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AI has officially entered the chat.
Well, technically AI-generated content isn’t new.
AI and other automation tools have been used to generate information for years.
However, the quick rise of tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT means the AI discussion has taken the world by storm. From helping plan vacations to writing articles – AI is pretty powerful when it comes to creating content.
And it’s clear that AI is here to stay
AI’s ability to quickly surface information and generate content has made it a major discussion point among SEOs and content writers.
Whether you’re using AI or not, you probably have some questions. “Is AI content equal to human-written content?” “Does it impact search rankings on Google?”
Google likes to keep a lot of the ins and outs of the ranking algorithms hush-hush. Fortunately, this time around, the team at Google has come out and provided some official guidance around AI content.
And the short answer is no – Google isn’t against AI-generated content.
In fact, I’ve pasted the snippet from Google’s guidelines here so you can see for yourself:
But there’s a bit more to it than that. Keep reading as we break down everything you need to know about AI and Google – and how you can continue to improve your rankings.
But let me start from the beginning.
Table of Contents
What is AI-generated content?
Artificial intelligence (AI) generated content uses machine learning to organize and present information to users. Algorithms are fed existing content, data, and other learning patterns to create new content that would historically be created by humans.
While many of us likely interact with automated tools on a regular basis, AI-written content is relatively new to the scene. But it’s quickly becoming more accessible and has generated higher-quality content than most people expected.
And there are a huge number of companies making AI content accessible.
There are a lot of benefits to AI-generated content. For example, AI-generated content can:
- Generate content ideas
- Write full paragraphs with AI
- Rewrite sentences and paragraphs
- And even generate images and videos
However, there are also a lot of drawbacks. Since AI is trained on existing material, the content isn’t always 100% original. Plus, since it takes time to feed the algorithm up-to-date information, it’s not always reliable.
AI-generated content is quickly making its way across websites and the SERP. So what does the rise of AI mean for content rankings on Google?
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Is Google against AI-generated content?
The short answer is no – Google doesn’t care if you’re using AI to generate your content. They only care about valuable content.
If you’re using AI to help create your content, you can breathe easy. You’re not about to lose all your rankings.
And if you’re concerned about AI content putting your hard human-written work to pasture, there’s some good news for you too.
Google has always prioritized providing the best search results for users, and their approach to AI is the same. If your content is the most helpful, Google will surface that result – regardless of who or what created that content.
In recent years, Google has been firm that content should be written for users first and search engines second. So, if you’re writing for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – which if you’re reading this, you probably are – it’s important to make content quality a top priority.
Does Google penalize AI-generated content?
Since Google isn’t against AI-generated content, they don’t specifically penalize it either.
Google has explicitly stated that using AI or automation doesn’t go against any of their guidelines. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean all AI content won’t get penalized.
If AI-generated content is being used to manipulate search rankings or generate spam, it will be de-indexed the same way it always has been.
Some examples of AI-generated content that can be penalized include:
- Cloaking: When the content shown to users is different than what is being crawled.
- Duplicate content: Content that isn’t original, AKA it already exists on your site or exists on other sites can be penalized, since there is no unique value to the user.
- Doorway pages: Pages that are created solely for Google and provide low value to users. So resist the urge to generate a bunch of content solely for SEO using AI.
- Poor quality content: Content that isn’t a good experience for users is usually deprioritized – whether it’s written by a human or AI. This includes inaccurate or poorly written content.
- Spam: Content created with the sole goal of manipulating search rankings.
Remember that these policies don’t apply solely to AI-generated content. Using any of these tactics through human means can get you blacklisted by Google as well.
On the other hand, they’ve also stated that AI won’t get a leg-up either when it comes to rankings.
Also read: How to Recover from a Google Penalty
How does Google rank human-generated and AI content?
Remember how we said Google will always put quality first?
Well, it’s important to understand how Google determines what content meets their expectations for quality and user experience.
Looking at Google’s guidance today, here are some things to think about when it comes to creating content that ranks. (Whether you’re writing it yourself or using AI to give you a boost).
I also made a video to explain some of the nuances of Google’s quality guidelines:
E-E-A-T and AI
E-E-A-T is the general guideline that Google uses to help determine content quality and what to present to searchers.
The four-letter acronym stands for experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trust. Even if you’re using AI to generate content, it’s important that content meets the 4 facets of E-E-A-T in order to get the best chance at ranking.
Experience is the newest addition to E-E-A-T. This considers the first-hand experience that the content creator has when it comes to a specific topic. The assumption here is that someone who has experience with that product or topic is more likely to offer the best information.
Also read: Are User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) Important for SEO?
Google prioritizes content where it’s obvious that the author has the education or credentials necessary to provide accurate information.
This is particularly important for topics that can have a major impact on the lives of the user. This is what Google calls the Your Money Your Life (YMYL) category, including financial wellness, medical information, legal information, and news websites. These categories are held to a higher standard since inaccurate or low-quality content can have significant consequences.
Google’s goal is to provide content from authoritative resources – those who are trusted and respected. This doesn’t necessarily refer to an individual or a specific author. A website as a whole can be authoritative as well.
A good way to establish authority is through backlinks from other reputable sources and external links to authoritative sources within your content.
Google evaluates content based on the site and the content’s level of trustworthiness. Are your pages and content trustworthy? Do you typically present reliable information? Is your site safe?
According to Google, trust is one of the most important factors when it comes to rankings.
Truthfully, Google’s ranking algorithm is constantly changing. What was best practice 5 years ago, just isn’t the same today. In fact, the rise of AI has probably caused the Google team to reevaluate their ranking algorithms once again.
Creating content in the world of AI
So AI is allowed. But is it even possible to use AI to create content that satisfies all aspects of E-E-A-T?
Realistically, Google doesn’t expect every piece of content to meet every ranking criterion. The ranking factors depend on the type of content. At the end of the day, they simply want your content to be trustworthy and helpful to the audience.
The best way to stay ahead of the curve is to create people-first content, even if you’re using AI. That means that you can use AI for your content, but it’s likely that some human intervention is necessary to make your content really comprehensive and authoritative.
The who, how, and why of content
To help site owners and SEOs create better content, Google has also provided a set of guidelines. While these guidelines help content satisfy the four areas of E-E-A-T, they primarily serve as a way to make content more helpful, reliable, and people first – even when it comes to AI.
The official recommendation is to evaluate all content based on 3 things: who, how, and why.
“Who created the content?”
Making it clear who authored the content is a good way to communicate expertise. For example, including a byline. (Although Google has stated that making AI an author or giving it a byline may not be the best way to disclose the use of AI.)
“How was this content created?”
Take for example a product review. In this instance, it would be helpful to highlight how this content was created (ie. through customer reviews) which would indicate experience – the first E.
If AI is used for the purposes of creating content, it would be valuable to disclose why using AI was useful. Asking yourself this question is also a great way to understand if you’re using AI in a way that improves the quality of the content.
“Why was this content created?”
Most content is created to help users solve a problem. It can range anywhere from how to change a lightbulb to not knowing the answer to a question. So it should be easy to answer the why. Even if the content is created using AI, your goal should still be to help your users.
If your answer is “to rank on Google” – that’s a sign that you need to re-evaluate your content. If your content isn’t people-first, it’s likely that it won’t rank well. (And in fact, this could be considered a violation of Google’s spam policies.)
Other frequently asked questions about Google and AI content
Google also took the time to break down some other common questions that you might have about AI and Google Search. You can read the full details here.
But here’s the gist.
Why isn’t AI content banned from Google?
AI is a tool that we can leverage to create better content. Google tends to agree!
Those who use AI in a way that improves the user experience will be rewarded. Meanwhile, those who use it nefariously will naturally be deprioritized based on existing policies and ranking factors. So there’s ultimately no need for a blanket ban.
Plus, Google is definitely going to release its own AI assistant to compete with OpenAI.
Can I create SEO content using AI?
Yes – there is no reason not to use AI when it comes to creating content. However, when it comes to SEO, make sure you’re prioritizing helpful content.
Google’s algorithms naturally move toward prioritizing user experience. So content that puts the user first will be rewarded, regardless if it’s written by a human or using AI.
But if you’re using AI to manipulate search rankings, Google’s stance is an unwavering no.
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Is Google able to detect if AI is being used to spam or manipulate search results?
Google has always been successful in finding linking schemes or content farms, so it’s likely that they’ll use similar methods to locate AI spam.
Google has stated that there are a variety of systems and tools that they use to identify spam, including SpamBrain. These tools analyze patterns and signals to determine if the content is being used to spam the SERP.
Do I need to disclose when I use AI?
Anytime a user is likely to wonder how the content was created. It’s important that this is made clear. This aligns with Google’s second consideration for creating quality content, the how.
In this situation, it would be valuable to disclose the use of AI.
Key takeaways on Google and AI
Google’s take on AI is pretty clear. They will continue to reward high-quality content – regardless of who created it.
There are many benefits to using AI in creating content, but it’s still important to prioritize the reader. Ultimately, if you’re using AI to game the system – it won’t work out in your favor. But if you’re using it to level up your content, you might find it helps bring your content to the top of the SERP.
As long as you’re delivering a quality user experience and creating people-first content, you’re golden in Google’s eyes.