Can Google detect AI content?

May 20, 2022


John Thomas

Google probably knows you're using AI to create content. Avoid a manual action or penalty with these tips for AI content creation.

From personalized messaging to highly responsive customer service chatbots, AI is helping businesses deliver precisely targeted content and campaigns that drive leads and conversions. 

According to research by Deloitte, 73% of companies using AI believe it is “very” or “critically” important to their success, while 64% believe it has allowed them to establish a competitive advantage over other companies.

However, while many marketing functions are well-suited to automation, there’s one task many people consider impossible for machines to replicate – content creation. After all, writing is a complex cognitive task requiring creativity, analytical skills, and more. Given search engines reward original and engaging content with higher search page rankings, surely automated content would wreak havoc with your SEO.

Well, not quite. Despite the potential challenges of automating copywriters’ roles, many AI content generation platforms are emerging. Promising to deliver text for everything from blogs to ad copy, it’s easy to see why marketers may find these time-saving platforms attractive. 

But are these pioneering technologies all they’re cracked up to be? And, more importantly, can Google detect AI-generated content and penalize your site accordingly? 

“While AI-generated content may sound like every marketer’s dream come true, even the automation platforms themselves admit robots are unlikely to replace human writers any time soon.”

What exactly is AI-generated content?

In the simplest terms, AI content generators draw material from online blog posts and articles, rejig the words, and churn out one or more “original” articles. While the content is based on real writers’ pieces, AI generators use anti-plagiarism tools to ensure they don’t replicate exact sentences or phrases. Some content automation software is more sophisticated than others, offering additional features such as:

  • Options to alter the tone of voice

  • Natural language processing (NLP) tools to ensure the content appears to be written by a real person

  • Keyword tools to improve SEO 

  • Topic generation tools to help marketers improve their campaigns

While AI-generated content may sound like every marketer’s dream come true, even the automation platforms themselves admit robots are unlikely to replace human writers any time soon. AI tools can help generate structured and informative content but skilled human writers are necessary for producing warm and engaging prose designed to resonate with human audiences.

What are the benefits of using AI-generated content?

While content generators won’t produce Pulitzer-Prize-winning content, they have several advantages, including:

  • Saving time: The time-saving potential of AI generators is by far their biggest benefit. AI platforms can create multiple articles in a matter of seconds, reducing the need to research, plan, and structure your content.

  • Overcoming writer’s block: Writer’s block affects even the most talented marketers. With AI-generated content, you can get your creative juices flowing again by gathering draft content.

  • Reducing costs: Most content generation platforms offer relatively inexpensive subscription packages that won’t burn through your marketing budget. It’s worth trialing one of these packages to ascertain whether it works for you and your team.

What are the drawbacks of using AI-generated content?

AI-generated content comes with a few drawbacks, including:

  • AI can’t produce thought leadership: AI content is based entirely on information that’s already published. As such, you can’t ask an AI generator to write content about an original new campaign or certain niche topics. If you’re in an industry that values innovation, or a brand trying to disrupt the market, a content generation tool may not be particularly useful.

  • Automated content can be cold: It’s difficult to emulate the warmth and emotion of authentic human writing. As such, AI-generated content can come off stilted and cold. When testing several AI tools, we found that we needed to heavily edit the automated content to make it seem more genuine.

  • Human-produced articles are easy to distinguish from automated content: The internet is awash with duplicate content and fluffy articles that don’t provide new information. As a result, content brimming with first-hand data, anecdotes, and original opinions will always stand out to audiences (and search engines). While such content can be difficult and time-consuming to produce, it’s likely to attract clicks and boost engagement rates.

  • Automated content can lack a coherent narrative: AI content generators can’t make judgments about whether certain themes or topics really fit together. They may throw together incongruent narratives drawn together from a range of sites or publications. In this case, you may have to edit automated pieces heavily.

  • It could impact your SEO: Search engines like Google prioritize content that is fresh, original, and free from errors and plagiarism. Writing an article from scratch is one of the safest ways to adhere to these demands. Plus, AI-generated content is against Google’s guidelines and may result in a penalty. 

Can Google detect AI-generated content?

In theory, yes, Google can detect AI-generated content. According to the company’s Search Advocate John Mueller, automated content is spam and violates Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Any sites using AI content could hypothetically be penalized and removed from search results pages.

However, as AI-generated content improves, questions remain about whether Google’s algorithms can detect it confidently. In a recent online Q&A, Mueller noted that their algorithms may need to engage in a “cat and mouse” game to keep up with AI tools. While Google can detect pages with poor spelling, grammar, and an unnatural tone of voice, there’s no way to capture 100% of automated content. 

However, Google’s algorithms are constantly improving with the goal of making sure search results are as helpful as possible. As Google gets better at manually identifying automated content, marketers who choose to use AI tools will need to edit or remove their automated content to ensure they’re as original and compelling as possible. Ultimately, Google wants to prioritize well-written content that is genuinely useful to its users.

So, how should I use content generation tools?

AI generation tools can be used to create very basic first drafts for your content. Structuring and writing blogs from scratch is demanding work, so these handy tools can help make your life a little easier by providing a better starting point than a blank page. However, you must edit automated articles so they’re as engaging as possible. While it’s vital to publish a steady stream of content for SEO and branding purposes, low-quality content could wreck your SEO and tarnish your brand’s reputation. If you’re wondering how to edit your articles, here are a few top tips:

  • Hire an affordable proofreader or editor.

  • Include content specific to your brand, such as customer stories and special offers.

  • Check spelling and grammar very carefully and eliminate unnatural phrases.

  • Add internal and external links.

  • Ask your colleagues and friends to read your edited articles to ensure they make sense and have all the vital information.

  • Use a plagiarism checker. While AI generators tend to evade these checkers, you may find that extremely similar content gets created by AI.

Once you’ve edited and published your content, remember to keep tabs on how it performs compared to articles written totally from scratch. If there’s little difference, you can safely assume that the AI generator is working well! If your organically produced content performs more effectively, however, you may need to improve your editing processes.

The bottom line

AI content generators can be useful but have their limitations. The power of AI can help businesses grow and streamline their operations. From personalized chatbots to targeted ads, machine learning can enhance the customer experience and help you make the most of marketing budgets. However, many marketers are wary of automated content generators—and for good reason.

While it’s certainly unwise to rely on AI content generation to fulfill all your copywriting needs, it can help to speed up the writing process. If you’re keen to post more blogs and boost organic site traffic, an AI writer paired with a human writer could offer the inspiration you need to churn out thousands of words every day.

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