Will My Website Be Penalised By Google For Using AI Content?
Ever since ChatGPT burst onto the scene in November 2022, two of the main questions surrounding the use of AI content in marketing are: Can Google detect AI content and, Will they punish businesses for using it?
Nine months later the jury is still out on both counts, and the answers are both yes and no. Google’s definitive position on AI content is going to be a journey to understand as more and more people try and adopt the use of AI for their web content, ads, and even social posts, and if it will be targeted in the future algorithm update – which is one of the big reasons we’re urging caution.
Google’s Ambiguous Position On AI Content
An article providing ‘guidance about AI-generated content’ published on the Google Developers Blog in February 2023 emphasised the search giant’s commitment to high-quality content.
To rank well on Google, content should demonstrate expertise, experience, authority, and trustworthiness (EEAT), the four golden rules of high-quality content.
Clearly, most content autogenerated by ChatGPT falls considerably short of these criteria, and Google is understandably concerned about the Internet being flooded with low-quality software-generated content. Low-quality AI content therefore risks falling foul of Google’s sophisticated spam filters designed to prevent users ‘manipulating ranking in search results’ through spammy or mass-produced content.
However, the guidance stopped short of condemning AI content altogether, stating that the ‘appropriate use of AI automation is not against our guidelines’, and Google’s position on AI is generally positive. After all, it was Google’s Bard LLM (Large Language Model) engine that formed the basis of the Generative Pre-trained Transformer 1 (GPT-1) algorithm in February 2018, which is the direct predecessor of all the current applications that use GPT-3 and GPT-4 (including ChatGPT).
AI Content Rejected By Google AdSense
The question of whether or not Google can accurately and consistently detect AI content is another open one. Several commercial AI content detectors are now available, and their quality is rapidly improving, but their efficacy and reliability are still highly questionable. Many produce ambiguous and unreliable results, with false positives and false negatives being common.
Be this as it may, what is known is that Google is extremely good at detecting low-quality content, whether produced by a human or a software application. The idea that publishing low-quality AI content could get a website penalised by Google is borne out by an article that appeared on the originality.AI blog last month, reporting cases of websites being rejected by Google AdSense due to the presence of ‘automatically generated content’.
This could indicate that a general tightening up of the search rules regarding AI content is in the pipeline.
Human Content Outcompetes AI On Search Engines
Another interesting blog article we read in July reported the results of a three-month experiment comparing the results of human-written and AI-generated content in terms of search results over time. The experiment used 10 procedurally generated test domains, five of which would contain human-written content, and five of which would use AI content. The content on both the AI and human domains was optimised to rank for the fictional keyword ‘Flemparooni’.
The results were revealing. Over the three-month test period, the five human domains consistently outperformed the AI domains, with 4 out of 5 human-written domains appearing in the Google SERP top five, compared to only one of the AI domains (which finished the experiment at rank three after moving up from rank four).
What This Means For Your Website
At JDR Group, we believe that AI and automation software have a strong and positive role to play in digital marketing going forward but are also firm advocates of high-quality and engaging content. The rejection of AdSense content for being AI-generated, the ambiguous official position of Google, and the experiment that clearly indicated higher overall rankings for human-generated content on the search engine, strongly suggest that it is a safer bet to stick with human-written content in your digital marketing campaigns. Using formulaic AI content could lower your marketing ROI by damaging your potential search rankings and could lead even to your site getting penalised by Google.
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