AI content’s role in SEO

Generative artificial intelligence (AI) continues to make the headlines, as tools like ChatGPT seek to create content with near-human capabilities. But can brands ever really rely on AI for engaging and, importantly, accurate content production? Ewan Burkinshaw, digital marketing manager at our sister agency The Bigger Boat, explains why human-crafted content will always win out – but the tools do have their uses in SEO.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming a larger part of our lives, and with tools like ChatGPT producing well-reading, flowing content in seconds, it was inevitable it would find its way into content production and search engine optimisation (SEO). However, using an AI tool is, ultimately, flawed and human-produced content will always yield better results in the long term. 

Here, we discuss the role AI can play in content production – and a wider SEO campaign.

Understanding Google’s algorithms 

It’s worth a brief look at the history of Google. As long as SEO has been in play, people have sought to manipulate the rankings. The majority of Google’s algorithm updates have kept a real focus on tackling these manipulative tactics. 

The Panda update has been progressively updated since it was released in 2011. It has always attempted to reward well-written content and penalise poor-quality content aimed purely at manipulating the ranking. Tactics like keyword stuffing and thin, unresearched content were targeted. The helpful content update aimed to tackle websites filled with low-quality, content-for-content’s-sake pieces. The numerous spam updates that have rolled out over the years have attempted to tackle those manipulating backlinks as a ranking factor – rewarding genuine, relevant links and ignoring poor-quality spammy, manipulative links. 

In each case, Google has attempted to get ahead of manipulative tactics, and reward genuine, high-quality websites with well-produced, informative content. The most recent of manipulative tactics incorporates the use of tools, such as ChatGPT, to quickly produce content. 

Is AI content bad for SEO? 

As with other manipulative tactics, Google has started to update its algorithm to be better at recognising AI-generated content. 

There is a good reason for this: while content produced by AI reads well, it has been proven over time to be incredibly inaccurate, often citing sources incorrectly, or at times making up sources completely. Added to this, ChatGPT is a web scraper tool – it pulls information from the web, collates it and uses that to answer our queries. However, the knowledge cut-off date for ChatGPT was September 2021. So, there are times when the information it provides is automatically out of date. 

Earlier this year, Google released guidelines around AI-generated content. And while it doesn’t specifically state that AI-generated content will be penalised, it does state that high-quality content that demonstrates E-E-A-T principles will always perform better.

By default, any content produced by AI will not be able to match the E-E-A-T principles of content produced by a human. And, as it is ultimately a tool itself, the chances of producing duplicated content are much higher. If a number of different people were to ask ChatGPT the same prompt, they would all receive an identical answer. Duplicate content is severely frowned upon by search engines. 

How to use AI for SEO 

Having said this, AI-generated content can be used in the realm of digital marketing. 

They say nothing is as intimidating as a blank canvas, and using ChatGPT to quickly produce a rough first draft of an article can be an intelligent way to help break creative stagnation. 

Simply type a prompt or ask a question and ChatGPT will return a perfectly legible and grammatically correct article. However, all facts stated in this initial draft, and their sources, must be checked, and amended if necessary, before the content can be published online. Along with this, we always advocate amending the content in general to better suit your brand’s tone of voice. It’s also worth chopping and changing the order of the provided article, as there is every chance your competitors have used the same prompts and so will have produced content that’s extremely similar. 

So, is AI-generated content good for SEO? 

Our opinion is that ChatGPT and similar AI tools are exactly that – tools. They can be useful in certain circumstances, but the content they produce will never adhere to Google’s E-E-A-T principles, nor will it achieve the readability and engagement that human-produced content has. 

You can find out more about SEO from the digital marketing team at our sister agency The Bigger Boat. Alternatively, sign up to TBB’s newsletter to get expertise delivered straight to your inbox.

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Written by Ewan Burkinshaw

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