation
Programs may use AI to automate repetitive, necessary tasks or further improve accuracy, allowing for human resources to be applied to more consequential roles. As automation streamlines more processes, AI continues to learn.
In 2023, automation and machine learning will be used more for numerous aspects of AI in marketing, including:
- Campaign approvals
- Campaign metrics and analysis
- Augmentation of current roles for accuracy and insight
- Enhanced ad buy forecasts
- Intelligent use of online user cache data to serve dynamic online ads
- Automation and improvement of repetitive tasks
- Programmatic ad buys
AI’s Always on the Clock
Unlike people, AI doesn’t tire from long stretches. In fact, thanks to machine learning, it continues to increase in efficiency from 24/7 tasks—as long as it’s fed accurate data.
AI Assists with Company-Wide Data Sharing
AI is getting more use for data sharing for internal operations. Often, operations are siloed in unintended ways. AI helps optimize and facilitate data sharing across entire companies while doing so faster than was possible before.
How Will AI in Marketing Affect Search Engines and Search Behavior?
We turned to our very own Founder and CEO, Bryan Phelps, for his insight on AI’s impact on search engines and behavior.
AI Will Continue to Determine Search Results
Like so many content marketing trends that will define the years to come, AI technology has been driving search results for several years, and in 2023 that continues to increase. For instance, Google’s answer boxes and EEAT formula integrate AI machine learning based on deep metrics about how Google assesses source accuracy and authority. Google has been optimizing this AI since 2015, when they first implemented RankBrain for active use.
Voice Searches Will Increase (and Assistants Will Improve)
Like Bryan says, “Voice search assistants…are great (but not perfect) at addressing matter-of-fact answers.” Of course, without further research, how do you separate the accurate answers from the garbage?
As more people use assisted voice search devices like Siri and Alexa, search engines will strive toward more accurate interfacing and interpretation of searches in the form of questions, improving their understanding of more complex queries.
Meanwhile, device developers will fight over their market share, largely based on which one is better at delivering accurate information to search engines.
The more these search assistants are used, the more website owners will want to evaluate how well their organic content addresses the words people use for question-based searches. Websites that only provide very basic information will fall behind in results without optimizing for more conversational queries.
Voice-Assisted Tech Is Only Halfway There
While it’s true Google, Amazon, and Apple have succeeded in bringing their voice assistant hardware to the forefront of daily culture, they aren’t bringing the profits the tech giants had hoped for.
People are using voice assistants for a simplified version of question-based searches. While they aren’t performing as well as expected in the market, the real challenge we face with the underlying AI is important to understand.
These hardware devices have provided Google (not to mention Amazon and Apple) with priceless years of data about how we think and formulate our questions.
The goal in voice-activated search, from Google’s perspective, is to seamlessly integrate into our daily conversations. As explained by the controversial Google-employed futurist Ray Kurzweil in his lecture on “How to Create a Mind,” by analyzing and identifying when we are seeking information, Google’s AI will more readily insert itself into the discussion.
This brings us back to the contemplation about privacy and ethics: When would we prefer that Google simply mind its own business? Before we set out to create the mind, do we need to answer the question of whether it’s even a good idea?
Digital marketing goes to the very heart of how we define search, how we give our best selves to the content we create, and how we want AI to benefit us all.
These concerns mark how early we are in our journey alongside AI technology.
Many would warn that there’s an urgent need to define a framework of boundaries for what we want AI to learn about us, and how that should be used. Do we simply want better technology? Or, do we want giants of industry reverse-engineering us by way of our thoughts, words, and creativity?
In the past, there have been concerns about the impact of Google and zero-click searches—partly due to some inflated inaccuracies in early studies.
Findings published in 2020 sent SEO specialists into a tailspin by claiming that a full 64.82% of Google searches terminated on the search results page without the user clicking on any of the results. However, updated 2022 data from Semrush covered 609,809 searches from 20,000 users and provides a more accurate picture: 25.6% of desktop searches and 17.3% of mobile searches resulted in zero-click answers.
AI ad placement will rely on the same advances as zero-click results—a win for content marketing, since the same progress generating these results should fuel how paid ads connect to your target audience.
The Impact of AI on Advertisers
For insights about how AI will affect advertisers, we turned to our VP of Paid Media, Ellie Campbell. Ellie explains how AI can be a powerful tool when segmenting ads for different demographics. “Going forward,” she points out, “you’ll have to be much more intentional with your messaging, content, and audience segments.” Programs like ChatGPT are increasingly valuable AI marketing tools for A/B testing campaigns.
AI can bring efficiency to testing when it comes to core messaging with different personas, tailoring ad copy before launching full-budget campaigns. Better data allows content writers to work from a much more specific and accurate perspective. In this scenario, AI can offer time—the ability to compress how fast someone can potentially test their ad variations before fine-tuning them for an expensive paid campaign.
AI is forcing advertisers to sharpen their craft. Those who create superior, highly targeted campaigns will only shine brighter the more prevalent AI becomes.
AI Is Big Money for Big Tech
Google’s revenue from its advertising products and services is on track to rise from $62 billion in 2021 to $81 billion by 2024. This reflects the market value placed on AI-driven ad placement based on AI-enhanced demographics and intelligent tracking of online user activity.
The resounding message is clear: Tech companies are going to seek opportunities to grab a piece of the AI pie, and that’s bound to influence the direction of AI in marketing in 2023 and beyond.
Revolutionary Innovation: Reflecting on AI in Marketing for 2023 and Beyond
AI-generated text is impressive, but it’s not flawless—nor is it immune to the severe implications of copyright infringement linked to the technology itself. AI can be a great tool for testing script ideas and performing fast-paced ad copy variations throughout planning and strategy.
Nobody can say for sure the exact direction industries will go due to AI’s impact. But the past strongly suggests several factors that are guaranteed to play a role.
Innovation Takes Time
There will continue to be bumps in the road with AI development. With every breakthrough, there will be new discoveries about why it is so difficult to mimic the intricacies of the human mind.
Changes in Technology Are Exponential
AI developments are hastening because it is an exponential technology. The easiest way to understand this is a concept called Moore’s Law, which essentially formulates how cost, resources, and supplies ultimately increase the rate of progress.
A great example is semiconductors: As they get cheaper to produce, it’s easier to use more computer processing power to assist in designing smaller, faster, more efficient microchips. AI is on a trajectory to scale its capabilities exponentially due to this phenomenon.
There Will Be Consequences
There’s no question that AI will continue to play a larger role in virtually every industry. AI will be viewed as a radically disruptive technology.
There Will Be Denial
The companies that will suffer the most from advancements in AI are those who bury their heads in the proverbial sand, pretending that it will never replace those very processes where breakthroughs are already taking form.
Companies that ignore change will likely close their doors, leaving greater market share to content marketers who embrace change and match it to the strengths of their team.
The Best Will Be in Greater Demand
For the innovative thinkers in marketing, AI will be their best (inanimate) friend, precisely targeting demographics, isolating strategic word use, aligning to Google’s standards for better ranking, and focusing on the human expertise it takes for brands to dominate in their niche.
Importantly, AI amplifies the need for that elusive human spirit that simultaneously transcends and defines the epoch of our time. Marketers who are capable of unique thought leadership works, carefully engrained keyword intent, and recognizably human traits (we are humans, after all) will rise above the mundane, which also means rising above fear.
Many are fearful that AI is here to replace us. The truth is, it is trying its very best to mimic us, and in its current iteration, AI is drawing from a database of humanity. It will improve and will do so much faster in the future.
It should be no surprise when we realize that inspired human effort and achievement merge well with technology; indeed, it’s those who recognize a revolution brewing and harness the zeitgeist of our time who become the next leaders of the industry.
Take a Big Leap Forward in Your Marketing in 2023
Like that Linn drum machine more than forty years ago, the best marketing and writing talents will be in high demand as new approaches to marketing splinter off of the innovations from this uncharted technological era.
At Big Leap, we’ve been helping companies upgrade their SEO and digital marketing game since 2008. Interested in learning more about how Big Leap’s talented team can help you reach your content marketing goals in 2023? We’d love to hear from you today!
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