The End of Content Marketing? Or a New Opportunity for Community Managers?

Ana Levidze
August 1, 2023
August 1, 2023

AI, ChatGPT, Adobe Firefly... it seems like these are all we hear about these days. 

You can't escape the endless articles, LinkedIn posts, videos, and threads dissecting every minuscule detail about AI. No matter what industry you're in, you've probably nervously scrolled through posts about AI taking jobs, AI making tasks easier, AI taking over the world, AI this, and AI that.

Everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon, but let's be honest—do any of us know if AI will live up to all the hype? Or is it just another exaggerated thing? Honestly, I don't have the answer, and neither does anyone else.

What I do know is this: we need to familiarize ourselves with AI and incorporate it into our daily lives and routines. If you don't, you risk being left behind, and let's face it, ain't nobody is risking that.

Similarly, in the community industry, the impact of AI is a hot topic that's keeping us all on our toes. Many have embraced AI by using it to moderate online communities and analyze data and more. But there's one particular AI discussion that has captured my attention as a community content manager: the role of AI in content creation.

Undeniably, with AI, creating content has never been easier. Yet, this newfound accessibility leads us to an overflow of low-value content and content that is not inclusive. While AI has its merits regarding content, I'm not here to talk about it.

Instead, I want to start a conversation about how everyone, with just a few prompts, can write content that's SEO optimized and compete in ranking and how this is disrupting SEO practices while amplifying the power of community.

Insights into Google’s Update 

A few months back, Google announced the initiative of launching a new section of its search results pages called "Perspectives." Why take this step? Well, suppose we set aside the problem of AI-generated content for a moment. In that case, still, there is a lot of the content we find when we Google something that feels like it's either sponsored, affiliate-driven, or just plain lacking in personality.

So, how do we find search results that give us real insights from real people? The "Reddit Trick," coined by The Verge, is essentially adding "Reddit" to the end of your search query to bypass all SEO-optimized nonsense and find actual human insights on various topics.

Have we all unknowingly been using the Reddit trick all these years? It seems so, as Google itself has caught on and decided to reshape the future of search with the introduction of the "Perspectives" and "Discussions and Forums" sections (For those familiar with content/SEO, this move comes as no surprise following Google's 2022 Helpful Content Update.) These new features aim to create valuable content by sourcing it from popular online forums and discussions.

According to Google, the update is an excellent way to obtain "first-hand advice and learn from people who have experience with something you're interested in." Perspectives will include videos from YouTube, comments from Reddit, Stack Overflow, and other community-driven websites, as well as personal blogs and other sources that Google's ranking system recognizes as authentic human perspectives.

How Google’s Latest Update Empowers Community

Let's circle back to the main question: Is it the end of content marketing and SEO? I'd say not necessarily, but it's certainly an evolution of the landscape that we must adapt to. Having a blog gives your company, organization, or community a place to house your content, a spot that remains evergreen. But those one-size-fits-all articles that have plagued us for the past decade or so? Yeah, that has to go.

Now, let's explore what this disruption in content marketing has to do with community management.

Evan Hamilton, Director of Community at Hubspot, has recently shared an interesting insight on this update. Evan's got the point, and he's calling out all the Community Managers to have a chat with their SEO teams and start collaborating. According to him, "Community Managers are sitting on a goldmine." Whether it's through a public forum, guest blog posts from community members, or the advocacy that members engage in external forums, community teams now can hold a significant competitive advantage.

In the same manner, Rosie Sherry from Rosie.Land shares that AI's presence will only amplify the importance of communities. The era of AI-created or AI-assisted top-of-funnel content is coming to an end as audiences yearn for more meaningful relationships and actionable conversations.

What now? 

Naturally, there are many questions that come to mind. I've been pondering some of these questions myself. For instance, if a community primarily resides on platforms like Slack or Facebook groups, which aren't indexed by traditional search engines, does that mean they'll be left behind? And will we witness a revival of forums as a result?

Another concern is the impact of the ranking system on search results. Will SEO tactics and keywords need to be implemented to optimize these discussions, and if so, is not this counterproductive to why the "Perspectives" features are implemented at all? Because in case these discussions are optimized for search engines, won't it compromise the authenticity that communities bring?

Moreover, can Google effectively differentiate between AI-generated responses and genuine contributions on the forums? Let's face it, with the rise of AI, it has become increasingly easier to post AI-generated responses on forum boards (and believe me, I've come across my fair share).

What kind of blog article would this be if I had not turned to AI to get my questions answered? So, I used Google's version of AI—Bard—to somehow get the answers; here is what it said:

“ Here are some of the questions you raised, along with my thoughts on them:

  • What happens if communities that are not accessible through search engines, like Slack channels or Facebook groups, are included in the Perspectives feature?

It is possible that Google will not be able to index these communities, so they will not appear in the Perspectives feature. However, Google has said that it is working on ways to index more types of content, so it is possible that these communities will be included in the future.

  • Will the ranking system affect which threads/forums/boards appear in search results and in which order? If so, what factors will be used to determine the ranking?

Yes, the ranking system will likely affect which threads/forums/boards appear in search results and in which order. Google has said that it will use a variety of factors to rank content, including the quality of the content, the popularity of the forum, and the relevance of the content to the user's query.

  • Will SEO tactics be helpful for optimizing discussions and forums for the Perspectives feature? If so, how can we ensure that our content is not filtered out as SEO-optimized?

It is possible that SEO tactics will be helpful for optimizing discussions and forums for the Perspectives feature. However, it is also possible that Google will be able to filter out SEO-optimized content.

  • If SEO tactics are used to optimize discussions and forums for the Perspectives feature, will this not be counterproductive to the goal of the feature, which is to provide authentic and helpful content?

Yes, it is possible that SEO tactics could be counterproductive to the goal of the Perspectives feature. If people start to optimize their discussions for SEO, then the feature will no longer be as effective at providing authentic and helpful content.

  • Will Google be able to filter out AI-generated responses from real responses on the forums? If so, how will this be done?

This is a difficult question to answer. Google has said that it is working on ways to identify AI-generated content, but it is not clear how effective these methods will be. It is possible that some AI-generated content will still slip through the cracks.”

While Google has yet to release all of the details about how the feature will work, the answers to these questions will predict whether the new Google update will be successful. There still needs to be a clear-cut action plan in place, but it is advisable to start integrating this new information into your community and content strategies right away.

On my end, I've been experimenting with what I call "Community Content Strategy." I scour conversations happening in our community and organize and track down recurring questions—which helps me determine what kind of content our members might be interested in.

But that's not just it. Within those threads, I spot potential collaborators who can add unique perspectives and insights to our blog posts.

Now, I must admit this strategy is a constant work in progress. There are a few more enhancements I have in mind that could align perfectly with this update. And guess what? When I ran it by Google's Bard, it gave me a thumbs-up. So we're definitely onto something here.

In addition to my own observations, I'm curious to hear what you think about Google's new 'Perspectives' update and how it will change the landscape of content marketing and community management.

Do you think that this is the end of content, or rather than the window for these two teams to collaborate? How can communities address inclusion gaps in Perspectives? Have you taken any specific steps to adapt to this update, and what opportunities do you see emerging as a result?

Ana Levidze
Community Content Manager
August 1, 2023
August 1, 2023

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