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Human Language, Machine Learning, SEO & Your Business

There’s plenty of movies about artificial intelligence (AI) and how machines metamorphose into advanced technology and eventually take over the world. Films like The Terminator, The Matrix, A.I., and I, Robot each depict stories that go something like this:

  1. Humans create machines,
  2. Programmers teach machines how to learn on their own (AI),  
  3. Machines become valuable and are monetized,
  4. Society becomes dependent on machines,
  5. Machines destroy humans

In 2019, search engines like Google, Bing, Amazon (yes, Amazon is also a search engine), and search assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri are exactly that: machines who learn on their own. Although these machines are not likely to destroy the world in apocalyptic fashion, they have certainly turned the SEO world upside down.

Love it or hate it, we now live in a machine-learning world, but before we jump into how machine learning affects your business, let’s first discuss the basics of how machine learning works.

What is Machine Learning?

Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence that analyzes and processes data and makes decisions without human interference or guidance. After a machine decides on something, it records more data and uses the new set of information to make a stronger decision later. By studying data patterns, machines can analyze large amounts of data and produce results almost instantly.

Machine Learning and Search Engines

Search engines like Google, use machine learning to pick up on how people use language (voice and typed). This is a very important concept to remember for content creation as you must optimize your content to help machines understand your message so that they can better relate it to your audience on whichever platform/medium/device the audience is using. Voice search is also now using machine learning to decipher semantics in human language. However, voice search is also taking it a step further by combining semantic language with tone. This means that search engines are not far from being able to understand and react to human emotion.

Machine Learning in Practice: Google’s Rank Brain

In 2015, Google launched an algorithm called Rank Brain. Google’s Rank Brain is an artificial intelligence system that uses machine learning to guess the meaning of a search by comparing the words entered with other known words of similar meaning.

Here is an example of how Google’s Rank Brain thinks:

I’m not 100 percent sure of what you (the searcher) meant by this search. However, this search reminds me of some other searches that I’ve seen in the past, so I am going to assume you meant this. Here are a few different things that I think you might like…

Google will pay attention to which results satisfied your search and use it in future similar searches.

When Rank Brain first rolled out in 2015, the algorithm only ran when it encountered a search query that it didn’t already recognize. Now Rank Brain is used on nearly every search.

After billions of recorded searches, the machine has taught itself much about linguistics and the meanings of billions of different word combinations – including meanings behind them. Google’s Rank Brain essentially makes a guess, collects data, and uses findings to make better guesses in the future.

Through artificial intelligence, search engines continue to collect data on each of its users. They know your search history, favorite websites and apps, shopping habits, and sports teams, and through GPS apps like Google Maps and Waze, Google can even accurately predict which way you will drive to work tomorrow. The more information they collect per user, the better they can tailor custom search results to each individual user.

Why it’s Important for Search Engines to Provide Custom Search Results Per User

Google’s goal is to provide the “best” and “most relevant” search results to its users as fast as possible. The only problem with this goal is that both the words “best” and “most relevant” are subjective terms. What I believe are the best results will likely be different than yours.

For example, if I run a search for chicken and rice recipes, Google will return a mixture of results. It will return video instructions, blog articles with lists and images, and possibly downloadable/printable PDFs. If I own a website that specializes in chicken and rice recipes and I know that some of my target audience prefers printed cooking instructions, I should make sure that I offer a printer-friendly version of my cooking instructions.

That said, I must not forget about my other users. Some of my audience members might prefer to watch a video with cooking instructions on their iPad or tablet. If winning organic searches is important to me, I should be sure to offer the right types of content for my audience.

What Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence Means for Your Business

So, what does all this machine learning and artificial intelligence stuff have to do with your business?

It starts with content optimization. Since search engines can learn and decide which site’s content is better for individual searchers on their own, SEO specialists are running out of the tricks we once used to manipulate search results. We are now truly living in a world much like those sci-fi movies; the machines have taken over.

The only true time-tested way for us to win favorable positions in search results is to do what Google told us more than 15 years ago: create better, faster, and more available content.

Content Optimization

The content on your site must be optimized to speak directly to your intended audience. You must organize, structure, and plan your content and its placement very carefully. Big companies know this and have very large budgets and marketing teams dedicated to content creation. Many small local businesses will suffer at the hands of the whole “content is king” mantra. So, how can small businesses compete against large marketing budgets for top search rankings? Content planning and optimization is key.

Optimizing your content for search (search engines, machines, AI, and humans) is much more than sprinkling a few opportunistic keywords across your pages. You must be thorough with the types of content you add (semantics), how the content is displayed (readability), and the mediums in which you provide it (blogs, videos, PDFs).

Here are some battle-tested considerations that you must include in your content creation plan:

  1. Who do you want to read your content? (target audience)
  2. What is their reading level?
  3. Write like your audience speaks
  4. Use trendy industry buzzwords and explain the meanings (this will help machines learn lingo and industry jargon)
  5. Answer questions, problem areas, and objections (don’t just create a FAQs page and dump one sentence answers)
  6. Consider the readers’ emotions (are they frustrated, sad, excited?)
  7. Update your content to include seasons, holidays, local news, store hours, etc.
  8. Make sure your developer includes schema markup and structured data to offer more details to search engines about your content

If you optimize your content accordingly, you will not only gain favor with the machines, but you will see a major increase in conversions from your other digital marketing efforts.

If you want to beat the machines (or at least get them working for you), contact the SEO team at Compulse Integrated Marketing today. Let us help you create a custom content optimization strategy for your business so that you can succeed in this new age of media marketing.