Since ChatGPT upended the marketing scene in November 2022, marketers have been scrambling to figure out the best ways to use conversational AI in SEO. The great debate began, can AI be used for the purpose of content creation?
The ambiguity surrounding Google’s official stance on the AI revolution and content creation with machine learning has become more clear. In early February 2023, Google shared new guidance about AI content on its Developer’s blog. The new information contains clearer direction for SEOs and marketers wondering how to use conversational AI technologies, like ChatGPT.
In this post, we’ll look at precisely what Google recommends now, how that has evolved, and the answers to marketers’ most common questions about using AI in their content strategy.
Google’s evolving position on AI content
Google’s view of AI content has evolved over the years. Initially, its view was that content creation with machine learning violates their Google Webmaster Guidelines.
In April 2022, the guidelines changed to specify that people should avoid using automatically generated content intended to manipulate search rankings.
Now, in its Spam Policy, Google is more specific with what it’s guarding against is spammy, auto-generated content:
“Spammy automatically generated (or “auto-generated”) content is content that’s been generated programmatically without producing anything original or adding sufficient value; instead, it’s been generated for the primary purpose of manipulating search rankings and not helping users.”
According to Google, examples of spam from content generators include:
- Text generated through automated processes without regard for quality or user experience
- Text that makes no sense to the reader but contains search keywords
- Text translated by an automated tool without human review or curation before publishing
- Text generated using automated synonymizing, paraphrasing, or obfuscation techniques
- Text generated from scraping feeds or search results
- Stitching or combining content from different web pages without adding sufficient value.
These periodic policy changes reflect Google’s commitment to providing users with relevant and informative content while maintaining a high-quality standard in the digital landscape. And Google has gone a step further with its AI guidance and recommendations.
Google’s current recommendations for machine-generated content
Google’s most recent announcement on AI-generated content reiterates its goal to prioritize and promote high-quality, helpful content for users. This means filtering out unhelpful, misguided, or altogether spammy content.
“When it comes to automatically generated content, our guidance has been consistent for years. Using automation—including AI—to generate content with the primary purpose of manipulating ranking in search results is a violation of our spam policies,” the announcement states.
It continues, “This said, it’s important to recognize that not all use of automation, including AI generation, is spam. Automation has long been used to generate helpful content, such as sports scores, weather forecasts, and transcripts. AI has the ability to power new levels of expression and creativity, and to serve as a critical tool to help people create great content for the web.”
To meet Google’s standards, content creators should focus on producing quality content that serves their audience’s needs while optimizing their work for search engine rankings.
Recommended reading: Google’s Helpful Content Update – Tips for Enterprise Brands
Google emphasizes that when it comes to AI, it’s about using it to enhance your content and make it more valuable to the reader. That way, it answers the searcher’s queries while you are still utilizing AI to create engaging and unique content.
While AI can be a helpful tool, Google’s approach to content, whether it’s with AI assistance or without, is to reward high-quality content.
When Google talks about helpful and unique content, they refer to E-E-A-T: expertise, experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. The E-E-A-T guidelines and the Helpful Content System should serve as the gold standard for how marketers and SEOs produce content.
Limitations with AI-generated text
Artificial intelligence has changed how content is created, making it easier, faster, and more efficient to conduct research, overcome writer’s block and inform the writing process. However, it also has its drawbacks.
AI in content creation can lead to a lack of creativity and originality in the content produced. It can also amplify bias and state misinformation so convincingly that readers may be fooled. Additionally, this information is sourced from previously written content that Google may deem to be duplicate or plagiarized content.
While AI algorithms may be able to generate grammatically correct text and use appropriate vocabulary, they cannot replace the human insight necessary for creating quality content that resonates with people. For example, marketers will want to double-check any statistics or facts to ensure they are correct and up-to-date. AI may pull an older, outdated finding that’s since been updated for relevancy.
AI-content generation Q&A
What are AI content creation best practices?
AI can improve the content creation processes, but it’s still crucial for humans to play an integral role in ensuring that the final product is both high-quality and will resonate with the intended target market.
Understand your audience and their specific needs and incorporate that into your work. This will help you immensely when using AI assistance to conduct research or preliminary draft work.
In addition, marketers should rely on their content team for the review process to help ensure that the AI-generated or AI-assisted content is cohesive, non-repetitive, and aligns with the brand’s voice and messaging. By tactfully incorporating AI into your content strategy, you can create more effective and efficient campaigns that resonate with your target audience and avoid search engine penalties.
What are the risks of AI-created content?
Relying solely on AI to create content comes with its own inherent risks. To start, AI-created content can be generic, too closely related or identical to existing content, or amplify bias.
Marketers should always confirm that their information and sources are accurate to avoid these risks. This typically takes place inside a structured editorial program. For multi-location brands, using a publishing platform with location-level access and permissions is essential.
How can we improve our content quality across the brand?
Google is clear about what it’s looking for in helpful, people-first content. Marketers should use Google Search policies and procedures as a guide for content creation dos and dont’s.
Ultimately, your goal is to produce value-added, high-quality content for searchers. Low-quality content is not only harmful to search rankings but delivers a poor customer experience, as well. When you only have seconds to engage a searcher or a visitor, you don’t want to meet them at that moment with generic (or worse, inaccurate) content.
Can we use AI to create content for our brand’s local listings and pages?
The best content comes from local sources who are in the trenches every day, and it’s still important to have brand controls. Using a publishing solution with local permissions for your brand’s listings and local pages is a better solution than unleashing AI. Without permissions, use of AI could be used in harmful ways and result in inconsistent content and a poor user experience in different locations.
What kinds of content is ChatGPT good at?
Google mentioned a few examples in its post. Some longstanding content commonly produced through automation includes weather forecasts, sports scores, and transcripts. Opinion pieces, expert advice, and other long-form content require a human writer.
Remember when you’re using it for content research that ChatGPT doesn’t have fresh ideas or even access to live search data.
How else does AI impact local SEO?
It’s essential to understand how Google itself is using AI so you can take advantage of opportunities for richer, more engaging listings and an enhanced search presence.
Google uses AI for subtopic recognition and comprehension to help provide searchers with more diverse content when they use a broad topic. It’s also better at understanding videos to select critical moments to highlight in search results.
It can also help you generate keyword ideas, write meta descriptions, write title tags, create outlines, and help spark inspiration when encountering writer’s block.
As AI continues to shape how we consume and produce content, it is essential to keep up with these changes and ensure that your content meets Google’s standards to improve your quality of content. By doing so, marketers, SEOs, and brands better position themselves to provide real value to their target audience while enhancing online visibility for each location, in every market served.
Like other content tools, ChatGPT and conversational AIs like it can help with repetitive tasks, data analysis, and even some coding. But, as of now, our personal opinion is they simply can’t fully replace human content writers and the rich, authoritative information they bring to your audience.