This year at Google I/O, the company’s annual developers’ conference, Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai unveiled a demo of its newly created Artificial Intelligence (AI) Assistant. The demo showcased the program’s ability to schedule appointments and reservations. During the presentation, the AI Assistant called two actual small businesses – a salon and a restaurant – and completed entire conversations on the user’s behalf. The examples illustrated how the assistant’s tone and affectations are spectacularly human-like, and its capability to add conversation nuances like “ums” and “mm-hmms” when appropriate.
In simple terms, Google has created AI that is practically indistinguishable from a human. Can this type of AI revelation affect small businesses now? Impactful AI (machine-learning) may seem a long way off, however, in many ways it is already here. And, it has a tremendous impact on business today through the process Google uses to evaluate and rank websites.
RankBrain, Google’s AI which released in 2015, thinks about, and then selects, which local companies receive good rankings, and which it shuns into obscurity. To appease this artificial mind requires business owners and marketers to perceive their online presence from the perspective of an intelligent machine.
Consider this: Google sees and understands the images on a website and social media. Photo recognition might be best understood by looking at the lengths Facebook took to teach its AI technology about images. During development, Facebook researchers and engineers used 3.5 billion Instagram images to achieve an 85.4 percent image recognition accuracy. The effects of Facebook’s highly accurate image recognition can correlate to a company’s bottom line, as this grants Facebook the ability to further parse demographics for advertisers and target ads with better specificity.
The ideal photo strategy in 2018 should be to choose images that align with the focus of your business, and to do this knowing AI will judge each image. For example, a car accident attorney in Las Vegas would benefit from a picture in front of a Nevada courthouse. A massage therapist would benefit from posting a photo of him or her giving a massage, with his or her face visible. Stock photos, while relevant, are seen as duplicates. Often these photos have been used tens of thousands of times. Just as Google frowns upon duplicate written content (i.e. plagiarism), we now see image plagiarism having an effect on rankings.
RankBrain goes so far as to measure who calls a website from their smartphone, what keywords were entered to find the company’s Google Maps listing, and whether or not they have called before. Therefore, building customer-first relationships and a stellar company culture are pivotal to appease the AI. The way customers are treated is reflected in the data AI uses to pass judgement.
Imagine a customer likes a Facebook post, subsequently Google searches the business, calls from their cell phone, remains on the line for two minutes, then requests driving directions to the business. Google is watching each of the moments along this path. The AI knows whether the customer requests directions, calls or revisits the website, and uses this information to help determine relevance.
Video is another helpful element to feed AI. Once a video is uploaded to YouTube, closed captions are auto-generated, which demonstrates that YouTube can decipher language. Written content, which has always been key to growing a business on the Internet, now also includes every word spoken into videos uploaded to YouTube. So, a YouTube video that includes 1,000 spoken words makes that post a 1,000-word blog. And if the AI’s image recognition is already accurately identifying faces in photos, we can assume it is also being deployed on video. The location, people, and content of a business’ videos are all being “seen” by the AI.
To succeed in the AI age, businesses must be conscious of the effect their online content can have, both from human and artificial perspectives. Utilizing unique imagery and videos with your marketing strategies are key components. As AI continues to develop we will move into an increasingly sci-fi world of robots who can fool us into thinking they are people. It’s the job of businesses to convince current AI of their relevance, while remaining human and authentic for customers and clients. Remain current, original and available. Both the machines and people will appreciate it.
Kellen Kautzman is the owner of Send It Rising Internet Marketing