Not that long ago, AI was the stuff of science fiction. Then, companies started making it work. It was a bit shoddy (I'm talking to you, Alexa), but it had its uses.
Two months ago, it started exploding. Suddenly, AI became a sometimes-uncomfortable reality that drove home that feeling that everything is about to change.
For us SEO content writers, it was no different. The problem is that AI used badly has the potential to unlock all kinds of unwanted side effects in the content world.
TL;DR: AI is not a magic bullet for replacing human input in 2023. All kinds of human touches are needed to avoid some pretty huge pitfalls
What is AI content writing?
AI content writing is a form of writing that uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) artificial intelligence (AI) to create content.
The idea is that AI can be used in content marketing and digital marketing to help us write better content, faster.
If you've not tried using AI to assist your writing yet, you could check out Jasper AI (Better for longer-form content) or Copy AI (I think this is better at short-form, like social media posts). ChatGPT, of course, is often the ultimate magic tool for generating ideas and content of all lengths.
The high-stakes game of AI in content creation
Content written by AI can be relevant, informative and keyword-rich. And, for sure, it can shave plenty of time off a writing project. But – and it's a big but – when left to its own devices, it can churn out content that is anything from bland to downright dangerous. Let's get into it.
Irresponsible claims and bias
Let's start with a big one. AI just makes claims based on the data it's given.
That makes AI an echo-chamber for all of the bias engrained in the sum of human knowledge. That is a recipe for regression.
Giving AI a data-set free from bias is close to impossible. I asked DALL-E, an AI image generator from OpenAI, to create an image of "5 software engineers working". It fed me back this image:
Well, would you look at that. AI spitting our biases right back at us.
Truth is, most of understand that AI has the potential to be an extremely dangerous tool against social progress. Non-AI algorithms are already doing things like sending black men to jail. It doesn't take much imagination to understand the havoc AI-written content could wreak.
AI writing is bad for your brand.
The content it writes is usually devoid of feeling and emotion.
Machines haven't figured out to how to consistently create emotional connections with readers. When we rely on AI for copywriting, we risk losing the unique perspective and creativity that only a human can provide.
If you've taken any time to study AI writing, you'll probably have noticed the total lack of human touch – storytelling or anecdotes. When you write, you write for somebody, from a voice with a unique perspective. AI doens't understand this context. Even if you tell it about the context, it will not be able to fully grasp the nuance.
AI's content is formulaic and shallow (and Google knows it – more on that later.)
Watch out for content online that is full to the brim with phrases like "Let's delve deeper..." or "X is not just Y, it's a [long-winded similie]". I've let AI have a lot of first attempts at writing, and I'm sick to the back teeth of reading stuff like this!
Even if AI could write with human flair, it might be flair of the wrong flavour.
Your brand voice is something that off-the-peg AI can't master at the time of writing. It shouldn't be trusted to AI.
AI learns from existing content and replicates it, meaning that it can unintentionally copy existing work.
It's both somewhat amusing and quite scary that DALL-E has learned to copy the
Shutterstock logo watermarks into the art it generates. I was reading about this in this fascinating blog from Engadget
Got sent some moody Russian ruDall-E GAN images last week from my dev piotr, that had shutterstock logos generated in them, oh how we laughed....now looks like the real Dall-E is doing the same... pic.twitter.com/6A2yLFHelw— @amoebadesign (@amoebadesign) June 8, 2022
If you're using AI content, you could be accidentally stealing from somebody else without permission and without attribution. That's not just got the potential to be unethical, but also land you in some legal deep water.
Always take steps to ensure the content you publish is original.
Google rewards content written by humans. Simple as that.
Their recent helpful content update aims to "help people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results."
AI writing assistance tools which optimise for SEO never truly understand user intent nor desire. But Google's recent update specifically advises users to "avoid creating content for search engines first".
Another related problem is that AI isn't good at creating content that meets Google's definition of content quality. This is all about "E-E-A-T": experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. High E-E-A-T content is viewed as higher-quality by Google. More on E-E-A-T here.
The long and short of it is that Google is pretty good at penalising AI-generated content. Sure, use AI to assist your writing – but human intervention is required for results.
Check the facts
AI is entirely capable of making up absolute rubbish. Worse, it does so with great confidence.
Examples of this are everywhere, but include Bing's AI search bot listing a disadvantage of a cordless pet hair vacuum as having a "short cord length of 16 feet", and insisting at the start of 2023 that Avatar 2 – released in December 2022 – hadn't been released yet
I actually tried this out in ChatGPT and it really got itself in a twist...
AI algorithms can easily pick up on false facts and create content based on them. You're then unknowingly spreading false information on behalf of yourself or your brand. Unethical, and not a good look either, not to mention the legal implications.
Verifying any content generated by AI before it is published is imperative.
How to win with AI writing
Right now, AI isn't an outsourcing solution. It's a writing assistant.
In 2023, I believe an SEO strategy based on largely AI-generated content cannot win over the long-term. But an SEO strategy assisted by AI can help implement a human content strategy more efficiently.
The best way to leverage AI is to support a human-driven content and SEO strategy.
Of course, this could all change. We don't know where on the growth curve – the Sigmoid curve – we are with AI. We don't know how different the world is going to look or how fast it will be adopted. Not a topic for today, but one thing is for sure – AI certainly isn't ready to take over from humans with content-writing just yet.