ChatGPT & SEO: A Dynamic Duo?
It doesn’t take an Undercover Geek to remind you of the adage, “content is king,” when it comes to search engine rankings. In our quest to rule the digital kingdom, many of us have turned to AI tools like ChatGPT to help generate more content—because who wouldn’t want a little AI magic to make our lives easier?
But wait! Before we get carried away, we need to ask a few questions. Can Google actually detect AI-generated content? Does using AI-generated content put a damper on our SEO efforts, or are there any hidden benefits that we should know about? Fear not, my friends, for I’m here to unravel the mysteries of AI-generated content and its impact on SEO.
Let’s explore the extent of Google’s ability to identify machine-authored text, the potential pitfalls of relying on our robot buddies for content, and the surprising advantages that AI-generated content might bring to your SEO game.
The role of content in SEO
Before we look at how AI impacts SEO, let’s discuss the vital role content plays in your SEO strategy.
When it comes to climbing search engine rankings, nothing beats the power of high-quality, captivating content. The goal of Google, Bing, and other search engines is to serve up the most relevant and valuable content to their users. That means that in order to rank well, you need to provide the content people crave, all while ensuring it’s trustworthy and accurate. In SEO terms, this boils down to writing content that demonstrates the four tenets of E-E-A-T: expertise, experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
That seems like a tall order, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Just keep in mind that search engines like Google tirelessly crawl and index webpages, scouting for indications that a particular piece of content deserves a coveted top spot. The search engines consider factors such as:
- Keywords (signaling relevance)
- Accurate and up-to-date information (information from the current year is typically preferred over information that is several years old)
- Evidence and sources (links or other references to source material, as needed)
- Article authorship and website ownership (allowing a user to know who’s behind the information)
- Backlinks (other sites linking to yours implies trust)
- Relevance (the answer to a query is easily found within the content)
The better your content, the higher the chances of getting Google’s royal seal of approval, leading to better rankings and, ultimately, increased organic traffic.
To craft content that checks all these boxes, it’s essential to understand your target audience, their needs, and the keywords they’re searching for. Your goal is to write creative and original content that provides value to your audience.
Just remember, SEO is about striking a balance between providing value and optimizing for search. You don’t want to overdo keywords if it makes the article feel inauthentic, for example, or overload a piece with sources if it interferes with readability.
Can Google detect AI content?
This brings us to generative AI. Many website owners see ChatGPT and other AI as the answer to their prayers. Instead of paying content writers to write blogs and landing pages (or staying up way too late to do it yourself), why not just ask the AI to write everything for you?
But hold on: will Google know when your content was written by an AI, and if so, will that impact your content rankings?
Most tech and SEO bloggers seem to think Google can detect AI content. As Content Hacker explains, the machine learning algorithms used to train ChatGPT and other AI systems are similar to the algorithms Google would use to detect AI content. For example, Google might well be trained to notice things such as:
- Repetitive text or text patterns
- Excessive modifiers (ChatGPT loves adjectives!)
- Correct grammar and syntax but awkward constructions that don’t mirror human writing
- Similar sentence length and style rather than the variation found when humans create content
The good news is that, from an SEO perspective, it doesn’t matter what Google may know.
Last year, Google was inclined to penalize AI content if it could detect it, according to Search Engine Journal. But Google’s position on AI content has since shifted — perhaps due to the overwhelming popularity of ChatGPT, or maybe because it has its own generative AI, Bard, out in the wild.
As Search Engine Land noted in February 2023,
“Google does not care who — or what — writes your content, as long as that content is written to help people and not to manipulate the search results.”
So does that mean you can go crazy using AI to generate your web content and blog posts now? Hmm, not so fast.
The pitfalls of using AI-generated content in SEO
Even if Google isn’t penalizing AI content now, you may still have issues if you rely too much on ChatGPT or other AI systems. If Google senses that the content isn’t authentic, it could flag it as being poor quality or less relevant to a search result. It all goes back to providing useful and authentic content, as noted above.
Furthermore, as users encounter AI-generated content, they may consider the site less reliable. This will impact conversion rates and backlinks, as other sites may be less likely to consider the content worthy of links on their own sites.
So while Google may say AI content is okay to use, you need to be careful. As Search Engine Land notes, even if Google isn’t penalizing you for AI content, it’s not giving you “the green light to have ChatGPT write for you and call it a day.”
Reaping the SEO benefits of AI-generated content
Even though there are some definite downsides to using AI content on your website, you can still benefit from generative AI when writing for the web.
For starters, AI-generated content can help streamline the content creation process. You can use ChatGPT or Bing to help you develop a list of possible article titles or ask for a list of long-tail keywords.
By analyzing massive amounts of data and identifying keyword opportunities you might have missed, AI-generated content can help you tap into new niches and expand your digital reach.
For example, I asked ChatGPT for a list of long-tail keywords I might want to use in this article. Here’s what it came up with:
- AI-generated content for SEO
- Benefits of AI in content creation
- Detecting AI-generated text in SEO
- Streamlining content creation with AI
- Using ChatGPT for content optimization
- AI tools and search engine rankings
- Enhancing content diversity with AI
- Responsible use of AI-generated content
- Best practices for AI in digital marketing
- AI-generated content and Google detection
You can also use AI tools to revise or expand on parts of your content, to give it more life and a different tone. Or you can ask it to rewrite your content for a more — or less — technical audience.
What you don’t want to do is rely on AI to write entire articles or documentation. That’s when you’ll cross into the danger zone, both in terms of SEO and potentially also accuracy and originality.
Or, as Google put it,
“If you see AI as an essential way to help you produce content that is helpful and original, it might be useful to consider. If you see AI as an inexpensive, easy way to game search engine rankings, then no.”
Is AI worth it?
The best strategy for content creation is to approach generative AI applications like ChatGPT and Bard as writing assistants or tools to help you create content. By retaining authorship over your content, your personal knowledge, experience, and personality will shine through. You’ll be able to rest easy, knowing that your website content is accurate and useful. And by using AI to help you create that content, you might be able to save enough time to sleep in tomorrow.