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Is Google Punishing Websites for Using AI-Generated Content?

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There are a lot of discussions these days about AI-generated content. Some people believe that Google will penalize websites for using this content, while others maintain that it is perfectly acceptable. So, what’s the truth?

In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of AI-generated content and offer suggestions for producing high-quality content that Google agrees with.

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Here is Google’s official stance on this topic

Is AI content against Google Search’s guidelines?

Appropriate use of AI or automation is not against our guidelines. This means that it is not used to generate content primarily to manipulate search rankings, which is against our spam policies.

Why doesn’t Google Search ban AI content?

Automation has long been used in publishing to create useful content. AI can assist with and generate useful content in exciting new ways.

Source: Google Search’s guidance about AI-generated content (Feb 8, 2023)

What is AI-generated content?

AI-generated content, photo of robot.
(Photo by Alex Knight)

AI-generated content is a type of content that is written by AI-powered software. It’s also referred to as machine written content and automatically generated (also called “auto-generated”—content). 

AI writing software takes data from various sources and synthesizes it into comprehensive, human-readable content.

If you’ve been following my blog, youtube channel, or weekly Authentic Marketer newsletter for some time, then you’ll know that I’ve been an advocate for AI software tools like Jasper AI, Surfer SEO, and other AI-powered copywriting software.

I’ve also repeatedly said that AI tools do not remove the need for humans in the content production process.

Pros and Cons of AI-Generated Content

The pros of AI-generated content are clear:

  • fast,
  • efficient, and
  • cost-effective.

However, there are some drawbacks as well. AI-generated content:

  • Often lacks emotion and personality. This makes it difficult for readers to engage with the material on an emotional level.
  • May include inaccuracies. Outdated or inaccurate information is one of the chief complaints against AI-written content.
  • May have typos and grammatical errors that would not be present in human-written or edited content.

So before you rush to “fire your content writer or copywriter,” you might want to ensure that the content produced by AI software meets your brand’s quality standards (and meet the expectations of your target customers/audience).

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Here’s some further food for thought… (these comments refer to the new kid on the block ChatGPT, an AI chatbot that can be used to produce content. Some people are saying ChatGPT will make other AI writing tools obsolete – this remains to be seen.)

Will Google penalize websites for using AI-generated content?

Businesses often use AI-generated content to quickly produce large amounts of content – but does it fall foul of Google’s rules?

The answer is – it depends.

On the one hand, Google’s Search Advocate, John Mueller, says that content automatically generated with AI writing tools is considered spam and doesn’t adhere to the search engine’s webmaster guidelines.

Examples of automatically generated content that Google considers spam

The following is everything Google says about spammy automatically generated content, taken straight from their Search Central documentation:

Spammy automatically generated (or “auto-generated”) content is content that’s been generated programmatically without producing anything original or adding sufficient value; instead, it’s been generated for the primary purpose of manipulating search rankings and not helping users. Examples of spammy auto-generated content include:

  • Text that makes no sense to the reader but contains search keywords
  • Text translated by an automated tool without human review or curation before publishing
  • Text generated through automated processes without regard for quality or user experience
  • Text generated using automated synonymizing, paraphrasing, or obfuscation techniques
  • Text generated from scraping feeds or search results
  • Stitching or combining content from different web pages without adding sufficient value

Automatically generated content that Google is ok with

We can’t just say, “Google will ban all content where AI was involved.”

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For now, AI-generated content that has been reviewed and edited by a human before being published is unlikely to be penalized if it is deemed “useful.”

In John Mueller’s words:

“From our guidelines it is the case that if it’s automatically generated content it should be blocked by robots for example. But my feeling is at some point that is going to shift a little bit in the sense that we’ll focus more on the quality rather than how it was generated.

And that’s something where I could imagine that there might be some setups for automatically generated content where you can actually create something that is fairly useful, where based on maybe the input data that comes in it’s actually something that is useful for people. So I know for example I think in the US some of the news sites use feeds from the different institutes for earthquake detection and they will automatically generate a news article if they see that one of these feeds says oh there was an earthquake in this big city. And they will take this automatically generated content and publish it initially because it’s like as soon as possible get the information out there. But they’ll also have people who go in and actually create something useful on top of that.

So some mix of maybe automatically generated content and human curated content I imagine will become normal. But we’ll continue to have the really low effort automatically generated content as well where people just say oh I want to target this keywords give me five paragraphs of text and make it look like it’s written in English. And you like a normal person looks at it and reads through it and says this doesn’t make much sense or these sentences don’t fit together. And this kind of low effort content I think will continue to be something that our systems will try to recognize as low quality maybe spam and treat appropriately. And in the end if it’s low quality content it doesn’t matter if it was written by a person or by a machine, it’s like it’s not that useful for people.”

In case you’re wondering, Google is OK with using AI-generated images.

Will content generated by ChatGPT be penalized?

At the time of writing, OpenAI is attempting to add watermarks to ChatGPT text to prevent plagiarism.

Now the question on everyone’s mind – is ChatGPT-generated content easily detectable?

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The answer: Not quite yet.

What can you do to prevent your content from being penalized by google?

The key is to create high-quality content for your target reader, not just game the system to get your article ranking on page 1 of Google. 

So what do I mean by “high-quality” content? What does that even look like?

Generally, there’s much more involved with producing content than the actual writing (the part that the software helps you with):

  • SEO Research (keywords, what’s ranking, who you’re competing against, etc.). 
  • Backing up claims with credible data (even better if you can reference primary research e.g. a study/survey your team conducted, customer case studies, interviews with experts, etc.)  
  • Editing for grammar, tone, and voice
  • Graphics and multimedia needed to support it
  • Involving experts. Is the writer a subject matter expert in the topic, or were experts interviewed to produce the content? 

AI writing software will certainly speed up your workflow, but you need to be sure that AI-generated content is also reviewed, edited, and improved by a human.

It’s also worth understanding the AI content risks vs. benefits.

This is why high-quality content writing comes at a considerable cost. Just consider the time and expertise required.

HERE’S A GOOGLE-APPROVED CHECKLIST FOR CREATING QUALITY CONTENT USING AI:

  • Make sure content is useful and valuable to readers
  • Prioritize quality over quantity (1 quality article is better than 10 thin articles)
  • Ensure content meets E.E.A.T criteria (Expertise, Experience, Authority, Trust). Back up claims with authoritative sources.
  • Use AI as a tool, not a substitute for writing skills
  • Create fewer, well-researched, and structured pieces for higher SEO ranking.

Now hopefully all the fear-mongering and inaccurate suggestions to “avoid using AI tools like ChatGPT because Google will penalize your content” will stop. (If you hear anyone saying that, point them to this article)

Want help producing high-quality content that builds trust, attracts leads, and generates sales? Check out our services and get in touch.

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