How will AI content affect your business? Learn why content quality is more important than ever and how to improve it for better ranking and conversions.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about ChatGPT and the AI revolution. If you’re a content creator or a business engaged with content marketing, you’ve probably also been wondering how it’s going to affect your search rankings.
With Google confirming that they aren’t going to directly penalize AI-generated content and new tools emerging that can actively evade AI-content detectors, the future of robot writers is upon us.
But can AI ever truly write better than a human being? Once a question reserved for science fiction writers is now incredibly relevant to all of us today. After all, ChatGPT’s output is impressively coherent, and it’s only expected to get better as new models with improved parameters are being developed.
Plus, if AI-generated content starts to rank on search engines and fill up social media feeds, what will happen to the quality of content we consume on a daily basis? Can you even trust the information you read? Will it replace writers entirely? Will the robots subject us to endless toil?
Within those speculations, there is a hard truth that all writers and content creators need to recognize: AI will replace some writers.
Just like AI-writing software has existed for many years, so has poor writing. The question is still the same as it has always been: how will you differentiate your content from the easily reproducible? We’re here to answer that question with an in-depth look at AI-generated content, why it matters, and how you (presumably, a human) can write better content than a robot can ever dream of writing.
First let’s clarify some terminology about the technology making headlines today:
It’s also worth noting that, as of 2023, the current version of ChatGPT is free to use with GPT 3.5 (not with GPT-4 or related extensions). You can sign up for an account and see how it performs for yourself. The cool thing about the interface is that you can ask it anything, and it will respond with near-perfect grammar and syntax. Even cooler is that when you give it more information, it can respond within the context of your conversation, hearkening back to earlier prompts and inputs it received earlier in the thread (with limitations). Even if you don’t repeat your objective in subsequent responses, it will infer that context based on what you’ve already said.
There’s a lot to talk about there in terms of how it works, but the point is — it spits out human-like language better than many of us thought AI was capable of.
Now that we understand what it is, what is the big deal? What can ChatGPT actually do? On a basic level, we know ChatGPT can:
Since its creation, people have been testing the limits of ChatGPT to see what it can do if given the right prompts, and we’re still figuring out its capabilities and limitations.
While they are impressive, ChatGPT and other LLMs aren’t perfect replicators of human language just yet. They aren’t the AI assistants we’ve been dreaming about since we met Iron Man’s JARVIS. Current models have serious limitations, such as:
While these are the current limitations as of 2023, AI developers are expected to overcome these challenges in a short matter of time. Before long, it should be able to browse the web, provide accurate and updated information, cite credible sources, and run circles around your math teacher.
The real question has to do with the last point — can AI ever truly have an original thought? It’s a question rooted in philosophy and metaphysics just as much as it is rooted in technology. The question of AI’s ability to generate unique, original content (written, visual, or otherwise) hits at the very heart of what makes us human. It’s no wonder it’s receiving such a visceral reaction from just about everyone. Deep down, this isn’t just about losing our jobs or grading college papers. It’s about our own sentience.
At the risk of rabbit-trailing, let’s keep the question focused on written content and its continued viability in search.
Lots of people (content marketers like myself, included) have been worried about AI taking the jobs of real human writers. At first, the answer was, “no way.”
Then, we saw it happening. Freelance writers and content marketers started losing jobs to AI. However, it wasn’t just writers — from January to May 2023, an estimated 3,900 jobs were cut in the United States due to artificial intelligence alone. No doubt, the future has been looking bleak.
But why is this happening? ChatGPT is impressive, but it’s nowhere near as capable of writing compelling content as a human, is it? When examined more closely, the reasons behind companies firing their content writers in favor of AI illuminates a more dubious problem: the commodification of cheap content.
Remember, the current version of ChatGPT is free, and you can do a lot with just that version. You can create entire blog posts on a single prompt in a curated voice in mere seconds. With Google now saying that it will be “Rewarding high-quality content, however it is produced,” the initial fear of being directly penalized for AI-generated content has now basically been squelched. Instead, Google is taking other measures to ensure content is valuable, such as emphasizing first-hand perspectives and adding something to the conversation, as part of their E-E-A-T guidelines (more on that later).
That said, almost no one who reads an article purely generated by ChatGPT is going to call it “great.” At best, it might be “good.” More than likely, it’s just “okay.” In other words, companies aren’t choosing AI-generated content over human-generated content because it’s better. They’re choosing it because it’s cheaper and faster.
Right now, we’re in economically troubling times. In the persistent aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re still recovering from massive economic disruption. We’re only now starting to feel the effects in some key areas. Inflation was rising until July 2023, after supply chain issues caused a dramatic spike. Some regional banks have collapsed. Companies are struggling to hang on, and it’s no surprise that content is one of the first things they choose to cut.
The real question now is: will this trend persist, and will content marketers go extinct?
No, they won’t — and we’re not just saying that because we’re a content marketing agency. It’s true. While some companies may be choosing AI over human writers now, purely AI-generated content won’t work out in the long run, especially not for SEO.
ChatGPT was trained on massive amounts of human-generated content, from writers both good and bad. The natural outcome is that it would write like the average writer — and let's be honest, the average article you read online today kind of sucks. Only a few choice pieces make it to the top 10 results on a SERP for any given keyword, and that’s always been true. Google’s standards for ranking high-quality content haven’t changed, we just keep thinking we’ve found a way to cheat the system.
To take it out a step further, AI-generated content is also set up to shoot itself in the foot. Studies have shown that when AI trains on AI-generated content, it only gets worse at providing meaningful outputs.
To be clear, we’re not talking about Pulitzer Prize literature. If AI can ever truly capture the hearts of other people like the poetry of Maya Angelou, we’ve got more to worry about than our jobs. But even in terms of writing business content, AI doesn’t provide the most helpful information. At best, its answers are generic, formulaic, and mostly expected. For this reason, it’s actually pretty good at generating large lists of ideas, but not so good at fleshing them out. It’s good at giving you a basic framework for how things work, but it can’t provide real-life experiential insight into any topic.
Sounds a lot like the average click-bait article or low-budget listicle — and half of these are written by humans! But guess what isn’t cracking the top 10 search results most of the time? You guessed it.
To be fair, there are plenty of garbage pieces floating around the top results for certain keywords, but they’re typically low volume. Otherwise, these garbage pieces that rank are published by highly authoritative domains who can afford to publish just about anything. For the average domain to capture the top spot or featured snippet for a high-volume keyword, ChatGPT alone isn’t going to help. The sad thing is, neither is the average freelance writer.
This isn’t to knock freelance writers. We work with a lot of them, and we know it's a grind to get clients and keep them happy — especially when AI is cheaper and most freelance gigs don’t pay them enough to care. But the fact is that freelancers (and even full-time writers) who don’t use their human faculties to produce well-written, engaging, informative content for their clients truly are in danger of being supplanted by AI.
The only way to win in search (in terms of writing) is to produce content that hits on Google’s E-E-A-T guidelines. These are quality standards that Google uses to serve users the content most relevant to their search query.
On the other hand, if you’re struggling along, paying more than your competitors to produce high-quality content, or if you’re a freelancer pouring your heart into every draft despite the looming threat of robot takeover, take this as a word of encouragement: you’re playing the right move for the long game.
If you’ve been watching the news, you’ve seen the John Henry narrative play out every time AI is mentioned. Writers are losing their jobs to the big, bad, scary machine. But as we’ve seen, it’s not that black and white. The media always needs a boogeyman, and if you choose to fight against the robot, you’re only boxing with a ghost.
Instead, take this as a call to step up your own game — not because you have to beat something, but because the revolution at hand requires you to stop creating half-hearted content for your business. Content that can be easily produced by AI will almost certainly lose out as the motivated people evolve to create more valuable, more engaging, more human content.
If you want to not only succeed in search but also at converting readers to loyal customers, you need to learn how to write awesome content. Without further ado, here’s our guide on how to write better than a robot, or how to outdo the average fluff you see on the internet.
Google has explicitly told people how they rank content, and while they may not be totally forthcoming about how it works exactly, their search rater guidelines provide a general direction for success on their platform.
Since 2014, Google has lived by the acronym E-A-T. This stood for “Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.” These are the factors that make content helpful, meaningful, and ethically sound for readers searching for information on Google’s platform. Those factors still remain relevant to this day. Provided you are addressing the search intent, if you write authoritative content that demonstrates expertise on a particular subject, with links to credible sources (and backlinks from other credible domains), and publish it on a domain Google deems credible, you’re likely to do well in organic search.
In December 2022, these guidelines got an extra “E” for “Experience,” no doubt in response to the threat of massive amounts of purely AI-generated content. Since AI literally cannot experience things, Google tailored their approach to reward content that is authentic in terms of actually experiencing the subject matter (something only a human can do). They state, “There are some situations where really what you value most is content produced by someone who has first-hand, life experience on the topic at hand.” That means AI-generated reviews of products or restaurants, interviews, and perhaps even travel articles may not be successful moving forward.
AI, like many advancements in technology, is a valuable tool. Anyone who thinks it’s worthless hasn’t been paying attention. If you want to succeed in the long run, you need to learn how to leverage AI to make your content production process more efficient.
Remember, ChatGPT is not a sentient being — it’s an algorithm that predicts the next word or phrase in a sequence based on statistical probability. It’s like the guy you meet at a conference or on LinkedIn who only seems to know how to parrot the work of others. Most of the time, it's bland, boring, and unhelpful — but it can serve as the starting point for something more meaningful.
Next time you start a draft, try asking ChatGPT to:
Of course, if you only keep whatever it spits out, your content will be just as useless as the wannabe LinkedIn influencer’s. But if you leverage the power of this tool, you can arrive at the first draft stage much faster.
Now that you have a basic structure, you can move into the real work, lacing in personal experiences, anecdotes, updated statistics, quotes, jokes, citations, etc. All you’ve done is get rid of blank page syndrome, and you’re still able to produce content that’s worthwhile for real humans.
Empathizing with your reader is the first step to creating something persuasive and compelling. It’s the same thing great salespeople do — they start by understanding the prospect’s position, their problems, their pain points, their beliefs, their vernacular, etc. Then, they insert themselves (and the business they work for) into that situation as a potential solution.
Give the reader a reason to care about the content. Show them why the topic at hand matters to their unique situation. This requires writers to exercise a good degree of intuition and situational awareness. You need to know why the reader should care about something and how they think about it, and speak directly to that ideology.
While AI may match the intelligence of the average human in the near future, chances are slim for most marketers. If you’re looking for a trade secret to improve your content quality beyond 99% of the stuff on the web (including AI-generated content), here it is — think.
We use this framework to consider the motivation behind each piece of content we produce for our clients:
In essence, good writing is sound thinking. If you want to succeed at writing great content, think more about what you write.
Many businesses shy away from taking a public stance on certain topics, and often with good reason (you want to sell more products — divisive topics can alienate your audience). But people these days want to connect with brands that have ethics, stand for something, and share their values.
Even if you’re writing about something straightforward like employee training programs, you can still display your brand’s perspective throughout. What do you think are the most important aspects of training? How do most organizations get it wrong? What kind of ethical considerations matter most? No one can decide those convictions for you, not even a real person (and certainly not an AI). You have to establish these for your brand, and communicate that perspective clearly for your content to have the greatest possible impact.
Introductions are a lost art in business content, since many people assume the reader scrolls past the first 200 words. While that may be true sometimes, a well-written hook and introduction is essential to establishing trust with your reader. If you can write a compelling introduction, you probably understand the topic and your audience very well.
It all starts with the hook. To craft a good hook, you need more than a clever joke or an exclamation mark. You need to find the crux of the article’s argument. What is the most interesting aspect of the piece you’re writing? Usually this is the part that most directly speaks to the reader’s needs or brings up an interesting question the reader might have. Once you have this, you can craft a hook that points to that intriguing aspect. Add in statistics or present facts that make your point clear.
From there, the intro should flow naturally to get the reader to care about reading on. You can try using the classic copywriting formula P-A-S. This stands for Problem, Agitate, Solution. First, you present the problem the reader has, then agitate it (make matters worse), then present the solution (that is, reading the article and gaining insight from it). Here’s a basic example for an article exploring a question that has kept many of us awake at night - Is Waffle House Still Relevant?:
[Hook]: Did you know that social conversations about waffles have declined by -29.54% over the past year? Ever since IHOP reached peak success in 2007, waffles have been left behind.
[Problem]: But waffles are great. They’re buttery, sweet, delicious, and they are far superior to pancakes, despite what the general population believes. [Agitate]: However, studies also show that only 13.79% of restaurants offer waffles on their menus now. What’s a guy to do if he wants a good waffle, but there’s no one around to serve one?
[Solution]: Simple: visit a Waffle House. It’s cheap. It’s delicious. It’s open 24/7. This famous southern American diner chain is one of the only places keeping traditional waffles alive, and while it might have a dicey reputation, there are several reasons it’s still a thriving enterprise. Here are 12 reasons why Waffle House is a relevant institution in modern society.
While it could certainly use some polishing, the general idea is there. Using this framework, you can write a great intro for just about any article in a few minutes. However, if you try to get ChatGPT to write about a subject with this kind of structure, it can’t really do it. As simple as it may seem, writing an intro like this actually takes careful thought into the subject of your article and the audience you’re writing to — something an algorithm isn’t designed to accomplish.
Check out Julian Shapiro’s Writing Handbook for more tips on how to write intros and hooks.
Remember that LLMs are essentially guessing the most statistically likely next word, making their output remarkably dull. If you want to stand out, you need to embody a unique voice in your market.
Think about it: Why do you watch a certain cooking show, listen to a certain reporter, read a certain author, subscribe to a particular YouTube channel, or favor one musical artist over another? Aside from the fact that the content is relevant to you, you probably like them because of their personality, or a unique flair they bring to their work. If people decide to keep coming back to the same source for content again and again, they’re probably looking for more than just information — they’re looking to connect with the source.
The same way you don’t want a boring website or a generic logo, you also don’t want to write content that sounds like everyone else. You want it to represent who you are. This is your brand voice — the way your content embodies a personality even though it may be written by several different writers (even freelancers).
Pay attention to brand standards and determine how those should manifest in your written content. Consider word choice, tone, rhythm, and grade level as well as stylistic and grammar choices. Do you speak formally or more conversationally? Do you use slang or not? How do you use humor? How do you approach certain topics? Codify these thoughts into a brand voice guide to make it easier for teams to match your brand voice across assets.
There’s simply no substitute for giving a shit — especially when it comes to writing. Someone who is only trying to trick the algorithm might succeed in getting a few high-ranking articles. But anyone reading the article to get more than a quick answer will be able spot a hollow, purely AI-generated article. That kind of carelessness puts readers off, and it doesn’t help them build trust in your company.
Why do you think clickbait articles only hang out in the scummy corners of ad-driven sites, like a guy selling watches in an alley? Because those articles can’t crack the top 10 in search. No one wants to read that crap. It’s just headlines and fluff, and it’s probably not even true.
At the end of the day, people who care deeply about what they do are going to win. AI can’t care, and a lot of freelancers don’t get paid enough to care. But if you decide to put your passion into the content you create, your readers will notice and appreciate your brand all the more.
Great writing is essential to creating higher quality content. But truly standing out among competitors requires more than being a slick wordsmith. It also means differentiating your content in several other ways. Here are some ideas:
In truth, the elements that make great content stand out from the rest of the pack are the same as they’ve always been. As AI promises to turn mediocre-quality content into a commodity, these differentiating factors are only going to be more important. What was once characteristic of only a few great blogs will quickly become the standard for content to be competitive at all.
At Conversion Media, our goal is to push the bounds of what’s possible with content on the internet. While you may not always need top-of-the-line interactive tools, award-winning websites, or MOMA-worthy graphic elements (although we love those things), we believe it all starts with good writing.
Why? Because good writing connects with readers. It inspires, it establishes trust, it sells, and it lasts. SEO, link-building, and web design are all essential aspects of digital marketing, but good writing can make your brand tangible. It can give your brand a human touch that people can connect with and trust with their time and money.
That’s something the robot can never do.
Discover what high-quality content and a well-crafted content marketing strategy can do for your brand. Contact our team today.
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