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What Do Google's New Guidelines Mean for AI Content?

From the earliest stages of large language model development, decision-makers have grappled with the twin challenges of AI-generated misinformation and spam. Take, for instance, OpenAI's initial hesitation to fully release their GPT-2 model due to concerns over potential misuse, underlined by a study that showed that people are likely to believe AI-generated propoganda.

Adding perspective to this murky environment, a June 2019 congressional hearing on the implications of synthetic media spotlighted the urgent need for oversight in the AI arena. The proliferation of AI-generated spam further complicated the landscape, thrusting companies like Google into the forefront of this battle.

Google has made a name for itself by providing relevant search results, putting them on the frontlines of the battle against AI-generated spam. With a mission to sift through the digital chaos and elevate content that genuinely serves user needs, Google has taken up arms against AI content, but not all of it. Join us as we ponder the question: What do Google's new guidelines mean for AI content?

Understanding Google's New AI Guidelines (March 2024 Core Update)

In the relentless battle against unoriginal AI content, Google has been consistently honing its algorithms. This effort gained notable momentum in early 2022, with the search giant making decisive moves to curb the tide of unhelpful content. Fast forward to September 2023, where we saw the introduction of a sweeping helpful content update. This particular shift targeted content crafted primarily to rank well in searches, pivoting towards a preference for high-quality, informative pieces.

More recently, a core update has brought an anticipated reduction of unoriginal content by an impressive 40%. This refinement is not just any routine tweak; it's a more elaborate iteration that blends the essence of the helpful content update with new insights. Google's stance has become unmistakably clear – content generated en masse to manipulate search rankings, whether through AI or traditional means, is no longer acceptable. This shift signals a renewed commitment to integrity and relevance in the information that reaches users.

What Kind of AI Content Will Google Penalize?

In an effort to convey what constitutes 'helpful' content, Google has introduced a diagnostic questionnaire that aims to reflect whether content creators' work aligns with the Google's helpful content guidelines. For this purpose, Google is using a classifier which will look at website content over a period of few months to determine whether it is helpful or not.

Let's unpack the FAQ to understand what kind of AI content Google will penalize:

  • Content made to rank: One of the main points of this questionnaire deals with whether the content is made for the express purpose of ranking on Google. If the content is summarizing other content without adding value, is written for the sole purpose of capitalizing on a trend, or is written only to attract people from search engines, it has a higher likelihood of being classified as non-helpful content.

  • Content without domain authority: Websites which rely on AI to create content in a topic where they do not have domain authority is another focus of this core update. If a website is creating lots of content on many different topics, using "extensive automation" to produce content on many topics, or  creating content on niche topic without any expertise, it might be classified as spam or non-helpful by Google's classifiers.

  • Clickbait and non-user focused content: This category doubles down on content that Google does not like. For example, content that promises to answer a question that has no answer, or content that leaves readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources will be classified as unhelpful. Google has also stated that they do not have any preference for the word count of the content, meaning that content has to be crisp and to the point to be helpful and, by extension, rank.

With these guidelines, it becomes evident that the central criterion for content success on Google is not its origin—AI or human—but its ability to genuinely benefit the audience.

AI Content Isn't Going Anywhere, As Long as it is Helpful

While AI-generated content is not inherently disadvantaged, the ultimate arbiter of its success is its helpfulness. This focus ensures that the potential of AI can be harnessed responsibly, enhancing the richness and diversity of content available to users. In this evolving landscape, the commitment to creating genuinely useful content is not just a guideline but a beacon guiding the way forward for SEO marketers.

As we conclude our exploration of SEO guidelines and the significance of AI content within this framework, a clear narrative emerges. The journey from addressing misinformation and AI spam to the evolution of Google's algorithms highlights a steadfast dedication to elevating the online experience. Google's latest updates, particularly the emphasis on high-quality, informational content, mark a pivotal moment in this journey.

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