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Recently, Google made changes to its search engine optimisation policy, removing the part that mentioned content ‘created by humans’. Instead, the emphasis is on quality content now. This means it can now pick slick content generated by AI with enhanced SEO. This is a complete shift from last year, when Google tried to stand against AI-generated content on its search results. The issue then and now is that Google has no way of verifying if the content is AI-generated or not.
Now, instead of policing AI content, the newer search updates are trying to assess the value and accuracy of the information provided by the search results.
How has this affected SEO?
Quite badly to begin with, as fluctuations are common when Google pushes out new updates. This time however, content creators are annoyed at having to compete with the AI-generated content. According to a forum for content creators, most of them were reporting a drop of engagement from 40 – 60% on their websites.
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On the same forum, users are complaining how the search results, biassed for AI-generated content, is eating away their profits. “This is a joke,” said a user of webmaster’s forum after the update. “I’ve got long-form content, well-written, well-researched, filled with original images LOSING to a 500-word AI-generated crap…Google is apparently forcing publishers to generate AI spam or die.”
Is AI-generated Content Winning?
Meanwhile, to address the debate between AI and human-generated content, Google published a blog that says the new policy is designed to reward websites with high-quality content that is helpful to users. According to their current guidelines, even sites with AI-generated content, which can also be helpful to users and are not created just to attract clicks, will rank high on the search engine. This should address the problem mentioned earlier about original content losing out to AI-generated spam.
After the new policy update, Google has been ranking down sites with SEO-friendly but spammy content, likely to be produced by generative AI, which further addresses the discussion around human and AI-generated content. A spokesperson from the company said, “We are not targeting content produced by any particular method – AI or otherwise – we’re concerned with the quality of a given webpage and its helpfulness to readers.”
So, how is Google analysing what content is ‘helpful’ and of ‘high quality’? Through Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trust (EEAT) score. Google’s search quality raters, estimated to be about 16,000 contractors, score the sites based on the above parameters. These ratings are used by Google to refine machine learning algorithms designed to surface pages that users are likely to find helpful.
Further, Google is penalising AI-generated product reviews. The AI-generated reviews can be of high-quality but they can also be inaccurate. These reviews are taken down by Google by a combination of human experts and ML algorithms will enforce this update according to Google.
Google Embraces AI, Humans Alike
The content on Google is going to be populated with AI. It is unlikely that this will displace all content creators and the search engine.
There is no proof that AI will take over as most of Google’s revenue depends on its search engine and Google is figuring out a way to reward content creators by constantly updating the SEO features. At the end of August Google announced the search generative AI experience, to integrate some of the traffic that has already moved to AI instead of using Google search.
Google has already integrated AI responses for simple questions from its Search Labs and the future of the search experience is likely to become even more personalised and relevant, as it learns more about each user’s individual needs and preferences.
To make sure that search results don’t get too personalised creating echo chambers, Google also announced the ‘hidden gems’ as part of the Helpful Content Update. This will ensure that results from smaller sites with different perspectives don’t get buried down but instead their ranking is improved with positive reinforcement of its content and SEO. This update hasn’t been rolled out yet but will solve a lot of the issues niche sites are currently facing.