Navigating Google’s Algorithms: AI Content and Penalisation Insights

AI vs human generated content
AI vs human generated content

Since ChatGPT launched in November 2022, there has been an explosion in generative artificial intelligence (AI) software and AI-generated content hitting the web.

 

The popularity of such AI-produced content should not be a surprise. After all, most ambitious SMBs would probably love to speed up their content production, while reducing expenditure.

 

But you’ve probably seen some garbled, half-readable text in search results and wondering what’s happened, if Google is rewarding this rubbish!

 

It does seem contradictory! The AI content boom has raised a lot of questions amongst business owners, such as “can I use AI-generated content on my website?”, “can Google tell if content is written by AI?”, and “is AI-written content bad for SEO?”

 

 

So, let’s answer some of those questions.

The Impact of AI Content on Google’s Search Results

It is well-known that Google seeks to present searchers with genuinely high-quality and helpful content in response to their search query.

 

At authentic digital, our processes start with understanding your business, your market, and your audience. We’re then looking for the most-profitable search terms you can compete in, to ensure your SEO investment pays for itself year after year. That’s producing high-quality, helpful content! (And we’ve seen clients 2x, 4x, 10x their results with it!)

 

With AI, people are choosing to throw automated words online to fill any potential search result – no matter how accurate it is, or how directly related to their business and core audience. Like weeds choking a garden to death.

 

Some of you reading this might have presumed that any AI-generated content would be considered bad quality by search engines such as Google. So, you might imagine that Google surely does ban AI content, to help protect the quality of its search results.

 

However, the search engine itself has asserted that, instead of placing a blanket “ban” on AI-generated content, its emphasis is on “rewarding high-quality content, however it is produced”.

 

What Google says isn’t always what you get.

 

In March 2024, thousands of sites lost all their organic traffic, or even completed de-listed from all Google searches – the AI pages, and the non-AI pages all wiped out. Even brand searches come up with competitors’ results now. Ouch!

 

That’s a risk your business shouldn’t be taking.

At authentic digital, we’ve been experimenting with Machine Learning algorithms & LLM datasets before they were popularly known as ‘AI’. Our SEO Lead, Craig Martin, has done Uni papers in data science. With over 15 years in business, we’ve also been to more than one dance with the elusive Google algorithms.

“My academic career started with films, novels, and cyber cultures. Over the last 10 years my studies have shifted to numbers and futures. I’ve loved telling stories with data, and exploring new playgrounds in data science, blockchain and AI. For me, SEO is the perfect combination of audiences, narratives, algorithms, and hard numbers”

authentic digital is happy to have steered our clients through the fine lines between improving long-term results with better insights and processes through AI, without losing sight of their soul or their business goals.

AI Content Vs. Human-generated Content

Let’s be clear about what “AI-generated content” means. Until quite recently, we were all accustomed to the idea that it was exclusively human writers who generated text content.

 

But over the past year or so, various generative AI software platforms (of which ChatGPT is just one) have emerged. These applications automatically generate content in response to human prompts.

 

So, “AI-generated content” isn’t necessarily content that is completely devoid of human involvement. You might, for example, use an AI tool to generate text that a human subsequently proofreads and edits.

 

The dividing lines between AI-generated content and human-created content, then, aren’t always as stark as many of us might imagine. Google seems to have recognised this in its own approach to AI content. The search titan asserts that automation can be used to “create helpful content”, and that it doesn’t regard all automated content as “spam”.

Can Google Penalise AI Content?

Yes, Google can identify AI content and it will penalise it if it doesn’t meet their guidelines. But not specifically due to it being AI-generated. It will (eventually) come down heavily on content created primarily to manipulate search rankings – and creating un-helpful verbiage or scaling fast through AI are areas they’re very good at detecting.

 

Then, they might use domain registration information to run an eye across other properties in the portfolio, and give them additional scrutiny.

 

At authentic digital, we leverage AI through our process, but ensure there are smart humans adding value right through the chain. There’s a balance between adapting processes through technological advancement, and creating online experiences that match your brand, your business goals, and your customer’s needs.

“Over the past two decades, SEO has undergone constant evolution marked by Google algorithm updates, which has significantly influenced the dynamics of organic search. Two key elements that have always been rewarded despite multiple algorithm changes are authentic content and good user experience. This principle holds true for AI as well; we need to transition to collaborative intelligence where AI technology and human expertise are utilised to craft valuable content that enhances user’s search journey.”

Google’s Stance on AI Content

Google has been clear in its stance that it does not regard AI-generated content as an evil in and of itself. As the search giant itself puts it: “appropriate use of AI or automation is not against our guidelines.”
The word “appropriate” is vital here. Google has said that “automation has long been used in publishing to create useful content.”

 

If, however, generative AI software is used to create content that has the primary purpose of manipulating the search rankings, this would constitute a violation of Google’s spam policy.

Leveraging Artificial Intelligence for Effective SEO Strategy

Whether you like them or not, generative AI tools are here to stay. And in truth, many SMBs do like them, given how they can help speed up the processes of content research and production. Many organisations are looking into how to use AI across their processes.

 

What we haven’t done is have robots vomit letters onto the page. The short term rush of rising traffic and shrinking costs would have killed our clients. We’re always taking a long-term approach – because the businesses that survive are the businesses that thrive.

But we don’t have our heads in the sand when it comes to how the world is changing. At authentic digital, we’re doing the double-double.

 

We’re doubling down on the human side of things, establishing a new staff role of Content Strategist. This enables us to invest more in understanding your audience, your product, your voice – and lowering the time you spend in fact checking or editing web copy. Our writers remain human, with beating hearts that care about their craft.

 

And we’re doubling down on AI. Many of our processes have been improved, sped up, or enhanced by leveraging AI and automation. More will be. We’re continuing an intentional journey of continuous improvement, and delivering improved return on investment in SEO for our clients.

 

With the double-double, we’re able to add more value to all our clients’ businesses, while staying cost neutral. A massive gain for everyone.

“With over 15 years in SEO as an agency we have seen it all. The advent of AI is a major change, but it does not alter the fundamental intent of Google. When Google initially tested valuing content as a priority, we saw thousands of 300-500 word blog posts typically produced by high volume outsourced content farms… until the Panda update came in 2011 and crushed those businesses. Google used to primarily value links, and SEO’s exploited that by creating giant link networks. Again, those who went too far saw their (client’s) sites demolished in 2012 with the Penguin update. In SEO, as it is in investing, if it sounds too good to be true… it is! Ponzi schemes and cons work for everyone… Until they don’t. It is the client left with the damaged website and business while the unscrupulous provider has made their money and moves on. In SEO, just as in investing, you want an experienced team on your side who have been through these cycles and maintained their own and client’s businesses through them.”

Wrap Up – Creating Good content With AI And Bearing Google’s Guidelines in Mind

In summary, it is certainly possible for content creators and website owners to use AI for content creation, without being penalised by Google. If, however, you fail to comply with Google’s guidelines, you might suffer ranking penalties or de-indexing, whether or not you have used AI tools to produce your content.

 

Are you looking to navigate Google’s algorithms effectively, achieve higher search rankings, and avoid penalisation? If you are seeking good SEO advice for your own brand’s needs, or if you have any concerns about your site’s traffic, please contact our authentic digital’s content and SEO experts today. We work with 1-person businesses to some of New Zealand and Australia’s biggest brands – and are happy to speak with you!

“We find authentic digital to be effective, honest, and responsive, give fact-based advice, listen to our requirements, and get the job done. We appreciate that they only do what they are best at and are happy to refer us to other companies for work that is outside of their sweet spot, and are always open to sharing their knowledge – it makes for a great partnership.”
Julie Pickford
Marketing Manager

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