Statistics Lie. That’s not news. But the way you interpret statistics, subjective as that is by nature, still brings useful insight to your day and the way you approach business change.
Artificial Intelligence, on the other hand, is not only artificial, but when applied broadly, thus far unreliable. I mean no disrespect to IBM’s Watson, that computer which tore up a few episodes of Jeopardy! a couple of years back; Watson was programmed to do something very well and very quickly, and worked. I do, however, mean to show some disrespect to Google’s search engine algorithm.
I make a living working with the way Google parses your questions, so this might sound like a “biting the hand that feeds me” story. It’s not. Google is a work in progress, and unlike Watson isn’t constrained to certain information or ways of thinking; Google needs to know pretty much everything, and it does a great job.
But Google is trying to push into what they refer to as “the knowledge graph”, where the words you use in querying the Google Search Engine aren’t what matter. Via the knowledge graph, Google is able to parse your questions into ‘what you really meant’, using artificial intelligence. Google is looking to make what people do the new SEO.
And so far, it isn’t working.
One of the most—if not the most—queried topic on The Internet is pornography. Of course, there are all kinds of people looking for all kinds of porn, so the questions they ask are going to return an amazing assortment of results. Some people looking for naked women even end up at Answer Guy Central, because I wrote this story about sex.com becoming the “Pinterest of Pornography” a couple of months ago.
Given the subject matter I’m not surprised that the naked women/Pinterest/business change story has become one of our most popular pieces. But I’m constantly amazed at how many paths there are to that little story at this little web site. And I see those paths every morning when I look at our search engine optimization statistics.
This morning, I noticed that someone—actually, several someones—had found their way here using the search phrase “naked wemen dont mind showing it of“, which Google, being Google, had correctly fixed to read “naked women don’t mind showing it off“. I was astonished; it sounds like a fairly obscure search term to me, and certainly not one that I’d have expected traffic on, no matter how good we are at long tail marketing.
So I dug a little, and I found that as of this moment, Google sees us as the #1 web site in the world for that phrase! Go ahead, click this link to see Google’s opinion on where you should end up if you query “naked women that don’t mind showing it off“.
As you can see from this graph, our traffic on the story about sex.com and Pinterest has been growing since it was posted, and that growth is escalating (once again refuting this claim about the half-life of Internet Links, by the way). But the #1 search engine result? Really?
I have two points to make, now.
First: Long Tail Marketing Works. You can’t just throw garbage against the wall hoping for traffic on any and every phrase, but when you’re ready to take long tail marketing seriously we can find you a lot of phrases that will bring you exactly the traffic you’re looking for and use search engine optimization to get that traffic to you.
Second: Artificial Intelligence, so far, isn’t working in broad terms. Apple’s Siri on the iPhone is a mess, for example, and while the latest version of Android has artificial intelligence built in which seems to be pretty amazing, it’s still not really reliable, just yet. Look for more on that next week when I write about Google’s Nexus 7 tablet.
In the case of this story, what caught my attention was the phrasing of that search at Google pointing people to the story on Pinterest and sex.com. I was pretty sure there was nothing so salacious in the story as the phrase “naked women showing it off”, and I was right; looking back at the story, I searched for the word “off”, which seems like the unique hook to the search results. It shows up exactly once, in this phrase: if you’re interested in showing off your taste in naked and near-naked women, sex.com is the social network for you.
If Google’s artificial intelligence was operating correctly, and assuming those words were good enough to relate as #1 for “naked woman that don’t mind showing it off”, then sex.com itself should get the traffic, not Answer Guy Central.
I started by talking about the flaws in statistical analysis, and maybe I’m missing something. But I don’t think so. Artificial Intelligence is a cool idea, and once it works it will be a real business change. But as we try to navigate the convergence of so many parts of our businesses, current-generation artificial intelligence is just creating noise.
Need help cutting through that noise? Contact me here.