How machine learning is supercharging content management

Machine learning and artificial intelligence are boosting the power of WordPress and other open source content management systems.
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Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are some of the hottest buzzwords around, especially in the open source community. It seems that every month brings a new machine learning system, each focused on a different application.

The good news is that since academics developed many of these frameworks, they are often open source by default. Even Google's own neural network software library, TensorFlow, is (at least for now) open source.

The bad news is that many of these frameworks are designed for high-end applications and require a lot of experience to deploy effectively. If you want to spend years building image recognition software from scratch, for instance, and want to stick to open source software, there are plenty of options available. Good luck with that PhD.

For the rest of us, taking advantage of recent advances in machine learning and AI requires that they come in an easy-to-use package and have real-world applications.

Luckily, there is at least one area where open source machine learning and AI systems are making a real impact: content management systems (CMSes), the software that sits behind websites and manages the content on them.

The holy grail in this field would be, of course, for an AI to automatically produce killer content, doing away with the need for writers like me. Luckily (at least for me) that day has not yet arrived. However, there are many other ways in which AI and machine learning technologies are revolutionizing the way we work with CMSes.

Here, I'll take a look at three ways machine learning and AI systems are being implemented in CMSes and a handful of things you can do now to prepare for the changes ahead. While some people have made careers looking at precisely how to do this, for most users making use of these new technologies is as simple as downloading a plugin for your existing CMS.

All the plugins mentioned below are available for WordPress, since it is by far the most popular CMS, although similar plugins are available for other commonly used systems. So, even if you don't use WordPress, this quick review of what is available for that platform offers a good idea of the range of ways AI and machine learning systems are being applied to content management.

1. Stronger content

Content is what drives people to your website, so it needs to be superior. It needs to target your chosen demographic and solve problems. With AI and machine learning technologies, a number of factors can be algorithmically analyzed, such as user geographical information, time of year and day, and user demographics.

A number of open source AI plugins aim to give you a clear picture of who is reading, when they are on your site, and why they are there. Consumer behavior provides critical information to ensure your content is targeted well. This technology applies important engagement and behavior trends and data points to understand context, distribution, and relevance for content marketers.

MyCurator, for instance, is an open source plugin that uses AI techniques to learn what kind of content does well on your site. By keeping track of the number of upvotes and downvotes each of your posts gets on social media, it can automatically eliminate content that would otherwise crowd your feeds, thereby boosting your site's performance.

Jetpack, by contrast, helps you create great content in a more direct way. Many people use this plugin without realizing it relies on machine learning. This plugin essentially functions as a (very) advanced spell checker and uses natural language processing to learn about contextual errors and even highlight clichés and biases that could limit the impact of posts.

2. Better content and market strategies

Some popular CMSes, such as WordPress, already use technology that fits into the AI spectrum as a matter of course. They work by using natural language processing and cognitive computing to aid marketers with their analysis, research, and content strategy formation.

This ensures that better content is created so businesses and websites gain a solid return for their efforts, and it can also guide businesses in optimizing their SEO. Currently, no matter which content management system you use, SEO requires intensive human research and work. You must manually research keywords, ensure they are used at the right frequency and adapt them over time to keep the content fresh and appealing to your target demographic.

With AI, this could change. Experts are hopeful that marketers will be able to turn tedious SEO tasks over to a computer and let the machine do this work on its own. They'll just need to take the results and implement them into their overall strategy.

An example of an existing technology working toward realizing this dream is Darwin Pricing Integration, which is part of the popular WooCommerce plugin. This tool uses machine learning and AI to perform market research for you, returning data on your competitors' prices and market strategy. If used well, it can even point you towards ways of developing your online business.

3. Improved security

The growing user bases for each CMS brings unwanted attention from hackers and malicious third parties. In 2017, more than 60% of small business websites were subject to some form of cyberattack.

The integration of AI and machine learning tools into CMSes promises to improve the security of websites and protect them against malicious attacks. Almost all large security firms already use neural networks and associated technologies to scan for viruses and potential attack vectors, and it is likely that these techniques will form an increasingly important part of consumer platforms in the coming years.

In some ways, AI technologies are already improving CMS security, even though most people aren't aware of them. Akismet, for instance, is a wildly popular spam-blocking plugin for WordPress, and one that many people do not realize uses machine learning technologies. Millions of users use this tool to protect their site from spam and avoid automated posts inserted by bots. Over the years, Akismet has gotten great at distinguishing real people from bots, and it has done this by utilizing machine learning techniques.

Prepare thyself for artificial intelligence

Given the rate at which AI and machine learning technology are growing, it makes sense to do what you can to get ahead of the wave and look at how you can adapt your existing systems to take advantage of what is already out there. Even in this rudimentary phase of development, it will give you a push down to the path toward a truly "smart" website.

Here are some actions to take now to get up to speed on the quiet AI revolution:

  • Consider the marketing tasks you're doing manually for your website and the repetitive tasks essential for getting the most out of your CMS. Think about how these could be automated with AI. Not only will this help you to look to the future, but it may also give you some viable ideas to improve your CMS right now.
  • Find ways to gain more valuable insight from the data you have access to now. End goals would be to predict outcomes, personalize content, discover insights, and devise strategies. Then consider how this could be improved via AI-related automation.
  • Consider your current marketing technology and how AI might improve it. You should also familiarize yourself with AI news to see what is on the horizon.

Final thoughts

Perhaps more than any other technology that appears set to explode in a massive way, AI and machine learning have the potential capacity to change our entire existence (not just the marketing world) into something very different from our present reality.

There will surely be growing pains, but as both inventor Elon Musk and scientist Stephen Hawking warned, it's our lot as humans to keep pushing forward.

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Sam Bocetta is a retired defense contractor for the U.S. Navy, a defense analyst, and a freelance journalist. He specializes in finding radical solutions to "impossible"​ ballistics problems. He covers trends in IoT Security, encryption, cryptography, cyberwarfare, and cyberdefense.

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