Artificial intelligence and machine learning: What are the opportunities for search marketers?

Did you know that by 2020 the digital universe will consist of 44 zettabytes of data (source: IDC), but that the human brain can only process the equivalent of 1 million gigabytes of memory?

The explosion of big data has meant that humans simply have too much data to understand and handle daily.

For search, content and digital marketers to make the most out the valuable insights that data can provide, it is essential to utilize artificial intelligence (AI) applications, machine learning algorithms and deep learning to move the needle of marketing performance in 2018.

In this article, I will explain the advancements and differences between artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and deep learning while sharing some tips on how SEO, content and digital marketers can make the most of the insights – especially from deep learning – that these technologies bring to the search marketing table.

I studied artificial intelligence in college and after graduating took a job in the field. It was an exciting time, but our programming capabilities, when looking back now, were rudimentary. More than intelligence, it was algorithms and rules that did their best to mimic how intelligence solves problems with best-guess recommendations.

Fast forward to today and things have evolved significantly.

The Big Bang: The big data explosion and the birth of AI

Since 1956, AI pioneers have been dreaming of a world where complex machines possess the same characteristics as human intelligence.

In 1996, the industry reached a major milestone when the IBM’s Deep Blue computer defeated a chess grandmaster by considering 200,000,000 chessboard patterns a second to make optimal moves.

Between 2000 and 2017, there were many developments that enabled great leaps forward. Most important were the geometric increases in the amount data collected, stored, and made retrievable. That mountain of data, which came to be known as big data, ushered in the advent of AI.

And it keeps growing exponentially: in 2016 IBM estimated that 90% of the world’s data had been generated over the last few years.

When thinking about AI, machine learning and deep learning, I find it helps to simplify and visualize how the 3 categories work and relate to each other –  this framework also works from a chronological, sub-set development and size perspective.

Artificial intelligence is the science of making machines do things requiring human intelligence. It is human intelligence in machine format where computer programs develop data-based decisions and perform tasks normally performed by  humans.

Machine learning takes artificial intelligence a step further in the sense that algorithms are programmed to learn and improve without the need for human data input and reprogramming.

Machine learning can be applied to many different problems and data sets. Google’s RankBrain algorithm is a great example of machine learning that evaluates the intent and context of each search query, rather than just delivering results based on programmed rules about keyword matching and other factors.

Deep learning is a more detailed algorithmic approach, taken from machine learning, that uses techniques based on logic and exposing data to neural networks (think human brain) so that the technology trains itself to perform tasks such as speech and image recognition.

Massive data sets are combined with pattern recognition capabilities to automatically make decisions, find patterns, emulate previous decisions, etc. Self-learning comes from here as the machine gets better from the more data that it is supplied.

Driverless cars, Netflix movie recommendations and IBMs Watson are all great examples of deep learning applications that break down tasks to make machine actions and assists possible.

Organic search, content and digital performance: Challenge and opportunity

Organic search (SEO) drives 51% of all website traffic and hence in this section it is only natural to explain the key benefits that deep-learning brings to SEO and digital marketers.

Organic search is a data-intensive business. Companies value and want their content to be visible on thousands or even millions of keywords in one to dozens of languages. Search best practices involve about 20 elements of on-page and off-page tactics. The SERPs themselves now come in more than 15 layout varieties.

Organic search is your market-wide voice of the customer, telling you what customers want at scale. However, marketers are faced with the challenge of making sense of so much data, having limited resources to mine insights and then actually act on the right and relevant insight for their business.

To succeed in highly demanding markets against your competitors’ many brands now requires the expertise of an experienced data analyst, and this is where machine learning and deep learning layers help recommend optimizations to content.

Connecting the dots with deep learning: Data and machine learning

The size of the organic data and the number of potential patterns that exist on that data make it a perfect candidate for deep learning applications. Unlike simple machine learning, deep-learning works better when it can analyse a massive amount of relevant data over long periods of time.

Deep learning and its ability to identify or prioritize material changes in interests and consumption behavior allows organic search marketers to gain a competitive advantage, be at the forefront of their industry, and produce the material that people need before their competitors, boosting their reputation.

In this way, marketers can begin to understand the strategies put forth by their competitors. They will see how well they perform compared to others in their industry and can then adjust their strategies to address the strengths or weaknesses that they find.

  • The insights derived from deep learning technologies blend the best of search marketing and content marketing practices to power the development, activation, and automated optimization of smart content, content that is self-aware and self-adjusting, improving content discovery and engagement across all digital marketing channels.
  • Intent data offers in-the-moment context on where customers want to go and what they want to know, do, or buy. Organic search data is the critical raw material that helps you discover consumer patterns, new market opportunities, and competitive threats.
  • Deep learning is particularly important in search, where data is copious and incredibly dynamic. Identifying patterns in data in real-time makes deep learning your best first defense in understanding customer, competitor, or market changes – so that you can immediately turn these insights into a plan to win.

To propel content and organic search success in 2018 marketers should let the machines does more of the leg work to provide the insights and recommendations that allow marketers to focus on the creation of smart content.

Below are a just a few examples of the benefits for the organic search marketer:

Site analysis

Pinpoint and fix critical site errors that drive the greatest benefits to a brand’s bottom line. Deep learning technology can be used to incorporate website data, detect anomalies tying site errors to estimated marketing impact so that marketers can prioritize fixes for maximum results.

Without a deep learning application to help you, you might be staring at a long list of potential fixes which typically get postponed to later.

Competitive strategy

Identifying patterns in real-time makes deep learning a brands’ best first defense in understanding customer, competitor, or market changes– so that marketers can immediately turn these insights into a plan to win.

Content discovery

Surface high-value topics that target different content strategies, such as stopping competitive threats or capitalizing on local demand.

Deep learning technology can be used to assess the ROI of new content items and prioritize their development by unveiling insights such as topic opportunity, consumer intent, characteristics of top competing content, and recommendations for improving content performance.

Content development

Score the quality and relevance of each piece of content produced. Deep learning technology can help save time with automated tasks of content production, such as header tags, cross-linking, copy optimization, image editing, highly optimized CTAs that drive performance, and embedded performance tracking of website traffic and conversion.

Content activation

Deep learning technology can help ensure that each piece of content is optimized for organic performance and customer experience—such as schema for structure, AMP for better mobile experiences, and Open Graph for Facebook. Technology can help marketers can amplify their content in social networks for greater visibility.

Automation

Automation helps marketers do more with less and execute more quickly. It allows marketers to manage routine tasks with little effort, so that they can focus on high-impact activities and accomplish organic business goals at scale.

Note: To make the most of the insights and recommendations from deep learning marketers need to take action and make the relevant changes to web page content to keep website visitors engaged and ultimately converting.

Additionally, because the search landscape changes so frequently, deep learning fuels the development of smart content and can be used to automatically adjust to changes in content formats and standards.

Deep learning in action

An example of deep learning in organic search is DataMind. BrightEdge (disclosure, my employer) Data Mind is like a virtual team of data scientists built into the platform, that combines massive volumes of data with immediate, actionable insights to inform marketing decisions.

In this case the deep learning engine analyzes huge, complex, and dynamic data sets (from multiple sources that include 1st and 3rd party data) to determine patterns and derive the insights marketers need. Deep learning is used to detect anomalies in a site’s performance and interpret the reasons, such as industry trends, while making recommendations about how to proceed.

Conclusion

Think of deep learning applications as your own personal data scientist – here to help and assist and not to replace. The adoption of AI, machine learning and now deep learning technologies allows faster decisions, more accurate and smarter insights.

Brands compete in the content battleground to ensure their content is optimized and found, engages audiences and ultimately drives conversions and digital revenue. When armed with these insights from deep learning, marketers get a new competitive weapon and a massive competitive edge.

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