Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller says content automatically generated with AI writing tools is considered spam, according to the search engine’s webmaster guidelines.
This topic is addressed during a recent Google Search Central SEO office-hours hangout in response to a question about GPT-3 AI writing tools.
There’s a debate in the SEO community about the use of GPT-3 tools and whether they’re acceptable from Google’s point of view.
Mueller says content written by AI falls under the category of auto-generated content, which could lead to a manual penalty.
However, Google’s systems may lack the ability to detect AI generated content without the assistance of human reviewers.
As we’ll explain later in this article, there are practical uses for AI writing tools and many reputable organizations are using them without issue.
First, let’s look at Mueller’s response to the question about how Google views the use of these tools.
Automatically Generated Content Is Against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines
Regardless of the tools used to create it, content written by machines is considered automatically generated.
As Mueller is quick to point out, Google’s position on auto generated content has always been clear:
“For us these would, essentially, still fall into the category of automatically generated content which is something we’ve had in the Webmaster Guidelines since almost the beginning.
And people have been automatically generating content in lots of different ways. And for us, 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. Those kind of things.
My suspicion is maybe the quality of content is a little bit better than the really old school tools, but for us it’s still automatically generated content, and that means for us it’s still against the Webmaster Guidelines. So we would consider that to be spam.”
Can Google Detect AI Generated Content?
A follow-up question is asked regarding Google’s ability to identify content written by machine learning tools.
Can Google understand the difference between content written by humans and content written by machines?
Mueller makes no claims about Google detecting AI written content automatically.
Although, if Google’s webspam team happens to find it, they’re authorized to take action on it.
“I can’t claim that. But for us, if we see that something is automatically generated, then the webspam team can definitely take action on that.
And I don’t know how the future will evolve there, but I imagine like with any other of these technologies, there will be a little bit of a cat and mouse game, where sometimes people will do something and they get away with it, and then the webspam team catches up and solves that issue on a broader scale.
From our recommendation we still see it as automatically generated content. I think over time maybe this is something that will evolve in that it will become more of a tool for people. Kind of like you would use machine translation as a basis for creating a translated version of a website, but you still work through it manually.
And maybe over time these AI tools will evolve in that direction that you use them to be more efficient in your writing or to make sure that you’re writing in a proper way like the spelling and the grammar checking tools, which are also based on machine learning. But I don’t know what the future brings there.”
Mueller clarifies Google doesn’t take into consideration how the AI writing tools are being used.
Using them in any capacity is considered spam, he adds.
“Currently it’s all against the webmaster guidelines. So from our point of view, if we were to run across something like that, if the webspam team were to see it, they would see it as spam.”
To hear his full response, see the video below:
What Does This Mean For Your Website?
Here’s some insight from the head of SEJ’s editorial team on what Mueller’s response means for your website.
“I think the biggest takeaway from this particular Q&A is that Google’s algorithms aren’t able to automatically detect content generated by language models such as GPT-3,” says Miranda Miller, Sr. Managing Editor here at Search Engine Journal.
“The message here is that if Google detects automatically generated content, the webspam team could take action. But we aren’t talking about the article spinners of 2003.”
“Artificial intelligence is being used by media, universities, and other organizations for research automation and cross-referencing, crawling and classifying content in many languages to identify emerging trends, generating article and paper summaries, fact-checking, crunching data, and even writing full articles,” she points out.
“The Associated Press began using AI for story generation in 2014. Putting AI to work in content creation is not new, and the most important factor here is its intelligent application,” Miller says, noting that using AI can help content creators overcome language and literacy barriers, improve the quality of their writing, and more.
“These are good outcomes. Wouldn’t it be strange for Google to ban the use of AI by webmasters and content creators for the purposes of improving user experience when they use it so heavily themselves?” she adds.
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