What You Need to Know About Google’s Recent Update on AI-generated Content

Google recent update on AI generated content

We all know about OpenAI and ChatGPT – it’s become the fastest growing consumer application in history with over 100 million monthly active users in January. AI is here to stay and as content creators, we need to find ways to adapt to it. For many, the rapid growth of AI seems like the end of original content as we know it – fortunately, I doubt that will be the case. In fact, the recent statement by Google seems to back up this opinion. 

On February 8th, Google released a quick statement around guidance on AI-generated content. Although this wasn’t a major algorithm update, there were some important takeaways that will give us potential insights into future updates and what Google will be focusing on moving forward. 

Below, I’ll go over some of my key takeaways and steps to take moving forward. 

Why is This Statement Important to Me?

This is something you might be asking yourself, so let’s quickly go over the importance of this recent update, and why future updates will be important to keep an eye out for. 

As someone who oversees the production of millions of words of content each month, ChatGPT’s capabilities definitely concerned me. Was this the future of content? Will human writers become irrelevant? How will this affect our business?

Albeit these were all fair questions to ask myself, I came to realize they were extremes. After using ChatGPT (as well as other AI tools over multiple years), the more likely reality is ChatGPT (and others) will become excellent tools for content creators and websites. They’ll make procedures more efficient, results more effective, and (hopefully) create higher quality content. 

I know this sounds counterintuitive to what ChatGPT currently does – we’ve all probably seen it churn out a low-quality, robotic-sounding article. But doing that isn’t the most efficient way of utilizing its capabilities. If you’re using ChatGPT to write an entire article for you based on a single command, you’re not utilizing it to its fullest ability. It’s like buying a yacht and sailing it around a pond. 

Just like any other AI tool that’s existed in the last decade, ChatGPT and other content-related AI tools will become great at assisting our processes. The recent statement by Google also seems to back up this point. 

Google Search’s Guidance About AI-generated Content

On February 8th, Google released a quick summary about how their search algorithm will be affected and react to AI-generated content. Although they don’t mention it directly, the timing of this seems to be an obvious response to the rapid growth and overwhelming popularity of ChatGPT. You can check out Google Search’s Guidance on AI here, but to save you some time, I’ll go over the key points and what we can learn from this below. 

Quick Summary: Google’s Response to AI-generated Content

  • As part of their policies to ensure websites are delivering people-first content, Google has always rewarded high-quality content that demonstrates E-E-A-T (expertise, experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness). This was specifically demonstrated through last years implementation of the Helpful Content System. This will continue to be a major point of emphasis for them moving forward. 
  • Creating content through the use of AI (i.e. ChatGPT) for the primary purpose of manipulating your rankings in search results is a direct violation of their policies (notice my emphasis on “primary purpose”).
  • Using some form of AI or automation to create your content is not necessarily considered “spam” or against Google’s policies. In some cases (sports scores, weather forecasts) and under the appropriate circumstances, the use of AI is acceptable. 
  • Despite the recent mainstream popularity of AI tools, such as ChatGPT, there are already systems put in place by Google to address and prevent poor quality content or misinformation from taking over search results (i.e. AI-generated content is not a new concept to them). 

What Can We Learn From This?

Anytime Google releases an update or statement around a change in policies, it’s never as direct as we want it to be – and that’s purposeful. Google will obviously never share the exact details of how search rankings are sorted – instead they give us guidelines and tips, such as their Search Quality Rater Guidelines. This ensures website and content creators aren’t manipulating search results, giving everyone an even playing field. 

With that being said, many times we need to ‘read between the lines’ so to speak. Here are my key takeaways from their recent response to AI-generated content. 

Google will continue to place more emphasis on E-E-A-T

The majority of content creators and site owners, specifically ones that focus on YMYL content, already understand how important E-E-A-T is and how much value it can provide. With the rising popularity of AI tools like ChatGPT, this might actually become the biggest factor in SERPs. Why? Because E-E-A-T is a great way for readers to understand and verify where their content is coming from, who it’s coming from, and how it was created. In other words, in a world where AI starts to become more prevalent, determining whether or not content is original (i.e. was it written by a human) and how accurate the information is (i.e. can I trust it) will become extremely important. 

In their response, they state “however content is produced, those seeking success in Google Search should be looking to produce original, high-quality, people-first content demonstrating qualities of E-E-A-T”. You actually don’t even have to read between the lines here – Google is clearly stating that it will always reward content that provides high value to readers (i.e. people-first content), and that ‘value’ comes from E-E-A-T. 

Utilizing AI is acceptable, but there are limitations on how to use it

Although it might come as a shock that using AI for content creation is acceptable under Google’s policies, there are strict limitations on how it can be used. Using it for the “primary purpose of manipulating search rankings” is directly against their policies. It’s important to emphasize this to illustrate that Google is not completely against AI or automation, and they shouldn’t be. AI has been used amongst content creators for years (Marketmuse, Ahers, SEMrush, Frase) to help assist in generating high quality, valuable content to readers. 

The key takeaway is to not use AI to generate high quantities of content to rank for a specific keyword, or keyword stuffing to manipulate search rankings through poor quality content. Here are some good questions to ask (these are directly from Google’s SEO fundamentals) which can help determine whether or not you’re using AI for the purposes of manipulating search rankings:

  • Is the content primarily made to attract visits from search engines?
  • Are you producing a lot of content on many topics in the hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?
  • Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?
  • Are you just summarizing what others are saying without adding value?
  • Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?
  • Did you enter a niche topic area without any real expertise, but instead because you thought you’d get search traffic?

If you answer yes, you need to reevaluate how you’re creating your content.

Google search is not banning AI or automation

As with almost any new technological advancement, the way we react to it and how it’s implemented in our daily lives is never simple … and neither is the implementation of AI. Banning AI and automation altogether may seem like the easy solution, but it’s not the right one. We know AI can be, and has been, used to assist in generating high quality content online, and it will continue to do so in a variety of ways. The question Google (and everyone in the online world for that matter) shouldn’t be asking is “how do we ban AI”, but rather “how do we implement AI in an ethical, useful, and valuable way to readers”. The goal here is to prevent spreading poor quality content and misinformation, while rewarding E-E-A-T policies. 

The 2010’s gave rise to social media, which has been an amazing tool in bringing people and information together throughout the world. It’s also had negative consequences (screen time, isolation, bullying, spreading of misinformation, etc). The biggest factor, in my opinion, that will need to be addressed in the 2020’s is how to ethically incorporate AI – and this is something Google will most likely be combatting over the next decade. 

How Can We Adapt to AI?

There are a number of ways to integrate AI and automation into your procedures, businesses, websites, etc. It’s less of a question of what you do, and more of how you do it. Many content creators are using AI to improve their brief creation procedures, perform better keyword research and topic ideation, or automating content that doesn’t require human interaction. You can also adapt by ensuring that you follow E-E-A-T policies – for example, creating content by subject matter experts, ensuring your content is fact-checked, or creating personalized video content. 

However you choose to move forward, know that AI will inevitably start to become more integrated into our daily lives, and adapting to that will become critical to those in the online space. 

Narcis Bejtic

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