Is AI content against Google Webmaster Guidelines? Not any more

Is AI content and text against Google guidelines? The short answer is no, but where did this misconception arise from?

Written by
Daniel Højris Bæk
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February 3, 2023

With the surge of AI writers, AI generated content, and the growing advancement of machine learning, it has become increasingly common for content to be created with artificial intelligence.

But is this content created with AI assistance against Google’s guidelines?

The answer is no.

Google recently updated its guidelines to reflect its stance on AI-generated content. Now it's clear that as long as it is made with people in mind, and not created with the purpose of ranking well in search engines, everything is ok.

On Twitter Google's Danny Sullivan made this clear:

We haven't said AI content is bad. We've said, pretty clearly, content written primarily for search engines rather than humans is the issue. That's what we're focused on. If someone fires up 100 humans to write content just to rank, or fires up a spinner, or a AI, same issue...

Find the full thread and more of his comments in this Twitter thread.

The evolution of Google's Guidelines

The Google Webmaster Guidelines were refreshed in October 2022 and renamed to Google Search Essentials  to streamline and simplify the content and ensure clear guidance for building sites that serve people well. Yes, most SEO marketers still call it Google Webmaster Guidelines as this have been the name for more than 20 years.

In these guidelines, Google does not directly mention AI / artificial intelligence.

But it covers the topic "Spammy automatically-generated content" where it outlines the following bullets:

  • Text that makes no sense to the reader but contains search keywords
  • Text translated by an automated tool without human review or curation before publishing
  • Text generated through automated processes without regard for quality or user experience
  • Text generated using automated synonymizing, paraphrasing, or obfuscation techniques
  • Text generated from scraping feeds or search results
  • Stitching or combining content from different web pages without adding sufficient value

The spotlight has thereby turned away from the technology and is instead focusing on the aim of what the user tried to achieve. Or the output quality.

In short: Create high-quality helpful content for the users!

In the old Google Webmaster Guidelines, there was a clear declaration that automatically generated content was to be avoided.

Screenshot from outdated Google Webmaster Guidelines using Wayback Machine.

This was then subsequently changed so that it now was clear it was not per se automatically generated content that was to be avoided, but only if it "intended to manipulate search rankings"

Screenshot from updated Google Webmaster Guidelines using Wayback Machine, where clarification is now added

But this has all been removed now and replaced with the more vague guide in the before highlighted bullets.

Where did the misconception regarding the guidelines start?

So if it is so clear that Google is no longer against AI content, why are so many people under this impression?

First of all, Google has always had a hard stance on content generated by machines or automated writing.

As the AI writers rose in popularity, a lot of speculations were made on how Google perceived these.

This then culminated when John Mueller from Google in an interview in April 2022 indicated, that ai generation of content could be perceived as automatically generated content.

From English Google SEO office-hours from April 1, 2022

This created a massive amount of articles and Twitter threads referring to this standpoint.

A standpoint we now know is incorrect as per Danny Sullivan's quotes and the refreshed Google Search Essentials.

At least if AI is used responsibly to create useful content with humans and not search engines in mind.

UPDATE January 2023:

John Mueller have now also stated and confirmed in a thread on Mastodon that AI can be used for titles & descriptions.

I don't know if AI is the right approach to making titles & descriptions, but if you're running out of ideas, and especially if you see pages showing up in search for the wrong terms, it seems like a good way to get inspiration, or to try new things out. I would strongly discourage blindly following it though: you know your audience much better than any tool.

Again, it's clear that John is not the biggest fan-boy of AI. However, I believe this is in line with our stance; it does not matter if it was written by a human or a machine, the most significant factor is the quality.

The Google SearchLiaison profile on Twitter also re-iterated that they are not against AI content, as long as it is helpful & created for people first.

Source; Twitter

How to create AI content aligned with Google guidelines and best practice

So how does one then create AI content that is not violating any of Google's terms or guidelines?

It's back to basics and good practices on how to create good content with the users/customers in mind.

According to Danny Sullivan it "Is the content you're producing helpful, reliable and people-first in nature? That's what we're looking for."

This could also mean demonstrating and following the E.A.T. (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness) principles that Google outline for inspiration or asking yourself two of the questions from Google Search Essentials:

  • After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they've learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
  • Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they've had a satisfying experience?

Is AI content against Google Webmaster Guidelines? Not any more

This is an article written by:

+20 years of experience from various digital agencies. Passionate about AI (artificial intelligence) and the superpowers it can unlock. I had my first experience with SEO back in 2001, working at a Danish web agency.