Does AI Content Rank in Google?

Does AI Content Rank in Google?

Does AI content rank in Google? Or could you torpedo consumer trust and your business’s future by taking advantage of one of the hottest tools on the internet?

When ChatGPT burst into public consciousness in late November 2022, the tech seemed to draw a line in the virtual sand, separating the earlier times of content from the robot age. But in reality, the rise of AI content has been a slow burn, and those within the content marketing industry have seen both the potential and the pitfalls on the horizon for years. The big question now isn’t just how AI text generators can be used but whether they should be used at all by anyone hoping to get (and stay) in Google’s good graces. 

One of the reasons Google has been so successful is its commitment to total world dominance. Just kidding (mostly). But really, Google dominates because it’s willing to constantly reevaluate its position on hot-button topics and what constitutes the general standard of excellence. However, changing standards can lead to an overload of confusion.

The doubt and uncertainty are real, but the key takeaway is just as potent: Combining AI with practical SEO strategies (and a heaping helping of human insight and oversight) is a recipe for success, and even Google agrees.

Does AI Content Rank in Google?

Google doesn’t penalize AI content simply for being produced by artificial intelligence. But to truly understand whether AI-generated text could affect your ranking, we have to dig a little deeper. It isn’t a yes or no answer but an analysis of how AI-generated content actually performs, what role human editorial oversight plays, and what Google’s official stance is. Because, at the end of the day, that almighty Google algorithm remains king.

The importance of EEATing

Google has confirmed (several times now) that AI-generated content gets a big, fat A-OK as long as it follows the same E-E-A-T guidelines used to evaluate content overall. In September 2023, Google updated the wording of its philosophy on valuable content, changing “helpful content written by people, for people” to “helpful content created for people.” That short edit made it clear Google was more interested in whether content delivered value — according to E-E-A-T — than in who created the content in the first place.

So, if you can use ChatGPT to generate a blog that meets Google’s standards for experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, your content should be in line to rank well.

But there are also other factors that influence how content, AI-generated or not, ultimately lands on Google’s results pages.

SEO: Perception vs. reality and what works when you want to rank

How content is produced is only one piece of the SERP-y pie. Even if your content is strong, your SEO game has to be just as impressive, and that includes knowing the truth about search engine optimization.

Timeframes

  • Perception: SEO is a one-time-only production.
  • Reality: There’s no end to search engine optimization. Even if your AI-generated content ranks well now, you may need to tweak it in the future to answer Google algorithm updates.

Keyword stuffing

  • Perception: The more keywords you include, the better your ranking.
  • Reality: Google looks down on and penalizes articles with obvious keyword stuffing — even if it’s AI’s fault.

Links are links

  • Perception: All links feed into the algorithm and boost your content’s rank.
  • Reality: Quality is paramount. Google likes high-quality, highly relevant links from sources with proven authority.

Your content determines your ranking

  • Perception: All you need is a solid blog and decent meta tags, and your SEO is done and dusted.
  • Reality: AI content won’t get your site to rank if you aren’t paying attention to other factors, including social media, linking, and online reputation.

AI + human editorial oversight = magic

By this point, you’re hopefully convinced that AI text generators can be useful, but they can’t be left to operate completely independently. After all, the robot overlords don’t need to get it in their heads that we humans are totally superfluous, right? But how does that human oversight manifest?

In most cases, you’ll use yourself or other members of your human team in three ways:

  • Editorial assistance: Use human editors to refine AI-generated content briefs, edit content drafts, and otherwise provide insight and polish that isn’t possible with 100% reliance on technology.
  • Subject matter experts (SMEs): AI content-generating programs rely on existing data points and can only respond depending on what they know and when that data was input. This could lead to inaccurate or outdated content, which is less than ideal since Google looks for signals of reliability to help weed out content that propagates misinformation or contradicts popular consensus on certain topics. As of November 2023, many ChatGPT responses lead with, “As of my last knowledge update in January 2022…” Human SMEs can go through content with a fine-toothed comb, ensuring accuracy — something that’s especially important for companies in sensitive industries, such as healthcare and fintech, that can’t afford to disseminate erroneous content. 
Image showing chatting with  ChatGPT
  • Offpage SEO: You need all the off-page SEO in place to support your content. Even if you use technology as part of your SEO strategy, you need a human to review the checklist and help knit everything together.

And if you need any more convincing that AI isn’t ready to go it alone, listen to the wise words of John Mueller, Google’s search advocate. When tagged on X (formerly Twitter) in a post asking, “Should we use ChatGPT from now onwards for publishing content on our website??? It giving 80% unique content.” [sic], Mueller’s response was epic: “It’s like food with only 20% toxic chemicals? Sounds tasty.”

John Mueller's words about AI

Content Generated With AI

Digital guru and NP Digital Co-Founder Neil Patel put AI-generated content to the test following Google’s fall 2022 spam update, analyzing data from 100 experiment sites populated exclusively with AI-written content. His findings are more than worthy of a gasp and well-timed clutching of pearls:

  • Sites that used AI-generated content with zero human oversight dropped eight positions in the SERPs and lost an average of 17% in traffic.
  • Sites that paired AI-written content with some type of human oversight dropped just three positions in the SERPs and lost only 6% of their traffic.

It’s confirmed that problems arise when content creators expect AI to meet E-E-A-T standards independently. The human element may not be sacrosanct any longer, but it also isn’t extinct.

Boosting traffic thanks to artificial intelligence

Content Growth Founder Jake Ward is no stranger to building and scaling businesses. So, when Ward ran an experiment with sites brimming with AI-generated content, people took notice — especially when he published the results.

Ward’s barrage of AI content — paired with human oversight and revisions — helped take a website with zero traffic to 750,000 hits per month. The experiment involved 7,000 pages (all created using Byword.ai), and the growth took about a year to realize. At the end of the year-long study, that same site had 4,000 keywords in positions 1-3 and 13,000 keywords in positions 4-10.

Boosting traffic with AI

Why Is High-Quality Content Important?

Most of us remember our elementary school teachers drilling grammar rules into our rapidly growing brains. I before E, except after C, right? But even as objective or mechanical writing quality remains integral to producing content of value, the definition of quality content has expanded.

  • Does the content satisfy intent?
  • Does it provide actionable insights?
  • Are there unique perspectives?

It goes back to Google’s E-E-A-T principles. When you’re sharing experience, showcasing expertise, stating facts with authoritativeness, and proving your trustworthiness, you can’t help but churn out quality content that gives people what they want. This is true whether you’re prioritizing AI-generated content or writing everything yourself.

If you’re blending human and AI input, you have the best opportunity to produce content you and Google will love:

  • Relevancy: AI ensures content is relevant to search intent, while humans ensure the emotion is intact.
  • Credibility: AI uses existing data points to generate strong, quality content, and humans review that content for accuracy. This builds authority, too.
  • User engagement: AI can dig up tidbits that might take humans days to unearth and put together an outline that reduces knowledge gaps and increases coverage of the given topic. Humans add entertaining language and emotion that keeps text from being robotic and helps forge connections.

It’s almost a matter of left brain vs. right brain, but you have to let the creativity and uniqueness run free without trampling on the information and complexity the topic is due. And if you do all that while avoiding comma splices, all the better. Otherwise, Google’s SpamBrain will notice, seeing the patterns that indicate poor-quality content created to influence rankings rather than to please people.

Tactics to Integrate AI Into Your Content Creation Process

Adding AI to your existing content creation process takes planning and a deft hand. You should proceed with the following tips with one overarching thought in mind: AI is only successful in content when you use it to improve your processes, never when your sole goal is to make content generation cheaper.

  • Prioritize AI on the front end of content creation. AI is a research powerhouse, and ignoring that is almost criminal. Ask AI tools about trends and then use them to conduct research and generate outlines that can spark ideation and guide your writing teams.
  • Optimize existing content. What better way to go toe-to-toe with Google than to use AI to optimize existing content, looking at ways to improve keyword usage and metadata? You can even use AI to analyze the behavior and preferences of your target audience and rework old blog posts to speak to a new demographic.
  • Proofread and polish. Grammarly and ProWritingAid are just two of the AI-driven editing tools that can help you find errors and improve the style and quality of your content. These tools aren’t perfect (please don’t accept every suggestion), but they’re worthy grammatical wingmen.
  • Infuse content with your brand voice. You can actually train AI models, such as OpenAI’s GPT-4, to understand and utilize your brand voice so it can replicate what it sees.
  • Create custom images and videos. AI-powered visual content platforms haven’t made as big of a splash as text-generating platforms, but they should. Plug a request into Deep AI or Hotpot, and you can have a picture of a unicorn dressed as a cowboy sitting in a pile of spaghetti in mere minutes.
A picture of a unicorn created with AI

Evaluating the Impact of AI on SEO Trends

As AI grows and continually fine-tunes itself, it has a parallel increasing impact on SEO. Artificial intelligence was woven throughout Semrush’s predictions for SEO trends in 2023, including:

  • Generative AI creates new content based on data it was fed during training, such as formulating summaries that answer search queries. Think of it as Google’s featured snippets on steroids.
  • Accelerated content creation, thanks to AI’s ability to produce words at record speed. The more content there is, the more competitive SEO can be, and the harder it may become for startups with limited bandwidth to gain traction.
  • Google continues to remind us of the importance of people-first content that meets search intent. AI-generated content is included and must meet the same standards — and yes, Google is watching.
  • Microsoft Bing has integrated ChatGPT into its search engine, making it a serious contender for the title of the World’s Top Search Engine. Eventually. It’s worth watching because how we use AI may one day no longer completely depend on Google’s input and guidelines.

But the SEO industry isn’t a monolith, and expert opinions on AI and SEO vary.

  • “AI is one of the most profound things we’re working on as humanity. It’s more profound than fire or electricity.” – Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet and Google, via an interview with Verge
  • “The future of SEO will be heavily influenced by two key factors: the continued rise of mobile search and the increased use of artificial intelligence in the search industry.” — Neil Patel

And then there’s ChatGPT’s say-so. When asked, “Will AI kill SEO?” the platform first hedged its bets (“As an AI language model, I cannot predict the future . . .”) before underscoring the need for adaptable SEO strategies. It then stated, “SEO will not be killed by AI . . .  it will evolve to become more sophisticated and data-driven, with a greater emphasis on quality content, user experience, and technical optimization.” Mic drop.

Future Outlook: AI in Content Marketing and SEO

AI hasn’t reached its peak — not in terms of efficacy or accuracy or in the ways in which it can affect content production. There will be more applications joining the ranks in the years to come. Some may help with strategy and ideation, while others might pave the way for more efficient brief and content creation. We will, one day, be able to rely even more on artificial intelligence as a standalone tool to generate, evaluate, and refine content.

Now, imagine these tools connected to existing workflows, perhaps via a single, umbrella-like chat environment — increased visibility, a user-friendly format, and a gradually declining need for your team to stand over the apps like helicopter parents. Is your spine tingling yet?

The idea that AI could spearhead trend forecasting, conduct in-depth data analysis, deliver hyperlocal content, automatically analyze backlink profiles, and identify opportunities to improve all of the above isn’t just exciting. It promises an age in which anyone can use content to build their business without being a whiz with grammar or spending years learning the ins and outs of SEO.

AI: Writing and Ranking, With a Little Help From Your Friends

AI-generated content has the potential to rank as well (or even better) than content written entirely by human hands. But favoring artificial intelligence over human expertise, or vice versa, is like trying to sail across the Atlantic with only half a boat. You can keep doggy paddling, but why do yourself such a disservice? By combining AI with editorial oversight and SMEs, you can serve up high-quality text with a distinctly human touch.Step up your content efforts with an assist from Crowd Content’s managed services. We help businesses, agencies, and publishers across a wide variety of industries generate quality content at scale. Whether you want to explore the possibilities of AI-generated content or desire a fully human experience, our content managers can help you understand your options and build a process that expertly serves your needs.

Carlos Meza

Article by

President and Chief Executive Officer at Crowd Content.

Carlos is a guiding voice in an SEO and content creation industry brimming with turbulent growth. He has leveraged his past experience as a technology executive, engineer, and corporate financier to bring innovative end-to-end content creation solutions to SMBs and enterprise clients around the globe — delivering high-quality, scalable products through the marriage of human talent, technology, automation, and artificial intelligence.

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