Is AI content bad for SEO? Here’s what you need to know.
If you work in marketing, you probably had a front-row seat to the explosion of chatter around AI and automation over the last few months.
The impact of AI has been steadily growing across a range of sectors in recent years, but when ChatGPT launched in November 2022, AI became a focal point in content for the first time. The chances are – if you’re reading this – you already know exactly what ChatGPT does, how it’s coming for our jobs and we’re all being replaced by robots, etc.
With that in mind, I won’t get too bogged down in the minutiae of the tool, but I will take a minute to address why ChatGPT is so significant.
So, why is ChatGPT such a big deal?
First off, it’s one of the most advanced AI chatbots the public has ever had access to. According to Marco Ramponi, who’s a developer at AssemblyAI, ‘it is the Reinforcement Learning component specifically that makes ChatGPT unique’. In simple terms – that means it uses human feedback and Natural Language Processing to improve the quality and accuracy of the content produced.
ChatGPT captured the attention of the marketing world because it seems like a cheat sheet without a catch; brief this chatbot (not an expensive copywriter) and get accurate, readable content in any style you please. In seconds, you could have a poem about rubber ducks in rhyming couplets, or an academic essay about the French Revolution.
But now this resource is out in the wild, what does Google plan to do with all that AI-generated content making its way online?
Google’s guidance on AI-generated content: the key takeaways
After a lot of speculation (you couldn’t move for it on LinkedIn), Google Search finally published a blog containing some guidance about AI-generated content, and how it could perform on the SERPs.
The article doesn’t exactly put all our fears to rest – but it does clear up the biggest questions about content written by tools like ChatGPT. To save you combing through the small print, here are the core takeaways:
1. Automated content is nothing new in SEO
While this particular application of AI seems new, automation tech has been serving us useful information on SERPs for years. Think about examples like sports scores, the weather or AI translation software – Google isn’t new to indexing content from automated sources. That means Google already has sophisticated systems in place (like SpamBrain) to identify content containing red flags, such as misinformation or keyword stuffing.
2. Google has no intention of banning AI-written content
There have been plenty of rumours circulating about whether Google will ban content produced by AI. But Google’s main concern is quality – not origin. So as long as the content is genuinely useful, there’s no reason for it to perform poorly in the SERP. You won’t be penalised for publishing AI-generated content, and it’s not against Google Search’s guidelines.
3. E-E-A-T is more crucial than ever
Whether you’re an insecure analogue copywriter (guilty) or a progressive looking to harness the potential of automation, you should know that E-E-A-T is still a priority. That means your site content needs to meet the following criteria to avoid tanking in the SERPs.
- Experience – does the content creator have actual, first-hand experience of the subject at hand? (Interestingly, ChatGPT could never).
- Expertise – does the content show a deep level of understanding and expert knowledge on the subject?
- Authority – is the content written by an author who’s qualified to comment on the subject with authority?
- Trust – is the content providing accurate, reliable and trustworthy information, backed up by credible sources?
4. AI-generated content doesn’t have an advantage
This is an important one. Content generated by AI tools like ChatGPT has no distinct advantage. Since 2022’s helpful content update, Google has dictates that content written for people will perform better than content written for search engines. AI may be learning every day, but human copywriters have the edge here – and arguably always will.
5. Transparency is key
The Google Search team has also been pretty clear (see what I did there) about the importance of transparency when using AI-generated copy. In fact, Google states that you need to disclose the involvement of AI in content creation wherever ‘it would be reasonably expected.’ This is mostly a common-sense judgement, and will likely come down to specific use cases.
For example, if you used ChatGPT to ghostwrite a thought-leadership piece, which you then published fraudulently under the byline of an industry expert, you could damage your site’s credibility. Accurate bylines are always best.
Still wondering whether AI could help to develop your content and bolster site performance?
The answer is yes, it probably can. You could use it for ideation, inspiration or research. You could even use it to actually generate some content (although I doubt many copywriters worth their salt would risk it).
But remember this: Google’s Search team states that AI should absolutely not be considered ‘an inexpensive, easy way to game search engine rankings’.
You’ve been warned!