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Artificial intelligence for forums

Posted by Paul Lee on February 16, 2017 at 10:00 AM
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Last fall, a customer shared the following with me:

"I know we have great content in our forum.  A lot of it ranks really well in Google.  But most of our users are drive-bys: They come to us through Google Search, look at a page, and leave.  Is there anything we can do to increase engagement and hopefully also boost ad revenue?"

Later that week, our team came up with an idea: What if we could give forum users a list of suggested searches based not just on popular keywords, but the most meaningful topics in a discussion? What would happen to engagement and ad revenue?

That same day, we built a prototype of what we called More Like This (MLT) using natural language processing (NLP). "NLP is a way for computers to analyze, understand, and derive meaning from human language in a smart and useful way." (Algorithmia) In our case, we used NLP to create a Threadloom-generated post inside a discussion thread, extract key entities from the discussion, and suggest them to the user as searches.  Here's what it looked like:

mlt-1.png

The following week, we launched an A/B Optimizely experiment the following week.  Based on three weeks of data with MLT enabled on half of web traffic, here's what happened when people clicked on MLT:

mlt results.png

In short, users doubled their engagement, eCPM went up over 400%, and ad revenue on a per-session basis went up over 700%.

As you can imagine, we're pretty excited about this! But there's still work to do.  CTR on MLT was <5% – not bad for a few days work, but we think we can improve that with more time on the user interface.  So over the next several months, we'll be tweaking MLT and running a few more experiments.  Stay tuned!

Topics: Case study

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