Why you shouldn't use AI generated content for your store

SEO is an infamously long game. There are very few “quick” wins, and it can take a long time to rank. Of the 5% in one study that made it to the top 10 search results, it took an average of 2-6 months to get there. Not only that, but it can take a lot of time and effort to actually optimize your store and create content. Having that high quality, fresh content is essential but it can take a while to put together.

This leads many merchants, writers, and marketers alike to ask themselves, “what if there was a faster, easier way?”. Enter, AI generated content. 

This technology can seem like a god-send, especially for small businesses or brands without the resources to invest into content marketing. But what starts as a quick and easy fix can soon turn into a SEO headache.

What is AI generated content?

There are tools out there that use artificial intelligence to automatically generate written content. They use a technology called GPT-3, which is short for Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3; this is a language prediction model that uses deep machine learning to generate written copy that mimics the writing style of a human. You provide it with a starting point, and it will carry on the idea into a full piece of content. Although it can’t come up with its own ideas, it will draw from other sources without plagiarizing those sources. 

GPT-3 is used in pretty much every modern AI content tool and assistant on the market. It sounds great in theory, especially if you’re short on resources for content. Given how much deep learning and AI is used by Google themselves, you may wonder if AI content is good or bad for your store.

Is AI content good or bad for SEO?

Short answer - right now, it’s not great for your SEO

AI generated content has been a hot debate within the SEO community whether that’s over its perceived benefits, or its impact on SEO. In April 2022, Google’s Search Advocate, John Mueller, weighed in on the topic stating that Google considers AI content to be spam and it’s against their webmaster guidelines

It falls into the category of auto-generated content, and if detected will result in penalties. However, the difficulty is that Google cannot automatically detect AI content, and has to rely on human search reviewers to do so. So there may be AI content out there ranking for different keywords, but eventually it will be found by those human reviewers and penalized. 

This is the primary reason why you shouldn’t use AI generated content - Google doesn’t like it. It may save you a bit of time in the short term, but once a search reviewer finds it it’ll have a negative impact on your SEO. 

Other reasons not to use AI generated content include:

  • Most existing technology can’t produce good quality long-form content. It often ends up nonsensical or repetitive.
  • AI content cannot produce unique or original ideas. You want to be able to build and improve on existing content, AI can’t do that.
  • It can’t determine what’s best for your user or customer experience. You know through your analysis, an AI tool can’t possibly have the same understanding.

Update - January 2023: 

Recently, ChatGPT has risen as a game-changer for generative AI. This more advanced technology is able to produce a higher quality of content than many tools that have been popular in the space in recent years. This definitely has more applications for content writing and SEO, however the point remains that it can't be used in place of a human content writer. 

Google have also indirectly responded to the rise in use of ChatGPT with their new update to their search rater guidelines. In mid-December 2022, they added "Experience" into E-A-T, making it so that content will also be rated on the experience displayed. Of course, an AI tool cannot demonstrate experience. 

This is definitely an area to watch in the coming months and years, as more people choose to use generative AI in their content strategies.

Does this mean that AI generated content will forever be a bad thing for SEO? Not necessarily.

There are already applications for these AI generation tools that can benefit your strategy. You can, for example, use AI to generate an outline for an article, or a starting point for a product description. Or perhaps you’re translating a lot of content for a region specific version of your site, you may use an AI tool to do the bulk of translation then go through to finesse it yourself or pass on to a native speaker to pass over.

In these examples, you aren’t relying on AI to create content that will automatically go on your website - you’re getting a helping hand. You shouldn't use it to create full length articles or other lengthy pieces of copy which require the expertise and experience of a human content writer. 

As technology grows and changes, we may see these tools become better at producing quality content. They certainly aren’t at that point yet, however. Even John Mueller acknowledges that the way we use AI in content creation may change over time:

“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.”

For now, the best way to create content remains to do it yourself.

  • Create a content calendar to keep a consistent flow of content being published to your site.
  • Focus on high quality content - even if it’s short-form. Regular, quality content is better than infrequent content.
  • Look at what competitors are doing in your space, and think of how you could do it better.
  • Employ the help of an SEO expert or content writer to give you direction and assistance.

As technology advances, there will always be tools and innovations that seem to make things easier. However when it comes to content creation and SEO, it’s best to keep things old school and do it yourself. It’ll result in better quality content that will ultimately be better for your store’s SEO in the long term.