AI-Generated Content = Spam?
AI copywriting tools are constantly evolving. Still, it’s essential to remember that in the eyes of Google, AI-generated content equals spam.
Already mentioned several times and recently confirmed again: AI-generated content is “spam” for Google and violates Google Webmaster Guidelines.
In the Google Search Central SEO Office Hangouts on April 1 (no April Fool’s joke), John Mueller labeled Google’s AI-generated content as “spam.”
Mueller’s response is not a real surprise. Especially when you consider that Google has answered this question many times over the last few years, auto-generated content has long been part of webmaster policy and should be avoided.
Nonetheless, AI-generated content is a popular topic of discussion on social media, forums, and private groups in the online marketing scene. Especially in the last few years, as technology has kept evolving.
The latest Google statement on AI content
First, it’s always important to remember that when Mueller speaks during office hours, he’s typically responding to specific questions about specific situations. His answers are often misconstrued to mean more broadly than what he said. If not grossly exaggerated.
In this case, the question was: How does Google react to websites that contain content written by AI?
The answer was clear: This falls into the category of auto-generated content, on which Google has a clear position. This, in turn, goes back to the beginnings of Google.
But this is where it gets interesting: can the Google algorithm even distinguish between content written by artificial intelligence and a human? Mueller declined to say anything definitive here.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether the content was written by a human, by artificial intelligence, or by an algorithm. Google can tell if the content is high quality, low quality, or even spam.
As AI tools evolve, maybe one day Google’s page one results will be filled with content created by AIs?
In some SERPs, it even looks like this is already the case. If you search for specific search terms, automatically generated content will probably already appear, for example, on product pages with AI-generated texts.
Did a human write that? Or a machine?
Of course, some human authors write destructive content and websites where such content ends up. But that doesn’t mean Google has to index or rank them. But anyone can publish any content of any quality online.
We’ve pulled everything Google says about auto-generated content straight from the Google Search Central documentation:
Auto-generated content (also called “auto-generated” content) is content that has been programmatically generated. In cases where it aims to manipulate search rankings and not help users, Google may take action against such content. Some examples of this include:
- Content that makes no sense to the reader but may contain search terms.
- Content that has been translated by an automated tool without being reviewed or curated by a human before publication.
- Content is produced by automated processes such as Markov chains.
- Content generated using automated synonymization or obfuscation techniques.
- Content generated by scraping Atom/RSS feeds or search results.
- Merging or combining content from different websites without sufficient added value.
The bottom line is: Content written by human copywriters is still better than automated tests.
Previous statements from Google about AI content
2022: Mueller was asked about AI-based content creation tools like Jasper and tweeted back, “Content generators/spinners have been around since the dawn of the web. People have used all sorts of tools and tricks to do this. I can tell that most websites struggle to create quality content; they don’t need help creating low-quality content.”
2021: Mueller said Google would likely shift to focusing more on content quality than how it was created. This essentially means that Google might be okay with ranking machine-generated content. But that day has not yet come.
2020: Google’s Gary Illyes stated that Google does not have a machine-translated content in its index regarding GPT-3 (Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3 that can produce human-like text and translate content) underperforms. He shared an amusing example on Twitter: “All cooked together. After cooking, the sugar dissolves and is ready to use. Do not boil coconut milk for a long time will be children.”
2019: Mueller was asked if automatically translating content might result in a manual action. He answered succinctly: No, but if the content is terrible, it probably won’t rank well. Also, this year, Mueller said that typed content is not okay. However, he noted that Google might eventually be more open to machine-generated content.
The key to this would be that Google would not be able to tell whether the content was written by a script or by a human.
2017: Illyes was asked if tools that generate human-readable content from data count as “auto-generated content.” Illyes replied that Google is considering it but can’t say anything about it.
2010: Mueller said that using automatic translation tools (like Google Translate) to create content for your website could, in some cases, be considered “creation of automatically generated content, which violates our Webmaster Guidelines.”
Google uses AI itself but bans websites?
Google describes itself as a company that relies heavily on AI and spends a lot of money on research here. The company uses hundreds of machine learning models across products — search, ads, YouTube, Gmail, and beyond. And why? Because it helps to improve your product.
So why is the content different in search results? Is that so? It all depends on the quality of the final content, or at least how Google’s algorithms interpret the rate.
But that’s not meant to be ironic. Google has repeatedly emphasized that it wants to and will reward high-quality content. The Panda update was one of Google’s extensive attempts to clean up the mess content farms had wreaked on search results.
Risks and benefits of AI-generated content
Risk: Google takes action against your page/website
A manual effort can have severe consequences for your brand or your company. In addition to all the resources you’ve put into this type of content, now even more resources need to be put into cleaning up the mess and (hopefully) getting it back up in Google’s search results.
Risk: Not original enough
While the AI content creation is more advanced than the older content spinners, it’s still basically the same. You’re using other people’s work that already exists online, including that of competitors. So you change the words and ideas of others. Following rather than leading is a dangerous model for any business and guarantees that you will eventually always be number two.
Risk: Low quality or makes little sense
What you receive must be extensively processed. Sometimes you get robotic, inconspicuous content. With the same (or less) time and resources invested in the technology, you might also be able to hire a human writer.
Advantage: Writing remains time-consuming
People take time to create content. AI content can reduce this time. Nevertheless, you should plan resources for proofreading the content.
Advantage: Good content is expensive
And there’s a reason for that. Usually, the content is about much more than the actual writing. There’s the research (keywords, ranking, competitors, etc.). How much editing is required? Are graphics needed for support? Is the author an expert on the subject? Expertise is expensive. This does not even take into account the advertising for the content.
So if you can live with content that is “good enough” (due to a limited budget or maybe because you’re in a niche with little competition), then AI content could be an advantage.
Advantage: Good for brainstorming
Writer’s block is the worst. AI can help generate ideas for content. As of this writing, they were creating content for each topic from scratch is often not good enough. But maybe the tools are valuable enough to use for brainstorming content ideas.
Why we’re looking at AI copywriting tools
Search engine optimization is often about balancing risk and benefit. If Google discovers AI-generated content on your website, this could trigger a manual action or lead to de-indexing.
Still, AI can help with content creation. But even then, a human touch is required. Whichever path you choose, ensure your company or your customers are aware of any risks involved in using AI-generated content.