It can’t be denied that artificial intelligence is on the rise, revolutionising the way many industries operate. One of these industries is content writing. 

And while AI copywriting tools are becoming increasingly sophisticated and offer numerous benefits to businesses, they also come with no shortage of challenges and risks, especially with Google rolling out several algorithm updates targeting such content. 

So what does this mean for the future of AI-generated content? Should you use it, and if so, to what extent? In this blog post, we will explore the realities of using AI-generated content, outline the do’s and don’ts, and delve into the latest Google algorithm updates. 

The benefits of using AI

Efficiency and speed: AI can produce large volumes of content quickly, which is particularly useful for news sites, ecommerce product descriptions, and content-heavy industries.

Consistency: AI ensures a consistent tone and style across all content, helping you to maintain a clear brand voice across every channel.

Research: AI can be used to quickly perform research, speeding up the research process involved in many content writing projects.

Does Google penalise AI content?

The short answer is no. But that doesn’t mean we should all rush off to ChatGPT. 

Google has rolled out some pretty significant updates over the past couple of years, which aim to filter out overly-generic, low-quality or “spam” content – three categories which AI content can very easily fall into. And so the problem isn’t with AI content per say – it’s with the lack of originality and personalisation that often comes with content created in this way. 

Key Google algorithm updates:

Spam update (March 2024): three new spam policies were rolled out, one of them being ‘scaled content abuse’ which is when many pages are generated for the primary purpose of manipulating search rankings. This stifled sites who used AI to generate 1000s of unedited AI-generated articles for the sole purpose of ranking and typically monetising through AdSense.

One example is popularnetworth.com, which took a substantial dip in rankings in a very short space of time due to having a large amount of AI-generated content on site.

popularnetworth.com organic search rankings

As we can see from the screenshot above (taken from Ahrefs), a huge decline in keywords coincides with the spam update in March. Interestingly, the site now redirects to a new domain – probably in an attempt to try and save some of their historic traffic and link juice.

The new site experienced a slight boost once it launched, reaching highs of 84 top 10 keywords, though still quite a blow from the 8,000+ top 10 keywords they previously ranked for. And already, these rankings are declining, showing that it’s not easy to outsmart Google with mass produced, AI-generated content.

Experience Update (April 2023): emphasising user experience, this update looks at engagement metrics like time on site, bounce rate, and user interaction to determine content quality. AI-generated content that fails to engage users can negatively impact these metrics, leading to lower rankings.

Spam Update (October 2022): Google’s spam update targets low-quality content, including AI-generated spam. The algorithm now better detects and devalues content that is overly generic or created in bulk without consideration for user value.

Helpful Content Update (August 2022): this update aims to prioritise “people-first” content over content created primarily for search engine rankings. It penalises sites that produce large volumes of AI-generated content lacking in-depth knowledge or originality.

Future ranking update: OpenAI is working on implementing a “watermark” on the content generated by ChatGPT with other LLMs potentially following suit. This will be a hard tell for ranking systems and sites who’ve been abusing AI and gone undetected – many may see sudden losses when Google’s ranking systems become more robust.

Google’s ranking systems aim to reward original, high-quality content that demonstrates qualities of what we call E-E-A-T: expertise, experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. – Google

The bottom line is this: Google claims to reward high-quality content – however it’s produced. The above updates are implemented to ensure we’re being served content primarily designed for people, rather than for search ranking purposes.

Appropriate use of AI or automation does not violate Google’s content guidelines, but how do we deem what is or isn’t acceptable?

The do’s and don’ts of AI content creation

Do

Use AI for short form content: in instances where you need to create large batches of short form content, such as meta content, AI can significantly speed up the process. If there’s one aspect of a website that can benefit from AI, it’s product descriptions. This is particularly true for ecommerce brands that have an extensive product catalogue, as writing thousands of product descriptions manually is time consuming and, quite often, just not viable. This is where AI can speed up the copywriting process and help you to quickly produce unique product copy that reflects your brand’s tone of voice. 

Use AI for data-driven content: AI is excellent for generating data-driven content, summaries, and routine updates. Use it where human creativity and intuition are less critical.

Edit and review content thoroughly: it’s critical when using AI-generated content that a human editor thoroughly reviews and proofreads it to ensure quality, accuracy and relevance. The issue with AI content is that it generally contains awkward phrasing, is overly formal in tone and defaults to American grammar. Of course, the extent to which you need to edit this content may be dependent on your brand’s tone of voice or where the content is being used, but you should never simply copy and paste from ChatGPT (or whichever software you’re using) and hit publish. 

Combine AI with human insight: AI is great for performing the heavy lifting of content creation, such as collating research to form the basis of an article, or producing a rough first draft that can then be edited by a human writer to add real-world insights/anecdotes, and creative flair.

Don’t

Rely solely on AI: over-reliance on AI will only result in a website full of bland content. Plus, it encourages us to become complacent, diminishing critical thinking skills that are vital to the creation of fresh and engaging content that presents a decisive point of view. If you’re going to use AI for content writing, a balanced approach is the best one.

Prioritise quantity over quality: producing masses of generic, AI-generated content will only damage your brand’s reputation and lead to penalties from search engines.

Use AI to write in-depth articles: AI lacks the ability to understand and interpret complex topics and ideas on a deeper level, which is essential for writing in-depth articles or thought leadership pieces. It can regurgitate information, but will miss the subtleties and intricacies of a subject. The content it produces tends to be quite generic – it won’t get to the nitty gritty of a topic in the same way a human writer can.

Rely on AI for nuance or creativity: there are certain pieces that should be left to human writers. While AI can do a lot of things, it doesn’t understand nuance and lacks creativity. Highly creative tasks, sensitive subjects and nuanced topics should be handled with care and expertise.

Use AI to identify current trends: trends can shift rapidly, and AI might not be able to keep up with these changes in real-time, meaning trend analysis performed solely by AI may be outdated. Human analysts are far more equipped to adapt and respond to these shifts.

Forget to fact check: while AI can be a great tool for gathering information and speeding up the research process, content writers should be diligent by fact checking anything they decide to use from AI tools. While it can help you pull facts and statistics, AI’s effectiveness ultimately depends on the quality and quantity of the data it processes. Poor, outdated, or incomplete data can lead to inaccuracies in the content it produces. 

Examples of appropriate AI use cases

A few examples of when and where you should use AI, from our Head of SEO.

  • Idea generation and content drafts
  • Keyword planning and mapping
  • Data analysis
  • Schema and Structured Data creation
  • Optimising interlinking
  • Page by page content optimisation
  • Competitor analysis
  • Meta content generation
  • Heading optimisation

Will AI replace content writers?

It’s highly unlikely that AI will replace content writers. While AI does have its benefits, it lacks the creativity and nuance that only a human brain can bring to a piece of content. Sure, it can give you the information required to form a basic article, blog post or ‘how to’ guide, but it can’t produce clever slogans or provide real-life anecdotes or examples of work. 

In fact, the rise of AI may make human writers more valuable than ever. In a sea of generic, surface-level content, copy written by experts in their fields will stand out. 

Content writers should view AI as a tool in order to improve efficiency and boost productivity, but we certainly won’t be replacing our human content team with AI!

Want high-converting, SEO-friendly content written by copywriting experts? Get in touch to speak to a member of our team.