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How Artificial Intelligence Has Saved The Internet


Google can make or break your business, and that is scary. It’s even scarier when you realize that it’s almost always something that you did (or did not do) that causes Google to react. Understanding this idea, Google didn’t need a propaganda machine to get the Internet to fall in line exactly the way they wanted. The fear of not being ranked among your competitors, and not being found when potential customers were searching for your business, was (and is) enough to scare anyone into looking for the answers.

That was then…

Instantly, the smarter Internet marketers amongst us started quickly putting themselves in “Google’s’” shoes, creating websites and web experiences that they thought a Google search robot would like. And it worked! Because of Google’s rules (or algorithms), a baseline for websites was created. For the most part, the web is completely uniform:

    In any given website, you’ll see a menu on top, a big main header (but not too big) followed by content (which is most likely a very standard 3-5 paragraphs with 350-500 words). A secondary menu, one that echoes the top menu, can usually be found on the left or right side of the website. Below your main contact information you can usually find basic directional information, followed by some type of “Contact Us” section, followed lastly by a footer which, once again, echoes the top menu.

Websites followed this basic formula because it had been historically rewarded by Google. Much like the uniformity of websites, SEO was essentially uniform as well. Because these robots weren’t originally that smart, you’d have questionably spammy content and on-the-brink of spammy meta tags – which worked because Google bots were trying their best to emulate a human searcher. While search engine algorithms got sharper, finer, and more precise over time, it was still ultimately emulating how it believed a human searcher would behave, or interpreting phrases how they believed their human counterpart would interpret it.

and this is now.

Artificial intelligence has gotten much stronger, and as a result, there was a major shift: Google has gotten much better at pretending to be a human. While we used to organize our search marketing campaigns around what we expected (that a search engine would try to emulate human thought), now we are at a place where can think solely about the end user — what would our visitors like? What are they expecting and how can we improve on that?

Today, Google knows that you aren’t looking for global responses to a phrase like “auto service”, and are now serving up local results by default. Google now serves up almost identical search results for varying, but similar keyword phrases, like “auto repair”, “auto repair near me” and “auto repair in [your city]”. The end result is huge, because it gives the website owner much more agency and flexibility when it comes to trying out something new without risking major ranking penalties. We are now “free”: free to test out new designs, free to test out new ways of delivering content, and free to innovate the way that we want to innovate.

We’ve seen this in practice beyond the normal algorithm changes Google makes on a daily basis. In fact, Google has created a completely separate algorithmic piece dedicated entirely to their new artificial intelligence backbone — the “RankBrain”. Announced in late October 2015, the RankBrain artificial intelligence is now affecting 15%-25% of ALL search queries, and is ranked as the 3rd biggest and most important part of Google’s algorithm.

Prior to this change, the roadmap to Internet success followed a very clear formula. You designed your website to fit everyone else’s, and you had your content fall in line in similar ways. The road to success was a very strict one-lane highway and any outliers quickly got slapped into place (via penalty or worse). Now, the road to success is more akin to an open highway with off-ramps to serve any and every purpose you could think off. Instead of doing what has been done historically, now it’s truly up to us, which of course to some, can be a scary thought to those unwilling to change and adapt.

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Charlie Needham

Charlie Needham