When you think about AI, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
Terminator, if you’re a Marvel fan?
We will get into the nitty-gritties of AI in marketing, and a lot more in this article.
But first, here are some quick stats (collated by TrueNorth) to get you excited -
- 61% of marketers say artificial intelligence is the most important aspect of their data strategy.
- 80% of business and tech leaders say AI already boosts productivity.
- Current AI technology can boost business productivity by up to 40%.
- When AI is present, 49% of consumers are willing to shop more frequently while 34% will spend more money.
- The Washington Post’s AI writer (Heliograf) wrote more than 850 stories during the Rio Olympics and the 2016 US presidential election.
Mind blown? There’s a lot more to come.
Before we tell you how technology is disrupting content, let's start from the same page. There are a few terms that are better clarified at the beginning.
You may have heard of some of them already, but it doesn't hurt to define them again for the purpose of this post.
NLP & AI for Dummies
What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
AI or artificial intelligence is the tool that allows machines to perform tasks similar to human beings. It is a branch of computer science capable of activities like planning, learning, problem-solving, reasoning, motion, manipulation, and knowledge representation.
It uses a mix of machine learning (ML) and deep learning and rules for its processes. The end result is to generate a behavior comparable to how a human being would react in the same situation. ML is a branch of AI that allows machines to learn and adapt to human behavior gradually.
What is Natural Language Processing (NLP)?
NLP or natural language processing is a group of research areas usually defined as the subfields of machine learning (ML). It is the subset of AI that primarily deals with comprehending human speech using software.
NLP gives the capability to the machines to read, break down, and understand human languages. It uses algorithms and a mix of syntax and semantics for converting the unstructured language data into machine-readable form.
What is GPT-3?
Simply put, GPT-3 is an AI branch dedicated to creating content. Let us explain.
GPT-3 (Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3) is a language predicting, text generating tool developed by OpenAI. It uses pre-trained algorithms to provide users with the content they need.
For example, GPT-3 can write social media copies, essays, answer questions, take notes, summarize, etc. It can also translate languages and code. It uses a dynamic weight system to ensure that it returns accurate answers for each query.
Now that you have the basics sorted, you are ready for what comes next.
Let’s dive in.
AI in Marketing Today
The inculcation of AI, Natural Language Processing (NLP), and most recently, GPT-3 has brought about a revolution in the way writers create content.
As these technologies integrate further, we expect them to overtake a lot of SEO workloads, such as link building, editing, alt tags, and email outreach.
The use of AI in content creation goes beyond simply saving a creator’s time or assisting in research.
Tools using AI-backed technologies, today, can help creators research, plan, optimize, as well as create content. Thus, complementing the writer’s creativity and producing impactful and rewarding content.
The Recent BERT Update Reiterated Google’s Focus on Flexibility
October 2019 saw Google clearing the air and indicating that the rise of AI in marketing is undeniable. The BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) update had arrived, and it was a stepping stone towards bots understanding context in a new way altogether.
Google defined BERT as an enhanced algorithm that can gauge the sentiments and nuances of a search string. It can then churn out search results that closely resemble the user’s intent.
It contained two components – data and methodology. It had introduced pre-trained models and made it mandatory to have a well-defined process to interpret better.
In addition, it started giving more importance to the search string instead of specific keywords to gauge the user's intent.
It also brought sentiment analysis into the picture. It uses three exercises to help better understand what the people searching are up to and why -
- Understanding where people are more likely to post their review about your brand
- Using AI and NLP to gather a massive volume of data for better understanding customer sentiment instead of depending on random sample size.
- Analyzing tone and choice of words to perceive the positive or negative undertone of customer sentiment
Salience is the Key
For anyone looking to gauge the presence of NLP and AI in content strategy and marketing, the term salience holds the key. It refers to Google’s way of understanding the various entities in a written piece and their relationship with each other.
Entities refer to nouns or names present in the blog representing people, things, places, or concepts.
From our understanding, salience score refers to a prediction of the importance of the entities in a text from the point of view of the person searching.
It includes the grammatical role of the entity, its position and count, and the linguistic importance. NLP uses a combination of techniques to gauge the salience value and return the most appropriate results.
So it becomes imperative for content marketers to understand better how salience works if they want their pages to rank on SERP.
Thankfully, there are super-efficient, simple-to-use AI-backed tools that can do such analysis, and more, within a few seconds. In the next section, we will dig in these tools and see what they do.
Latest Tools that You can Use
We have come a long way from learning about & experimenting with AI, to using tools that employ these technologies to create content.
Let’s find out how these tools actually work, and what are all the options available.
Clearscope is one of the first and most well-known content optimization tools in the market.
Clearscope’s core strength lies in its AI-powered content optimization feature called “Optimize”. This feature grades your content based on “content relevance and comprehensiveness”.
Here’s how it works.
On the Clearscope dashboard, you can enter the keyword you want to rank for. It will then scan the top 30 pages that rank for this keyword on Google.
This will give you a Report that gives a summary of how (and how well) these top 30 pages are using this keyword - based on Content Grade, Word Count, and Readability. And also other data on competitors, keywords, and related terms you can use.
Next, you click on the Optimize button that takes you to a page where you can copy-paste your content or write a fresh copy.
This is where the tool’s magic lies.
On this page, Clearscope will grade your content based on how many terms your content shares with the top 30 results.
It will then give you a list of keyword ideas that you can use in your own content to rank better. These will help you put a structure to your content and make sure that you include the most important keywords.
Once your copy is complete, you will get a letter grade and can see how well you did against the competing articles.
Clearscope is great at optimizing blog posts for search engines. Higher Clearscope content grades correlate with higher Google rankings.
But it offers no support for content brief generation. It has a very basic keyword research tool - basically a list of keyword suggestions, CPCs and search volumes. And it doesn’t come close to the keyword features that you get in a tool like SEMrush.
Compared with Clearscope, Marketmuse tackles a broader problem.
MarketMuse is an AI-powered content marketing and keyword planner tool that uses machine learning and natural language processing to analyze content, suggest topics to cover, create content briefs, and auto-generate first drafts of an article.
There are two main sections within MarketMuse: Inventory and Applications.
Inventory features a set of strategy and planning tools designed to help you conduct a site audit and create a plan-of-action for updating and optimizing your content.
The most useful part of Inventory is the “Topics” section, which scans content catalogues and shows what keyword opportunities you might be missing on your website/ blog.
Applications, however, is where the real fun happens.
MarketMuse features five applications. Here’s what all those nifty tools do-
- Research- Type in a topic and MarketMuse will give you a complete list of terms to include in your content — and how many times to cover each term or phrase.
- Compete- MarketMuse shows you the top-ranking content for your main keyword and highlights content gaps you can leverage.
- Questions- Questions provides a list of questions users are searching for related to your keyword. These are similar to Google’s “People also ask” question, but the list is far more robust.
- Connect- If you are using MarketMuse for sites you own, it will suggest internal links to help connect your current content to related content you’ve already published.
- Optimize- Like Clearscope’s Optimize, Marketmuse’s Optimize ranks your content against your competitors. It creates a content score that lets you know how your content compares and suggests additional topics to cover.
Feature-wise, Marketmuse is one of the best out there. But, Marketmuse is also a lot more expensive than others, which makes it a hard pill to swallow for many. The pricing is unclear, as well - you will need to dig into the tool to actually understand the pricing.
Also, Marketmuse has a relatively complicated workflow - which means it will take more than the average 2-3 months of trial for you to decide how well it is working for you.
Broadly, Surfer SEO works like Clearscope. It is a tool designed to help optimize written content, like blog posts and articles.
The tool works by aggregating data about your competition, including:
- The keywords they target
- The links they have
- The content they write.
It takes 500 ranking factors into consideration, and also has an in-built keyword research tool.
The distinguishing feature of Surfer is it’s SERP Analyzer that gives a very detailed breakdown of Google’s first ranking page for your keyword.
In this breakdown you get data on-
- Average word count (or content length)
- Keyword density and frequency
- Use of partial match keywords
- Hidden content
- Page speed
- Characters count in title tags
- Alt text, and more.
Compared to most other SEO tools out there, Surfer gives the most in depth analysis of all these elements, and more.
Instead of the “write what your audience wants to read” philosophy, Surfer chooses to focus on the technical aspect of SEO writing.
Another feature is the content editor. You can write your content directly inside the editor. Then, in the right-hand column, you’ll see suggestions on how to improve your content, such as the number of words to hit, keywords you’re missing, topics and questions to answer.
You can also export to Google Docs or copy a shareable link for your team.
Surfer utilizes Google’s NLP APIs but there’s room for improvement. Here’s a snapshot of Surfer’s recommendations, some of which are generic and won’t improve your content quality:
The final noteworthy feature of Surfer is the SEO Audit tool. This works like any keyword tool on the market - Type in a seed keyword. And get a list of related keywords. Along with search volume.
SurferSEO has great content audit features, robust technical SEO toolset, as well as a content planner to outline your content strategy. And all of this comes at a decent price.
One feature that Surfer lacks is content grading that grades your content and also gives the average grade of top competitors. Other than that, it has comparatively low-quality recommendations and certain features, like the technical SEO toolkit, come in handy only for experts.
Like MarketMuse, Frase.io is an AI-powered content research, optimization, and generation tool.
Based on your keyword, Frase scrapes the top 20 websites in the Google search results and automatically generates a content brief in 10 seconds with the best topics that you should talk about.
If you have existing content, Frase will help you optimize it by suggesting the most important terms you should add, based on competitive research.
Either way, Frase will benchmark your article against the 20 websites ranking (or you can choose which ones to compare with - a feature comparable tools lack) to identify topic gaps and missing terms.
Frase’s key features include-
- Generate Topic Ideas
Using Frase, you can generate topic ideas on what to write about for your blog. It offers two ways to do this, one through “question ideas” and one through “concept map”.
This helps understand what people are asking about your topic on popular Q&A sites like Reddit and Quora. Use this information to answer users’ questions, making your content more relevant.
However, sometimes this researched content can be too broad or too niche.
- Content Research & Creation
Frase helps by generating content briefs based on topics that are covered by your competitors. These are called “documents”.
In a document, there is a content editor where you can easily add, remove, or edit stuff.
It will provide you with a brief competitor analysis regarding what your competition wrote about, topics covered, a summary of each topic, and common questions asked in their articles.
You can also see the top ranking headlines for your topic - very helpful for inspiration and for understanding what makes a high performing headline.
- Content Optimisation
For your chosen keyword, Frase provides you with content optimisation analyses where it extracts the most used terms from your competitors’ articles and counts the number of times it’s being used.
- Content Generation
Frase uses NLG (Natural Language Generation) technology to help generate content in two ways - question answering and outline generation.
For question answering, you can just highlight a passage, which will be summarised for you automatically in order to win the featured snippets.
And outline generation, as the name suggests, helps create content briefs with keyword-optimized heading suggestions.
Overall, Frase is a great tool to help you research, plan, and optimize content. It is priced competitively, and thus is suitable for small businesses/ agencies as well.
That said, Frase DOES NOT create content for you. It merely uses AI to do research and identify content gaps. It doesn’t make suggestions on how to write and doesn’t grade the quality of your content, unlike Marketmuse and Clearscope.
These are some of the best AI tools, with their own nitty-gritties, that make content creation a breeze.
Isn’t it quite exciting? Well, try for yourself.
And if you’re thinking - ‘BAM! This is ridiculous - Technology cannot replace creators!’, in the next section, we talk about how human potential and AI work in tandem to produce the best results.
Does this mean AI can replace creators?
If this was the first time you read about these tools and technologies, you might be feeling overwhelmed.
And if you use/ write content in any capacity, you might have thought-
Can technology replace storytellers?
Indeed, there are a lot of things technology does better and faster than humans.
For instance, we saw how these AI-backed tools can analyse content from many websites in a few seconds, and make data-backed recommendations for your content. Something that an average human will take hours to do, and yet not produce as accurate results.
That said, it’s an exaggeration, at the least, to say that technology can replace creators.
Back in 2017, Botnik Studios released a short chapter of the famous Harry Potter series. This short chapter was made with the help of a predictive text algorithm fed on all previous books.
Twenty human editors then chose which AI-generated suggestions to put into the chapter.
And so was produced a three-page work that was, at best, described as hilarious.
But it was still a huge achievement. Though not close to what a human would write, the three-page story made sense.
Some parts are far more simplistic than Rowling would write them, but aren’t exactly wrong with regards to the Harry Potter universe.
It’s certainly an accurate analysis of the main current that runs throughout all the Harry Potter books.
This is just one of the many examples that prove that technology cannot replace creativity.
(Plug in a few ideas into a tool and try for yourself!)
The right place for technology vis-a-vis creativity is that both co-exist as far as the world of content marketing goes.
AI-backed technologies like NLP, Machine-learning, and GPT-3 help a creator at every step of content creation. And ultimately free up a creator’s mind for more creative endeavours.
Creativity is messy and requires human input. But to think about creativity in marketing as art that happens on a whim is old school. Magic happens when creativity works hand-in-hand with technology.
Throughout human history, from radio to Spotify, paper magazines to instant articles, books to Kindles, and barter economy to cryptocurrency - technology has helped creativity move faster, reach farther and speak louder.
This is just as true in marketing, if we take the right path forward.
Can SEO optimized content be reader-friendly?
When it comes to content, it is a fact that relevancy is the biggest factor.
Relevant, high-quality content answers a searcher’s query by understanding their intent through proper research and including the key topics. It will signal to Google that this is a perfect match for a person’s search results. When considering the weight of different ranking factors, again, good content is the only one that truly matters.
The question, then, is how to create search-engine optimized relevant content that ranks well?
Many content writers believe that optimizing articles for search interferes with the reading experience - making the writing sound formulaic. And many believe that combining SEO best practices and reader-friendly content writing is too hard.
These are just myths that we are here to bust. Creativity and technology work hand-in-hand to create the best results. What makes the difference is understanding SEO’s importance in your content strategy, and complementing that with the use of technologies like NLP and ML to rank well.
How can AI complement every step of content creation
A comprehensive SEO process starts with picking the right topics at the start. With a multitude of content out there - it is important to strategize and understand what your target audience wants to learn about. And next, you want to understand what’s important to cover about the topic you choose.
Natural Language Processing (NLP) can play a big role in this - content recognition and understanding.
Computers think in terms of bits and bytes, not text. An NLP solution can convert text into numbers so computers can understand them.
Once the text has been converted into numbers, AI algorithms perform statistical analysis to discover the words or topics that appear together most frequently.
Therefore, with the help of NLP and AI, it is possible for writers to delegate a large part of research to tools that use these technologies - resulting in better, data-backed results in less time.
Through their own research powered by AI-backed algorithms, writers can remove any guesswork involved in figuring out what readers want to hear and learn about.
Once you have done your research to understand what to write about, you get down to actually creating that content.
As a matter of fact, AI can help with that as well.
In addition to content recognition and understanding, AI tools today help writers generate copy that combines all elements comprehensively into written copy using content generation tools.
And finally, AI tools can grade the final content output on factors like quality, relevancy, plagiarism, and more - giving you a fair idea of how well you did.
This is not to say that AI can do everything that a writer does - we cannot completely depend on these tools to create reader-friendly content that ranks well. Rather, these technologies go a long way in complementing a writer’s creativity.
Technology cannot replace creativity - they go hand-in-hand to generate the best results for you.