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5 Things I Learned About E-A-T by Analyzing 647 Search Results



5 Things I Learned About E-A-T by Analyzing 647 Search Results

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

As a writer at a content marketing agency, I’ve written for a lot of different clients, and almost everything I’ve produced has been intended to rank on Google and encourage website traffic.

Here’s the challenge I (and every other marketing writer on the planet) am up against: search competition.

No matter what industry you’re in, or target audience you’re speaking to, you’re not alone. You have competition. And if you and your competition both understand the SEO game (which is very much the case for most companies nowadays), then what do you have to fall back on to protect your visibility in the all-important SERPs?

According to Google, it’s E-A-T: Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness.


But here’s the complicated thing: Every one of my clients — even the small ones thriving in very big industries — has expertise, and authoritativeness, and even trustworthiness. So, how does that help them in search? And how can they possibly prove to Google, amid all the noise and competition and other experts out there, that they deserve a place on Page 1?

Last year, I set out to find out.


Google is pretty clear about the fact that websites need E-A-T, but what they don’t really clue us in on is what E-A-T actually is or how it’s measured. I hypothesized that, if I compiled a big list of SERPs and closely analyzed all the Page 1 results, I could narrow down what may comprise E-A-T.

Theoretically, E-A-T affects different industries in different ways. That’s because some topics and subject areas are more critical than others to have extremely reliable information — like when you’re searching for information about prescription drugs or complicated financial products.

So, the first thing I did was choose seven topic categories to focus on: legal, insurance, health care, loans, pharmaceuticals, military, and informational questions. Next, I picked 10 queries for each category.

Then I searched. The resulting 70 SERPs produced 647 results. I analyzed each of those results, looking specifically for 32 different factors.


Finally, I reviewed what I had recorded and asked:

  • Which factors were the most prevalent across all 647 results?

  • Which factors were most prevalent among the 210 Top 3 results?

  • Were there differences in prevalent factors across the various topic categories I chose?

Before we get into the results, let’s talk about correlation vs. causation for a moment. While each of these factors seemed to be very common among Page 1 results, and it seems clear that some of these factors do play a role in establishing E-A-T, all I can really say for sure is that these traits are associated with pages that rank well in search. They could be indicators of a good page or website, but not necessarily the determining factor that’s putting them on Page 1.

With that in mind, here are five lessons I learned about E-A-T after closely analyzing the results from those 70 searches.

Lesson 1: Original, relevant, recent content is essential

Of all the lessons, this is the least surprising to me, but perhaps the most important. To rank well for relevant terms, you need to strongly demonstrate that your website belongs in search results. How? Content, obviously.

But it’s got to be high-quality content. Usually, I’d say that means you’re addressing the topic from all angles and leaving no questions unanswered. But after this SERP inspection exercise, I’d actually say the three most important characteristics of high-quality content are that it’s:

  1. Original

  2. Relevant

  3. Recently published or updated

Original research

One factor I sought throughout this study was original research. To me, this included any content that’s created using information the organization sources, analyzes, and publishes themselves.


Just shy of two-thirds of the results’ websites contained original research, but among the websites whose results were in the Top 3 positions, 70% had original research available. This shows the importance of creating your own, unique content — a story only you can tell. Trust me, you have one.

Relevance and topical authority

Beyond content just being unique, it also needs to be relevant to your industry and target audience. Topical authority is a weird concept because SEOs know it’s real, but there’s no way to measure it, and Google hasn’t exactly come out and said they have a topical authority ranking factor.

However, they have given us a lot of clues that point to topical authority being a highly important factor in E-A-T — like this patent they filed in 2017. Even in their recent Helpful Content Update, Google highlights questions that creators should ask themselves when considering their own site content. The question, “Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?” in particular alludes to the importance of creating content for a topic niche or specific subject area.

Given the limited tools on this subject, I decided to create my own (rudimentary) method of measuring topical authority by way of roughly determining the topic coverage depth throughout the whole website. Here’s what I did:

  1. Determine the parent topic of the query in question. “Insurance” is the parent topic for “types of insurance” and “world population” is the parent topic for “how many people are in the world,” for example.

  2. Find the Topic Coverage Score (TCS, as I call it) of each result’s website. That’s the number of pages indexed by Google that contain an exact-match of the parent term.

  3. Calculate the average TCS of all Page 1 results for each query.

  4. Compare the TSC of each result with the average TSC for that query.

After that procession of steps, I found that while 25% of Page 1 results had a TSC higher than the average, 40% of Top 3 results boasted the same. In other words, the websites that had the most topic coverage were more likely to land at the top of the page.

Recently published or updated

Half of all Top 3 and 48% of Page 1 results were dated within the previous two years. There are plenty of evergreen topics that don’t need regular content changes (the oldest result in my study was a page explaining why the sky is blue from 1997). Updating content just for the sake of giving it a new date won’t help you rank any higher in Google. However, creating timely content and updating old content as necessary could help.


Lesson 2: Your off-site, online presence matters

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Here’s a lesson I wasn’t expecting to learn. When I set out on this study, I thought the biggest E-A-T factors would correspond to the website in question more so than the organization that manages it. Not so much: It became clear to me that your off-site, online presence plays a role in helping you rank in Google search results.

The vast majority (95%) of all results had third-party reviews of some kind, whether they’re Google My Business reviews, comments on Glassdoor, site trustworthiness information on Trustpilot, or something else.

Wikipedia is also a common thread between many of the results. While 89% of Page 1 results’ websites or organizations had at least one Wikipedia mention, 93% of Top 3 results did, too. As far as actual Wikipedia pages, 73% of Page 1 results and 82% of Top 3 results’ organizations had one.

The high prevalence on Page 1 tells me that it’s fairly common to have a Wikipedia connection, but the higher numbers corresponding to the Top 3 results hints at what their importance might be.

Another patent from Google, this one updated in 2018, discusses the topic of seed sites. A seed site, theoretically, is one that the search engine trusts because it generally has quality content and good, valuable links. Google hasn’t revealed whether this seed site theory is valid, or to what extent it plays a role in search algorithms (if any). But if I were to choose a seed site, Wikipedia would be a good contender. Each page has tons of links to websites with relevant information on carefully organized topics.

Another website worth mentioning is the Better Business Bureau. While it only gives limited perspective (since it only relates to Canadian and US businesses), I found that many Page 1 results’ organizations (70%) and even more Top 3 results (74%) had at least a BBB page but not necessarily a grade. In fact, a little over one-fourth of results that had a BBB page didn’t have a rating.

It seems to me that the value is in getting listed on BBB’s website more so than achieving a good grade — perhaps a North American-specific seed site of sorts.


Lesson 3: Transparency and honesty are the best policies

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So far, we’ve learned a lot about E (expertise) and A (authoritativeness) but where the T — trustworthiness — really comes into sight is when we start talking about transparency.

Google states right in its Page Quality Rating guidelines that webmasters should state on their website exactly who is responsible for site content. That can be a person or people, or it could be an organization. At Moz, for example, the folks at Moz are responsible for their site content, and they explain all about it in their About page. Similarly, 91% of results I analyzed had a detailed About Us page.

Another way of being transparent about what your site is all about is by publishing editorial standards or guidelines. These documents detail how your site gets populated: where content comes from, what characteristics help it make the cut, what the organization won’t publish, and more.

43% of Page 1 results and 49% of Top 3 results had some sort of editorial guidelines published. These included information quality guidelines, pitch guidelines that reflect editorial standards, correction policies, and corporate governance documentation that addresses communication or media.

Why should publishing guidelines benefit your site? Well, I could see two factors at play here.

First off, Google’s Page Quality Rating guidelines specifically notes that “High E-A-T news sources typically have published established editorial policies and robust review processes.” That doesn’t prove that the algorithm considers the presence of editorial guidelines (or even knows about them all the time) but it does lend us insight into the mind of Google.

Second, I’d be willing to bet that there’s a strong correlation between organizations that take the time to put together editorial guidelines and those that take the time to ensure their content is worthy of their site. Additionally, the process of putting together editorial guidelines is itself a good exercise in ensuring that your website content is high quality.


Lesson 4: Connections go a long way

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No business operates in a vacuum, especially not on the Internet. The connections your organization has made with others, and how you acknowledge them, make an impact on how your community views you.

Reputable partners

There are all kinds of connections a business might make with another organization. Throughout the study, I kept track of something I called “reputable partners.” To earn this mark, a website had to demonstrate a relationship between themselves and another organization that’s plainly in support or favor of their work or mission.

Some of the most common types of demonstrations of these relationships included:

  • Articles and press releases announcing partnerships or outcomes.

  • Explanations of the relationships between those organizations.

  • Accolades from recognized organizations highlighted on-site through badges, links to award announcements, press releases, etc.

  • Links to press releases or articles demonstrating the relationship between organizations, and/or award badge displays.

While 73% of the results I looked at had clear “reputable partners,” 78% of those in the Top 3 did, too. My theory for this pattern is that making it obvious which other organizations are in support of you — generally or financially, e.g. through a grant — or in favor of your mission, you’re being transparent about how your organization operates. That fits squarely with the T in the E-A-T equation.


Another type of connection modern businesses deal in today is backlinks. Links put the “Inter” in “Internet,” and they’ve become essential for people and (more importantly for this subject) web crawlers to understand and navigate the web.

The average number of backlinks across all 647 results I analyzed was 32,572. Among the 210 Top 3 results, it was 88,581.

It’s certainly possible to get on Page 1 with fewer than that — about one-third had fewer than 100 backlinks and 28 had none whatsoever. However, we can clearly see that link quantity is valuable.


But what about link quality? For that, we can look at Moz’s Spam Score. This metric indicates your backlink profile health, with a 1% rating as really healthy and a 99% rating as super unhealthy.

While Moz considers a “low” score to be 30% or less, 44% of Page 1 results had a Spam Score of 1%, indicating that most Page 1 results have a very clean, healthy backlink profile. Another 19% had scores of 2 or 3%. The Top 3 results mirrored these results (with 44% at 1% and 18% at 2 or 3%).

Another way we can make some assumptions about link quality is by looking at referring domains. When there are loads of backlinks but very few referring domains, it seems less likely to be the result of deliberate link-building efforts. On the other hand, a higher number of referring domains could indicate more honest link-building tactics or simply just a really good web page that others want to link to.

The average number of referring domains among Page 1 results was 752. Meanwhile, among the Top 3 results, the average was 1,594. Making connections with other organizations online by way of honest link-building efforts can be one way to expand your reach, but also show Google and other search engines that you offer quality, worthwhile content.

Lesson 5: The right technology is essential

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Last, but absolutely not least, if you have a website, it needs to be set up securely so that visitors can trust that they’re not putting their data at risk by interacting with it. In my study, I found that 96% of all results (also 96% of just top 3 results) used HTTPS. Interestingly, those that didn’t most often occurred in the military portion of the study.

Websites today also need technologies for cookie notifications, and some use pop-ups to convey important messages. Others use advertising to monetize their site. In any of these situations, the website owner should aim to minimize disruption to the user’s experience. Just 42% of all results had a pop-up: most of them (81) were inviting the user to subscribe to something (e.g. a newsletter), while nearly an equal number (79) were communicating information related to cookies.

Having the right technology enabled on your website may not seem inherently connected to E-A-T — which is why I didn’t evaluate even more technologic considerations such as e-payment systems — but considering that a huge aspect of Trustworthiness online today is about data gathering and management (and the ill effects of mis-management), it’s apparent that this area matters just as much, if not more so, than all your efforts into quality content creation.



When I set out to uncover the factors associated with E-A-T, I fully anticipated learning about proper author attribution, source citations, and good content. I guess I was thinking with my author hat on and not my web user hat, because I was only close on one of those three.

There are a lot of activities digital marketers can do to promote their businesses and goods and services today. Content creation and content marketing, link building, local SEO, advertising, public relations, and more can all seem like great options that you can pursue.

But the truth is, they’re not options — they’re must-haves for building a holistic digital presence. After conducting this study, my advice to webmasters and business leaders would be to assess your current online presence (including but not limited to your website’s user experience) and determine where there are holes. Working to fill those holes won’t necessarily be easy, but it will be worth it when your web traffic increases and your pages begin to rank.

To see a detailed explanation of each factor considered in this study, check out the full E-A-T study report on the Brafton blog.

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Optimizing Zoom’s digital experience for explosive growth



Optimizing Zoom's digital experience for explosive growth

In February 2020, Zoom had millions of weekly visitors to their site, all of whom were coming to to do a handful of activities. Flashforward a month later to March, and Zoom’s traffic spiked to tens of millions of visitors every week. Those visitors arrived to not only use Zoom for a couple of work calls per week, but to entirely reinvent how they interacted with colleagues, partners, teachers, students, and even friends and family.   

Zoom used this opportunity to transform its users’ experience into incredible growth and customer happiness across geographies and verticals. How did they do it?  

At Opticon ’23, Alex London, Head of Digital Zoom and Jay Dettling, CEO of Hero Digital, joined Alex Atzberger, CEO, Optimizely to share how Zoom re-built their entire digital ecosystem. 

Keep reading to learn how Zoom partnered with Hero Digital and Optimizely to transform its customer experience and drive stellar results including these early wins: 

  • Page load improved by 60% 
  • Speed to market improved by 50% 
  • Conversion improvement of 10% 
  • Publishing time from days to minutes (reduced by about half) 

The Year the World “Hopped on a Zoom Call” — & What Came Next

In March 2020, Zoom watched as web traffic, sign-ups, users and attendees grew from millions to hundreds of millions virtually overnight. Not only did its customer base and user group skyrocket, but its core use cases did, too: online meeting rooms were now used to host weddings, game nights, and math classes. At the same time, corporate brainstorms, sales calls, and even government processes requiring the highest security clearances moved to  Zoom to continue working as normally as possible. 

To meet the incredible demand for new use cases and services, the Zoom team had to ideate, test, and ship new products and features on a timeline that the internal teams refer to as “at the speed of Zoom.” Their success meant that their brand entered a hallowed hall of exclusive brands whose names made the transition from noun to verb. It was the year of: “Can we Zoom?” 

Getting there wasn’t just about building and launching products and features;  that was only half the battle. To scale and continue delivering happiness to customers, the team needed to ensure they told the story of Zoom across all customer touchpoints. 

Their goals

  1. Reimagine and rebuild the entire digital stack (including attribution models, analytics systems, acquisition, and localization) 
  2. Move from an existing agnostic, one-size-fits-all model to a global, flexible digital experience to cater to personas, geographies, and use cases 
  3. Improve their speed to market to continue moving “at the speed of Zoom” 

The Tactical Challenges of Reimagining Zoom’s Digital Stack 

Zoom’s overarching goal was to put the story at every single touchpoint of the customer journey. Given the dramatic change in their business, building a new site for Zoom would be incredibly complicated. Yet, if they succeeded, they’d generate demand, better enable purchases, and support its users.  

So how did they do it? Before making the leap, they looked to their strategic partners — Hero Digital and Optimizely.




Zoom needed a new digital foundation to achieve all of its goals at scale. More importantly, their new foundation needed to untangle serious web traffic complexity.

Zoom has four primary visitor types — all arriving on Zoom’s marketing website by the millions. They include: 

  • Individuals and SMEs buying Zoom online 
  • Demo requests 
  • Product support requests 
  • Users and attendees accessing Zoom’s website as part of their workflow 

To add even more complexity, the teams needed to account for multi-lingual requirements for 20+ languages across the globe. 

“How do we build for these four levels of complexity? And how quickly can we move to tell our new platform story?” – Alex London, Head of Digital at Zoom

Before anything else, Zoom needed to build a new design system, and Hero Digital stepped in to help. Together, they built a minimum versatile component library that would scale across the website, mobile, ads, and anywhere else Zoom encountered customers. The initial minimum library featured 38 components with 29 variants and 8 page templates. 

Zoom also had to untangle the domain and subdomain issues of their own making. The past choice to build their digital foundation on ‘’ and create new subdomains for customers (coming in north of 10k subdomains) meant speed and ranking were complicated. Essentially, Zoom was competing with 10k+ sites that Zoom itself had created.  

Resolving this problem by choosing to unify content on a single domain, Zoom, Hero Digital, and Optimizely got to work. 

Hero Digital’s Foundation + Optimizely’s Architecture = Moving at the Speed of Zoom

By partnering with Hero Digital and Optimizely, Zoom reimagined its complete customer experience and upgraded to a best-in-class technology platform that combines AI-accelerated workflows with experiment-driven digital experiences. 


The team deployed the Optimizely Digital Experience Platform, featuring Optimizely Content Management System, Content Management Platform, and Experimentation, as the architecture to bring their foundation to life and scale faster than they could ever imagine.

Component Library + Optimizely CMS  

One of Zoom’s goals was to move from its existing agnostic model to a global, flexible digital experience to cater to personas, geographies, and use cases. To do that, they needed a modern content management system. 

In the first phase of the build, the team focused on Zoom’s marketing site, now untangled but still over 200 pages. They established a foundation on Optimizely’s Content Management System to create a foundation with a migration plan over months. 

Even in the earliest stages, the results were huge because the CMS meant Zoom can could now push global changes in just minutes. They save hundreds of hours of work across the company by: 

  • Eliminating the devops processes, which previously took days or weeks to work through
  • Reducing publishing processes by half even with new added governance steps


Optimizely’s Content Marketing Platform

Improving speed to market was Zoom’s third goal. With the first two goals unlocked by their phased migration to Optimizely’s CMS, they needed to not only unblock the velocity but also the creativity and collaboration in producing new content. Zoom’s teams receive 80-100 requests a week for new content across their digital properties. 


For Zoom, the re-build of the intake process for content requests was a key component of speeding up their processes. They built in guard rails and governance processes that when used within the CMP, reduced publishing time to minutes rather than days.



Now, with the first three goals— a reimagined digital stack, a flexible digital experience, and improved speed to market—accomplished, Zoom will focus on its next digital phase: experimentation and personalization. 

How could a digital experience platform help you navigate the next phase of your business? Learn more from the experts with access to The Forrester Wave: Digital Experience Platforms, Q4 2023 report.



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The Role of Enterprise Mobility Management in Modern Businesses



The Role of Enterprise Mobility Management in Modern Businesses

In today’s fast-paced business environment, Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) has emerged as a critical facilitator for enhancing operational efficiency and competitiveness. EMM solutions streamline workflows, ensuring that enterprises can adapt to the rapidly changing digital landscape. This blog discusses the indispensable role of EMM in modern businesses, focusing on how it revolutionizes workflows and positions businesses for success.

EMM solutions act as the backbone for securely managing mobile devices, applications, and content that facilitate remote work and on-the-go access to company resources. With a robust EMM platform, businesses can ensure data protection and compliance with regulatory requirements, even in highly dynamic environments. This not only minimizes the risk of data breaches but also reinforces the company’s reputation for reliability and security.

Seamless Integration Across Devices

In today’s digital era, seamless integration across devices is not just a luxury; it’s a necessity for maintaining operational fluency within any organization. Our EMM solutions are designed to ensure that employees have secure and efficient access to the necessary resources, irrespective of the device being used. This cross-platform compatibility significantly enhances productivity by allowing for a unified user experience that supports both the agility and dynamism required in modern business operations. Leveraging cutting-edge technology, our solutions provide a cohesive ecosystem where data flows securely and effortlessly across mobile phones, tablets, and laptops, ensuring that your workforce remains connected and productive, regardless of their physical location. The adoption of our EMM solutions speaks volumes about an organization’s commitment to fostering a technologically forward and secure working environment, echoing its dedication to innovation and excellence.

Enhanced Productivity

EMM facilitates the seamless integration of mobile devices into the corporate environment, enabling employees to access corporate resources from anywhere. This flexibility significantly enhances productivity by allowing tasks to be completed outside of traditional office settings.

Unified Endpoint Management

The incorporation of Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) within EMM solutions ensures that both mobile and fixed devices can be managed from a single console, simplifying IT operations and enhancing security.


Advanced Security Protocols

Where cyber threats loom larger than ever, our EMM solutions incorporate cutting-edge security protocols designed to shield your organization’s data from unauthorized access and breaches. By consistently updating and refining our security measures, we ensure your assets are protected by the most advanced defenses available. This commitment to security not only safeguards your information but also reinforces your company’s reputation as a secure and trustworthy enterprise.

Data Protection

EMM solutions implement robust security measures to protect sensitive corporate data across all mobile devices. This includes encryption, secure VPN connections, and the ability to remotely wipe data from lost or stolen devices, thereby mitigating potential data breaches.

Compliance Management

By enforcing security policies and ensuring compliance with regulatory standards, EMM helps businesses avoid costly fines and reputational damage associated with data breaches.

Driving Operational Efficiency

In the quest to drive operational efficiency, our solutions streamline processes, reduce redundancies, and automate routine tasks. By leveraging cutting-edge technologies, we empower businesses to optimize their workflows, resulting in significant time and cost savings. Our approach not only enhances operational agility but also positions your organization at the forefront of innovation, setting a new standard in your industry.

Automated Workflows

By automating repetitive tasks, EMM reduces manual efforts, increases accuracy, and speeds up business processes. This automation supports operational efficiency and allows employees to focus on more strategic tasks.

Real-time Communication and Collaboration

EMM enhances communication and collaboration among team members by providing tools that facilitate real-time interactions. This immediate exchange of information accelerates decision-making processes and improves project outcomes.


Testimonials from Industry Leaders

Leaders in various industries have witnessed tangible benefits from implementing EMM solutions, including increased productivity, improved security, and enhanced operational efficiency. Testimonials from these leaders underscore the transformative impact of EMM on their businesses, solidifying its vital role in modern operational strategies.

Our commitment to innovation and excellence propels us to continually refine our EMM solutions, ensuring they remain at the cutting edge of technology. This dedication not only solidifies our standing as industry leaders but also guarantees that our clients receive the most advanced and effective operational tools available, tailored specifically to meet their unique business challenges.

Looking Ahead

The evolution of EMM solutions continues at a rapid pace, with advancements in technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and the Internet of Things (IoT) further enhancing their capabilities. These developments promise even greater efficiencies, security measures, and competitive advantages for businesses willing to invest in the future of mobility management.

Our proactive approach to integrating emerging technologies with EMM solutions positions our clients at the forefront of their industries. By leveraging our deep technical expertise and industry insights, we empower businesses to not only adapt to but also lead in an increasingly digital world, ensuring they remain competitive and resilient amidst rapid technological shifts.

In conclusion, the role of Enterprise Mobility Management in modern businesses cannot be overstated. Its ability to revolutionize workflows, enhance security, and drive operational efficiency positions it as a foundational element of digital transformation strategies. We invite businesses to explore the potential of EMM solutions and partner with us to achieve unprecedented levels of success and innovation in the digital era. Together, we can redefine the boundaries of what is possible in business operations and set new benchmarks for excellence in the industry.

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Lessons From Air Canada’s Chatbot Fail



Lessons From Air Canada’s Chatbot Fail

Air Canada tried to throw its chatbot under the AI bus.

It didn’t work.

A Canadian court recently ruled Air Canada must compensate a customer who bought a full-price ticket after receiving inaccurate information from the airline’s chatbot.

Air Canada had argued its chatbot made up the answer, so it shouldn’t be liable. As Pepper Brooks from the movie Dodgeball might say, “That’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for ’em.” 

But what does that chatbot mistake mean for you as your brands add these conversational tools to their websites? What does it mean for the future of search and the impact on you when consumers use tools like Google’s Gemini and OpenAI’s ChatGPT to research your brand?


AI disrupts Air Canada

AI seems like the only topic of conversation these days. Clients expect their agencies to use it as long as they accompany that use with a big discount on their services. “It’s so easy,” they say. “You must be so happy.”

Boards at startup companies pressure their management teams about it. “Where are we on an AI strategy,” they ask. “It’s so easy. Everybody is doing it.” Even Hollywood artists are hedging their bets by looking at the newest generative AI developments and saying, “Hmmm … Do we really want to invest more in humans?  

Let’s all take a breath. Humans are not going anywhere. Let me be super clear, “AI is NOT a strategy. It’s an innovation looking for a strategy.” Last week’s Air Canada decision may be the first real-world distinction of that.

The story starts with a man asking Air Canada’s chatbot if he could get a retroactive refund for a bereavement fare as long as he provided the proper paperwork. The chatbot encouraged him to book his flight to his grandmother’s funeral and then request a refund for the difference between the full-price and bereavement fair within 90 days. The passenger did what the chatbot suggested.


Air Canada refused to give a refund, citing its policy that explicitly states it will not provide refunds for travel after the flight is booked.

When the passenger sued, Air Canada’s refusal to pay got more interesting. It argued it should not be responsible because the chatbot was a “separate legal entity” and, therefore, Air Canada shouldn’t be responsible for its actions.

I remember a similar defense in childhood: “I’m not responsible. My friends made me do it.” To which my mom would respond, “Well, if they told you to jump off a bridge, would you?”

My favorite part of the case was when a member of the tribunal said what my mom would have said, “Air Canada does not explain why it believes …. why its webpage titled ‘bereavement travel’ was inherently more trustworthy than its chatbot.”

The BIG mistake in human thinking about AI

That is the interesting thing as you deal with this AI challenge of the moment. Companies mistake AI as a strategy to deploy rather than an innovation to a strategy that should be deployed. AI is not the answer for your content strategy. AI is simply a way to help an existing strategy be better.

Generative AI is only as good as the content — the data and the training — fed to it.  Generative AI is a fantastic recognizer of patterns and understanding of the probable next word choice. But it’s not doing any critical thinking. It cannot discern what is real and what is fiction.


Think for a moment about your website as a learning model, a brain of sorts. How well could it accurately answer questions about the current state of your company? Think about all the help documents, manuals, and educational and training content. If you put all of that — and only that — into an artificial brain, only then could you trust the answers.

Your chatbot likely would deliver some great results and some bad answers. Air Canada’s case involved a minuscule challenge. But imagine when it’s not a small mistake. And what about the impact of unintended content? Imagine if the AI tool picked up that stray folder in your customer help repository — the one with all the snarky answers and idiotic responses? Or what if it finds the archive that details everything wrong with your product or safety? AI might not know you don’t want it to use that content.

ChatGPT, Gemini, and others present brand challenges, too

Publicly available generative AI solutions may create the biggest challenges.

I tested the problematic potential. I asked ChatGPT to give me the pricing for two of the best-known CRM systems. (I’ll let you guess which two.) I asked it to compare the pricing and features of the two similar packages and tell me which one might be more appropriate.

First, it told me it couldn’t provide pricing for either of them but included the pricing page for each in a footnote. I pressed the citation and asked it to compare the two named packages. For one of them, it proceeded to give me a price 30% too high, failing to note it was now discounted. And it still couldn’t provide the price for the other, saying the company did not disclose pricing but again footnoted the pricing page where the cost is clearly shown.

In another test, I asked ChatGPT, “What’s so great about the digital asset management (DAM) solution from [name of tech company]?” I know this company doesn’t offer a DAM system, but ChatGPT didn’t.


It returned with an answer explaining this company’s DAM solution was a wonderful, single source of truth for digital assets and a great system. It didn’t tell me it paraphrased the answer from content on the company’s webpage that highlighted its ability to integrate into a third-party provider’s DAM system.

Now, these differences are small. I get it. I also should be clear that I got good answers for some of my harder questions in my brief testing. But that’s what’s so insidious. If users expected answers that were always a little wrong, they would check their veracity. But when the answers seem right and impressive, even though they are completely wrong or unintentionally accurate, users trust the whole system.

That’s the lesson from Air Canada and the subsequent challenges coming down the road.

AI is a tool, not a strategy

Remember, AI is not your content strategy. You still need to audit it. Just as you’ve done for over 20 years, you must ensure the entirety of your digital properties reflect the current values, integrity, accuracy, and trust you want to instill.

AI will not do this for you. It cannot know the value of those things unless you give it the value of those things. Think of AI as a way to innovate your human-centered content strategy. It can express your human story in different and possibly faster ways to all your stakeholders.

But only you can know if it’s your story. You have to create it, value it, and manage it, and then perhaps AI can help you tell it well. 

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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