Google search responds to BankRate, more brands using AI to write content


Artificial intelligence (AI) has been a scorching hot topic lately, especially since the launch of ChatGPT Nov. 30. Microsoft Bing has plans to add ChatGPT to search. Some have questioned whether it’s a Google killer.

Now we’re seeing more examples of brands using AI-generated content. Bankrate is the latest example. It is having some of its content written by machines but reviewed by human editors.

It’s a bold strategy (let’s see if it pays off for them). And the SEO community wanted to know Google’s policies around these efforts.

Bankrate example. The example was highlighted by Tony Hill, who posted on Twitter that “BankRate.com, one of the largest finance sites on the web has now started using AI to write some of its content. A big moment in web publishing and SEO.”

The screenshot reads “this article was generated using automated technology and thoroughly edited and fact-checked by an editor on our editorial staff.”

Wondering how Bankrate.com is ranking for these articles? Sistrix did an analysis to find out:

For Bankrate.com, this specific use-case and the current point in time, one can say: yes, it works. 
Many , randomly-checked articles rank on the first page for both the main keyword and many other long-tail keywords

How Bankrate.com is ranking with AI-generated text” – Johannes Beus, SISTRIX

Bankrate isn’t the only example of this. CreditCards.com is also using AI-generated content. The first line of the CreditCards.com Team author page says “Content published under this author byline is generated using automation technology.”

CNET has also quietly been using AI to write entire articles from the ground up since November.

Do a Google site search for [“This article was generated using automation technology”] will reveal dozens of CNET articles in Google’s index. CNET also assures readers that these articles have been “thoroughly edited and fact-checked by an editor on our editorial staff.”

The potential issue. If we can have machines and AI write content for us, then the amount of content that can be produced at incredibly low costs can be somewhat exciting for brands and businesses – more content for a minimal investment sounds like the stuff of dreams.

But, at the same time, mass-generated AI content can also frightening for consumers (what should you spend your time reading?) and search engines (what content should Google be ranking in search?).

So much content is being produced daily already; how much more can we consume, and how much more does Google need to crawl, index, and decide to rank for a given query?

Google’s statement on AI-generated content. Is Google OK with crawling and ranking content written by machines? If not, is Google OK if those AI-generated pieces of content are reviewed by human editors before they are published?

Danny Sullivan, Google’s Search Liason, reiterated some of what was said before about Google’s stance on this topic.

Sullivan wrote on Twitter this morning on the topic of AI-generated content, “content created primarily for search engine rankings, however it is done, is against our guidance.” But he added that “if content is helpful & created for people first, that’s not an issue.”

Sullivan then referenced their guidelines for the helpful content update, saying that the “key to being successful with our helpful content system — and if it’s not helpful content, the system catches that.”

If the AI can write helpful content, then it should be fine, one would assume.

Then Sullivan references the revised E-E-A-T quality raters guidelines, saying, “For anyone who uses *any method* to generate a lot content primarily for search rankings, our core systems look at many signals to reward content clearly demonstrating E-E-A-T (experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness).”

Finally, Google has a spam policy for automated content, which states “generated through automated processes without regard for quality or user experience” which is against Google’s guidelines.

Why we care. We know machine-generated content is not new, but what is new, is that the machines are getting better with the help of AI, in generating human-like, high-quality content. The question is, is it being produced with the intent of helping people or ranking in Google Search. If it is the latter, the helpful content system’s aim is to make sure such content does not rank well.

For the time being, Google wants content by the people, for the people but you can use AI for ideas and help you along the way. If machines and AI can write the content, you’d think similar technology can detect content written by AI.


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About the author

Barry Schwartz

Barry Schwartz a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land and a member of the programming team for SMX events. He owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry can be followed on Twitter here.

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