Algorithms and Artificial Intelligence

16 / August 2016,

Algorithms and Artificial Intelligence

When you look at SEO Services, you will hear words and phrases like algorithm, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and many others that may or may not have any meaning to you.We often think of these as consisting of different kinds of mathematical formulae or computer magic, and often both. The truth is, the terms have meanings that, so long as trade secrets remain kept, we can only guess at. But understanding the basics of what these are and how they work can go a long way toward letting us understand how search engines work—and how SEO work can benefit from them.

What Is an Algorithm?

In the most basic terms, an algorithm is a process by which something works. These can go from the simple to the incredibly complex. You can think of it as consisting of a formula or a set of rules, but it includes rote logic that, if followed consistently, will lead to consistent results.Examples might include the recipe for baking a pie, or the formula for finding the circumference of a circle. The algorithm is direct and unambiguous; the same inputs should lead to the same results, every time.

In SEO terms, the algorithms that matter are those through which Google and Bing reach their page rankings for searches. The same searches, given the same inputs, should lead to the same results. Here, though, the inputs change over time. Some of the signals on which Google relies,for instance, depend on previous search results and behavior by those who do the searching. It also depends on the websites available, a category with a perpetually moving target. The name “Hummingbird” applied to the Google algorithm makes sense because, like a Hummingbird’s wings, it is constantly moving, an algorithm whose inputs move faster than we can ever detect,much less replicate.

The results change over time because the inputs change constantly. In addition, though, Google tinkers with its algorithms fairly regularly. In other words, the formula changes even as the inputs are changing. All is designed to keep moving Hummingbird asymptotically toward its goal of perfectly connecting people with the information they want to find. A quixotic quest to be sure, given the moving parts, but it remains the ultimate aim of this algorithm.

How Artificial Intelligence Differs

Artificial intelligence is something different. An algorithm remains static, with the inputs changing the results, until someone changes the algorithm itself. That this happens frequently does not change the nature of algorithms; they remain constant, and only produce changing results because of the changes made to the information that goes into them. People change it, and it becomes a new, static element that, were its inputs to ever be identical, would produce identical results.

In contrast, artificial intelligence consists of a formula that itself changes over time. Rather than accepting inputs and working them through a set, standard process, AI will look at the inputs and adjust itself to make sense of them. For example, think about the algorithm for baking a pie. An artificially intelligent oven would examine the results of each pie baked, and based on

what it was designed to produce, would adjust its own baking time or temperature to adjust for variations in the ingredients or amounts. Where the pie algorithm would create different pies based on variations in the recipe, the AI oven would adjust to those recipe variations to seek to make the same pie.

Importantly, this kind of AI does not involve the kinds of learning that humans do every day.Rather, they are a highly efficient but rudimentary version of learning called machine learning. Creativity and outside the box thinking are not a part of this. Rather, AI works by examining inputs and results, and adjusting toward what it has been programmed to treat as the ideal result. Instead of understanding on a mental plane, it moves in the direction in which it has been programmed to move.

Putting It Together for SEO

For SEO purposes, these differences can be significant. Google and Bing have both incorporated AI elements into what they do, and this can be seen as a very exciting thing. While a narrow kind of artificial intelligence, it operates at speeds much faster than any person can hope to keep up with. Keeping up with the changes to the formulae on which it bases its decisions is a hopeless task. The search engines thus have tools that prevent tricky SEO providers from understanding where its processes will lead it in real time.

Instead of keeping up with the changes, SEO providers today are better served keeping up with the end goals. Google has been very transparent in its desire to reward high quality content over gamesmanship and tapping into its algorithm. Its shifting directions over time and its focus on timely, excellent content fit with the instructions it has always given about how to rank higher and do well. With AI built into its algorithm, it can now back up what it has been telling us for so long.

For the best SEO companies, the goal becomes finding the axis that Hummingbird continues to approach asymptotically. The target is not the steep slope that keeps moving closer, but rather the line it is trying to reach. Create great content. Make sure that content is relevant to people searching for the terms around which you optimize. Keep it fresh. And keep doing these things, over and over.

AI as we currently know it can only keep up with the information it receives, and while it can process that information incredibly quickly, it cannot advance beyond what it has to learn more. You, however, have a much broader level of intelligence, and can understand and tap into your customers’ needs in ways RankBrain will never be able to do. Instead of trying to keep up with the curve, strong SEO Providers should always be able to stay ahead of it. Focus your content accordingly, and good things will happen.

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