Will AI-Generated Content Harm Your Search Visibility?

Angela Greaves | Strategy

Article Published: 6th March 2023

AI-generated content Angela Greaves

Businesses are constantly juggling deadlines, shifting priorities and never-ending to-do lists. Sometimes, this can lead to marketing activities, like content creation, falling by the wayside. For busy businesses, AI tools and AI-generated content could appear to be an attractive way to address content gaps.

With promising new AI tools becoming more prevalent and accessible, AI-generated content can be an alluring and appealing option to stretched and time-poor businesses. But as attractive as this may appear, taking a shortcut on content delivery can actually do more harm than good to your search presence.

Google considers AI-generated content as low-value and can devalue the page by rewarding higher-quality sites. Read our blog to learn why Google wants you to avoid automated content and why low-value content could be limiting your website’s reach to your target audience.

What is AI-Generated Content?

AI-generated content is content that is created from artificial intelligence. AI-powered tools, founded in natural language generation (NGL) technology, create content by scanning existing information on the internet and summarising it in a natural way that simulates human writing. The output of these AI tools is reworded copy with no value or human expertise applied.

This content can come in many forms, such as blogs, articles, product descriptions and marketing materials. Because AI bots only need simple instructions such as the required topic and keyword to quickly produce content, businesses and non-marketers can be drawn to these tools as a seemingly easy and cheap way to produce copy.

AI technologies have drastically improved in quality and adoption over recent years with robot-generated text becoming more and more commonplace. This is due, in part, to machine learning — an application of AI that enables systems to learn and improve from experience without being programmed to do so.

What is the Impact of Machine Learning and Deep Fake Technology?

While machine learning can be used for relatively benign applications, such as making an intelligent interpretation of a user’s search intent for SEO purposes, increasingly concerning is the rise of deep fake technology used to spread misinformation and disinformation. 

Apart from poor content quality, fake content is another real concern of AI-generated content. Recent years have shown how damaging misleading fake news and information can be. To avoid inadvertently spreading false information and risking an impact on reputation, businesses, marketers and content creators should perform their due diligence when using these tools in their marketing.

Google’s Helpful Content Update

Google updates its algorithms frequently to meet user expectations and stay up-to-date with technological advances. The roll-out of the ‘Helpful Content Update’ in August 2022 is one good example of an algorithm update that has been released specifically to improve its users’ search experience.

With the widespread adoption of AI writing tools, Google recognised that websites filled with mass-produced content optimised for search engines were unhelpful and unsatisfying to the user. To ensure it is always serving the best results to its users, the Helpful Content Update outlines that it will reward people-first content.

Unlike high-quality pages, low-value content is search engine-first and generally lack the depth needed to satisfy a reader’s search query. Because users are unlikely to engage with content that doesn’t make sense or answer their questions, high-quality pages that deliver users more relevant and helpful information will be favoured over ‘unhelpful’ and ‘spammy’ websites.

Although Google keeps most of its ranking factors under wraps, with this update, it would be reasonable to assume that Google would take into consideration engagement metrics like session duration and bounce rates to determine if a page and its content have provided a good user experience. A good user experience will likely be rewarded in better search positions so similar users can find your content.

What Content Should You Create?

Google cares most about content being human-first, so extensive automation and keyword stuffing won’t help you earn top spots in the search engine results pages (SERPS). Google doesn’t want to supply its users with unhelpful websites, so it is important to ensure that everything you write is done so with your target audience in mind and not just because of a trend.

Here are some things to consider for creating superior content:

  • Quality: Keyword research is still important for understanding what your customers are looking for and seeking answers to. This research should form part of your content strategy in combination with SEO best practices to provide a more satisfying experience to your readers.
  • Humanised content: Well-written, on-brand and original content is always going to be more satisfying to the reader than spammy and jumbled content that makes little sense. Good-quality writing is where you can make an impact with your creativity, humour and human appeal to make your articles engaging and shareable — key metrics for success.

These concepts are reinforced in Google’s recent Search Central Discover documentation update, which emphasises the importance of creating helpful content. This update makes it clear that Google’s Helpful Content not only affects Google searches but also Discover: “Discover makes use of many of the same signals and systems used by Search to determine what is helpful, people-first content.”

Make sure what you create adds value and that your expertise helps answer your customers’ questions. Structuring your content in a way that flows and having in-depth pages or blogs that cover all the points comprehensively will be of higher value to the user. In fact, it is now better to publish 1 well-thought-out blog that is tailored to your audience rather than churning out 4-5.

AI is a Tool, Not a Solution

AI can be a powerful writing assistant if used responsibly. It can be used as a research tool to source content suggestions to help overcome writer’s block, paraphrase short passages and speed up editing. But there are risks in becoming overly reliant on these tools for content generation.

The Search Logistics AI Content Detection Case Study demonstrates the impact of using AI content for your website and SEO. The case study reveals how publicly available tools can easily detect AI content produced by several different AI tools. The study generated AI content using 9 different commercial tools, which were then put through 5 AI content detectors and 2 plagiarism checkers.

Interestingly, the case study included content from ChatGPT. It is a general-purpose chatbot that uses deep learning to create impressive human-like text and is the latest evolution of OpenAI’s GPT-3. It became a viral sensation since its launch in late 2022 for its remarkable ability to answer complex questions.

AI-generated content case study

Image Credit: Search Logistics

The case study showed mixed results across the different AI content writing tools. Although some tools outperformed others in being more ‘human’, they failed to create plagiarism-free content. As for the tools that appeared to write unique content, many were unable to pass the AI detection tests. ChatGPT, sometimes referred to as the “most advanced AI content generator”, did not perform well in these tests on this occasion.

The study cautions in its conclusion not to get caught up in the AI hype. It reasons that since they were able to detect AI-generated content with only publicly available tools, Google, which invests heavily in AI technology, would be able to do the same.

Whether Google decides to actively penalise websites with detectable AI content in the future remains to be seen. But here at Motion Marketing, we believe that the best way to protect your site is to create original content organically, so outsourcing content to AI tools is not a shortcut we would recommend taking.

How Will the Rise in AI-Generated Content Impact User Behaviour?

Trust is a big deal in today’s transparent, digital world. There’s more content available now than ever and readers have become inherently sceptical of what they are consuming online. The rise of misinformation, disinformation and bias are just some of the factors that are promoting this sense of distrust.

As AI-generated content becomes more widespread, readers will become more sceptical of unknown authors and question whether they are consuming information written by a subject matter expert or by an AI with no authority. With time, users will place greater trust in organisations and individuals with a reputation for being genuine specialists in a particular niche and only visit trusted sources and brands for their information.

Gaining trust is not an easy task, which is why it is important to start building an online community and investing in a brand now. Trust and credibility take a long time to build, so businesses that put in the time and effort now to establish themselves as subject matter experts will be rewarded when authoritative sources become harder to come by in the future.

There’s No Doubt AI Can Create Content. But Should You Use it?

If your goal is to be in Google’s favour and climb up the search ranks, then no — fully automated content should be not used in place of real, human content writers. AI-generated content might seem like an easier and cheaper alternative to produce your monthly blogs, podcasts and even videos, but it’s a low-value content option that Google is working to eliminate.

Although hailed as a way to create content faster, AI is best used only as a writing assistant rather than an outsourcing solution. Because as it stands, these tools are unlikely to help you produce unique, authoritative and on-brand content that can take your marketing to the next level. After all, Google considers original and helpful content written by people, for people as the gold standard for superior content.

We think that good quality content is simply too important to trust to AI-writing bots. Thought leadership content isn’t easy to create and it is a lot less easy to replicate by AI. Alongside a solid SEO strategy, sharing unique opinions, insights and data tailored to your audience is what it is going take to rank well in search engines.

Here at Motion Marketing, we utilise our industry and marketing expertise to help produce high-quality content marketing that resonates with your target audience. To find out more about how you can strengthen your content marketing plan in the world of AI, get in touch.