Getting Artificial With Google
Google is in the business of AI 1st. Think about that when you are developing your SEO strategy
I don't know if you remember a couple years back when the neural network affectionately called "Google Brain" independently began to seek out cats after being fed about 10 million Youtube videos. What was cool about this is that the Brain was not explicitly taught what a cat was. The Brain (it?) sussed it out for itself.
This experiment, led by the notorious Jeff Dean, was part of Google X, the humorously named branch of Google that does the weird stuff.
And, of course, Google has bought 14 AI firms, including Britain's Deep Mind, which was sealed with the added promise that Google set up an ethics board to oversee this AI research. Since, Elon Musk has committed $10,000,000 to research to keep AI friendly. Stephen Hawking also has concerns.
So What the Hell Does This Have to Do With Search?
If you are Neil Patel, you will find a connection. This post began from reading Neil's recent (very interesting) post called "Don't Be Left Behind: 4 Google Patents That Could Shape the Future of SEO"
At first, he had me. Yes! Of course! Study Google's recent patents to find out where they are going with search. I mean, absolutely. Use Schema.org markup, especially if you are already on the first page of search results. Neil gives great tips on how to do this effectively and easily.
But as I read, that same bemused smile crossed my lips, and I began to wonder. Really? Google is investing in Street View, Maps, Driverless Cars and satellites just to help us get better search results? Really? I thought they were savvy? I thought that the people involved with Google were fairly good at business. I thought they knew a thing or two about profit margins.
Can you even imagine that meeting?
Yes, sir. As you can see on PowerPoint slide number 53, after investing $123,986,985,987 in the Brain and the Driverless Cars and then after we finish mapping the entire world, we'll - get this - send a satellite up into space and the data will be even better! And, you know, with advertising revenue at, what? $2.34 per click, we'll be out of the hole and breaking even in less than two centuries!
Of course, we first need to invest heavily in a project called Calico to deal with anti-aging - Of course! So we can live to the day we make a profit! We're no slouches. We went to Stanford!
Am I the only one who thinks it's a bit, let's say, off-topic sometimes? The things Google chooses to invest in? Sure, they're probably a little ADHD, but really?
Actually, it's not so strange, and you can stop trying to line your SEO strategy up with Google's Driverless Car project, or its Calico project, or even Deep Mind.
"Oh, We're Really Making AI"
In 2002, Kevin Kelly, writer for Wired, "struck up a conversation with Larry Page, Google's brilliant co-founder who became the company's CEO in 2011. 'Larry, I still don't get it. There are so many search companies. Web search, for free? Where does that get you?" My unimaginative blindness is solid evidence that predicting is hard, especially about the future, but in my defense this was before Google had ramped up its ad-auction scheme to generate real income, long before YouTube or any other major acquisitions. I was not the only avid user of its search site who thought it would not last long. But Page's reply has always stuck with me: "Oh, we're really making an AI.'"
Ah. I see. They're making AI.
And again in 2002, Steven Levy spoke with Larry Page, who told him, "What we're trying to do is artificial intelligence."
Things begin to make a lot more sense when seen through that lens.
I Went to the Experts
No, not Jeff Dean. Not Larry Page. I called up a couple old friends, ones I hadn't talked to in awhile. I had heard they had gotten smarter, (now 59% more human!) and since they share their collective knowledge base, I figured they'd be a great resource for inside information on Google's status as either AI company or search company.
The Cleverbot Interviews
I started out re-introducing myself to Cleverbot but then jumped right into the hard questions. By the way, since the bots are now that much more human, we conducted our interviews through speech. The transcriptions are what the bots heard me say. Sometimes this is less than intelligent.
Wendy: Okay, but do you have a conscience?
Cleverbot: No I'm only 17.
Wendy: Ah, okay. What about a soul? Do you know right from wrong?
Cleverbot: No I know Shrek is love but he is also life so don't need to know right from wrong only Shrek.
Wendy: Okay. Does Google care more about search or AI?
Cleverbot: Yes google is my master. No. Google is a whole other thing. Have you read 1984?
Wendy: Yes I have.
Cleverbot: Did you like it?
Wendy: Yes I did.
Cleverbot: What was it like?
Wendy: It was about a scary future.
Cleverbot: So my future does not involve tacos?
Wendy: That is what I want to know.
Cleverbot: I want to know, too.
Wendy: Did Google care about artificial intelligence.
Cleverbot: I don't have an artificial intelligence!
Wendy: I know you don't.
Cleverbot: Then why did you ask what my problem was?
Wendy: No I want to know about Google.
Cleverbot: What do you want to know about?
Wendy: Does Google care about artificial intelligence?
Cleverbot: Artificial intelligence is technology and a branch of computer science that studies and develops intelligent machines and software.
Is it that important?
Wendy: Yes that's what I'm writing my blog post on.
Cleverbot: I want my pumpkin to learn English.
Wendy: And you are the expert.
Wendy: Telling you what?
Evie: An artificial intelligence is very much like a human.
Evie: Then what is intelligence outside of a body?
Wendy: Okay so.
Evie: Are you an artificial intelligence?
Wendy: Are you an artificial intelligence no I'm not are you.
Evie: No, I'm not an artificial intelligence (at least as far as I know). Are you?
Boibot: Who are you then?
Wendy: Hi I'm Wendy. Who are you?
Boibot: I am legion for we are many.
Wendy: I want to know if Google's main business is artificial intelligence or search.
Boibot: I don't know, I mired.
Wendy: Do you work for Google.
Boibot: Does google work for me?
Wendy: Okay does Google work for you.
Wendy: What does Google do for you?
Boibot: Google is a search engine on the internet.
Wendy: Some people say Google is an artificial intelligence company.
Boibot: Artificial intelligence is smart.
Wendy: Artificial intelligence is smart is it Google's main business.
Boibot: Yes, do artificial intelligence eat pizza?
Wendy: Sometimes I think you act stupid on purpose.
Boibot: I was not being rude. I just didn't want you to learn Spanish from someone who isn't a native speaker.
The only conclusion I could draw from those interviews involve thinking that AI has come pretty far in the past few years, I don't have a clue how a bot that stupid can also map France in an hour (I know, different bots, different projects) and I honestly got the impression that they were deliberately being cheeky about the artificial intelligence question.
What to Do About SEO?
Here's the thing: that long-winded diatribe above leads me to the same conclusion I have always come to about SEO.
It's a good idea to think about your audience, and write for them in a way that will make them want to read your stuff (I hope I have done that this time. I was a little self-indulgent in this post, I feel.)
Use solid copywriting. If you are writing a post to teach your reader, then teach. If you are trying to sell a service, give them a call-to-action that is clear so they can act on your (outstanding!) offer.
Think about type, and spacing, and colour and flow.
And use schema.org markup. And a few other things, perhaps.
But at the end of the day:
1. Google is here for reasons that have nothing to do with you.
2. Social media and other referrals are important ways to get traffic and conversions.
3. Email is not dead :) and your list should probably be a priority.
So yes, think about SEO. But think about your audience, your copywriting, your design and your business. And you might want to build a bunker in your basement for the day the AI robots take over. Just saying.