How Google is Reacting to Web Pages with AI-Generated Content

Written By: Chris Rodgers
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
This image depicts a search engine results page that is reviewing AI-generated content

The future seems a little murky lately for businesses that drive organic traffic using SEO best practices. With the explosive emergence of artificial intelligence (AI), the past couple of years have been a whirlwind for marketers, business owners, and even customers.

This technology definitely opens doors for businesses to get an edge over the competition and speak directly to the heart of their customers, but there are still things that machines simply cannot do – and that is where Google is drawing the line.

The latest Google Algorithm Update more precisely brings into focus the search engine’s push for high-quality content – and the rumors started flying. The biggest question that everyone is asking is, “Will Google punish AI-generated content?” 

The answer is a complex one.

AI written content, SEO, and Google

For years Google has kept marketers on pins and needles as each algorithm update introduced changes intended to increase the accuracy of search engine returns as well as the quality of the content in them. AI has long been a staple of Google’s protocols, such as Rank Brain, Neural Matching, BERT and MUM; but the trends in SEO strategy were largely unchanged with a more gradual evolution towards better serving user intent and aligning with target audiences.

Then AI-generated content started showing up – and it wasn’t pretty. Websites with content that looked like a small child had written it started popping up. The value was nonexistent and most of the content was unreadable. Still, the right keywords were there, so these low-quality sites were actually ranking fairly well.

Google sprang into action almost immediately. Several updates began to weed out the substandard sites as the search engine behemoth began an aggressive push for quality content that adds value and appeals to users. The E.E.A.T. signals were aimed at punishing poor-quality sites and elevating ones with high-quality content. The framework was an acronym for what Google cites as qualities of high-quality content:

  • E – Experience
  • E – Expertise
  • A – Authority or authoritativeness
  • T – Trustworthiness

 

The recent Helpful Content Update (now integrated into the core algorithm) released in March 2024, continues with keeping focus off of AI content (or more specifically the “all AI content is bad” attitude) and puts it on the quality, not the origin.

How does Google detect AI-generated content?

A depiction of a brain and circuit board meant to represent a search engine algorithm

Google has created algorithms that are designed to act as an AI checker. They look at specific characteristics that are common in content that is generated via AI. This can include:(1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

  • Syntax patterns
  • Sentence structures
  • Semantics
  • Coherence
  • Contextual analysis
  • Content flow
  • Language patterns

 

While Google does not ban sites for using AI-generated content, it does urge publishers to have a human editor review the content before putting it out there. This is particularly important when using SEO practices. AI and SEO don’t always flow well and the result is choppy content with irrelevant keywords and phrases.

Google’s continual push for quality content

In the March 2024 update, Google took another step in improving user experience with better-quality search results by reducing low-quality content. They accomplished this by targeting three common practices that they have labeled as “malicious”: (5, 8, 9)

  • Scaled content abuse
  • Expired domain abuse
  • Site reputation abuse

 

The content on these sites is commonly AI-generated, but not always. This is not the focus though. Google has dealt with AI, integrated it into its algorithms to create an improved user experience, and then moved on to address low-quality sites as a whole.

The content that they are targeting is generally spammy and is designed to manipulate search rankings and add no value to the user. It supports earlier algorithms that penalize sites for keyword stuffing, duplicate content, and spammy backlinks.

The expected result is results that more directly answer the user’s query and that are high quality, authoritative, and show a level of expertise. Essentially, these changes are upping the ante for businesses and publishers to give more care and attention to the content they produce. If it doesn’t make the grade, it won’t get the ranking, no matter how many keywords it includes.

What makes content “helpful” in Google’s opinion?

Google has an intricate system in place that it uses to identify high-quality content. While the exact details of the helpful content component of the algorithm is unknown, we do know its intended purpose. First and foremost Google wants to promote “people-first” content, and reduce the visibility of content created solely for the purpose of ranking in search-engines.

Overall, Google prefers content that is well-written, informative, engaging, stimulating, intellectual, emotional, and sensorial. In other words, it should be of a quality that anyone would expect when they visit a professional website.

In order to determine whether a site meets its standards, it is believed Google uses various metrics to evaluate the content, Some of these include:(2, 3, 6, 7)

  • Impressions vs. clicks
  • Click through rate
  • Page load speed
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • Time spent on the site
  • Engagement

 

This can include AI-generated content, content that originated from your brand and was written by a human, or even user-generated content. Employing Google SEO preferences and adhering to the requirements for high-quality content can help even small business websites gain traction in search engine results. Essentially, these steps that Google has taken to raise the standard for sites have leveled the playing field so that even small, local businesses can rise in the ranks and become visible.

How much AI content can I use safely?

Web pages with 100% AI-generated content without editorial oversight will likely not do well on Google because it doesn’t meet the requirements of E.E.A.T. However, using AI to give your content some bones that a human can wrap some M.E.E.E.A.T around can prove helpful to users.

In Conclusion

The bottom line is, that AI can set the groundwork for your content, but you should employ a human writer or editor to inject life into it. This is the only way to give AI-generated content the helpful quality that Google looks for. Content should never be just a tool or ploy to get people to your site. Users should find your site, look around, stay for a while, and want to return. These are the ranking signals search engines use to serve helpful sites to their users.

Stay ahead of Google algorithm updates and keep up on the latest trends. Speak with an SEO expert and let’s talk about your current SEO content marketing strategy.

 Sources:

  1. Google Search’s guidance about AI-generated content | Google Search Central Blog | Google for Developers
  2. A Guide to Google Search Ranking Systems | Google Search Central | Documentation | Google for Developers
  3. Elevating original reporting in Search (blog.google)
  4. Does Google Classroom Have AI Detection? Uncover The Truth – ED Tech RCE
  5. Google’s Latest Update To Filter AI-generated SEO Content | Nasdaq
  6. Google’s Algorithm Hates AI Content? How To Make Google Love It (searchenginejournal.com)
  7. Creating Helpful, Reliable, People-First Content | Google Search Central | Documentation | Google for Developers
  8. Google Search: New updates to address spam and low-quality results (blog.google)
  9. Google Algorithm Updates & Changes: A Complete History (searchenginejournal.com)
This image depicts a search engine results page that is reviewing AI-generated content
More Knowledge
Price of Business Episode: The AI Arms Race Between OpenAI, Google, and Bing
In this insightful discussion, Kevin Price, host of the nationally syndicated Price of Business Show, and Chris Rodgers, Founder & CEO of CSP, explore the dynamic…
How Search Data Helps M&A Companies Deepen Company Evaluations
Data plays a crucial role in the world of mergers and acquisitions (M&A). Gone are the days when you had to wait until the post-deal transition…
How to Preserve SEO Value During a Domain Migration
A domain migration is as complex as a physical relocation. You need to ensure every detail is scheduled, everything that needs to be moved has a…
Speak with an expert

At CSP we carefully vet each project and only engage with those we are confident will be successful and deliver a strong ROI. We’re a low-turnover business and we take the outcome of every SEO project very seriously.

Get in touch today for an analysis by an SEO expert. No dog and pony show or big sales pitches, we will explore the project with you and if there’s a good fit, we’ll work hard to earn your business.