If you believe Elon Musk, artificial intelligence (AI) is a bigger threat to the human race than nuclear weapons. But before the machines gather the self-awareness and gumption to chuck us into the trash bin of time, it will first come for the SEOs.
For years, I’ve convinced myself that the technology might displace the jobs of auto plant workers, truck drivers and possibly even home plate umpires, but artificial intelligence would never be able to write a story, paint a picture or compose a song (Eno’s generative music notwithstanding).
Now, after reading Steven Johnson’s article for The New York Times about the latest artistic efforts of supercomputers, I’m not so sure.
One version of AI known as a large language model can in fact invent stories that, while not the most thrilling, at least are feasible. Johnson posits that if the trend of linguistic progress continues, large language models will be able to answer many of the questions we currently use Google Search for today.
If Google were able to harness the potential of this technology, it could fundamentally alter how search works in the future.
Rather than being an intermediary between a person’s question and someone else’s answer, Google would generate the answer using its large language model, which would rapidly pull information online from multiple sources and stitch it together in a way that is current, cogent, full of context, and actionable for the person who asked the question.
Pitted against tomorrow’s über-sophisticated AI, your company’s blog post likely won’t stand a chance.
Sounds bleak, but I believe there’s hope: You can protect your content from the wrath of the robots.
Most SEO content answers a specific question, like “How do I program my garage door opener?” or “How can I take advantage of tax-loss harvesting?” It’s this type of content that AI will master first.
So let the machines have their practical, cut-and-dry content. If you want your content to survive in the era of AI, your mission is to create a novel content experience that your audience can’t be generated by a supercomputer.
Here are five ways to do that:
Share forward-thinking ideas.
A.I. will be able to slice and dice existing content to serve up answers, but it will likely have a much more difficult time offering new ideas, frameworks and strategies that can help people prepare for, navigate or shape the future. That’s where your brand has the opportunity to step up and be a thought leader. Draw on your unique experience, skills and expertise to identify trends, make predictions and offer new solutions for your audience. AI will not be able to match the unique perspective you bring to the table.
Ensure all content springs from your brand values.
Values and morality are a well-documented shortcoming of AI, although very smart people are working on it. Exploit this weakness while you can.
As you plan your content for this year and beyond, try mapping each piece of content to a specific brand value. For example, a video conferencing company might map an article about the communication preferences of people with different work styles to its value of collaboration. This exercise can help your values come through more clearly as themes within your content and make sure that any off-brand content is nixed before it can be worked on. And thanks to your content’s value-driven POV, it will have more than a fighting chance against any soulless AI content.
Do your own original reporting.
One thing you can do that an AI can’t is talk to your customers, your internal experts, your partners and your target audience and weave their perspectives into a piece of content. Journalists call this reporting, and it’s fundamental to how they tell honest, engaging and enlightening stories. There’s nothing stopping you from practicing a little journalism yourself as you create content, and it will help you establish an authentic connection with your audience that no AI will be able to achieve.
Give your experts a platform to share their ideas and personalities.
While not every one of your colleagues will want to get in front of a camera or even pen a blog post, a select few might be very into the idea of sharing their enthusiasm for their area of expertise with a broader audience. Whether it’s a video series, a podcast or a consistent presence on the company blog, empower your internal thought leaders to create content. Every brand is different, but I recommend giving them the freedom to be themselves. People are drawn to personalities, so rather than reining it in, encourage them to let it out. It will make the content more engaging and competitive against its boring AI competition.
Invest in an active social presence.
While Google is the place to find what you’re looking for, social media platforms are where you find the content you didn’t know you wanted. So to get eyeballs on your content, you need to be sharing it across social. But if you stop there, the supercomputers win. You also need to engage with your audience to start and sustain conversations. Like a socially active human, you should listen, respond, follow and repost within your community. And if you’re sharing articles, videos, podcasts and graphics that follow some of the tips above, your brand will be seen as a valuable contributor of content that your audience can’t find anywhere else.
OK, I’ll be honest… I have no idea if or when the robots will be able to generate content that out-competes your brand’s SEO content. But assume that it will in five years, and design your strategy accordingly. Your content and your brand will be stronger for it, because they will feel all the more human as a result.