Why AI content for SEO will harm your search rankings

Key AI content takeaways

  • Originality: AI content often lacks originality and value, merely recycling existing information. Google prioritises quality content that provides unique perspectives, which AI-generated text typically fails to deliver.
  • Google Guidelines: Google has refined its ranking systems to detect and penalise low-quality AI content. They emphasise quality and originality, and while AI content isn’t entirely forbidden, it must meet high standards to avoid being flagged as spam.
  • AI Tools: AI tools can assist in content creation by analysing data and structuring content, but human input is crucial. Combining AI capabilities with human expertise ensures compliance with Google’s guidelines.
  • AI Detection: Google uses advanced AI, like SpamBrain, to identify and filter out spammy, low-quality AI content. This is going to continue improving.
  • Penalties: Website penalties include de-indexing content. In 2024, there was a 45% decrease in low-quality, unoriginal content that was ranking on Google.

Why mass-produced AI content is a problem

AI content is a great short-term solution, but it won’t help you to rank or build brand authority over the long term. It’s like trying to make it in Hollywood by becoming a Tom Cruise impersonator. Your novelty act might win a few gigs, but you won’t be getting a call to star in Mission Impossible.

But, why is AI content such a problem? After all, a report by the European law enforcement agency, Europol has indicated that in the next few years, 90% of all content online will be AI-generated. So, if everyone is doing it, surely there are no issues. Moreover, with the launch of ChatGPT, AI-generated content has become easier to create than ever. It means you can quickly scale your content creation with the hope it increases your chances of ranking highly in search engines to drive more traffic.  

However, it’s not the use of AI tools like ChatGPT to create content that is the problem. It’s how they are being used. Creating AI content with little human input fails to provide any real value. After all, AI tools are simply regurgitating information that already exists. This is not good for end users or Google’s mission to provide information that is “universally accessible and useful.”

Therefore, when crafting a content marketing strategy, it’s imperative you use AI in a responsible way. Remember, AI content might make your life easier, but it’s unlikely to yield the results you want.

You need to include your own perspective and not just create AI Content

What is AI content and how is it used in SEO marketing?

AI content refers to any media generated using artificial intelligence tools, encompassing text, images, audio, and video. These tools leverage machine learning algorithms, natural language processing (NLP), and neural networks to create or enhance various types of content.

From an SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) perspective, the key area of focus is text. Typically, this means creating blogs or articles using AI tools like ChatGPT or Gemini. These tools will analyse vast quantities of information and create an informative article on a subject of your choice. Moreover, it can incorporate your chosen keywords and phrases in order to help improve your online visibility.

Why is it bad for SEO?

During the United States vs Google legal proceedings, it was revealed only 400 billion webpages are indexed by Google, meaning they can be found via Google search. That may sound a lot, but there are trillions of webpages globally and almost 4m new websites are created every day. Therefore, Google is being selective of what they include in their search results. 

What content is indexed will depend on several factors including the originality and quality of your content. In 2022, Google’s John Mueller declared AI content as spam because it adds no new value to Google’s search Index or to end users. 

For instance, imagine your website content is focused on nutrition for vegans. Why is your content valuable if the only thing you do is largely copy and paste the 5-a-day advice from the NHS? The NHS already has more authority so you don’t have anything special to add to Google’s Index.

However, Google has since clarified its stance, emphasising the “quality of the content, rather than how content is produced.”  This has led some AI content zealots to misinterpret Google’s real intentions by suggesting AI content can be created provided you ask it to summarise and paraphrase other quality content. 

Yet, following such a view is too simplistic.  Whilst Google states appropriate use of AI is not against their guidelines, it also says using generative AI tools to produce numerous pages by scraping and combining content that adds no value is.

Therefore, from an SEO perspective, the key is to understand what is quality and what isn’t. In reality, the only way to ensure quality is to add your own unique perspectives and position yourself as a thought leader. If you simply regurgitate information from elsewhere, you will ultimately fail. 

What is quality content? 

A large part of the problem when discussing AI content, is that Google’s ranking factors and what content they consider “quality” is not clear. Moreover, as any website owner can attest, there is a lot of content that ranks well that is of inferior quality to content that does not.

Therefore, contrary to popular belief, ranking highly in search engines is not all about quality content. For instance, you could have 5 PhDs and run the most advanced health optimisation clinic in Europe. Yet, your content, despite offering great insights remains on page 5 of Google results.

As Google representative John Mueller states, there are multiple factors that determine quality. This will include factors such as page speed, backlinks, your website layout and user engagement. But this doesn’t mean you can use AI content whilst satisfying all the other ranking factors. Google also wants to see if your content is original, comprehensive, uses sources and offer “substantial value when compared to other pages.”

Therefore, it’s important to consider Google’s quality guidelines known as E-E-A-T (experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness). These factors are used to prioritise and evaluate content that has been identified as relevant for a specific search query.

Moreover, AI tools like ChatGPT consistently fail to meet Google’s quality guidelines. The information it generates can be inaccurate raising questions about its accuracy and trust. Moreover, relying on such tools will not enable you to demonstrate your experience or authority – critical factors for Google rankings. After all, would you trust a doctor who uses ChatGPT to treat you rather than their experience?  Ultimately quality content is about having something unique and original to say. Without that, you won’t build a strong brand authority.

How can I use AI in my content creation?

It’s clear from Google’s guidelines that AI content is not completely forbidden. Therefore, it’s important to use it responsibly. Imagine you run a website that sells running apparel. One of your new article ideas is to discuss how undergarments can impact 5k times. You have collected a lot of data to support your article and different scientific studies to evidence your advice. This is a great start because your insights are original. However, you can then use AI to:

  • Analyse the data
  • Structure your content
  • Create a template for you to insert your commentary
  • Generate new ideas for additional articles to further evidence your expertise on undergarments and performance

Using AI tools in this fashion keeps you aligned with Google’s guidelines whilst still being a helpful assistant. The AI can speed up your content creation process but doesn’t replace your expertise. 

How can Google detect if I use AI?

Ironically, Google can detect AI content by using its own AI called SpamBrain. Google claims SpamBrain now makes 99% of all searches spam-free. Whilst this also includes other forms of spam such as spammy links, AI content that looks to manipulate search rankings is also included.

Moreover, AI detection tools like SpamBrain are also getting smarter. Between 2021 and 2022 SpamBrain was able to detect 5 times more spam. Therefore, whilst some AI content may have appeared in search results, it’s important to remember that it’s only a matter of time before more of this content is removed from Google’s index. 

Does Google penalise AI content?

In 2024, Google continued its fight against AI-generated content designed to manipulate search rankings. This resulted in several website penalties, leading to content being de-indexed and a 45% decrease in low-quality, unoriginal content.

From our experience with Google, this is not going to stop. The company values original quality content because ultimately, they want to provide the best user experience for their customers. Moreover, with AI search engines becoming more prominent, it’s imperative for Google to stay on top of low-quality content. This is because AI needs quality information to work optimally. This is a central part of Google’s future strategy and is unlikely to change.

Google is targeting content created at scale which clearly has no unique value or pretends to answer popular searches without offering real insights. The penalties are likely to see your AI content de-indexed which may impact other parts of your website too.

You can use AI to help you to create Content, but you should not let it create it for you

The future of content creation 

AI content is unlikely to disappear. Since the launch of search engines people have been looking for quick tricks to manipulate search results.  For instance, back in 2011-12 Google Penguin and Panda updates looked to stop the practice of spammy backlinks and poor-quality content respectively. These outcomes had major ramifications for website owners including reducing the $2bn valuation of Demand Media, a content farm, to a quarter of its peak value. Yet, that hasn’t stopped website owners and some SEOs from trying similar “Blackhat tactics.”

In truth, such tactics are often born from a desire to get quick results, a lack of knowledge or hoping to dupe the less knowledgeable. Yet, these tactics do not generate long-term results. This will also be true of AI content. 

Moreover, with Google introducing AI Overviews, it’s likely Google will continue to crack down hard on poor-quality content. This AI technology is built on using website content. This means Google needs content to be of a high quality. Furthermore, since AI Overviews is likely to reduce web traffic, getting an AI Overviews feature will become more important. Mass-produced AI content, therefore, won’t suffice.

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