A robot that could write like a human being was the stuff of science fiction series not all that long ago. But today, that futuristic reality has arrived. True, AI content generation tools may not yet walk the streets in humanoid form, but they are becoming increasingly prevalent and valuable writing assistants across many industries and for many purposes. From marketing content to academic essays, many professionals are turning to AI and machine learning tools to help them generate written content.
Gone are the days of clunky, robotic-sounding text generators.
In the past few years, we’ve instead begun to see the emergence of some truly sophisticated and remarkable content generation tools that have been trained to utilize human language more and more organically, naturally, and convincingly.
While gaps still exist between content written by humans and AI-generated content, certain written genres are actually being handled incredibly effectively by AI (more on this later). However, it would still be a far reach to say that AI is anywhere close to replacing the human touch entirely.
What does this renaissance of responsive AI writing tools hold in store for search engine optimization? And how (if at all) will it alter the trajectory of content creation in the ever-shifting SEO landscape? In this post, we’ll explore these questions in some depth and also consider the ways in which the world of SEO is already embracing automatically generated content. We’ll look at some current trends in AI content generation, provide an overview of some important pros and cons, and conclude with some advice on effective principles to keep in mind when working with content created by artificial intelligence.
Let’s dive in!
What Is AI-Generated Content?
Simply put, AI-generated content is written copy created by a machine. Using a combination of machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), and deep learning, AI writing tools (also sometimes referred to as LLMs–large language models) rely on algorithms to discern patterns and simulate the processes associated with human intelligence.
If that feels like a mouthful, all you really need to remember is that content generated by artificial intelligence (AI) is–to a larger or smaller degree, depending on the circumstances–written by robots instead of humans.
Brief History Of AI-Generated Content
Artificially generated content is not new. In fact, its origins date back almost sixty years to the mid 1960s. That being said, the calibre of natural language generation that existed in the 1960s was about as impressive by today’s standards as a dial telephone would be compared to a smartphone. In other words: Not very.
Throughout the following decades, the capacity of natural language generation (NLG) expanded to encompass the generation of some somewhat passable content, so long as it stuck to a clearly defined formula. Stray beyond that formula, and the content immediately stood out as robotic, disconnected, and sub-standard. The ability to read well and interpret meaning was far out of reach, as was the generation of nuanced, natural-sounding content.
The content spinners of the early 2000s aimed to re-write pre-existing content so that Google’s algorithms would recognize it as “original”. But they were never highly effective and were certainly never meant to replace high quality human content intended for human consumption.
Which brings us to the here and now. Over the past few years, AI writing tools have only just begun to broach content that is approaching human quality writing. The results are certainly impressive at a first glance. But, upon digging deeper, is AI content generation actually everything it’s being cracked up to be? Let’s take a closer look.
Current Trends In AI-Generated Content
Let’s get something clear. While some impressively superior content generation tools are beginning to exist in the mainstream market, not all content generation tools are impressively superior. Just because it’s the year 2023 doesn’t mean that mediocre or even downright terrible content generation tools are a thing of the past.
So, do your research carefully before committing to an AI content writing tool. Take advantage of free trials (and even free programs) to determine the strengths and calibre of each different platform. Consider your goals, your budget, and the amount of content you hope to generate artificially. Will you be relying on a content generation tool to write complete posts and articles for you, or will you be using it more for research purposes, outline generation, and perhaps the development of short content pieces?
ChatGPT is a text-based LLM (large language model) that uses semantic analysis to create readable copy. It can generate up to one million words of text per hour and is currently trending based on its groundbreaking knack for replicating convincingly human-like writing. But ChatGPT isn’t the only cutting edge writing assistant on the market. Other big names currently include JasperAI, Copy.ai, Frase, Rytr, and many more.
How Is AI Content Generated?
While every content creation tool is unique, most take users through a similar series of steps. The process typically involves: selecting a template (e.g. blog post, email, product description); inputting some context (e.g. topic, keywords, length); generating content (which usually takes anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes); and reviewing and/or modifying the content to ensure it meets your specifications and standards. (Publishing AI-generated content without reviewing it is never a recommended best practice).
AI-Generated Content For SEO
If you’re in the world of SEO, you’re well aware of the fundamental trope: Content is king. In the SEO industry, high quality optimized content that adheres to the E-E-A-T principles of experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, is truly at the core of increasing organic traffic and search engine rankings.
For this reason, the ramifications of any content generation strategy (including turning over more content generation to artificial intelligence), must be carefully considered and even more carefully analyzed. At a glance, high quality AI content offers immediate benefits such as speed and cost savings.
But is it truly authoritative? Does it generate content that might be flagged as duplicate? Will it authentically reflect your brand voice and identity? And, perhaps most importantly of all, how does Google feel about AI-generated content?
Can Using AI-Generated Content Result In Penalties?
The answer is: It depends. While Google clearly states that the appropriate use of AI-generated content is not antithetical to its guidelines, it is very clear that content created primarily to manipulate search rankings goes against its spam policy and can result in penalties. The same, of course, could be said for content written by humans.
Though the handling of auto generated content by search engines is still an evolving reality, at First Rank we believe it’s fair to approach the use of AI content as you would any other content created for your website. Poor quality content will result in lower rankings and possibly even penalties no matter how it’s created; likewise, high quality, relevant content will attract traffic and increase your rankings whether it’s written by a machine or by you.
While Google has indicated that it does not favour the use of automatically generated content, the truth is that high quality AI content may be indistinguishable from content created by a person (though algorithms to detect subtle AI markers in writing are continually advancing). That being said, automated content used for spammy purposes will certainly risk being flagged.
Using AI Beyond Content Generation
Beyond using AI to actually write entire content pieces, there are many ways to use it as a support when creating search engine optimized content. Superior AI writing tools can help you to narrow down potential topics, create content outlines and guidelines, and even find entities and keywords to include in your writing.
Combining the power of AI with the authenticity of human editing can be a perfect blend that results in content that is elevated beyond what either you or your AI counterpart could produce single handedly. Whether you manually review and tweak automatically generated content or simply use AI to help you overcome writer’s block, the opportunities are virtually endless.
Pros Of AI-Generated Content
Now that we’ve provided an overview of AI-generated content and its potential roles in the world of SEO, let’s examine its major pros in more detail.
The average hourly wage for a Canadian content writer is $28.17. The average cost of an AI writing tool ranges between $35-$200 per month, depending on several variables. But some AI writing tools are also free (including ChatGPT–currently).
You do the math. Of course, your AI tool will also generate much more content much more quickly than a human writer.
Sound too good to be true? Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. Check out the cons section below for the potential catches here (hint: quality of writing).
AI-generated content is incredibly efficient. Aside from the obvious fact that robots don’t take lunch breaks, they’re also exceptionally quick. What would take a human writer several hours can be accomplished in several minutes instead with AI. In addition, AI-generated content is easy to create and is infinitely scalable (the more content the merrier).
This one can really be a pro or a con. It all boils down to how good your own writing skills are (or the skills of the writers you hire). If you struggle with writing or have learned English as an additional language, you may find that a high quality content generation tool can out-write you a hundred times over and drastically improve your website’s written material. Conversely, you may find that automated content is no match for your warm, rich, and meticulous writing style.
It’s no secret that, when it comes to creating content, it can be tough to come up with catchy, relevant, and meaty topics to dig into. AI can help. From topics to outlines, optimization suggestions, and more, AI writing tools can take the pressure off and allow you to truly focus on your craft rather than on generating content ideas.
Cons Of AI-Generated Content
While there are a lot of pluses for AI-generated content, there are a lot of negatives as well. Here are some of the biggest cons we’ve noticed here at First Rank.
Lacks Human Voice
It may seem obvious, but we’ll state it anyway. A robot is not the same as a person and AI-generated content can come off as lacking a human voice. For some types of content (such as statistical or factual reports), this isn’t really an issue. But for any type of content that is intended to communicate an opinion, evoke an emotion, or reflect the personality of the author, AI content falls short.
In addition, there are sometimes ethical concerns around disclosing (or not disclosing) that content has been created by a machine. Carefully consider your content’s context to determine whether or not this might be an issue for your specific circumstances.
Often, AI-generated content is impressively accurate. But (and this is a big but), it also has some serious limitations. AI writing tools only know what they’ve been taught, so we can’t blame them for not being aware of current events, unfamiliar with certain trends, or unable to draw conclusions about big topics like religion, politics, or love.
Never assume that AI-generated content is inherently accurate. Always read it over carefully before publishing.
No Original Ideas
AI writing tools thrive on compiling and organizing pre-existing facts and data–even about abstract topics. But coming up with their own original ideas? Forget it.
For truly original content that doesn’t simply draw on pre-existing information, you’ll need a talented human writer. No doubt about it.
Optimization Not Guaranteed
Just because a piece of content is automatically generated doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s SEO optimized. While some content generation tools function within SEO platforms, it’s dangerous to assume that all AI content is optimized for SEO purposes.
Potential For Penalties
As we mentioned earlier, the potential for Google penalties does exist with AI-generated content. Poorly generated content that is duplicated or used for spammy purposes certainly has the potential to lower your site’s rankings and get you flagged by Google’s algorithms.
Watch out for and resolve the following in AI-generated content:
- Content that doesn’t sound natural or like it was written by a human.
- Content that contains repeated words, phrases, or even sentences.
- Content that is written in huge text blocks without appropriate headings.
- Content that is a duplicate (or very similar) to another piece of content on the internet.
- Content that contains inaccurate, unverifiable, or uncited data.
As AI-generated content becomes increasingly common, there is growing concern about its potential to spread disinformation. To address this issue, new tools are being developed that can detect AI-generated content and help people distinguish between real or duplicate information. Tools such as OpenAI Detector can be used to freely check content validity.
How To Use AI-Generated Content Effectively For SEO Tasks
As with most technology, it’s probably best not to take an all-or-nothing approach to AI-generated content. AI content is neither the solution to every writing task nor something to be feared and avoided.
Use AI writing tools selectively and advantageously and you’ll find that you’re well on your way to improving your overall content strategy. Here are some of the ways First Rank recommends integrating AI content for SEO purposes:
- Writing short content
- Template Creation
- Topics and Outlines (overcoming writer’s block)
Also, remember to avoid poor-quality AI text generators (even if they’re cheap or free), and to always read over any AI content before publishing it. Following this advice, AI-generated content can be a valuable tool in your SEO content writing arsenal.
An Ever-Changing Landscape
SEO is not static. It’s an ever-changing landscape that demands knowledge, vigilance, and big-picture strategizing. From on-page SEO to off-page and technical SEO, there are an almost endless quantity of factors, approaches, and metrics to prioritize and monitor. Even for experienced SEO professionals, effective search engine optimization takes time, patience, and skill. And, yes, it can be overwhelming (especially for beginners).
Though content is a major piece of the SEO puzzle, it doesn’t exist in isolation. And AI-generated content is truly just one more tool that must be appropriately integrated for maximum benefit.
At First Rank in Winnipeg, we know SEO. We know the pitfalls, the toolsets, and the importance of staying abreast of each and every shift or development. Our cutting-edge SEO approach has helped clients from a wide range of industries to improve their search engine rankings and increase their revenue dramatically over time.
We can do the same for you.
Leave the heavy lifting to our expert SEO team. Contact us at First Rank today to learn more about how we leverage the latest AI technologies like AI-enhanced link building as part of our innovative SEO strategies!!
Jacob Kettner is the owner and CEO of First Rank Inc., a digital marketing agency based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He currently sits on Manitoba Chamber of Commerce Small Business Advisor Council which assists people grow their small businesses in Manitoba.