Introduction of ChatGPT at the end of 2022 created lot of buzz among SEO and content creators. Though Google also introduced their new AI search Bard, it was a confusion whether Google accepts AI written content as the webmaster guidelines did not allow that. Finally, Google published an update mentioning AI written content is now allowed in search results with certain conditions. This article explores the guidelines from Google and the path forward for content writers.
AI Content is Accepted in Google Search
Danny Sullivan and Chris Nelson from Google Search Quality team published an article on Google Search Central blog on 08th Feb 2023. Here are the two important points to take away from that article:
- Content written by AI for useful purposes is accepted for ranking in search results. However, mass producing AI content only for the purpose of manipulating search ranking is considered as a violation as per Google’s automated spam content policy.
- Google will deal with spam AI content with their spam fighting mechanisms like helpful content update, SpamBrain, etc.
In addition, Google also published Generative AI Prohibited Use Policy later on 14th March 2023. Let’s discuss the above two points to understand how this will move forward in future.
AI Content Writing from Website Owners Perspective
Original content writers charge heavily for writing quality content as it needs lot of efforts and knowledge. Since most AI bots can produce similar content (by scrapping from top 10 Google search results), website owners do not need to buy-in human writers any more by paying 10 to 20 times higher price. If you are not aware, there are hundreds of cheap offerings in the market for AI content writing services (primarily using ChatGPT). Here is one example offering unlimited characters for just $29 per month.
Now, Microsoft offers blog post generation as an option in Edge without any restrictions or citations. You can generate long post content right within Edge and add to the site.
So, publishers (and site owners) will clearly go for AI and use proofreaders for editing the auto generated content to give a human touch. This will not only be cost effective compared to paying hefty for authors but also fulfill Google’s guidelines to add value in the content.
Handling Spam in Google Search
If you have noticed during past few years, Google search result page had become nothing but garbage of adverts and reproduced articles. There was an article published in Financial Times summarizing Google search is full of adverts and unreliable information. When Google already uses AI (RankBrain, BERT, etc.) in the search algorithm to show relevant results, it will be surprising why they could not succeed in filtering the spam sites. That capability was also visible when their Bard showed wrong answer in the first demo to the world.
So, at this point it is evident, Google can’t completely distinguish human written and AI content making the life difficult for original content creators. On other hand, making it easier for reproduced articles to rank on top of the original articles. The surprising fact with spam sites is that almost all of them use Google AdSense. When Google has stringent guidelines, how did they get approval with such a poor-quality and copied content is a concerning question. Whatsoever is the case, spam prevails at unacceptable level in Google search is the undeniable truth.
Combining Two Points Together
Let’s say, you want to build a website with 5000 pages. Earlier days it would have easily taken 5 years or longer time to build a reliable website and needs multiple authors to produce thousands of articles (unless you are a big publishing house backed by investors). Now it is clear, anyone can easily build 5000 pages website in matter of weeks backed by AI. All you need is to purchase some old domain with cheap hosting and hide your site behind proxy services like free Cloudflare.
It will be also with latest content compared to old websites which generally have lot of outdated articles. The poor Google Search algorithm (also an AI) can’t differentiate these millions of domains soon pop-up with AI generated content. This will potentially result in the followings:
- Human writers charge for hours will not be able to survive in general niches. For example, AI can write best content in history related topics.
- Low quality freelancers who already reproduce content will completely disappear as AI can do this job better with images.
- Spammers will produce mass content with very low quality. The reason is that if Google search shows AI generated content in top results, then the same AI stuff will be reprocessed by multiple other sites using AI to produce content. This will be a chain reaction that entire search results will fail and people will no longer rely on search engines to find truth.
AI Chat with AI Content in Search – Publishers Nightmare
Publishers are already not happy that AI chat box in Google did not link source websites. Bing currently shows hyperlinks in the chat box for the extracted sentences along with citations (however, not in Edge). Though things could evolve differently in future, Google should understand AI needs solid original data in the backend. Creating such original data is a manual work and no one can simply extract that and offer in the chat box for free. At any form of chat box, the clicks to publishers site will reduce considerably. Combining chat box with AI content accepted in search, it will be challenging for publishers to survive in future.
One possible solution (or suggestion) is that Google should use separate AI bot to crawl and show content in the chat box instead of using crawled content from common Googlebot. In this way, unhappy publishers can block the chat bot and prevent their sites showing in the chat without visible links. Most importantly, Google should continue their old spam policy to penalize AI generated content and chat should be one of the options like images and videos. At least, this will make original content creators and publishers happy without creating further chaos.