From self-driving cars to systems like Alexa and Siri, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have made rapid advances during the past decade.
However, with the introduction of content spinners and content creation software, it’s becoming apparent that artificial intelligence has also had a palpable impact on the copywriting industry.
Meanwhile, traditional marketers are discovering the benefits of creating better quality, unique content, and more of it. But this requires time and money. Content spinners and content creation software claim to provide the perfect solution to this: unique and expertly-crafted content for a fraction of the time and cost you’d expect from traditional copywriters.
We explore what stage AI in copywriting is at, and what some of the pitfalls are.
AI-generated content has been around for longer than you may realise. Tools such as Google Translate marked the beginnings of mass-market content AI in 2006, using software which first translated text from a selection of languages to English and then from English into the target language.
A decade later, in September 2016, the software was reconstructed, now functioning as a neural machine translation engine that works to translate whole sentences at a time as opposed to words and phrases alone. This advance has made the software more fluent and more accurate – the system essentially teaches itself to produce natural translations over time, meaning it gets smarter the more it’s used. This ability to learn semantics has marked a wide-swept change in the attitudes towards using AI for content generation, along with re-positioning the benchmark for competitors.
It is against this backdrop that several pure content generation tools have entered the market. One such tool is the popular Articoolo, which claims to ‘create unique textual content in a flash’. The software boasts a unique algorithm to create coherent articles ‘faster than any copywriter’. We put this to the test by inputting ‘content marketing’ as the keyword and selecting a maximum length of 500 words.
Articoolo claims to ‘simulate a human writer’, but accuracy and value don’t seem to be part of the 311-word equation that it churned out. Here are some sentences pulled from the above example to demonstrate this:
Our annual research shows the majority of marketers are using content advertising. It is also developed and run by small businesses and a person’s stores around the world.
That’s the difference between content marketing and the other informational waste you get from companies trying to sell you Stuff.
To be effective at content advertising, it’s imperative to have a documented content advertising strategy. Download our 16 page guide to lea What questions to ask and how to develop your strategy.
What is impressive, is how the system does seem to have a basic understanding of the keyword term, providing you with a simple summary or starting point for an article.
What it lacks, however, is the ability to create an argument or point of view, instead relying on its ability to regurgitate ideas plucked from across the web which match the keyword term. Empty sentences such as Content strategy: Content strategy is part of most content advertising strategies will do far more than jeopardise the integrity of your supposed writing team in the eyes of clients, as overuse of ‘content strategy’ in such a small space will also mean Google may penalise you for keyword stuffing. Consequently, the content not only reads badly and contains poor grammar, but could also result in a devaluation from search engines.
Unique content is a crucial factor in any successful SEO strategy, and has been on the minds of content marketing agencies and SEO experts since Google’s Panda and Penguin updates. However, reworking whole pages of content, or chunks of text that are relevant to several pages on a site can be tedious and time consuming. Article spinners seem to offer the perfect solution to this, by rewriting content to make it unique and appear ‘new’. This, allegedly, makes it possible for users to republish existing content without the subsequent Google penalties for duplicate content.
An example of when this would be particularly helpful is if a car dealership has the same 300-word reminder about relevant insurance obligations across hundreds of individual vehicle pages. A content spinner could automatically re-write the content to make it unique, providing enough variety for Google’s algorithms to avoid a devaluation for duplicate content. What would take copywriters hours could be completed in mere seconds by a content spinner.
Word Ai is one such tool, claiming to use artificial intelligence to ‘understand text’ and ‘automatically rewrite your article with the same readability as a human writer’. The software claims to ‘look for possible ways to rewrite your article based on what the article truly means’ and understand how words interact with one another. We put this to the test by inputting human-written content into the software to see how it would be spun:
If you fancy a more active afternoon, head to the beach, a mere 500 metres away from the hotel. There, you can enjoy an array of complimentary water sports, with instructors on hand to help.
Spun by Word Ai:
If that you fancy an even more busy day, go towards the shore, only five hundred metres off in your lodge. You may delight in various water sports that are freeto provide help.
We tested this tool on a variety of content, and the only consistency was that it always introduced spelling and grammar issues into the text. It also had a habit of omitting full-stops and inserting capital letters. Most worryingly, the software chooses words that completely change the meaning of a sentence and compromise the tone of voice. A similar example is when the software changed ‘essentially’ to ‘basically,’ with no regard to potential house-style implications. The claims of ‘fully understanding’ what a word means therefore do not apply, as the tone of the original word, and entire article, is completely overlooked. Even forsaking the grammatical issues in WordAi’s own landing page copy, it’s difficult to put any faith in this particular software.
On the off chance that you favor a more dynamic evening, make a beeline for the shoreline, a minor 500 meters far from the inn. You may delight in various water sports that are freeto provide help.
On the off chance that you favor a more dynamic evening, make a beeline for the shoreline, a negligible 500 meters far from the inn. There, you can appreciate a variety of complimentary water sports, with educators close by to offer assistance.
Both spinners seem to follow a very similar algorithm, making unanimous changes to the same selection of content when tested. Although the grammar was slightly less catastrophic than Word Ai, in both cases the tone was also still compromised by swapping in words which completely change the rhetoric of the piece. The screenshot below demonstrates precisely how all three spinners re-worked the full original text, with particularly unappealing phrases highlighted.
Overall, it’s clear that none of the three article spinners generate unique content the same way a writer does. Although the content spun from the software is unique as such, the resulting spelling, grammar and semantic issues mean that the content may well get penalised by search engines anyway. After all, we already know that Google Translate is becoming smarter, and so too is Google’s crawl software. Moreover, the inability to sense the tone of the words means that any house-style or tone of voice requirements may well be completely overlooked, resulting in copy that favours quantity over quality.
What does this mean for copywriters?
It’s clear that artificial intelligence is making an impact on content marketing industry, but based on what is currently available on the market, it seems doubtful that copywriters will need to search for alternative employment just yet. The reason why artificial intelligence seems to work so well with mechanics is precisely because these are repetitive, automated industries. Creativity and the human ability to put forward a compelling argument requires far more than mere intelligence – it requires skill and emotion.
It’s true that AI can spin content to make it unique in the literal sense, but it’s also likely that the spun content will not entirely fulfil its purpose. The goal of unique content may be to rank higher with search engines, but the content produced by spinners, although unique, is not grammatically and semantically watertight. This means that search engines may, in fact, penalise you more severely for the spun content rather than the original duplicate content.
Similarly, content creation tools such as Articoolo can create simple articles around chosen terms, but can they provide well-thought-out arguments backed up by statistics and best practice? The innate skill of being able to think analytically, create links between topics and digest information to produce human-quality articles is not yet available via artificial intelligence, at least not to the mass market.
Drawing content from a variety of sources and putting a bow on it is a very limited form of intelligence. This provides a basic algorithmic sense of intelligence – a far cry from the ability to form opinions and think critically, which is the essence of content that holds any value. The crux here therefore lies in value itself – if content marketers want valuable content, then employing a writer to do the job may well save you money and time in the long run.
Essentially, artificial intelligence provides a very stunted, limited quality of intelligence when it comes to content generation. It seems as though the ability to produce well-rounded copy that pleases both search engines and users comes from sentience as opposed to mere ‘intelligence’.
Many leaders in the industry are putting the two together to claim that intelligence doesn’t necessarily equate to skill, and therefore there are some aspects of digital marketing which seem to be out of the reach of automation, for now.
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