Why automated content writing isn't worth the risk

A sense of impending doom has intensified in recent years, with various news reports and television dramas depicting a near-future of fallible humans being forced onto the breadline, replaced by a superior workforce of robots.

While this dystopian theme has long been the fare of science fiction, for many, the prospect of C-3PO delivering their P45 is fast becoming a reality.

Indeed, the BBC’s ‘Will a robot take your job?’ report - collating data from Deloitte, the Office for National Statistics, and an Oxford University study on the future of employment - indicates several vocations are destined for automation, including telesales, typists, and testers:

While most marketers will sleep easy at night, safe in the knowledge that AI is some way off mimicking the human ability for creative thinking, planning and strategising – marketing professionals rank 223, and marketing directors 347 on the list, out of 365 job titles – there is one group that may have cause for concern: content writers.

Needless to say, any self-respecting content writer wouldn’t label themselves as mere ‘typists’ or ‘keyboard related workers’ - great content relies on imagination, research and skill. However, there’s clearly some overlap, and with that particular subset of professionals facing a 98.5% risk of automation, the alarm bells could be ringing, especially with automated writing software on the rise. 

Robot writers vs human hands

As a business owner, I can see the attraction of automated content; it has the potential to save time and cash. Yet, while automated programmes have led to great advancements in email marketing and social media scheduling, I can’t imagine AI ever matching the quality of human writers.

To test this out, I signed up for a free trial of Article Forge, which promises to ‘automatically generate unlimited unique articles in under 30 seconds.’

I entered my designated keywords of ‘automated content writing’ and, ‘Hey presto!’, a 500-word piece was with me in no time. But was it any good? Here’s an excerpt:

“With the most suitable keyword research and placement, you can nonetheless optimize content for greater search engine rankings. It's quite natural for you to search for some automated content writing software. Some site content could be academic or informational. Therefore, efficient site content writing may be the simple component for enhancing your internet enterprise.”

Hmm, doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? And I’m not really sure what it all means. Here’s another snippet that comes a couple of paragraphs later:

“If you're planning to begin a new business which can help you to open new gateways of profit, food market is quite a tempting sector that you'll surely love to put money into. It is crucial to decide well about what sort of business is appropriate for you. There are basic things that you should think about if you're opting into the work of food market.”

What on (this utopian) earth has operating in the food market got to do with automated content writing?

Article Forge claims to use ‘incredibly sophisticated deep understanding algorithms to write articles in the same way that a human does’, but you’d have to ask serious questions of a professional writer that meandered off on such abstract tangents.

Putting the curious flow to one side for a second, I then opened my Grammarly account to check the content for grammatical errors. It highlighted a few unusual word pairings and suggested adding a comma here and there, but what shocked me most was the unoriginal text, with a whole sentence copied from an Afroman Online article.

Remember, the automated service promises ‘unique content’ but, on this evidence, it’s quite happy to scrape bits and bobs from across the web and use them verbatim. This is a serious issue because duplicate content can harm your SEO, effectively relegating the trustworthiness of your website, leaving you filtered out of search results. Granted, this copied sentence is relatively short, so the ratio of duplicate to original text is low, but it’s not something you want to see cropping up on a regular basis.

Ultimately, the Article Forge piece is quite a forgery; it’s incoherent, not entirely unique and, well, reads as if it’s been written by a robot. There’s no flair, no passion, no razzmatazz, nor are there any citation links to further reading, which is essential if you want to substantiate claims and add value for your audience (while also enhancing SEO).

Upon reflection, ‘it is crucial to decide well’ and not go ahead with the $47 monthly subscription. Time is money, and there’s no doubting quality writing takes time, but the cost of publishing substandard content could be far greater.

Spin city

To circumvent the duplicate content issue noted above, a plethora of ‘article spinning’ websites have sprung up, again promising to generate unique content, but this time based on articles you directly copy and paste into them.

Essentially, they cross-reference the original with a thesaurus and insert synonyms at every opportunity, giving the impression of completely unique material.

However, this is what happens when you input the above sentence into Free-Article-Spinner.com:

“Basically, they cross-reference the first with a thesaurus and embed equivalent words at each open door, giving the impression of totally novel material.”

As you can see, it’s a pretty clumsy and verbose effort that doesn’t seem capable of grasping the nuance of language. It’s all very well swapping synonyms here and there, but without context, they won’t always be a natural substitution. 

Let’s try again:

“As should be obvious, it's an entirely cumbersome and verbose exertion that doesn't appear to be fit for getting a handle on the subtlety of dialect. It's all exceptionally well swapping equivalent words all over, yet without setting, they won't generally be a characteristic substitute.”

I think I’ve made my point.

Great content marketing relies on the ability to say something meaningful, producing blog posts that showcase your expertise while enlightening and/or entertaining your audience. 

Relying on automated content writing is inherently risky; it just doesn’t cut the mustard, not in a creative sense, nor in terms of SEO best practice. It might promise to save time, but, in reality, what you end up with will require substantial editing before it’s ready for human eyes.

I’m not a Luddite standing in the way of modernisation; I embrace many forms of AI (such as Grammarly) and agree with Tony Tie that automation won’t destroy every marketing job.

However, while computer programmes may be able to turn raw data into logical reports - such as financial reviews or sports stories - if you want to create content that inspires readers into action, you have to make a human connection, and only real writers can achieve that.

Robotic writing stands out, so share your own words of wisdom rather than deferring to an algorithm.

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