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Is Google OK with AI content or not?

Is Google OK with AI content or not?

With some website owners still feeling the ripples of Google’s August 2023 Core Update, and the search engine continuing to tweak its advice on content written by artificial intelligence (AI), Google’s stance on machine-generated content doesn’t seem to be getting much clearer.

In a recent exchange on X (formerly Twitter), Google Search Advocate John Mueller advised a user that it looked like he had used ChatGPT-generated text on his site and that this was not “unique, compelling, high-quality content”.

This argument makes sense, particularly on the point of uniqueness. Since ChatGPT and other AI content creators scrape other sites for their information, they can’t really provide a unique perspective on any topic, or offer anything that can’t be found somewhere else.

Nonetheless, there are numerous reports of website owners feeling aggrieved that what they see as AI content-stuffed websites appear to be ranking above them, especially following the latest core update. Quotes on the Webmaster World forum in recent days include:

“Search results are now JAMMED full of sites using AI generated content.”

“This is a joke. I’ve got long-form content, well written, well researched, filled with original image content LOSING to 500 word AI generated crap.”

“Has anyone stopped to think how ludicrous it is for Google to claim to be an AI-driven company now (BARD), and at the same time to threaten to penalize AI content in the SERPS? They cannot hold two diametrically opposed goals, and they don’t.”

Following on from that third point, SEO expert Barry Schwartz recently noticed that Google has removed the phrase “written by people” from its documentation.

What’s the best action to take?

In the interests of providing the unique content Google asks for, I’m going to give my personal opinion here – I think Google wants to do something about AI content, but at the moment, it doesn’t really know how to. So, for now, the search giant is playing it safe and arguing that content can be helpful or unhelpful regardless of whether it was written by humans or AI. Google doesn’t want to say it’s specifically targeting unhelpful AI content when it’s not confident its algorithms are able to detect it.

Certainly, there are more and more sites using it. One I’ve noticed is the event listing website BoothSquare, where many events are supported by a description that ends with the words “Generated by OpenAI for BoothSquare”. These blurbs are making the site richer in content and may be providing immediate SEO benefits, but is it helpful content? How can a computer really make sense of an event it had no input in organising, or provide any information about it that might be useful to a potential attendees?

In time, I suspect Google’s algorithms will only get better and any sites that might be currently reaping the benefits of using ChatGPT or Bard filler text will eventually be hit hard by a future update. I discussed this with our Marketing and Communications Director Darren on his Engage Marketeer podcast, where I gave such an update the tentative title “Hawk”.

At Engage Web, we’re sticking with human-written content as we believe that’s the best way to provide the unique, authoritative and helpful content Google’s algorithms prefer. If your website needs fresh content – whether it’s blogs, product descriptions or something else entirely – speak to us today.

John Murray

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