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April 18, 2022 (Updated: April 26, 2022)
We recently asked our LinkedIn community if they thought AI-generated marketing content would be as good as human-created content within 10 years. As expected, 61% said human writers are the best, and Google agrees. The search engine marks AI-generated content as spam.
Content creation takes time and effort to get right. It’s no surprise that companies look to cut corners with technology. Tools like generative pre-trained transformer 3 (GPT-3) artificial intelligence (AI) programs claim they can pump out content just like humans. If you’re looking for a quick fix, it sounds tempting. But with Google’s rules in place, what does it mean for your future content strategy? In this article, we’re discussing topics like:
During a recent Google Search Central SEO office-hours event, Search Advocate Jon Mueller said automatically generated content is spam under Google’s webmaster guidelines. This isn’t exactly brand new information. There have been reports about “AI ruining the internet” out for quite a few years. But bringing it up again is a friendly reminder about why we can’t always trust technology.
Mueller essentially likened AI content to plagiarism by saying, “if you’re using machine learning tools to generate your content, it’s essentially the same as if you’re just shuffling words around, or looking up synonyms, or doing the translation tricks that people used to do.” In the writing community, plagiarism is a big deal. It’s cheating. We all learned how to avoid that in grade school. But Mueller’s comments went even further. Google doesn’t consider how you’re using AI writing tools, just that you are. And using them in any capacity is spam according to the webmaster guidelines.
Search Engine Journal’s Sr. Managing Editor Miranda Miller countered Mueller’s comments by saying everyone uses AI in content creation. But not everybody uses it to generate articles. She said that supposedly reputable sources like universities and the media use it for research, fact-checking, and reviewing data. In fact, the Associated Press started using AI for story generation over eight years ago. If “everybody’s doing it” then why is Google penalizing content creators for using AI?
Just because everybody’s doing something doesn’t make it right. You’ve probably heard the saying “if everybody jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?” It’s easy to get into that mentality with content creation and SEO. This is a field where we’re always chasing the next trend, the next big break. A tool or strategy being popular doesn’t make it inherently right or wrong. That also shouldn’t dictate if you use it or not. In terms of Google’s view of AI, it may be okay to bend the rules a little, depending on what you use the tools for.
Related: AI Copywriting: Does It Actually Work?
Google guidelines stamping out all AI tools blur the lines of what really matters with this issue. As Miller said, we’re all at fault because we’re all using a bit of AI. Have you ever used tools like Semrush or Ahrefs to find keyword topics? What about checking your pieces with Grammarly or Hemingway? CopyPress’s proprietary keyword software, Thematical, and our content marketing analysis tools use machine learning to build campaign data and insights for our own content marketing and clients. Are we all cheating and breaking the rules by using AI for research and data?
Truth be told, Google won’t know if you used Ahrefs or Grammarly to create your article. Not if you’ve still got an actual writer behind the keyboard putting everything together. The documentation specifically calls out AI-generated content created to manipulate search engine rankings instead of providing value to users. It lists instances like:
What’s really against Google’s guidelines is content created 100% by a machine. When you let the robots do all the work, that’s when AI-generated content becomes spam. That’s what Google’s trying to weed out, and what you as a trustworthy company try to avoid.
If you’re a risk-taker, you might hedge your bets with Google. Can the search engine really tell what’s written by a person and what’s written by a robot? Who’s Google to tell you what you can and can’t do with your time and money? Unfortunately, it’s Google’s world and we’re living in it. You don’t have to listen to its rules, but you’re only hurting yourself if you ignore them. Here are the biggest risks you may encounter when creating an AI content writer tool:
If Google flags your AI-generated content, you receive a manual penalty to your website. Why does that matter? If a site gets a manual penalty, the search engine removes part or all of that site from search engine results pages (SERPs) until you fix the issue. You can only get a manual penalty if a human reviewer looks at your content.
Manual actions exist because even Google acknowledges that its AI tools aren’t perfect. The company says that even though algorithms are good at detecting spam, they can’t catch everything. Do you know who they use as the second line of defense? Humans. Once you’ve received a manual penalty, you’re at the mercy of Google’s human review team. Reconsideration to get your content back in SERPs’ good graces can take days, weeks, or longer. That damages your rankings and reputation. You may see a decrease in your profits and any traction you’ve made with your SEO strategy.
People like to tout the speed of AI content writers when arguing why using a tool is the better option for content creation. But all these programs do is regurgitate information that already exists on the internet. This is dangerous territory to enter.
First, you run the risk of plagiarism. If you tangle with the wrong source, this could have legal consequences. All the money you thought you saved on human writers goes right out the window. Second, you’re not providing anything of value to your audience. You’re not giving people any reason to pick your brand, product, or service over another. Creating content for the sake of content without a purpose is a waste of time and energy. Even if that energy is just clicking the start button on an AI content writing tool.
If Google doesn’t even trust its algorithms completely, why should you? Anything an AI content writer spits out should still get the human glance before it goes to publication. Why? To make sure it actually appeals to other humans. Google issues automated penalties for low-quality work. The kind that comes from AI generation. Not to mention something nonsensical won’t grab the type of clicks and backlinks you need to build a solid SERP standing. If you’re really looking to save time and money, hiring a writer to do things right the first time is a sound investment.
If GTP-3 AI tools are spam machines, why are people using them at all? The sad truth is that people outside the writing field think writing is easy. Everyone thinks they can do it. Have you ever heard someone say, “I could write, too, if I had time”? Journalists, authors, and content creators get this kind of backhanded feedback all the time. Their work isn’t with science or numbers, so it must be “easy.”
It’s easy until some know-it-all gets in there and tries to do it themselves. Then they find out to do it right is difficult after all. Writing takes a specialized skill set, just like any other profession. Those who don’t put any value on it don’t see the difference between hiring a writer and hitting start on a computer program. You can find reasons for why AI content writing is better all over the internet, but they’re easy to refute. Some of these misconceptions include:
One of the most widely circulated arguments for AI content writers is that it only takes minutes to develop “perfect content” instead of days or weeks. That depends on how you define perfection. If to you it means without grammatical and punctuation errors, then sure, AI content writers can pop out perfect pieces in minutes. But if you want the piece to sound interesting, have good flow, and capture your audience’s attention? You can’t do that in minutes, especially for longer pieces.
But a talented writer can crank out a high-quality piece within hours, depending on the length. We do it here at CopyPress all the time. In our marketing department alone, we can develop 500- to 1,000-word blog posts in about an hour and a half. A 2,000 word or longer research article wraps up in a day. In the end, good content isn’t about popping out as many pieces as possible. One quality article brings in more conversions and sales than 100 subpar ones every time.
Another argument is that AI content writers are good for “all skill levels” because they make things more efficient. People that buy into this think it takes too much time and effort to write “the traditional way” by creating an outline and doing research. Critics say this makes traditional pieces too cookie-cutter.
That’s the exact opposite of why writers prep before creating content. Each writer has their own process, but whatever steps they take are in the best interest of the piece. They research to learn so they can share with the audience. They work to understand the topic to make it interesting. Do you think something a human writes could sound more cookie-cutter than something copied and rearranged by a robot? Common sense would say no.
Okay, we may have to give in to the critics on this point. It is easier to hit a button and let a machine do the work than for a human to put time and effort into the same job. Even at CopyPress, we get the benefits of marketing automation for certain tasks. Sending emails and automatically posting social media content are great examples of automation done right. But some tasks are better left to the humans. Writing is one of them. The only way to make your piece sound human is to let an actual writer take the reins.
This point from Sudharshan Ravichandran’s article is unconventional. He claims “AI makes your writing process much easier by freeing you from the pain of thinking about sentence structure, paragraph structure, word order, and related issues.” And that’s supposed to make the process more fun. If you’re not writing at all with an AI content writer, what is it about the tool that makes the process more fun?
Even experienced writers get writers’ block. But that has nothing to do with the “pain” of writing the right way. Writing correctly with the audience in mind isn’t what takes the fun out of the task. A dry topic maybe. Frustration levels with not understanding the content or the focus can cause it too. But not the act of writing itself. If you don’t find writing fun, that’s fine. But that’s also a hint that you can use your budget and resources wisely to find someone who does to produce the best content for your brand.
Critics say paying for an AI tool is more affordable than hiring people to do your work. After all, AI content writers aren’t trying to put gas in their cars, food in their stomachs, and a roof over their heads. But affordable is a relative term. A monthly $100 tool subscription may be nothing for a large corporation’s marketing budget. To a startup company, that amount could make a bigger impact.
Good team members are hard to find, but they’re not any more or less expensive than paying for AI tools. When you work with actual writers, you’re not just investing in a tool. You’re investing in someone’s first home or their child’s college fund. You’re creating jobs and helping new writers build portfolios. Plus, you get the bonus of talking about and discussing your content with the writer so they understand your brand voice and vision. Can an AI content writer do that?
If you want to promote your content in markets outside the United States, this argument may sound appealing. If you don’t speak another language, using an AI tool could help you reach more people faster. But how do you know the AI content writer is translating your pieces correctly if you can’t check its work? It’s like trying to do a high school Spanish project with Google Translate. Except you get a “D” on the assignment because you didn’t understand it in the first place and couldn’t check the work that the tool did.
What’s better than putting your faith in an AI tool? Hiring a writer who’s fluent in other languages. At CopyPress, we work in international markets and make sure we hire writers who speak and write fluently in languages other than English. Doing this provides a level of quality and security that an AI tool can’t.
Robots aren’t human. No matter how we program them, no matter how advanced they get, they don’t compare. When you let an AI content program write for you, you’re stripping human emotion and connection from your pieces. How would you feel if someone you cared about left you for 10 years, and when they came back, they wrote you a letter? Inside, they shared stories and information that made you feel emotional. Then months later you find out they didn’t write the letter at all. Someone else did. How would that make you feel? Angry? Deceived?
This is the trickery you pull on your audience when you let a robot write your content and pass it off as human-created. You’re supposed to be encouraging people to trust your company, but you’re lying from the start. It may make them question just how authentic you’ll be with your products or services. Don’t remove the human emotion and compromise your integrity and responsibility. When you’re working to win over clients, you don’t have the option of saying, “oops, AI mistake” and still upholding your reputation. The consequences of the robots come back on the humans.
Can you guess the best alternative to using an AI content writer? If you said humans, you’re correct! But we understand it’s hard to find a good writing team. If you use an AI content writer, one of your priorities could be convenience. Working with CopyPress for content writing services can be just as convenient. When you work with us, you don’t have to coordinate with writers or search for talent. We take care of it all. AI content writers may learn all about English language processing, but the CopyPress team learns all about you and your business.
We create a living style guide document that grows with your campaign to understand your brand voice and vision. Each client goes through our alignment phase and receives tests pieces to ensure we provide exactly what you’re looking for. Throughout, you have content control. Check in on pieces in our proprietary content management system (CMS), Dante. Provide feedback and comments for writers and review their comments for you. Ready to get the best quality writing without the hassle? Make a call to CopyPress to get started.
We ran another LinkedIn poll just weeks after the first. It asked the community how they planned to use AI in their content strategy this year. It was a close battle, with 34% of people hoping to experiment with AI and 29% relying on human creators only.
With Google landing on the side of AI-generated content as spam, you may be better off investing your time and money into actual writers and agencies. We know how to get the job done and keep both Google and your audience happy.