Artificial Intelligence to some of us seems like outer space. Marta brings it down to earth and into our online shops…
So as promised I am going to do my best to discuss a few things about AI (Artificial Intelligence), that I am hearing from industry techies. AI is presently changing online selling on the wild big blue world wide web. I am not at all a tech expert or even a techie, so you will either love my attempts to explain things or have a good laugh. Either way, I hope you enjoy my stab at today’s difficult subject. 🙂
About the Big Fish- Google
Now, remember the big fish currently in this game is Google. Why? Because a majority of the marketplace uses this search engine to look for things, answer questions, see photo or videos. I am typing this blog on Google documents, will mail it on Gmail to my editor on Google Chrome. Even when I use safari on my Mac I still resort back mostly to Google.
My business even has its accounting on Google. Google has made HUGE steps into the AI arena for many years now, primarily, to track user shopping habits. Websites have had things like cookies to help speed up your internet experience by leaving behind little installs that make their site run faster, which was an easy place to start tracking from what I understand. Not that this is relevant to us since it was old news in the technical world, but what is relevant to us is that it ticked people off. Stay with me here.
The Old Days of Bad Mouths
Another thing that ticked people off, for many years on the internet, was that any old jerk could go online and bad mouth, anyone. It’s the reason that still today many of even us are wary of giving up privacy. The Bad Mouths said just about anything with little to no consequence. A few states took the long road of passing laws against it, which was great, but trying to catch “anonymous” or getting law enforcement to do so was in most cases futile. My favorite was when Tina Fey accepted her Golden Globe award and said she had no idea how many people hated her until she read the internet! Sadly, some didn’t laugh and there were businesses lost and even some suicides. It was a sad period for the internet. So what in the world does this have to do with AI? Well, A LOT.
A New Day on the Horizon
Remember that old song “happy days are here again…the skies above are blue again?” Well, it seems that a better collective consciousness (maybe some lawsuits didn’t hurt) has won out! The directive at Google was to overhaul using these building blocks: reputable, precise, positive, and crisp photo content, as well as, being able to answer questions. These are the things that Google will search first and that AI will be recognizing first. Let’s explore each of these further as this is a major way to please Google and will help the thousands of AI robots (AI Bots) scouring the web so they will spot you, understand you, and therefore reward your Google positioning. Failure with any of these components actually can lead to penalties and displacement from what I have been told. Bye Bye naughty people bad mouths!
The Overnight Success that Took Decades
So think of it this way, although AI has taken decades to invent it’s still in its infancy, and companies are still sorting out how exactly to make it lucrative. Google is first and foremost a search engine that answers lots of questions and locates people, places, things and websites for web users. They now use AI to find these answers quickly. Google is also investing heavily in the photo, image and video sector. They are also competing with snappy social media companies so they have added showcased and featured results called rich snippets, which are the matches that meet these best Google criteria.* I don’t know about you, but I really like to be the winner! Let’s take a look at each point from Google’s directives. I talked to some frontline techies to help me explain this so that we all can be winners!
Winning on Etsy using AI
Etsy is a great company. Most of us are on Etsy, so let’s start with how we can use AI on Etsy to help us sell.
On Etsy, we can use our positive feedback to wake up the AI Bots. I know I have been a bit lax on after delivery following up lately. But I try to send a message to old sales asking if they were pleased and if they would mind reviewing my shop. It worked. Most were happy to do so and I even got a couple of sales! This should be clear to the AI Bots no problem, as I know all of us are five-star sellers! You are more likely to see positive interest stories and verified companies on the first pages now and not companies that used tricks or slander to get there.
When we first started on Etsy it was a lot more hipster, cooler, and the cleverer you were often the better your shop stood out. Well, unfortunately, AI Bots are sort of squares. Those of us who have been working on our SEO sort of know this from the shift there already, but seriously, AI Bots are squares. Yet they do seem to like a rhythm in your writing, LOL! There is a reason Etsy is encouraging sellers to work with sites like Marmalead to learn how to write effective listings. Also, we need to use the data ETSY provides for free regarding what people are currently searching. Try to incorporate simple, accurate search terms when possible.
Flowery language is no longer in. I hope it comes back. It is even suggested that in our description that instead of a fun story, we should list short precise bullet details that an AI Bot can find, understand and match. I know it sounds antiseptic, but remember more and more people are shopping on the internet and you want them to turn down your main street. In order to do so, their navigation has to pick up on one of your road signs. So we must give good directions.
Also, lean in towards the answer to a question if you can. For example, here are two titles “Blue Depression Glass Chevron Milk Pitcher by Anchor Hocking 1930s” or maybe “Oleg Cassini Pink and Black Blazer Inspired by Jean Harlow.” These use detail like where things were made, maker marks, brand signatures, the era, etc. These two titles could answer a number of questions a buyer might have.
This goes back to Google’s (and other companies) renewed commitment to promoting positive internet content. Hey! A light bulb just went off. This might be where stories might fit in. Stories like the journey of your Grandmother’s brooch coming over from Italy, or how your shop hunts for treasures or the fact I have a shop that sells critter pins to help to support my rescue bunny! In any event, avoid any negativity like the plague. It’s bad for your health and it will literally hurt your shop.
Crisp Photo Content
Here’s another one that I had to give some thought as to how to address. As I mentioned in my last blog, I am a fan of the 80/20 principle. Photo recognition is getting pretty good, but it’s still not human. Computers don’t have eyes. Google encourages clean shots on a neutral or white background of your items so that the image recognizer can readily identify them for the fastest match. Yet those of us who have been on Etsy for a while know that Etsy always prided itself on lovely atmospheric and styled photos, and even fun ones! We want our shops to look interesting. I know I like to be creative and have fun, that’s 99 percent of why I sell on Etsy, so becoming generic would kind of defeat the purpose for me.
So, what to do? Well, I suppose with ten shots I can start to shift at least 80 percent of them (over time of course) to the first front shot at least being simpler on white. I did that when I used to play on Polyvore because an image had to be on a white background to be able to have the app cut it out so you could paste it anywhere. So I can probably cope. I think I can do this on Bazzart too. Then, of course, we have the featured items, our banners, and the shop updates that we can jazz-up.
The More Photos the Better
Yes, the more photos the better because Google is seriously into photos and photo recognition, especially after closing Google Plus. It also helps if the photo is described exactly as it appears when writing your description as if you are telling a blindfolded person about your item. The more accurately the visual and text descriptions match the better. Then whenever possible also title the photo file with a descriptive name like pinkrhinestonering.jpg. AI will make this connection and gets all robot happy for making a match like a little kid playing go fish! Seriously, you are more likely to get featured and I am not kidding.
I guess, after speaking to these brainiac Silicon Valley types, if I have to sum it up in Marta chat:
- AI doesn’t have real eyes or ears so you have to explain and describe everything to it in a straight forward way.
- Shoot well-lit pictures on a white background whenever possible.
- Describe the object accordingly paying attention to buzz search words that Etsy post on your dashboard.
- Tell positive stories.
- Make sure to reel in your reviews.
- Keep lots of photos tagged to your shop and items on social media, while also trying not to be too repetitive. Apparently, AI robots are a bit like humans and don’t like to read the same thing over and over again.
- Pay attention to what makes Google happy.
Happening Right Now Near You
This spring of 2019, I would say is a time of big fluctuation, overall changes, and shifts many of which we are yet to see. We are already seeing mergers of Facebook and Instagram. New features pop up every day on just about every system I use. It’s pretty exciting.
I had one of the first AI robots vacuums and mops too. They sure weren’t Rosie.** I sure would love to have a Rosie with AI… maybe she could even help me wrap Etsy sales after she cleans the house! Just think when we were kids the thought of a phone where you could see the other person on a gadget the size of a TV was science fiction! It’s already in the palm of our hand! What would you like AI or modern technology to do for you? Meanwhile, catch the positive content wave! A good resource is at this site, TheNativeInfluence.com.
Thanks for Coming! Until next time…remember your future is yours to draw.
“Positively AI” is Part II of a blog series by Marta. To read Part I, “Swimming in Social Media to Increase Online Sales,” click here.
* Google search results are called snippets, rich snippets and featured rich snippets. These are terms for the manner in which Google features and rewards content placement when it meets their criteria.
** Rosie, a domestic robot, was a cartoon character on “The Jetsons”. The show was an animated television comedy produced by Hanna-Barbera. It aired on US television from 1962 to 1963 and later from1985 to 1987.