Is AI content bad for SEO?
When ChatGPT and Google BARD first launched, there was a fair bit of confusion within the search industry as to whether utilising generative AI was in violation of Google’s spam policies. This is because, as late as 2022, Google expressly forbid the practice within its guidelines. However, in late 2022, Google removed the mention from its list of bad practices, and in 2023 released a clarifying statement on its position.
The statement emphasises Google’s commitment to rewarding high-quality content, regardless of how it is produced. The key focus is on delivering helpful and reliable information to users. So, so long as the content is well written, well researched, quality and fact checked and written with the end user in mind (and not written just to game the search engines), Google will reward it as it would any other content.
Google’s Approach to generative AI
Google’s ranking systems aim to reward content that demonstrates qualities of E-E-A-T: experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. These factors have long been at the core of Google’s approach to search, but were formalised into the algorithm in 2014 (with the ‘experience’ part being added in 2022) . When creating content, it’s important to keep E-E-A-T in mind to ensure its quality and reliability.
- Experience: Share Valuable Insights – Incorporate your experience and unique insights into your content. Provide practical examples, case studies, or personal anecdotes that enrich the reader’s understanding of the topic. By sharing your expertise through relevant experiences, you can create content that stands out and resonates with your audience.
- Expertise: Establish Your Authority – Demonstrate your expertise by providing accurate and valuable information in your content. Showcase your knowledge and credentials related to the topic you’re covering, and back up your claims with reliable sources and cite them appropriately. Building trust with your audience is crucial for SEO success.
- Authoritativeness: Establish Credibility – Establishing authority involves building trust and credibility with your audience. Use reputable sources, link to authoritative websites, and cite experts in the field. Include relevant statistics, studies, or research findings to support your arguments. By demonstrating that your content is backed by reliable sources, you enhance its credibility.
- Trustworthiness: Be Transparent and Reliable – Transparency is essential for building trust. Clearly disclose any conflicts of interest or potential biases that may influence your content, and provide accurate information and avoid spreading misinformation. Fact-check your content to ensure it aligns with well-established consensus on important topics, and be diligent in verifying the accuracy of your content before publishing it.
Practical Tips for AI-Generated Content
AI-generated content has the potential to be extremely harmful. Software such as ChatGPT has been shown to provide false/made up quotes, inaccurate information and erroneous advice. As such, Google’s main concern with generative AI is simply keeping its search results pages accurate and helpful.
Here are some practical tips for using AI to create SEO-optimised content:
- Quality Control: Always, always always fact check, review and edit AI-generated content. It should never be published as-is without human review and editing. Take the time to thoroughly review the generated content, correct any errors, and ensure it aligns with your brand’s tone and style. Check any quotes. ChatGPT has a habit of making them up! Check your sources… again, ChatGPT has a habit of making them up! Adding your unique insights and expertise to the AI-generated content will help make it more valuable and reliable.
- Originality: Ensure that the content generated by AI adds value and is original. Avoid duplicating existing content, as Google prioritises unique and valuable information. Use AI as a tool to assist in generating content, but make sure to contribute your expertise to make it unique and tailored to your audience. Give it your own flavour. Every brand should have its own, unique tone of voice, specifically curated towards its target demographic and user profiles. By all means use AI to help write your content, but then make sure that it’s written for your base, and not for a generic audience. Otherwise your UX and CRO will suffer, as will your overall content quality.
- User Intent: Focus on People by creating content primarily for your audience, not just for search rankings. RankBrain focuses specifically on user intent, so make sure to understand your target audience’s needs and intent and develop content that addresses their questions, solves their problems, and provides valuable insights. By focusing on user intent and creating people-first content, you are more likely to meet Google’s quality standards.
- Disclosures: Be Transparent If you use AI in the content creation process, consider adding disclosures to inform readers. Disclosures can help readers understand the involvement of AI or automation in the content’s production. This transparency builds trust and demonstrates your commitment to delivering reliable information.
By following these practical tips and keeping the E-E-A-T principles in mind, you can create AI-generated content that aligns with Google’s guidelines and enhances your chances of ranking well in search results.
Finally, we recommend working to a specific content plan. Simply writing content for the sake of it can result in serious issues concerning and keyword cannibalisation, index bloat, can jeopardise content silos and be bad for UX.
Do your keyword research first, to make sure that you’re writing content that is going to be of actual use. Work out what it is that searchers are looking for, and then build out content that is designed to cater to that search intent. A good SEO agency will always advise against falling into the trap of simply writing content for the sake of it. “I’m going to write x5 blog posts per month” rarely works as a strategy and can create more problems than it solves. Be very intentional with your content and remember: quality over quantity wins the day, every time.
Google’s statement on AI-generated content emphasises the importance of focusing on quality, relevance, and user satisfaction. Leveraging AI can be a valuable tool in content creation, but it should always be complemented with human expertise and scrutiny. By producing original, high-quality content that adheres to E-E-A-T principles, you can create SEO-optimised content that provides value to your audience and meets Google’s standards for search rankings.
(Note: The information provided here is based on the statement released by Google at the time of writing, and it is always advisable to stay updated with the latest guidelines and recommendations from Google.)