Wherever you look these days, AI is virtually everywhere—in the algorithms recommending you videos on YouTube or TikToks, in advertising and blogs and in images that can be almost indistinguishable from actual artists.
Sometimes, when reading an article, you realize that something seems a little off, a little mechanical or formulaic and get this strange feeling that a human did not write this. But as much as people view the inevitable rise of AI with wary suspicion, it is here to stay; this much is for sure.
From a marketing perspective, you are now wondering how this will change how marketing will be done. Can you survive without AI, or is the risk too high to get left behind? Let’s be honest, do you really still need a digital marketing agency if you can get AI to do everything for you?
As a content manager and writer, I’ve asked myself the same question: what if I could be made redundant? So when I say that you still need a digital marketing agency despite the rise of AI, it’s not just my instinct for self-preservation making me write that, but my experience with the subject. But don’t just take my word for it; I brought receipts.
So, first of all, everybody talks about AI this and GPT that and the whole nine yards, but what actually is it? For some of us, it’s this impending evil lurking in the shadows like Skynet taking over everything, and before we know it, us humans are no longer needed. For others, it’s just this thing that you hear about everywhere, but it’s not quite clear what it is, does or eats during winter.
To clear this up, let’s a look what AI models, or GPT (Generative Pre-training Transformer), actually are. “Generative” means that the model can generate and create something new. “Pre-training” stands for the way the model builds its knowledge. A GPT undergoes training by processing vast volumes of data, learning phrases, sentence structures, mechanics, tones and more. View it like someone reading every single book in a huge library and extracting every bit of information. This will form the foundation for the last part, “transforming” this knowledge into an output. It creates a framework that connects all the different parts into a cohesive whole, whether it is text, data or, in some cases, images.
The Limitations of AI-Generated Content
Whether you need a blog, an email or an ad copy, these AI models can create any content quickly and in scalable quantities. It can even be automated, so where is the downside? Well, as usual if it sounds too good to be true, it is. While it’s great to create ideas, follow trends and even detect language tones, it can be pretty easy to spot AI-generated content, especially if you’ve worked with GPT models before. It lacks emotions, humour, nuances, and contextual understanding and likes to recycle specific phrases and words. So, while technically perfectly structured and correct, it can read, well, artificial.
Take this as an example. chatGPT loves to use the terms “realm” and “world”, so if you ask it for an introduction (or whole blog post), chances are high that it will use either of them, sometimes even twice. It also is very fond of “it’s a necessity,” and we’re just looking at the first paragraph.
Potential Consequences for Your Business
Depending on the topic you are looking at, it can even downright lie to you. I’m not even kidding! What seems like hyperbole at first glance, actually is frighteningly true. If you ask for references or are looking for a certain number of points, and it can’t find enough examples, it might just create one that sounds plausible enough to fool the casual reader (and even the author) but could seriously undermine your authority with content matter specialists.
To prove this, I just asked chatGPT for a list of 10 sources for why heavy metal music is good for your mental stability (fun fact: it is!). I won’t put all ten of them, but let’s just say that not a single one of them actually exists. Sure, they all read very plausible when looking at them, but without fact-checking, you’re in trouble.
I remember one case in the USA where two lawyers turned to AI to help with case research and find case precedents to help their client. Because chatGPT could not find any cases in its database, it put bits and pieces of similar cases together to create cases that sounded entirely plausible. Now, the true problem was that the lawyers did not fact-check what chatGPT produced and submitted the brief. Needless to say, the judge and opposing legal counsel quickly discovered that none of the cited cases existed, and, yeah, you can imagine how that went down. The lawyers were fined, but the social media backlash and ridicule they were exposed to hurt far more…
As mentioned above, GPT learns from vast amounts of data, but this doesn’t mean that all of the data is correct, and AI cannot determine which of the data provided is accurate and which is wrong. So quickly pushed-out AI content may leave your customers confused or dissatisfied, leading to eroding subject matter authority and trust in your brand, which in today’s highly competitive world can make the difference between conversion and an empty sales funnel.
Depending on the industry or niche you do business in, the consequences can range from minor annoyance to potentially severe repercussions, for example, in medical, financial, or legal fields, so you definitely don’t want to risk leaving matters in the AI’s metaphorical hands.
Quality vs. Velocity
No company or digital marketing agency can ignore AI and its impact on the digital landscape, but, as with so many things, it all depends on how you use it. Efficient SEO (Search Engine Optimization) lives off the balance between content quality and velocity. On the one hand, producing content regularly can be an excellent way to get readers to come back to your website often, driving up organic traffic and building your brand’s authority and trust.
So, using AI to create a quick pipeline to crank out content is an attractive temptation, but what if this content is bland, factually incorrect or feels like content for content’s sake? Just as quickly, your reputation can go the other way, which can be challenging to recover from. I decided to be a little cheeky and ask chatGPT for a product review of itself.
In the introduction, you can see that it is trying to be engaging and make you want to read what it has to say, but I can’t shake the feeling that it’s just trying too hard to impress.
And while I will spare you its more detailed review (which averages at a modest 4.72 out of 5, by the way), the conclusion again feels formulaic despite attempting to use engaging phrases and words (and see how the world “realm” has crept in again?).
On the other hand, your readers value high-quality, relevant content, and the sophisticated almighty algorithms of search engines like Google can discern this quality content and rank it higher, bringing it closer to a broader audience. In a way, it weighs even heavier now, with more and more businesses and agencies using AI, because it helps stand out even more among the heaps of content quickly created daily.
What Does Google Say?
It may seem a little at odds for me to single out Google this much. Still, despite the Bings and DuckGoGos, Google is the entity throning over everything. Its algorithm is pretty much gospel for any digital marketing company (or company in general). So, I had mentioned its emphasis on content quality, but what does it actually mean with that?
Basically, it looks at the topic’s relevance and how effectively it communicates with your target audience. For a long time, keywords were the “big thing.” Hitting the keywords meant ranking high on Google, so let’s put as many keywords into the article as possible. The more the merrier, right? While keywords are critical, it doesn’t do the reader much good when there’s no flow left and readability is at an all-time low because they can’t read a paragraph without falling over a dozen keywords crammed into it.
In this example, I can’t shake the feeling that the author is trying to tell us something about coffee and coffee beans, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.
If you give AI a list of keywords to use in whichever text you ask it to write, it will very efficiently do so without any regard to readability. Often, it will repeat them, so formulaically, you will pause every time you encounter it and, at one point, just give up reading.
As mentioned before, most AI models have been taught with vast amounts of data from the past, so their output tends to mould things together from this knowledge. The downside is that it rarely (if ever) gives any new insight into the topic, which can be a turn-off for the reader and will have them file your company under “generic” and move on to someone else who gives more and less common insight.
And I already talked about accuracy, where AI may just make something up to make everything sound plausible.
The Human Touch
AI can significantly speed up content creation, from idea generation to drafting, and it can quickly deliver results to work with, there’s no way around admitting that. However, while it can give you an excellent foundation to build on, it’s just that: a foundation. Only a human (hello, nice to meet you!) can make the content yours, giving it the necessary tone, insight, context, and factual correctness to reflect your brand truly.
While it depends on the topic or piece, the amount of human editing to take an AI article from okay to great can range between 30 to 60%, so the human touch cannot be underestimated. After all, the holy grail of SEO, Google’s algorithm, puts very high emphasis on the quality of content. While they acknowledge that AI-generated content can rank high for quality, it is a narrow ledge to walk on if you try putting all your content eggs into the AI basket.
And that’s why the human touch is so critical. As mentioned above, AI content can have odd sentence structures, incorrect facts or, at times, mindnumbing repetition that can distract and detract the reader from the topic. And that’s one of the things you want to avoid as you don’t want to be seen as a company that goes down the “lazy” route of just generating content via AI without checking it.
A keen editor (waves) can spot and correct these inconsistencies while adding emotion, engaging language and tailoring the content to your target audience. In many industries, competition is fierce; often, fine margins can make a difference if you can reel in a customer or see it swim away.
How Can AI Be Harnessed Most Efficiently?
Using AI in content creation comes with some fantastic benefits. It can create drafts in a heartbeat, potentially saving a lot of time you can spend on other things to drive your business forward. While AI is often formulaic in the mistakes it makes, they also are predictable, and with some experience, it is easy to spot patterns so that editing can be quicker.
When using AI to create a list of ideas for blog topics or points within an article, it can give you a rich, if sterile, environment which a skilled writer or editor then can connect into an engaging, deep and comprehensive piece of content that can captivate your audience, build your business’ content authority and be optimized for your brand’s voice and tone.
Some see AI as a blessing, some as a curse, and depending on which perspective you choose, it can be either. I personally believe that AI is a great tool that can be efficiently utilized to achieve fantastic results, but it’s just that, a tool. The best shiny hammer will not do you any good if you don’t know how to use it.
AI can be a tremendous asset when used right, but if left unattended, it can seriously undermine your company’s credibility. While it’s tempting just to let chatGPT (or one of its numerous colleagues) run free to do all the work, especially if deadlines are looming, I know that the additional time spent reviewing and editing the content will pay off because a happy client means a happy boss, which means a happy me (yes, I can be that egotistical sometimes).
In this digital world that is evolving and changing at lightning speed, it is all about balance. Combining AI with human editing can be a catalyst to push your business past your competition. It will allow you to harness the power of the speed of AI models while having the human editor ensure factual accuracy, create emotion, flow and relevance to your target audience and maintain your brand’s voice.
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