Published February 23, 2023

Risks and Rewards of AI-Generated Content: Seattle Search Network Members Weigh In

DALL-E image created by Colton James Townsend

We’ve joined the AI-hype bandwagon here at the Seattle Search Network. How could we not? We live and breathe search engine marketing and jump at every Google hiccup, even if we’ve been okay ignoring Bing all these years. Maybe that’s about to change.

From random thoughts to early experiments with the tools, there’s no shortage of differences of opinion, but that’s what keeps us on our toes as digital marketers. We’d love to hear what you think. Feel free to add your comments.

A Rather Sneaky Way to Grab Your Email

Alex Kine, Digital Marketing Consultant at Marianis, has a cynical view of Chat GPT, believing it’s a way to harvest email addresses from unsuspecting technology first adopters. He summarizes his experience with the site in 4 easy steps:

  1. Enable cookies for trial. No cookieless operation, so no privacy.
  2. Chat GPT is down – 021523-0622 (Day-Hour)
  3. Chat GPT is at capacity right now – 021523-0742
  4. Login required. No thank-you – 021523-0925

In addition, he found no significant difference in results between Google and Bing when using the query: “Advocacy versus Action.” Neither search engine understood the concept of compare and contrast. Rather, both morphed it into advocacy and action, advocacy to action — even into advocacy versus activism.

Bing vs Google Face-Off

Mark McLaren, Digital Marketer at McBuzz, thinks it’s unlikely Chat GPT AI will be as earth-shattering as everyone seems to think, at least as far as Bing search results are concerned.

In January of 2023, he wrote a blog post titled “Will Chat GPT AI technology replace quality organic search results?” His conclusion was, for now, definitely not.

Why? Because to be any good, Bing would need to use their AI to pull content from “the most authoritative sources on the topic. Here’s where I saw the problem.”

When searching “Chat GPT” itself, for example, the most authoritative information is likely to be from OpenAI (the company that built it) and Wikipedia. A mashup of this information that would appear at the top of Bing “would be no more valuable or accurate than those sources themselves.” As he puts it, “The closest Chat GPT’s AI can do is approximate Wikipedia and/or OpenAI’s answers.” He continues, “Regardless, users looking for general information about Chat GPT would have to click links to the OpenAI website or Wikipedia anyway.”

The real problem, Mark contends is, “Not knowing which sites are factual could seriously undermine the usefulness of Bing results. To get around this, Bing will need to vet its sources carefully. Right now, it won’t be able to do that without linking to authoritative sites, which is going to be the same as a typical search results page.”

A Revolution in Office Work

John F. Schuster, founder and digital marketer at JohnFSchuster Ecommerce, has been a vocal advocate of Chat GPT, which he says has significantly changed the way his team works.

In his words, “Chat GPT is revolutionizing the digital marketing industry and search as we know it. For the first time in years, Google brought back the founders and diverted several teams to address Chat GPT, AI, and the impact on search.”

Like most of us, John has seen Chat GPT spread like wildfire. He likens its impact on office work to the industrial revolution, “More than anything, I think it’s imperative you learn to use the technology to make your processes faster and more efficient.”

As a team, “we have already used it to help create video scripts, sales emails, headlines, social media posts, and more. Does that mean we blindly copy and paste a Chat GPT result? Absolutely not! We use our industry expertise, combined with our knowledge of Chat GPT, to engineer better prompts (or queries) to get better results. Then we finalize with minor editing.”

The key to this process is creating those prompts. “The prompts being used by other pros was eye opening. They weren’t just using one or two sentences, but often a paragraph in length. In other words, they were writing commands that often were longer than the results.”

“Expertise in Chat GPT, combined with industry expertise, is a lethal combination for anyone who works in digital marketing (and beyond) for years to come. Ignore assistive technology to your own peril, embrace the change, and learn to use the new tools so they can serve you better.”

Chat GPT is Going to Change the World One Exercise Routine at a Time

Bill Dow, PMP at Dow Publishing, also sees Chat GPT as revolutionary, being as significant to Google and Bing as the car was to the horse and buggy. “We saw that in the recent Bing announcement for Edge, so I think we are onto something big here.” He’s already using the AI tool for creating emails, sales copy, and webinar presentation overviews.

Far more than just a business application, Bill had Chat GPT write a 5-day rowing workout. “I found the results to be surprisingly amazing and will only get better over time as it gets smarter. I don’t think we need to worry about job loss or replacing humans yet, but the potential is there. I encourage people to check it out and be part of this worldwide change ahead of us.”

Students Should Be Allowed to Use AI-Generated Content

Digital marketers aren’t the only ones affected by this evolving technology. Connor Talbott, Co-founder of Tall Town Design, has been asking himself what the impact of AI generated content will be. “Does it infringe on other writers and artists’ work? Should you use it for your projects? If I were a High School teacher, would I allow my students to use AI generated content?”

He believes that in today’s digital world, the ability to use tools is a major asset. For example, rather than reaching for paper and pencil to solve a difficult math problem, a person is more likely to reach for a calculator, ask Alexa or do a Google search. “Sure, it’s helpful to have a baseline knowledge of how the calculation was done. However, knowing a tool that can do the job well and fast is more of a real world asset. “Writing skills are critical, but the final product that impresses your boss or client is more valuable.”

Yet, he says, “Learning to use AI, a student would still need to understand the basics of writing. They would also get an idea of what decent writing looks like and how to write prompts for AI to produce a desired result. In addition, they would learn how to check facts and proofread.”

When it comes to business, “The content writer profession is quickly becoming obsolete. On the other hand, the rise of professions that use AI chat bots for their jobs is going to greatly increase.” So he concludes with another difficult question, “Are students being prepared for a dying career or the skills necessary to solve problems for nearly every career?”

Editor’s note: Maybe this is payback for all the paper-grading software being used, where an article in Vice states, “Essay-scoring engines don’t actually analyze the quality of writing. They’re trained on sets of hundreds of example essays to recognize patterns that correlate with higher or lower human-assigned grades. They then predict what score a human would assign an essay, based on those patterns.”

AI is an Obedient, Dumb, Yet Trainable Super-Dog

Colton James Townsend of Tall Town Design sees Google Search as playing a respectable game of fetch with us over the past couple of decades — usually delivering results we want, but still leaving the occasional dead carcass at our doorstep.

For digital marketers, copywriters, search engine specialists, or anyone working with online content in any way, the Day of Rapture fell upon us on December 4th, 2022 — the day Chat GPT hit 1 million users (only 5 days after launch!).

Changes to the Online Search Experience

What are Chat GPT, BARD, Bing Search, and all these other AI-assisted input/output tools for content generation really doing for us?

From the point of view of this human, the AI retrieval steps mimic Googling:

  1. Come up with a nifty prompt with “search intent” — if we don’t do this job well, we’re doomed to get sub-par results — AKA garbage in, garbage out.
  2. Feed the prompt into the machine of Large Language Processing
  3. Out poops an auto-magic result, appearing more natural and interesting than a list of links and snippets scraped by Google… or perhaps not?

So, what the heck is the role of AI in content creation as mainstream adoption begins?

It’s Assistive, Not Intelligent, Yet Mutating Rapidly

AI does a tremendous job of fetching for us, not thinking for us. At least for now.

We currently have Chat GPT and a host of other language-trained models (including coding languages) to play with. Added to this, we’re witnessing an influx of adaptations, layering on more functionality to the basic: “Fetch me a useful and meaningful result to my query.”

AI-Marketing Platforms are Coming

These AI tools are mutating from a good Ol’ Yeller into an automatic-farming contraption with vast implications for marketing communications. In the coming years (months?), online services will be able to automatically retrieve loads of dynamically-generated AI content and “intelligently” drop it into our websites, social posts, emails, SMS, and you name it. Content consumers will surely find much of it appealing and useful.

AI creation tools will be as commonplace as those red and blue squiggly lines that prompt us to check our spelling and grammar.

It will get to the point where we can “set it and forget it”… for those who wish to delegate, automate, refine input parameters, and cross your fingers that the ROI pencils out. These tools of the future will become so proficient at generating and optimizing content for engagement, they could eliminate the “manual labor” of designing graphics, writing sales copy, producing videos, and interpreting engagement metrics.

What’s a Human to Do?

If digital marketers want to delegate creative production to machines, we still need to take responsibility.

  • Remember we, the people, own the WHO (our customers) and the WHAT (our product/service offers)
  • Continually refine compelling sales offers that complement the customer journey (online and offline)
  • Be highly specific and strategic with the INPUTS we feed into the AI ecosystem (so it can fetch and deliver the results we want)
  • If we’re putting all our eggs into the content-automation-basket, we’d better be careful about monitoring outputs. We still have a duty of personal responsibility for what gets released on behalf of our businesses

And finally, Colton wonders, “What will we be asking these deep machine learning (and operating!) tools to fetch for us in the future?”

I’m Hopeful

As the editor of this piece, and someone who has worked in marketing forever, I can’t help but contemplate what will be coming in the next few months to our profession, online content, and in general how the world communicates and functions.

In the wake of OpenAI’s release, a recent CNET article said it best, “Generative AI Tools Like Chat GPT and Dall-E Are Everywhere… .”

I haven’t been immune to its allure either. After compiling the contributions from my fellow SSN’ers, I ran this article through Wordtune for a grammar check and writing suggestions. The editorial is mine (thank goodness).

However, my thoughts on the topic keep bouncing around, from the subtle, “How can we use this to make creating content faster?” to the terrifying, which is, “How will we be able to stop the amplification of misinformation now?” Amidst this, I’m certain there’s still room for the creative mind, the speed at which a human can do something faster than punching in several hundred prompts to get a mediocre result, the capacity for nuance, and the ability to understand and decipher the complexities of human communication.

Like so many man-made creations, all we can hope for is that the more tools are created for evil, the more they’ll be created for good. Whatever we’re wondering about the risks and rewards of this rapidly advancing technology, it’s sure to continue to evolve and change and in so doing change how we do things.

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