Can Google Detect AI Content (and What Does It Mean if the Answer is Yes)?
Content bots have entered the chat.
Regardless of how you feel about it, marketing content generated by artificial intelligence tools is a real thing that’s probably here to stay. Maybe you think it’s a positive development that will ease your workload or save you money. Perhaps you’re worried it will put you out of a job. The reality lies in the answer to a few simple questions:
For students using content bots to create essays, authors leveraging the tech to pen new novels, or lonely people giving fresh depth to imaginary relationships, concerns are (so far) limited to getting caught out by professors, fans, or software updates. And there are plenty of other use cases for AI content creation where Google’s algorithms aren’t a concern.
But what does it mean for your marketing efforts if Google sees you trying to write with artificial intelligence? Buckle up.
Who’s the King of Data Mountain?
We’ve already discussed some of the downsides of writing with artificial intelligence. The odds of producing anything original — presumably the goal if you’re trying to differentiate – are low, while the odds of your content getting tripped up by weird algorithm rules climb. But there’s a bigger problem that marketers experimenting with an AI SEO content generator need to worry about.
AI tools like ChatGPT are directly competing with Google over who has better data. And that’s not a battle that will be easy to win.
Google’s parent company Alphabet, which owns, among other things, Fitbit, Looker, Nest, Waze, and YouTube, in addition to its lucrative search platform, has access to a lot of data. And it goes to a lot of trouble to protect its position as the most popular search platform — and the gargantuan repository of internet content it has amassed. Companies launching AI SEO content generation tools are very much the Davids of the digital world, going up against a mighty Goliath.
Battle of the Content Bots
The fact that Google has a pretty massive advantage against AI content writing tools in terms of data stores isn’t the only issue. Google recently unveiled Bard — the tech giant’s answer to tools like ChatGPT — and announced it will add AI-powered features to Google search.
That’s no surprise. Google hasn’t shied away from trying to dominate any part of the online world so far. You didn’t expect it to stop now.
But there’s a plot twist. Websites that proudly proclaim they are embracing AI content generators are giving Google a ton of fodder for its machine learning program. It can crawl all over those sites, learning from what they’ve learned and making its own tools that much more powerful.
What Do the Experts Think?
But none of this actually answers the question: will Google penalize AI content?
Opinions are mixed.
SEO experts at BowTied Bull claim that Google has “already been smacking down AI sites,” citing this chart they say shows a precipitous decline in CNET’s organic traffic after it started publishing content generated by AI:
Image source: BowTiedTetra | Online Business ChadFish [@BowTiedTetra]. “Very shortsighted move by CNET.” Twitter, 20 January 2023, https://twitter.com/BowTiedTetra/status/1616511847334809600?s=20&t=UYQuHREl0CpeOUyrJzaNDQ
Other marketing news sites disagree, citing an official clarification from Google that insists its search engine will prioritize content by quality, not how it’s created.
As long as content marketing teams demonstrate their EEAT (expertise, experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness), their content should drive organic traffic. In other words, the “Is it written by AI?” question is not one Google cares about. (It’s important to note that Google does acknowledge it will consider using AI to manipulate your rankings in its search results as a violation of its policies.)
So at the end of the day, it’s a question of who you believe — Google or its critics. We didn’t know where to land on this one, so we’re going to let some data do the talking. One of our talented human writers will compose some copy, and we’ll use a content bot to generate some content on the same subject. And we’ll see if outranking AI on an SEO content platform is as easy as our writing team says it should be. Stay tuned!
TPM is an independent marketing agency with a proven track record of success in helping our partners climb Google search rankings and attract the right audience, with the right message, at the right time. If you’d like help from our (still human) team, let’s chat.