Copywriting and artificial Intelligence. Is it time to review my position?

In November 2019 I wrote a post about artificial intelligence and copywriting. In it I suggested that the time might come when I would need to compete with AI, or more specifically natural language generation, to win copywriting jobs.

That time has already come.

Businesses use AI to write blog posts

I’m serious. Instead of paying writers like me to write their web copy, some organisations are already using computer generated blog posts, articles and web pages. A quick online search will take you to at least five popular AI copywriting services, all of whom make interesting claims.

‘Create amazing web content 10X faster with AI.’ Jasper

‘Overcome writer’s block.’

‘Leverage the secrets of the most powerful copy in the world.’ Closers Copy

At this stage in the development of AI for copywriting, the web content referred to above is far more likely to seem ‘amazing‘ and ‘powerful‘ to search engine algorithms than a human readership but if this means a place on Google’s first page perhaps that doesn’t matter.

After all, how often do you look beyond first page results?

Web content is big business

There are far more freelance copywriters around today than there were when I started back in 2016. The reason for this is simple; more people now rely on online sales and it’s very difficult to have a successful website without good quality copywriting, which means the size of the workforce required to create that web copy has grown. However, the definition of ‘good quality’ can be tricky to pin down.

What makes a successful copywriter?

Whether AI or human, a successful copywriter must be good at two things:

  1. Writing unique, accurate and informative text to interest website visitors.
  2. Writing unique, accurate and informative text to interest search engines.

Because of its enormous capacity to analyse results, artificial intelligence always had the opportunity to be better than humans at manipulating search engine algorithms. But can it ever replace human writers?

Is AI taking over from human writers?

Last week I decided it was time for me to put that to the test.

So I asked one of the most popular chatbot systems, Chat GPT to write me a 200-word blog post (most posts are at least 1,000 words), on a niche topic I know really well. Wild camping on Dartmoor.

Here’s what it came up with.

Well first it came up with this (I sympathise with the ‘at capacity’ bit).

Then later, here’s what it came up with.

Chat GPT - 200 words - Wild Camping on Dartmoor
Wild camping on Dartmoor is a unique way to experience the beauty and solitude of this stunning national park in the UK. It involves camping in the wild, away from established campsites, and requires careful planning and respect for the environment.

When wild camping on Dartmoor, it's important to follow the national park's guidelines and obtain permission from the landowner if necessary. It's also important to leave no trace by packing out all trash and practicing Leave No Trace principles.

One of the best things about wild camping on Dartmoor is the sense of freedom and adventure it provides. You can choose your own campsite and set up camp wherever you like, providing you follow the guidelines and respect the land. This can provide a unique and rewarding experience, as you get to see parts of Dartmoor that few people have the opportunity to see.

Overall, wild camping on Dartmoor is a fantastic way to experience the beauty and solitude of this stunning national park. It allows you to camp in the wild and explore remote and beautiful locations that are inaccessible by car. Just be sure to follow the guidelines and leave no trace to help protect this special place.

AI generated copy – a bit on the bland side

On the face of it the artificially generated text above is more than impressive. It makes sense, sells the experience, and appears to give some excellent advice. On top of that, the grammar is good and my trained eye can detect the type of well-integrated keyword usage that should make Google very happy.

This piece could possibly earn your site a place on that elusive first page.

But the artificially generated blog post above does lack a certain something. It’s hard to pin down. You find the same things missing in low-quality, person-generated writing.  You could call it ‘believability’, you could call it ‘detail’.

I call it life.

What makes human writing human?

But does good web copy need life? Well here’s a short section of a piece I wrote on wild camping on Dartmoor a few years ago for one of my favourite clients. I know the search engines like it because it keeps popping up on Google’s page one results (the quality of writing isn’t the only factor in this but it helps).

See what you think.

Fi Darby - 229 Words - Wild Camping on Dartmoor
For the wild campers of England, Dartmoor has to be a dream location because its bylaws allow wild camping (but not camp fires) in some allocated areas. You’re going to need a rucksack for this one as camping next to the road or in camper vans is not permitted. Find out everything you need to get going with Fi Darby.

Wild camping is an amazing experience. There is nothing like crawling into your lone tent or bivvy bag in the middle of nowhere, as the darkness falls, apart maybe from waking up at sunrise and seeing a glimpse of a dawn that is yours and yours alone.

We Blondes have done plenty of wild camping on Dartmoor, both with groups of youngsters and on our own. We have wild camped in each month, in all weathers and in many locations. We love it and it is because we love it so much that we want to share with you how to wild camp on Dartmoor in a way that sticks to National Park rules (because there are some) and protects this beautiful area’s natural environment.

Where to wild camp on Dartmoor

There are some areas of Dartmoor in which you are not allowed to wild camp. Dartmoor National Park Authority has a wild camping map to help you find these, and their Visitor Centre staff are helpful and knowledgeable.

How to spot AI writing (and avoid it)

So what are the important differences you need to look for if you suspect a blog post has been written by AI and not an experienced writer?

  1. The specific subject knowledge. Outdoor writing is my niche so I have plenty of expertise and experience to call on. That said, I also write on topics about which I have no previous knowledge. They require a lot of in-depth research.
  2. The level of detail. If a piece of writing is going to be useful, it needs to include the right amount of detail. The AI post is very generic, it mentions freedom, adventure, beauty and solitude but it used exactly the same words when I asked it about bike packing.
  3. The personal touch. Because I have lots of wild camping experience, I can refer to it in my writing. Presumably this chatbot hasn’t been wild camping on Dartmoor so, until it’s allowed to tell lies, it won’t be able to do the same.

It’s tricky to take an unbiased look at something that has such big potential to impact my livelihood so I sent the AI piece to Mr D (also a wild camper) to read. His response was interesting.

‘Doesn’t actually say anything noteworthy.’

Which kind of sums up my little experiment nicely. The AI-generated text doesn’t seem to say anything much at all.

But hold on a minute!

Some human writing is also bland

There are lots of people-generated blog posts out there that don’t say anything much at all. Even worse, you might suggest there are plenty out there that get things completely wrong (there certainly are about wild camping).

Which means that AI-generated writing is already beating us copywriters at our own game!

But is AI-generated writing dangerous?

Depending on your attitude to progress, this situation may or may not be of concern. You only have to look at social media to see that algorithms can be both ultimately useful and ultimately damaging. I imagine you would probably rather read something written by a person than a piece written by a robot but we humans are quick to adjust.

And we are already getting used to website chatbots.

It’s a strange world. But it’s also an interesting one. Am I worried about my job? Not at the moment no.

But I might be if I was 24 instead of 54.

I don’t want to retire yet but I will do one day.

Just like every other technical development we initially disliked, we’ll get used to reading AI-generated writing online. Sometimes it’ll be useful. Sometimes it won’t. Sometimes it’ll do good. Sometimes it won’t.

Just like person-generated writing.

If all this is putting you off reading anything at all online, you probably need to be aware there are also platforms out there offering…

Wait for it…

AI-generated images!


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