It’s no secret that Google has been on a mission for years to promote and prioritize high-quality content written for people and not for search engines.
Content that is spammy, has little to no informative substance or doesn’t reflect natural human language is penalized by the search engine’s algorithm. And Google keeps pushing out updates that reflect this commitment.
But at the same time, companies that offer AI-generated content have been exploding in popularity and, quite frankly, in quality. The seduction of AI-generated content is that it’s fast and cheap and can produce a sizable amount of content on a variety of topics. This is particularly attractive to business owners who want to avoid the expense of hiring content writers and copywriters.
So Google’s latest updates for 2022, especially its Helpful Content Update, have some business owners panicking as their websites take big SEO hits, especially those that rely on AI-generated content.
[Here’s a rundown of the latest 2022 updates.]
The Debate Heats Up
The tide of concern and chatter began to rise around April 1, 2022 (Nope, that’s not a joke). John Mueller, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, participated in an Office Hours Hangout session with Google Search Central that prompted a lot of chatter in the content, copy, and SEO worlds.
A participant asked about the future of GPT-3 tools, Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3 which are language prediction technologies that mimic human language, and if Google would ever accept such content. Mueller’s response was clear:
“... automatically generated content, which is something we’ve had in the Webmaster Guidelines since almost the beginning. … [is] still automatically generated content, which means for us [Google] it’s still against the webmaster guidelines. So we would consider that to be spam.”
[You can watch the complete Hangout Session with John Mueller.]
Five days later, Matt Southern with Search Engine Journal posted his own take on the conversation from the hangout session as well as the crackdown on AI-generated content. To date, his article has earned 5.8K shares and over 104K reads.
Clearly, the debate about the quality and acceptance of AI-generated content continues to be a hot topic as Google continues to roll out its updates.
[Matt Southern in Search Engine Journal]
The Problem with AI-Generated Content
Obviously, AI-generated material is produced by artificial intelligence and is not considered original material. AI is guided by human commands and is limited by the data available and keyword input. Without human editing, it can be plagued by a number of issues that the algorithms may flag - At this time, anyway:
- Awkward and unnatural sentence structure
- Poor grammar
- Spelling mistakes
- Repetition of ideas
- Inability to persuade or appeal to emotion or motivation
- A lack of factual substance and accuracy
- No ability to distinguish or construct an opinion
- A lack of consistency with other content found on a website
Clearly, these are common problems with low-quality content that should be avoided as a general rule. As such, Google will continue to penalize AI-generated content for these reasons now and into the future.
Can Google Actually Detect AI Content?
Now that’s the big question everyone wants answered.
During the Office Hours Hangout session, Google’s John Mueller was asked directly, "Are you saying that Google is able to understand the difference between human and AI content?”
Mueller replied, "I can't claim that."
And at no time did Mueller claim that Google’s algorithm could automatically detect whether or not content was written by AI. It appears that - at this time - Google’s systems may need human intervention and assistance to evaluate suspicious content. If Google’s webspam team happens to find it, any penalties would be manual and not automatic.
However, we are talking about AI, after all. Its purpose is to learn, adapt, expand, and improve, and AI technologies only get better, not worse, over time. The goal of AI content generation is to reach the point of producing content that reflects the natural and intuitive nature of human language and communication. And that just might happen in the not-too-distant future.
Should You Use AI-generated Content?
The short answer - at this time: it’s wise to avoid it.
And the primary reason is that it’s bad for SEO because Google simply doesn’t like it. This is especially true for those who use AI-generated content “as is.”
Without the input of human editing and finessing, such content runs the risk of being flagged as spam. It may seem like a quick and convenient way to pump out blogs, landing pages, emails, etc., but the most that AI-generated content can offer - at this time - is a starting point for human writers. As with all content writing, quality is key.
The algorithms will always prioritize content that answers search queries, provides genuine value and is written in natural human language. And the icing on the cake of high-quality content is adding targeted optimization. These best practices still require human intervention.
At this time - AI tools are just not capable of generating content that meets the level of quality that great SEO ranking requires:
- Content that is specific and informative
- Natural use of language
- Avoidance of keyword stuffing
- Structuring for readability
- Crafting attention grabbing H1 and H2 headings and subheadings
- Providing logical and high-quality internal and external linkage
- Selecting supporting images and graphics, and optimizing them
- Consistency of brand voice and style throughout a website
For even more tips: [SEO Content Best Practices]
It’s a fair bet that Google will continue to maintain its expectations when it comes to prioritizing high-quality content. And it’s just as likely that AI-generating tools and the companies that sell them will do their best to keep up with those expectations.
Even John Mueller gave some consideration to the potential use of AI-generated content during the April 2022, hangout session:
“I think, over time, maybe this is something that will evolve, in that it will become more of a tool for people. Kind of like you would use machine translation as a basis for creating a translated version of a website, but you still work through it manually.”
The AI content debate will no doubt continue. Many believe that AI is the future of content marketing, but we’re just not there yet.
The key is to stay updated and be open to experimenting with technology but use AI tools properly. The expectations of quality content have not changed, so let that continue to be your guide for content creation.
And it’s a wise investment to seek out professional writers and SEO experts to assist you with your digital content needs. It’s their job to stay updated on the latest digital marketing trends and tools to save you time, streamline your processes, and increase your revenue.