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Exploring The Impact Of AI

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Exploring The Impact Of AI

AI is everywhere, but when is it useful? What do you need to know about it?

How are marketers and SEO professionals actually using generative AI today to work more efficiently and execute better campaigns?

With search engines announcing new AI integrations and thousands of new AI tools coming online daily, sorting the fabulous from the flops can take a lot of work.

On June 1, I moderated a webinar with Search Engine Journal’s very own Matt Southern, Senior News Writer, and Jennifer McDonald, Client Success Manager.

Southern and McDonald discussed the latest AI news and top tools, answering questions about marketing and SEO-related AI inquiries and sharing their best tips for integrating these new technologies.

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Here’s a summary of the webinar. To access the entire presentation, complete the form.

AI vs. Generative AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to a broad field of computer science aimed at creating systems capable of performing tasks that usually require human intelligence.

Generative AI, on the other hand, is a subfield of AI. It learns from data and uses that learning to create new content or predictions. Think GPT-4 developed by OpenAI, which can generate human-like text that is contextually relevant and highly sophisticated.

Generative AI has come a long way, from logic theorists in 1956 to Google’s latest Search Generative Experience (SGE) in 2023.

[See the AI timeline of developments] Instantly accesses the on-demand webinar →

How Generative AI Is Changing Digital Marketing

AI is improving digital marketing in the following areas:

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  • Productivity: Faster output of narrow tasks saves mental energy
  • Connection: Stronger understanding of personas, demographics, & language.
  • Ideation: Pushes leaping-off point farther down the field.
  • Funnels: Deeper, more powerful campaigns.
  • Beginner Content: SMBs & solopreneurs can now create content up to industry standards.

[Dive deeper into each area] Instantly access the on-demand webinar →

Digital Marketing Areas Generative AI Is Useful In

Generative AI holds immense potential and can be utilized in nearly every aspect of marketing.

This cutting-edge technology has a vast array of applications allowing it to transform standard marketing methodologies significantly.

SEO
High-engagement title generation
Grouping unstructured content
Keyword strategy & cluster validation
Keyword & copy intent validation
Link building outreach
Organic link building content recaps
Content
Topic ideation & content gap identification
Content outlines & structure
First draft creation Image & video creation
Product image background generation
Audience tone validation
Hyper-personalized email generation
Sales
Script creation
Predictive hurdles & proactive sales content
Product description creation
Paid Media
Personalized & powerful ad creation
Strategy
Project outlining & research
Audience verification
Creation of brand stories
IT & AI
Prompt creation
Code generation
Code validation

[Discover more uses of advanced/trained language model] Instantly accesses the on-demand webinar →

When Is Generative AI Harmful In Digital Marketing?

While generative AI has significant potential in digital marketing, its misuse can lead to unforeseen ramifications.

Let’s explore some instances across different categories where misuse of generative AI has had unintended consequences:

  1. Data Privacy & Proprietary Information Protection: For instance, a confidential data leak occurred at Samsung due to the inappropriate use of AI.
  2. Content Accuracy: A notable case involved a lawyer who faced a court hearing because a generative AI erroneously cited six non-existent legal issues.
  3. “Total-AI” Content: Although Google doesn’t explicitly penalize AI-generated content, it does favor Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T) content. Generative AI has yet to achieve this level of content creation.

Tips For Testing & Adopting New AI Tools

Businesses can strategically embrace and integrate AI into their operations. Here are some ways to ensure a smooth transition:

1. Crawl, Then Walk, Then Run

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Start with simple tasks and learn how your business can augment AI output with human-centric connections.

2. Use The Cyborg Approach

Heart, emotions & experiences of a human, speed of a machine/CPU.

3. Efficacy Comparison

  • At the end of each project or task, input your OG idea into AI.
  • See how close it is to your final human result.
  • Select areas you can take off your plate to use AI for.

4. Take Trials

Use trials of multiple tools; don’t settle on a single tool.

5. Make AI Your Best Friend

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Spend 5 minutes daily using AI for non-work questions and tasks to build your database of potential search uses.

6. Start An AI Committee

Task individuals to ideate around ethics, use cases, business research, and education.

7. Think Of AI As Your Co-pilot/Personal Assistant

What would you ask them to do for you? Can AI kickstart that task for you?

Integrating AI can bring transformative changes to a business, fostering efficiency, profitability, and growth.

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[Peek into SEJ’s current AI tool sets] Instantly accesses the on-demand webinar →

AI Predictions

Now let’s explore the future landscape shaped by the integration of AI, forecasting the potential impact on small businesses, data management, content generation, and search engine results:

  • Small businesses & solopreneurs will see faster success.
  • First-party data will have a more accessible & robust home, allowing for a resurgence of hyper-targeted marketing.
  • Better audience connection through predictive problem-solving.
  • “Total-AI” content will be naturally demoted due to its duplication nature; personal experience and human touch will be the key differentiator.
  • Hyper-niche content will get a chance to shine in search results.
  • AI will bring a level of personalization to SERPs as we’ve never seen before

[Uncover the reality of AI in marketing] Instantly accesses the on-demand webinar →

Questions

  1. What are your thoughts on the evolution of SEO in the context of AI advancements, particularly considering the emergence of SGE?
  2. Could the disparity between SGE’s chosen sources and top organic search results prompt a new SEO strategy that prioritizes optimizing content for AI-generated results instead of traditional organic rankings?
  3. What are the recent developments or trends in advertising within formats like SGE and Bard?
  4. How prepared are SEO professionals and website owners for the arrival of AI? Is there a consensus on the right direction to go? Or is it more of a mixed and experimental approach?
  5. Do you see significant opportunities for AI implementation in sales and client management?
  6. Will search engines penalize AI-generated content?
  7. How does AI enhance email marketing, and what is a quick tip for utilizing AI in your email marketing strategy?
  8. How are you currently leveraging AI tools to enhance specific areas? If you had to select just one AI tool, which one would you choose?

[Find out the answers] Instantly accesses the on-demand webinar →

[Slides] From Science Fiction To Marketing Reality: Exploring The Impact Of AI

Here’s the presentation:

Join Us For Our Next Webinar!

Enhancing SEO Content Writing With AI: Opportunities & Challenges

Join Connor Carreras, Sr. Director of Digital Customer Success at Conductor, as she provides key insights on how you can start using AI-generated content to rank higher on SERPs.

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Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal



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WordPress Releases A Performance Plugin For “Near-Instant Load Times”

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WordPress speculative loading plugin

WordPress released an official plugin that adds support for a cutting edge technology called speculative loading that can help boost site performance and improve the user experience for site visitors.

Speculative Loading

Rendering means constructing the entire webpage so that it instantly displays (rendering). When your browser downloads the HTML, images, and other resources and puts it together into a webpage, that’s rendering. Prerendering is putting that webpage together (rendering it) in the background.

What this plugin does is to enable the browser to prerender the entire webpage that a user might navigate to next. The plugin does that by anticipating which webpage the user might navigate to based on where they are hovering.

Chrome lists a preference for only prerendering when there is an at least 80% probability of a user navigating to another webpage. The official Chrome support page for prerendering explains:

“Pages should only be prerendered when there is a high probability the page will be loaded by the user. This is why the Chrome address bar prerendering options only happen when there is such a high probability (greater than 80% of the time).

There is also a caveat in that same developer page that prerendering may not happen based on user settings, memory usage and other scenarios (more details below about how analytics handles prerendering).

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The Speculative Loading API solves a problem that previous solutions could not because in the past they were simply prefetching resources like JavaScript and CSS but not actually prerendering the entire webpage.

The official WordPress announcement explains it like this:

Introducing the Speculation Rules API
The Speculation Rules API is a new web API that solves the above problems. It allows defining rules to dynamically prefetch and/or prerender URLs of certain structure based on user interaction, in JSON syntax—or in other words, speculatively preload those URLs before the navigation. This API can be used, for example, to prerender any links on a page whenever the user hovers over them.”

The official WordPress page about this new functionality describes it:

“The Speculation Rules API is a new web API… It allows defining rules to dynamically prefetch and/or prerender URLs of certain structure based on user interaction, in JSON syntax—or in other words, speculatively preload those URLs before the navigation.

This API can be used, for example, to prerender any links on a page whenever the user hovers over them. Also, with the Speculation Rules API, “prerender” actually means to prerender the entire page, including running JavaScript. This can lead to near-instant load times once the user clicks on the link as the page would have most likely already been loaded in its entirety. However that is only one of the possible configurations.”

The new WordPress plugin adds support for the Speculation Rules API. The Mozilla developer pages, a great resource for HTML technical understanding describes it like this:

“The Speculation Rules API is designed to improve performance for future navigations. It targets document URLs rather than specific resource files, and so makes sense for multi-page applications (MPAs) rather than single-page applications (SPAs).

The Speculation Rules API provides an alternative to the widely-available <link rel=”prefetch”> feature and is designed to supersede the Chrome-only deprecated <link rel=”prerender”> feature. It provides many improvements over these technologies, along with a more expressive, configurable syntax for specifying which documents should be prefetched or prerendered.”

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See also: Are Websites Getting Faster? New Data Reveals Mixed Results

Performance Lab Plugin

The new plugin was developed by the official WordPress performance team which occasionally rolls out new plugins for users to test ahead of possible inclusion into the actual WordPress core. So it’s a good opportunity to be first to try out new performance technologies.

The new WordPress plugin is by default set to prerender “WordPress frontend URLs” which are pages, posts, and archive pages. How it works can be fine-tuned under the settings:

Settings > Reading > Speculative Loading

Browser Compatibility

The Speculative API is supported by Chrome 108 however the specific rules used by the new plugin require Chrome 121 or higher. Chrome 121 was released in early 2024.

Browsers that do not support will simply ignore the plugin and will have no effect on the user experience.

Check out the new Speculative Loading WordPress plugin developed by the official core WordPress performance team.

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How Analytics Handles Prerendering

A WordPress developer commented with a question asking how Analytics would handle prerendering and someone else answered that it’s up to the Analytics provider to detect a prerender and not count it as a page load or site visit.

Fortunately both Google Analytics and Google Publisher Tags (GPT) both are able to handle prerenders. The Chrome developers support page has a note about how analytics handles prerendering:

“Google Analytics handles prerender by delaying until activation by default as of September 2023, and Google Publisher Tag (GPT) made a similar change to delay triggering advertisements until activation as of November 2023.”

Possible Conflict With Ad Blocker Extensions

There are a couple things to be aware of about this plugin, aside from the fact that it’s an experimental feature that requires Chrome 121 or higher.

A comment by a WordPress plugin developer that this feature may not work with browsers that are using the uBlock Origin ad blocking browser extension.

Download the plugin:
Speculative Loading Plugin by the WordPress Performance Team

Read the announcement at WordPress
Speculative Loading in WordPress

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See also: WordPress, Wix & Squarespace Show Best CWV Rate Of Improvement

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10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

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10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

Whether you are new to paid media or reevaluating your efforts, it’s critical to review your performance and best practices for your overall PPC marketing program, accounts, and campaigns.

Revisiting your paid media plan is an opportunity to ensure your strategy aligns with your current goals.

Reviewing best practices for pay-per-click is also a great way to keep up with trends and improve performance with newly released ad technologies.

As you review, you’ll find new strategies and features to incorporate into your paid search program, too.

Here are 10 PPC best practices to help you adjust and plan for the months ahead.

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1. Goals

When planning, it is best practice to define goals for the overall marketing program, ad platforms, and at the campaign level.

Defining primary and secondary goals guides the entire PPC program. For example, your primary conversion may be to generate leads from your ads.

You’ll also want to look at secondary goals, such as brand awareness that is higher in the sales funnel and can drive interest to ultimately get the sales lead-in.

2. Budget Review & Optimization

Some advertisers get stuck in a rut and forget to review and reevaluate the distribution of their paid media budgets.

To best utilize budgets, consider the following:

  • Reconcile your planned vs. spend for each account or campaign on a regular basis. Depending on the budget size, monthly, quarterly, or semiannually will work as long as you can hit budget numbers.
  • Determine if there are any campaigns that should be eliminated at this time to free up the budget for other campaigns.
  • Is there additional traffic available to capture and grow results for successful campaigns? The ad platforms often include a tool that will provide an estimated daily budget with clicks and costs. This is just an estimate to show more click potential if you are interested.
  • If other paid media channels perform mediocrely, does it make sense to shift those budgets to another?
  • For the overall paid search and paid social budget, can your company invest more in the positive campaign results?

3. Consider New Ad Platforms

If you can shift or increase your budgets, why not test out a new ad platform? Knowing your audience and where they spend time online will help inform your decision when choosing ad platforms.

Go beyond your comfort zone in Google, Microsoft, and Meta Ads.

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Here are a few other advertising platforms to consider testing:

  • LinkedIn: Most appropriate for professional and business targeting. LinkedIn audiences can also be reached through Microsoft Ads.
  • TikTok: Younger Gen Z audience (16 to 24), video.
  • Pinterest: Products, services, and consumer goods with a female-focused target.
  • Snapchat: Younger demographic (13 to 35), video ads, app installs, filters, lenses.

Need more detailed information and even more ideas? Read more about the 5 Best Google Ads Alternatives.

4. Top Topics in Google Ads & Microsoft Ads

Recently, trends in search and social ad platforms have presented opportunities to connect with prospects more precisely, creatively, and effectively.

Don’t overlook newer targeting and campaign types you may not have tried yet.

  • Video: Incorporating video into your PPC accounts takes some planning for the goals, ad creative, targeting, and ad types. There is a lot of opportunity here as you can simply include video in responsive display ads or get in-depth in YouTube targeting.
  • Performance Max: This automated campaign type serves across all of Google’s ad inventory. Microsoft Ads recently released PMAX so you can plan for consistency in campaign types across platforms. Do you want to allocate budget to PMax campaigns? Learn more about how PMax compares to search.
  • Automation: While AI can’t replace human strategy and creativity, it can help manage your campaigns more easily. During planning, identify which elements you want to automate, such as automatically created assets and/or how to successfully guide the AI in the Performance Max campaigns.

While exploring new features, check out some hidden PPC features you probably don’t know about.

5. Revisit Keywords

The role of keywords has evolved over the past several years with match types being less precise and loosening up to consider searcher intent.

For example, [exact match] keywords previously would literally match with the exact keyword search query. Now, ads can be triggered by search queries with the same meaning or intent.

A great planning exercise is to lay out keyword groups and evaluate if they are still accurately representing your brand and product/service.

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Review search term queries triggering ads to discover trends and behavior you may not have considered. It’s possible this has impacted performance and conversions over time.

Critical to your strategy:

  • Review the current keyword rules and determine if this may impact your account in terms of close variants or shifts in traffic volume.
  • Brush up on how keywords work in each platform because the differences really matter!
  • Review search term reports more frequently for irrelevant keywords that may pop up from match type changes. Incorporate these into match type changes or negative keywords lists as appropriate.

6. Revisit Your Audiences

Review the audiences you selected in the past, especially given so many campaign types that are intent-driven.

Automated features that expand your audience could be helpful, but keep an eye out for performance metrics and behavior on-site post-click.

Remember, an audience is simply a list of users who are grouped together by interests or behavior online.

Therefore, there are unlimited ways to mix and match those audiences and target per the sales funnel.

Here are a few opportunities to explore and test:

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  • LinkedIn user targeting: Besides LinkedIn, this can be found exclusively in Microsoft Ads.
  • Detailed Demographics: Marital status, parental status, home ownership, education, household income.
  • In-market and custom intent: Searches and online behavior signaling buying cues.
  • Remarketing: Advertisers website visitors, interactions with ads, and video/ YouTube.

Note: This varies per the campaign type and seems to be updated frequently, so make this a regular check-point in your campaign management for all platforms.

7. Organize Data Sources

You will likely be running campaigns on different platforms with combinations of search, display, video, etc.

Looking back at your goals, what is the important data, and which platforms will you use to review and report? Can you get the majority of data in one analytics platform to compare and share?

Millions of companies use Google Analytics, which is a good option for centralized viewing of advertising performance, website behavior, and conversions.

8. Reevaluate How You Report

Have you been using the same performance report for years?

It’s time to reevaluate your essential PPC key metrics and replace or add that data to your reports.

There are two great resources to kick off this exercise:

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Your objectives in reevaluating the reporting are:

  • Are we still using this data? Is it still relevant?
  • Is the data we are viewing actionable?
  • What new metrics should we consider adding we haven’t thought about?
  • How often do we need to see this data?
  • Do the stakeholders receiving the report understand what they are looking at (aka data visualization)?

Adding new data should be purposeful, actionable, and helpful in making decisions for the marketing plan. It’s also helpful to decide what type of data is good to see as “deep dives” as needed.

9. Consider Using Scripts

The current ad platforms have plenty of AI recommendations and automated rules, and there is no shortage of third-party tools that can help with optimizations.

Scripts is another method for advertisers with large accounts or some scripting skills to automate report generation and repetitive tasks in their Google Ads accounts.

Navigating the world of scripts can seem overwhelming, but a good place to start is a post here on Search Engine Journal that provides use cases and resources to get started with scripts.

Luckily, you don’t need a Ph.D. in computer science — there are plenty of resources online with free or templated scripts.

10. Seek Collaboration

Another effective planning tactic is to seek out friendly resources and second opinions.

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Much of the skill and science of PPC management is unique to the individual or agency, so there is no shortage of ideas to share between you.

You can visit the Paid Search Association, a resource for paid ad managers worldwide, to make new connections and find industry events.

Preparing For Paid Media Success

Strategies should be based on clear and measurable business goals. Then, you can evaluate the current status of your campaigns based on those new targets.

Your paid media strategy should also be built with an eye for both past performance and future opportunities. Look backward and reevaluate your existing assumptions and systems while investigating new platforms, topics, audiences, and technologies.

Also, stay current with trends and keep learning. Check out ebooks, social media experts, and industry publications for resources and motivational tips.

More resources: 

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Featured Image: Vanatchanan/Shutterstock

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Google Limits News Links In California Over Proposed ‘Link Tax’ Law

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A brown cardboard price tag with a twine string and a black dollar sign symbol, influenced by the Link Tax Law, set against a dark gray background.

Google announced that it plans to reduce access to California news websites for a portion of users in the state.

The decision comes as Google prepares for the potential passage of the California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA), a bill requiring online platforms like Google to pay news publishers for linking to their content.

What Is The California Journalism Preservation Act?

The CJPA, introduced in the California State Legislature, aims to support local journalism by creating what Google refers to as a “link tax.”

If passed, the Act would force companies like Google to pay media outlets when sending readers to news articles.

However, Google believes this approach needs to be revised and could harm rather than help the news industry.

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Jaffer Zaidi, Google’s VP of Global News Partnerships, stated in a blog post:

“It would favor media conglomerates and hedge funds—who’ve been lobbying for this bill—and could use funds from CJPA to continue to buy up local California newspapers, strip them of journalists, and create more ghost papers that operate with a skeleton crew to produce only low-cost, and often low-quality, content.”

Google’s Response

To assess the potential impact of the CJPA on its services, Google is running a test with a percentage of California users.

During this test, Google will remove links to California news websites that the proposed legislation could cover.

Zaidi states:

“To prepare for possible CJPA implications, we are beginning a short-term test for a small percentage of California users. The testing process involves removing links to California news websites, potentially covered by CJPA, to measure the impact of the legislation on our product experience.”

Google Claims Only 2% of Search Queries Are News-Related

Zaidi highlighted peoples’ changing news consumption habits and its effect on Google search queries (emphasis mine):

“It’s well known that people are getting news from sources like short-form videos, topical newsletters, social media, and curated podcasts, and many are avoiding the news entirely. In line with those trends, just 2% of queries on Google Search are news-related.”

Despite the low percentage of news queries, Google wants to continue helping news publishers gain visibility on its platforms.

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However, the “CJPA as currently constructed would end these investments,” Zaidi says.

A Call For A Different Approach

In its current form, Google maintains that the CJPA undermines news in California and could leave all parties worse off.

The company urges lawmakers to consider alternative approaches supporting the news industry without harming smaller local outlets.

Google argues that, over the past two decades, it’s done plenty to help news publishers innovate:

“We’ve rolled out Google News Showcase, which operates in 26 countries, including the U.S., and has more than 2,500 participating publications. Through the Google News Initiative we’ve partnered with more than 7,000 news publishers around the world, including 200 news organizations and 6,000 journalists in California alone.”

Zaidi suggested that a healthy news industry in California requires support from the state government and a broad base of private companies.

As the legislative process continues, Google is willing to cooperate with California publishers and lawmakers to explore alternative paths that would allow it to continue linking to news.

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Featured Image:Ismael Juan/Shutterstock

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