Artificial intelligence, or AI as it is usually known, is something that has become such a big part of how all kinds of things are done, that we often take it for granted. From managing the warehousing and shipping of products for retail giants, to diagnosing medical conditions, technologies like AI and machine learning are now commonplace in just about every sector. They make things possible that could only have been dreamed of at the end of the 20th century.
When you are using the internet, you are interacting with AI often, and there are also all kinds of AI powered things going on in the background when you do everyday things like running a Google search or watching a video on YouTube.
As you might expect then, AI is also heavily involved in the way ads and other marketing are presented to you. It’s also used in more obvious ways like with the AI powered chat bots you can find to help answer questions on a lot of websites.
So, if you are starting up a new business and want to get to grips with online marketing, it is a very good idea to have an understanding of what AI is and is not, and the main ways it is currently used in marketing. This can help you to plan what is possible with your own strategies, and understand better how advertising approaches such as PPC ads on platforms like Google use AI to decide when to show your advertising and who to. This can help you target and manage your own advertising more effectively.
Here, we’re going to take a look at some of the most important ways in which AI is involved in online advertising.
Something that is fairly widely discussed is just how much data companies like Google and social media sites actually gather about their users’ behavior; however, the purposes for this are often misunderstood. It isn’t (usually) that a company particularly cares about the browsing or shopping habits of any one individual, or is ‘keeping tabs’ on its users in any nefarious way. Rather, companies want to know as much as they can about user behavior on both an individual and mass level, so that they can get the most efficiency out of their advertising offerings.
Services like Google’s various offerings are mainly free to users. Likewise, it is free to watch most content on YouTube, and so the business models they have rely on both having a large and very active user base, and the ability to serve ads up to that user base in a way that will get the best results for their advertising clients. They are, after all, the people paying for the platforms.
Advertising that is highly targeted based on the interests and other browsing behavior of the person who sees the ads, as well as other things like their location and gender, enables the platforms to show adverts they know will be somewhat relevant to the viewer. This makes advertising with these platforms a very attractive proposition. With the AI deciding when ads are shown and who to, it is possible to be very specific in identifying a target audience and then reaching them. It also makes for a better experience for users.
While many users would probably rather not see ads at all, most people accept that seeing them is how they get to have the use of the services for free and so they tolerate them. However, it is less annoying for people using the internet when the ads they see are relevant to them and their interests. If ads were less targeted, then people would need to see many, many more of them for the advertisers to get the results they want, and people would feel constantly bombarded with promotional messages about things that will never interest them. This means you would end up seeing ads for restaurants in faraway towns, ads for children’s products when you don’t have children, ads for items that don’t ship to your country, and products with prices in the wrong currency.
Even if basic targeting based on things like age and location is used, then this still makes advertising niche products extremely difficult without AI enabling the advertising platforms to determine how likely someone is to respond to a given ad. While you may know the age group and general demographics who are the most usual customers for say, your new online guitar shop, it’s a lot more helpful to be able to target people who are interested in playing the guitar, for example.
AI in things like PPC and online banner advertising is beneficial to everybody in the chain, from the platforms themselves who can meet their dual intentions of keeping their user base happy and thriving while also attracting advertisers who want to access that user base, through to the advertisers and internet users themselves.
PPC advertising – that is, pay per click advertising – is one of the most popular forms of marketing used by businesses online, and for good reason. Whereas with PPC ads, the advertiser pays not for the impressions (the number of times the ad is displayed), but for the times when users click on the ad and go to the advertiser’s site (or perform whatever other call to action the ad is asking them to, such as going to the advertiser’s Facebook page), it can be very cost effective when managed well.
To have a successful PPC campaign, a business needs to have been effective in identifying the keywords and target audience they want their ads to be served to, and be using engaging ads people respond to. It can take some trial and error and experimentation to find the best ads to use, for instance through A/B testing, and to identify the keywords that give the best return on investment, so a PPC advertising campaign is something where the data the advertiser gets back about their ads’ performance is invaluable.
AI is used all the way through this system, from working out how much advertisers should bid for their keywords based on popularity and other factors, through to reporting back to the advertiser with recommendations. But AI can also be important to people who do PPC advertising in another way: it has an essential role in avoiding click fraud.
Click fraud is when PPC ads are targeted with fake clicks, which end up costing the advertiser money for which they get nothing, rendering their campaign data meaningless. Click fraud also manipulates the AI on the advertising platform to think certain user behaviors are happening which are not. If you want to know more about click fraud, a good company to check out is ClickGUARD, who provide solutions that safeguard against fraudulent clicks – something that is pretty much essential to online advertisers. Their article Click Fraud – The Darkness or the Light? is helpful in understanding why click fraud is a growing issue, and what to look out for when tools claim to use “AI” and “Machine learning.
As you can see, there are a lot of reasons why AI is vital in how online marketing works today, and it is likely that its importance in the online business world will only grow as its capabilities become even more advanced. AI is already a field of technology where huge amounts of exciting research are taking place, and so it will be interesting to see how AI continues to make marketing more effective in the future.