Artificial Intelligence and SEO: the pen example

AI and machine learning are fascinating and ever-evolving topics, and I spend a lot of time studying and thinking about them. This is going to be the first of a series of articles from a web marketing perspective, which is all I have knowledge about. If you are into AI, I recommend finding your own way into it, and a better teacher than myself.

During presentations, may it be in a course or with clients, I always use the Tratto Pen example to illustrate the concept of a Search Engine behaving like a human, and not like a computer.

This is a Tratto Pen: it’s my favourite pen and I’m yet to find an equivalent here in the UK. Its quality is irrelevant though, I only use it to prove a point:

I normally do this with a real pen (which is also useful to avoid Italian over-handgesturing): I display the object in my hands and ask: “do you know what this is?”. They immediately go “a pen?”.

There you have it: how do you know it’s a pen? I think it’s not plausible you’d seen this brand before because it might not even exist here, not to mention this specific pen. You most definitely never really saw this before. So how did your brain come up with the immediate idea that it was a pen? Well, it’s all a matter of probability: your senses scan the world around you, gathering information; your brain compares the surroundings with what’s seen in the past (memory) and assumes. Now, you are seeing an object, its dimensions are X*Y*Z, its colour black. We are in an office, or in a similar space. I’m handling it, pointing at things with it. It appears to have a cap. 99.9% it’s a pen. It might be a bomb or a laser pointer or a car, but it’s simply less likely (respectively, 1%, 20%, 0%). So even if you’ve never seen this specific item before, and I’ve never mentioned its name, you can assume it’s a pen.

In Google’s case, its senses are the crawlers (spiders, bots, whatever you call them). It’s got memory (way more memory than a human’s, in fact). It does not need mentions: it can assume based on clues. It will understand that this blog is about SEO, even if I were to never even mention SEO at all. Because the words I use are normally associated with a high percentage by other SEO blogs; because when people talk about me they do it in association with that set of words; because using the terms SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is largely the same for humans, so it’s become the same for the Search Engine. And so on: there’s plenty of examples of how this works, my favourite being how Google Translate has evolved in the past couple of years. When I was studying translation, Google Translate was synonym of “crappy quality”, now it’s just impressive. This is an interesting article about it: btw, I’m not using a relevant anchor text to link to that page, do you think Google will have trouble understanding what I’m giving that page relevance for? Of course, linking is influenced by this, too.

So in the end: I don’t care at all if you link towards my site with a relevant anchor; hell, I barely care if you actually link at all! Being linked to is now, and will be ever more, only a way of flexing to your client or boss or colleagues. Truth is, a link is but a consequence of people giving signals. Signals are what’s important for the search engine, because it’s using them to create a map of the world.

Soundtrack: Act IV by The Dear Hunter

PS. I SWEAR, I was not ever paid by Tratto Pen/Fila for this post (but hey you guys, if you wanted to send me a box with 100 black Trattos I wouldn’t mind really…)

A Tool’s way

On 13 June my wife and I flew back to Italy to be at Firenze Rocks. It was a present from her for my bday: honestly she could’ve played it safe with some food, which always works, but I’m glad she didn’t. It was absolutely amazing. And yeah it was Italy, so we’ve had great food after all anyway.

I’ve always been a music person, since my father taught me guitar as a kid. I’ve given up playing in a band a couple years ago, because life happened, but I manage to stick to listening as much good stuff as I can. I came up with a theory with which I manage to annoy pretty much everyone, when talking about music tastes. It goes ‘there’s only two kinds of music: good music, and bad music’. Annoys the shit out of them. Anyway, Firenze Rocks day 1’s lineup was great: Dream Theater, was a huge fan as a kid and I saw them before multiple times but I’ve got to admit, they did an awful concert this time; Smashing Pumpkins, not a huge fan but hey they do bring some memories back and I have to say they did absolutely great-plus they played Wish You Were Here which takes some guts and was a pleasant surprise; and Tool were playing and the new album’s out in August so it was just an unmissable gig.

Now I won’t go on rambling about how good Tool are: tastes are tastes, and I know people have the right to be wrong by listening shitty music and having no educated opinions about it at all. As said, there’s only good music and bad music, and if you are not able to tell, say, Pink Floyd from Take That you should really at least try to keep it to yourself. And yeah I will judge (not that anyone should care).

Regardless, this is not my point here. Tool’s promotional approach is so interesting, it’s worth taking a look into. The guys do not do Social Media. They have personal accounts on Instagram or FB or Twitter, but do not use them as official means of communication. They release one album every 10 years or so (the latest, 10,000 Days, dates back to 2006). Most importantly (and with great suffering for many including yrstruly) they are not on Spotify or similar streaming services. The only way to listen to Tool is to buy physical albums like it’s last century again, or wear your eyepatch and go plunder the seven seas (i.e. pirate them). But don’t.

Still, they managed to create unprecedented attention towards their upcoming album. Hell my hype for this concert was unprecedented as well! I’ve been to quite a few gigs in my life, but never have I been so excited for one.

How? As I often say, it’s all in the product. You don’t need to talk about your thing, if your thing is just amazing. Because that’s what it was: just a mesmerising, experimental, nasty gig with nothing but exceptional music. They have this incredible music, with matching video concepts and lights. And that’s it. Tool not even for a second appear on the venue’s megascreens. They do not interact. After the first song, singer MJK goes “hey Firenza”, mispronouncing the city. He doesn’t seem to care. You don’t care. No one cares, cause the first song’s hit you in the face and you are just in love. After that, MJK does not utter a word that’s not singing. He is not even in the front of the stage, but lingers in the back. They are all about the music. Their product.

So apparently you can talk and make noise and cover the city with posters and the internet with banners, or not. If your stuff is good, people are going to want it regardless. The less you show it off, the more they will need it. Now I’m not as naive as to think they do not have some money into it: but it’s the perception that matters. It’s been 13 years since 10,000 Years, and I remember it being so out of the world at the time, and being so influential for younger me, just like Lateralus and Aenima had been before, that I swear if the new album comes out and it’s only physical copies, I’ll just go back to the old store (if it still exists) and buy both the album and a mean of listening to it, since I don’t think I even own a CD player anymore.

Soundtrack: I cannot link to any Spotify right now, hope I will be able to do so in the future. One might still go look for Lateralus on YouTube, where one might probs find some illegal versions. One should not though, cause we do not like piracy. Nor drugs. Stay in school kids.