How AI will impact content discovery and ad placements

Can reliance on AI cre­ate even more algo­rith­mic hur­dles for search mar­keters?

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 0 comments

As search engines like Google, Bing, Face­book and Pin­ter­est increas­ing­ly use arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence (AI) to sur­face the most rel­e­vant con­tent and ensure adver­tise­ments don’t appear next to objec­tion­able con­tent, it’s clear AI still has a lot to learn.

But even as AI gets bet­ter, what does more AI-based con­tent sur­veil­lance mean for brands and mar­keters? And will it real­ly sur­face the best con­tent and resolve adver­tis­ers’ recent con­cerns about ad place­ments along­side objec­tion­able con­tent?

For one thing, experts say reliance on AI may pos­si­bly cre­ate even more algo­rith­mic hur­dles for search mar­keters.

How­ev­er, Yulia Khans­vyaro­va, head of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing at SEM­rush, said whether the sit­u­a­tion gets bet­ter or worse for a giv­en brand depends on pre-exist­ing atti­tudes toward that brand.

There is noth­ing to fear if most men­tions of the brand are pos­i­tive,” she said. “What can be said is that with the increase of AI usage by Google, it will be much hard­er to change users’ gen­er­al atti­tude towards the brand – no mat­ter how pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive it is.”

At the same time, she not­ed we still don’t know exact­ly how Google eval­u­ates con­tent qual­i­ty.

We were told that we have to cre­ate user-friend­ly con­tent that gets shared and that behav­ioral fac­tors are play­ing a large role in con­tent rank­ing. What changes will come along with [AI]? It depends on the area where AI will be used and the scope of its usage,” Khans­vyaro­va said. “Will behav­ioral pat­terns be con­sid­ered as input vari­ables for machine learn­ing algo­rithms? Or will [AI] be used main­ly for nat­ur­al lan­guage pro­cess­ing tasks? For exam­ple, today, one of the most well-known cas­es of AI imple­men­ta­tion by Google is [machine learn­ing tech­nol­o­gy] RankBrain and RankBrain is used to find seman­ti­cal­ly relat­ed words and is based on algo­rithms sim­i­lar to word2vec.”

And accord­ing to Fly­nn Zaiger, CEO of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing agency Online Opti­mism, what makes AI dif­fer­ent from pre­vi­ous algo­rithm changes is that it has the abil­i­ty to change far more quick­ly.

Machine learn­ing should put the changes at the approval and behest of code, rather than search qual­i­ty teams,” Zaiger said. “There­fore, dig­i­tal mar­keters that spe­cial­ize in search will have to pay far more atten­tion to their port­fo­lio of web­sites to notice updates day to day.”

And then there are the pol­i­tics of search engines accept­ing third par­ty con­tent and plac­ing brand con­tent next to it with­out accept­ing any respon­si­bil­i­ty because they didn’t cre­ate it. One search indus­try insid­er used the exam­ple of a video that talks about Hitler being a nice guy, as well as about the hand cream he used, which could end up with pre-roll from John­son & John­son. That isn’t good for the brand, but Google could arguably claim rel­e­van­cy because John­son & John­son makes hand cream.

In fact, one les­son from the YouTube ad boy­cott could be programmatic/AI still present dan­gers because, as the New York Times not­ed, AI still doesn’t under­stand con­text and what dis­tin­guish­es good and bad con­tent, as we have seen in recent weeks.

Zaiger, too, said AI will con­tin­ue to have issues until it gets per­fect­ed, which may take years – if it ever hap­pens at all.

There­fore, mon­i­tor­ing and report­ing of these sit­u­a­tions to keep your ads where you want them will be nec­es­sary for a while,” he said. “That being said, since AI can cause wide­spread changes sys­tem-wide, it will offer agen­cies who man­age clients in a vari­ety of indus­tries an advan­tage since they maybe notice the issue first and can adjust faster.”

Sim­i­lar­ly, John Caioz­zo, senior SEO ana­lyst at SEO agency SEO Inc., said increased use of AI means it’s even more crit­i­cal for brands to keep an eye out for neg­a­tive men­tions and con­tent.

Google has always seemed to rank and pre­fer neg­a­tive con­tent and news around a brand. One of the rea­sons for this is the viral nature of the con­tent and the engage­ment it gen­er­ates mak­ing the result unique and rel­e­vant to the brand,” he said. “There is no guar­an­tee that AI will deliv­er the right con­tent to the right per­son at the time. One exam­ple of this right now is Google’s fea­tured snip­pet, [which] often returns ques­tion­able results from ques­tion­able sources, like [one] exam­ple where appar­ent­ly, Oba­ma was plan­ning a com­mu­nist coup.”

Fur­ther, Caioz­zo said in such cas­es where fea­tured snip­pets have returned bad results, Google has been quick to take action and cor­rect or remove the fea­tured snip­pet, but it is impos­si­ble for Google to police them all. In such cas­es, all brands can do is noti­fy Google and hope it is fixed in a time­ly man­ner.

Hope­ful­ly in the future, Google will be able to refine its algo­rithms and AI to serve more true and reli­able results but this is not guar­an­teed and it will like­ly still be pos­si­ble to pro­lif­er­ate false infor­ma­tion about a brand or per­son,” he added.

How­ev­er, Khans­vyaro­va point­ed out Google uses dif­fer­ent approach­es for rank­ing organ­ic and paid con­tent.

As for paid ads and ad rel­e­vance, I’m sure the sit­u­a­tion will change for the bet­ter and users will get the right con­tent at the right time and in the right place because paid con­tent, com­pared to organ­ic, has a real­ly sig­nif­i­cant advan­tage in terms of [AI] and machine learn­ing. The advan­tage is a clear­ly defined goal and action,” she added.

That’s because AI needs clear def­i­n­i­tions and paid con­tent can deliv­er. And if the algo­rithms used to find audi­ences that are sim­i­lar to a brand’s cus­tomers don’t work smooth­ly, adver­tis­ers will lose mon­ey, which will lead to ad bud­gets being decreased and a reduc­tion in Google’s income.

Google can’t afford this, so I guess per­son­al­iza­tion and rel­e­vant con­tent deliv­ery will increase,” Khans­vyaro­va said.

Zaiger, too, is opti­mistic algo­rithms will become bet­ter judges of seman­tics and place con­tent more appro­pri­ate­ly over the long term.

At that point, though, it’s a mat­ter of whether objec­tion­able con­tent can adjust as fast as the AI,” he said. “[Con­sid­er­ing] that it’s been years since I’ve seen an adult site slip through Google’s Safe­Search, I doubt they will.”

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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