If you’re responsible for marketing your business (or someone else’s), you’ve probably seen several social media advertisements for content-creation AI.
For this article, I’m going to focus on the creation of text content only (although image AI is quickly becoming popular as well, and I’m honestly not sure how I feel about that for personal vs commercial use) and highlighting its benefits, its pitfalls, and the ethical dilemma of machine-generated content for human consumption.
Google and AI Content
Firstly, I want to address the SEO implications of using AI to generate content for your website. As quoted in this article in Search Engine Journal, Google has clarified that automatically generated content is considered spam and violates their Webmaster Guidelines.
Honestly, we don’t know (as Google do tend to keep their algorithms tightly under wraps) how well they can detect AI-generated content, but if they do, your domain could be penalised for breaking their terms. Given their public commitment to prioritising original, valuable content, it makes perfect sense – and I don’t recommend using AI in any attempt to subvert their system.
SEO should be about making helpful content visible to your target audience, not trying to deceive algorithms for a better ranking.
This then begs the question – how can we use AI ethically and productively to assist in our workflows if we decide to try it?
How does AI Content creation work?
AI isn’t magic, nor is it actually plagiarism. In fairness, although I’m not using an AI generator for this article (although I’ve provided samples later on), I currently have at least two dozen browser tabs open on my other screen. I flit between them to research from various sources – such is the process of producing what I hope is valuable content: I sample, compare, process, and create something new.
AI works in much the same way, using pre-existing data to interpret prompts (such as an article headline) and generating output based on vast amounts of sampled data and language modelling. Simply put: it takes an idea, runs with it using whatever resources it can find, and uses its understanding of language to produce something (hopefully) unique and tailored to an intended audience.
AI Content shouldn’t mean instant publishing.
I think a lot of the misinformation about AI is due to how it’s being marketed:
“Write Better Marketing Copy, Effortlessly” – says Writesonic.
“Get HIGH QUALITY Content In Under 60 Seconds” – ArticleForge
The problem with pushing the “instant gratification” appeal in these marketing headlines (as effective as it may be) is that it doesn’t give the complete picture of utilising it effectively or ethically.
On closer (i.e., scroll down the homepage) inspection, almost every platform suggests a thorough “edit and proofread” stage after using their tool. As far as I’ve experimented with generating some AI content, it’s been relatively underwhelming, so I’d probably choose to rewrite the whole damn thing anyway. That might suit you fine if you prefer editing to writing something brand new – remember, though, that the more you need to edit, the less time it saves you.
It’s far from infallible. Sometimes it sounds stupid. Sometimes it’s just plain wrong. Hopefully, though, it’s original. Right?
Some AI tools, such as Jasper.ai, have plagiarism prevention built in – some don’t. But, again, to add perspective: accidental plagiarism often happens within the human brain when we’re constantly bombarded with new information from sources we don’t remember. This is why I’d also recommend a tool like Grammarly Premium and their plagiarism checker for added peace of mind for any content creation (which I use daily to polish my articles, and it’s worth every penny!).
Despite its attempt to mimic human conversational tone, AI content usually falls short- the “human” element is still missing. It still looks, to the observant reader, like AI content, especially if you’re otherwise familiar with the mannerisms and tone of the author. You’d probably start to wonder if they’re being held hostage or something.
For giggles, here is a piece of AI-generated content courtesy of Copy.ai:
“One of the biggest misconceptions about AI content is that it doesn’t sound human. This is a common misperception because many people have had bad experiences with automated customer service lines and automated phone trees, which don’t sound like they’re being operated by humans at all. But it’s not true! AI content can be incredibly human, as long as you know how to write it.”
Yikes. The last sentence made the point for me, actually… and I’m not sure how to feel about that.
Fun fact: Grammarly kindly highlighted the heck out of that for its “unclear delivery”, and I tend to agree.
So what should I use AI Content for?
In its current state, and from a personal perspective, I’d only use AI generators for brainstorming ideas, performing simple research tasks (which I’d verify independently), and for the occasional headline if I was feeling particularly stumped and coffee wasn’t working. This is the sweet spot where I feel comfortable utilising it ethically and productively and where it also seems to help rather than hinder my content creation.
For example, I asked Copy.ai (Premium Trial) to outline a blog post about Squarespace, and it was alright. Here is the input I gave it:
And it gave a few different outputs, ranging from conservative headings like this:
… to far more creative and persuasive ideas like this:
Would I rewrite and reorder those ideas? You betcha. Are all of those statements even true? No, actually, hence the need to do your own research to prevent misinformation. But it’s a handy starting point which still allows me to communicate my thoughts, experiences, and opinions with a healthy dash of personality. You can cook without salt but in most cases… you probably shouldn’t*. Don’t aim for bland. If for no other reason, spice things up a little bit to confuse the machines 😉
*Not actual medical or dietary advice.
A cold reception from creatives
Professional content writers are generally up in arms in every comment section of every social media advertisement for AI Content tools – and that’s understandable and predictable. On the surface, AI threatens to replace human creativity and intellect with faster, cheaper, and easily accessible alternatives for the masses. But at what point does bias become resistance to progress?
My thoughts? The use of AI for marketing is inevitable (and already happening), and we need to learn to work with it rather than opposing it purely out of fear or principle. Can it be abused? Absolutely. But by dismissing it entirely, we creatives risk becoming the new wave of “Luddites” – relatable in our plight but ultimately unsuccessful in our attempts to halt what many would consider “progress”.
Aside from advancements in its medium – ballpoint pens, typewriters, and even the humble word processor – writing is a craft that’s remained relatively untouched by technological advancements for a long time. Even spell-checking and grammar software has yet to feel intrusive enough to cause much friction, and thus writers have mainly been unbothered by automation until now. Their time has come.
I’m sure old-school photographers had somewhat dismissive things to say about DSLR cameras and Photoshop. Likewise, videographers perhaps baulked at the idea of us lay folk being equipped to shoot high-quality video from our mobile phones. No doubt painters thought digital art was an insult to their craft, rather than a new and exciting medium with which to express their talents.
Why reinvent the wheel when you could be working on hybrid engines or EVs? Professionals are more valuable to their field if they’re flexible enough to keep learning and evolving ahead of the curve. In an age of innovation, can we really afford to stay still and hope our job description won’t change with the world around us?
Is there hope for humans?
Should we suck it up and let the computers take our jobs, then? Well… no. As much as we might adore or abhor this technology, it’s still not properly sentient yet. Our goal should be to prioritise humanity in our connections regardless of our desire to implement or refrain from introducing new tools into our workflow.
Our personal experiences, voice and delivery, quirks, humour, and mannerisms make us who we are, and we’re naturally drawn to those with traits we find appealing. Building a personal brand, engaging with our audience, and embracing authenticity is our way of standing out from the crowd (or the spam). Technology can either help or hinder those efforts – and that responsibility is on us and always has been.
Resistance to progress is probably futile and may unnecessarily push us further towards the borders of irrelevance, especially concerning new technology vs established business practices. Keeping a sense of curiosity and openness to learn and adapt allows us to be a part of the conversation about the ethical applications of innovation – rather than alienating us from the experiences needed to have a well-informed opinion about them.
As for me? I’ll be experimenting with AI a bit over the coming weeks (yay for free trials) and let you know if any of them are worth their salt, but I intend to keep the vast majority of my writing process the same:
- Instrumental piano music
- A hot beverage
- My favourite no-fuss text editor filled with original Lexi thoughts
- Far too many browser tabs open on my second monitor
Just the way I like it 😉