Decoding Google’s Helpful Content Update: Impacts on AI-Generated Content
SEO strategy is constantly evolving as Google rolls out new algorithm updates. The latest significant update – the Google Helpful Content Update announced in September 2023 – promises to heavily impact websites using AI-generated content.
As machine learning technology advances, more marketers are turning to AI tools to quickly produce large volumes of content. But will this automated content pass Google’s helpfulness test? Let’s decode this new update and its implications for SEO in 2023.
Overview of the Google Helpful Content Update
In September 2023, Google rolled out the Helpful Content Update, an algorithm change designed to reward high-quality, useful content written for human readers. The update aims to downgrade low-quality pages with auto-generated or thin content lacking expertise, research or added value for users.
Google also updated its Helpful Content guidelines, loosening its warnings around machine generated text while cautioning against hosting auto-generated or copied third-party content. The update finished rolling out over a two week period, leading to fluctuations in organic traffic as sites were re-evaluated.
This algorithm shift indicates Google is cracking down on low-value content farms using AI article spinners, while still allowing thoughtfully produced AI-assisted content that helps inform or educate readers.
AI-Generated Content: A Growing Trend
The use of AI tools to automate content creation has exploded in popularity. An overwhelming 82% of marketers agree that content generated by AI is as good as or better than human-written text. With advanced natural language generation technology, AI can churn out blogs, social posts, product descriptions and more in seconds.
For marketers, AI content creation promises faster production, at scale, while potentially saving on writing costs. The benefits include readily available fresh content optimized for SEO keywords and link building outreach. AI can also customize content for different audiences or localities.
However, risks come with over-relying on AI for content. Generic, low-value text lacking expertise risks getting penalized by Google. And scalably produced AI content across sites can be easily detected as duplicate or auto-generated.
There are also concerns around ethics, originality and misinformation with uncontrolled AI content generation. The key is using AI as an aid, not a complete substitute for human writing. With a blended approach, AI can augment content marketing by capturing data insights, suggesting creative directions and enhancing drafts with relevant research – while human writers focus on core messaging and strategic storytelling.
Concerns About AI-Generated Content and Google’s Stance
The rise of AI-generated content has sparked debate around search quality and rankings. With machine learning advancing, some fear websites can exploit AI content at scale to unfairly dominate results. This has led to concerns that human expertise, authoritativeness and trust could be diluted online.
Google has cautioned against over-relying on artificial intelligence text, warning low-quality or copied AI content violates its guidelines. However, Google allows thoughtful integration of machine learning within quality control processes.
Google’s core SEO strategy focuses on satisfying user intent with expertise. So AI content must enhance, not replace specialized human knowledge and judgment. With the Helpful Content Update, Google stresses that all content – whether human-written or AI-supported – must offer value, depth and uniqueness to attract rankings and traffic.
Unpacking the Google Quality Raters Guidelines
Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines provide insights into how the search engine evaluates content quality and experience. While kept confidential, core aspects are known:
Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness (E-A-T) – Content should demonstrate in-depth knowledge from reputable sources, expertise and an ethical content creator.
High-quality main content – The primary content should be well-researched, error-free and comprehensive.
User-friendly navigation – Websites should make their content easy to find, access and understand.
Strong reputation – Positive user reviews and recognitions like awards indicate a trustworthy site.
Transparency – Clearly disclosing who created the content or source references signals authenticity.
The guidelines also prioritize satisfying user intent with relevant, reliable information written specifically to help readers. These align with Google’s mission to provide quality results.
Evaluating AI-Generated Content Against Quality Guidelines
When measuring the quality of AI-created text, several criteria are critical:
Expertise – Does the content demonstrate deep domain knowledge, analytical thinking or specialized skills? AI-generated text often lacks true subject matter expertise.
Authoritativeness – Does the content cite credible external sources? AI text relies on analyzing patterns in data, not evaluating source credibility.
Trustworthiness – Is the content free of factual issues, aligned with brand voice, and transparent about AI origins? AI can fabricate facts or plagiarize sources.
Value – Does the content help readers with useful information or insights? Generic AI text often simply regurgitates facts without purpose.
Originality – Does the content offer a unique perspective or creative approach? AI commonly rewrites existing text into derivative versions.
Ensuring AI-generated content meets quality guidelines requires human guidance on source materials, factual accuracy, overall messaging, and providing analysis that educates or helps audiences.
This human oversight is critical for satisfying Google’s focus on expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness in content.
Case Studies and Examples
The impact of Google’s Helpful Content Update on sites using AI-generated content has varied based on their strategies and integration of human oversight.
Bankrate is a prominent example of a site succeeding with large volumes of AI-generated content by combining machine tools and human expertise. Bankrate has been driving hundreds of thousands of organic visits monthly from its AI-created content.
A key factor in this success is Bankrate’s strong domain authority earned over decades as a trusted finance advice website. This means Google trusts its content quality and ranks Bankrate pages higher.
Bankrate also employs subject matter experts and writers to review every piece of AI-generated content before publishing to ensure accuracy and relevance. Editors may rewrite or refine the text as needed, giving the content more value for readers. This human touch adds credibility.
By leveraging AI scalability but maintaining strict oversight and editing, Bankrate has achieved high rankings with machine-assisted content that meets Google’s standards.
Another positive example is Jake Ward, founder of startup Causal, who used focused AI content to grow the site to 1 million monthly visitors quickly. Ward targeted specific keyword and topic patterns suited for AI generation like glossaries, formulas and comparisons.
He continually tweaked the proprietary GPT-3 model to improve quality over time. Instead of fully automating content production, Ward treated AI as providing minimum viable drafts. By combining AI capabilities with human strategy, review, and expansion of the machine-created text, Causal was able to scale content efficiently while upholding quality.
On the other end, heavily automated sites with low-quality AI content have seen declines. For example, throughtheclutter.com, which published thin, formulaic celebrity profiles, saw traffic decrease significantly after rolling out of Google’s update.
The site relied entirely on AI without human review or enhancement of the machine-generated text. The lack of expertise and original analysis in its content made it vulnerable to Google’s emphasis on helpfulness and quality.
Issues like rambling text with formatting problems and lack of cited sources further flagged the content as low-value. By over-relying on unchecked AI instead of using it as one tool within a content strategy, throughtheclutter.com failed to align with Google’s standards.
The update serves as a reminder that AI alone cannot replace human creativity and judgment required for engaging, authoritative content. Strategic oversight of AI tools is key for SEO success.
Best Practices for AI-Generated Content
When leveraging artificial intelligence for content creation, keep these best practices in mind:
Strategic Oversight – Maintain human control over AI content strategies, topics, and quality assurance. Don’t fully outsource creativity.
Expert Guidance – Input from subject matter experts guides AI tools on producing accurate, insightful content.
Iterative Improvement – Continually review and tweak AI output to enhance quality over time. Poor initial results don’t mean giving up.
Edit, Curate and Enhance – Humans add value by editing, selecting the best AI content, and enhancing it with research or analysis.
Ensuring Factual Correctness
Content generated with AI assistance needs human verification of accuracy and proper citation of trustworthy sources. Without fact-checking, AI-produced text risks conveying misinformation. Brands should mandate citing credible references, data and quotes.
Formatting for Readability
Well-formatted content demonstrates quality to users and Google. AI-generated text may lack proper headers, paragraphs and bolding. Avoid dense blocks of text. Have editors refine formatting for skimmability.
Checking for Originality
AI commonly regurgitates existing data. While AI can synthesize unique content, always scan for plagiarism. Watch for derivative work that merely rewords versus adds new perspective. Unique value requires human creativity.
Blending AI and People for Quality
With intentional processes blending human strengths like contextual understanding and machine capabilities like speed, brands can adopt AI as a content asset. But full automation risks low quality. Oversight, editing and enhancement by people adds the touch needed for valuable, authoritative content that ranks well.
As the best SEO company in New Jersey, The Unplugged Web stresses the importance of Google’s Helpful Content Update. The update highlights how human creativity and machine efficiency complement each other in crafting high-value content that performs.
Strategies for Adapting to Google Updates
As algorithms evolve, SEO strategy must keep pace. Here are tips for adapting when Google launches major updates like Helpful Content:
Monitor Algorithm News – Stay on top of announced updates and chatter about changes in forums.
Review Impacted Sites – See which sites and content types were affected positively or negatively by updates. Learn from their experiences.
Analyze Your Site’s Performance – Check Google Search Console and analytics regularly for changes tied to updates. Identify issues quickly.
Evaluate Content Quality – Audit content, especially newly added, for thin or low-value pages that may get flagged.
Adapt Content Strategies – Adjust both human and AI content creation based on Google’s priorities like expertise, readability and usefulness.
Use AI Responsibly – Leverage AI tools thoughtfully to augment, not replace human effort in generating helpful, engaging content.
Staying informed and being proactive allows brands to evolve SEO strategies amid Google updates. Monitoring algorithm changes and refining content accordingly is key.
Expert Opinions on AI-Generated Content
Here are thoughts from SEO experts on using AI for content creation:
“I’ve noticed some writers use AI to generate product reviews and features, but the information is often inaccurate. We don’t use AI tools except to help outline content briefs.”
– Tessah Aihara, Founder of The SEO Mama
“Image creation is a top use of AI, as well as text generation for outlines and ideas. But for quality and accuracy, human editing is essential – AI alone can’t be trusted.”
– Dave Davies, Lead SEO at Weights & Biases
“AI could be useful for less important site sections like PBN pages or lower-priority blogs. But for critical content, human creators are still the best.”
– Daniel Ząbczyk, SEO Outreach at Chilli Fruit Web Consulting
The consensus is that AI holds promise as a content aid, but should not fully replace human effort, oversight and responsibility for core website content and messaging. With a balanced approach, brands can tap into AI tools while ensuring high-quality, authoritative content.
Addressing User Intent and Satisfaction
Creating content that aligns with user intent and provides value should be the core focus – whether using AI tools or not.
Strategies for achieving this include:
– Conduct keyword research to understand user queries and pain points around topics
– Survey target audiences directly on their goals and needs
– Analyze metrics like bounce rate and time on site to identify unsatisfying content
– Have human editors review AI-generated text for relevance, accuracy and potential to satisfy and engage readers
– Test content with users to directly gather feedback on how well it meets their expectations
Keeping the end-user experience firmly in mind is key for brands to create content that ranks and converts.
The Google Helpful Content Update makes it clear that websites must continue to focus on providing high-quality content that satisfies user intent – whether created fully manually or with AI assistance. While machine learning tools have opened new doors for content creation at scale, human oversight is still critical.
For assistance optimizing AI-generated content while adhering to Google’s evolving standards, consult the best SEO company in New Jersey, The Unplugged Web in New Jersey. Their expertise can help your brand use AI effectively to attract organic visibility and traffic.