In Focus: AI produced content – does this negatively impact SEO?

May 10th, 2023

The adoption of AI tools across digital marketing is starting a technical revolution, as marketers rapidly adjust their processes to make way for [to paraphrase] the new-robots-on-the-block. At first glance, AI tools seem to bringing a wave of positives to content marketing in particular – producing a flurry of quickly manufactured, free pieces of content to be used as marketing collateral; but as the weeks of trialling AI produced content tick by, we are starting to find that perhaps the benefits of using AI in content creation might not outweigh the costs.

Let’s be honest, ‘fast’ and ‘free’ are rarely associated with products of high quality (not just in marketing either), and producing poor quality content is the first step in the downfall of your organic search rankings.

With 75% of people only looking at the first page of search results, SEO is an essential tool for digital marketers. So while the use of AI tools for content creation is increasing in popularity, it is important to look back and properly evaluate the greater impact of these tools on SEO (and other areas of digital marketing) to ensure we do not prematurely adjust our practices to accommodate tools that are going to hinder our process, rather than facilitate success.

It is important to remember that AI based tools are all trained against a set of existing data, this means that it is unable to do unique research – and the research it does produce will not come from any sources past a certain date.  Therefore when engaging in research for content copy be mindful that the data output might not be up to date.

While the same problems with not being able to produce unique data needs to be considered, AI powered tools can help with the keyword research needed for SEO. AI based search tools can be used to:

  • Find associated keywords to your focus keyphrase
  • Organise keywords by search intent
  • Find related entities for focus keywords and phrases

Again since this is all based on existing data, they may not produce ‘up to date’ keywords – and cannot tell you information such as which keywords are currently trending, or what keywords to use based on current affairs, or newsworthy topics. The general consensus is that AI can be used to help with keyword research – but not to replace human activity entirely.

While AI does have the ability to produce content that can pass plagiarism checks, as mentioned earlier, it cannot produce any truly unique content. With this in mind, when writing to produce content that demonstrates expertise, AI produced content can be limited. Let’s take a look at the greater impact of this…

The search engine algorithm looks at several aspects to evaluate how they will rank the content on their results pages. One of these aspects being how well the content on your page matches EEAT requirements (Experience, Expertise, Authority, & Trustworthiness). There have been several occasions where AI has been found to produce factually inaccurate content; this demonstrates the problems with pushing out this content – without human input – as factually inaccurate content is highly unlikely to display expertise or authority within your niche.

Search engines also look for new and unique content to display on results pages, as trends shift, new research emerges, and opinions change. AI produced content – which is basically a re-written spiel of pre-existing content – quite often does not meet any of the above requirements, consequently having a negative impact on SEO.

Taking all the above into consideration, we can conclude that pushing out content written purely by an AI is not going to rank highly on search engines – and therefore will not reach your target audience -therefore negatively impacting business goals and sales. Essentially, AI should not be used as a direct replacement of a copywriter.

Once you have your expertly crafted content, you will want to start thinking about writing up the ‘finer details’ for technical SEO. In a similar fashion to what we have already discussed, AI can be used for researching, or coming up with ideas for technical SEO elements such as:

  • Title tags
  • Meta descriptions
  • Post outlines
  • FAQs
  • Schema
  • …& more

The use of AI tools in this situation would provide more value compared to using it for copywriting. Note that for most AI uses, input = output; meaning that the more detailed and descriptive input – the better the output will be. AI tools such as ChatGPT can be integrated into GoogleSheets to help produce these content elements. Using AI in this way can speed up the copywriting process by providing the technical SEO elements for the expertly written, human crafted, long-form pieces of content in a fraction of the time than a copywriter could – with a decent level of quality.

It can also be used to craft headings, metadata, or page titles that include certain keywords, or are manufactured in such a way that is tactical for SEO purposes. In this way, AI tools can positively impact organic search.

That being said it is always preferable to at least have a human eye for fact checking and editing before putting any content live. Furthermore, while the process takes longer, human input for technical SEO elements will almost always produce higher quality results than AI – due to more in-depth research, and a greater working knowledge of the topic.

Another way AI can be used in content writing is generating title ideas for articles within a certain topic or niche. Again, in this case we need to consider the input = output idea. Let’s take a look at the example below:

ChatGPT [AI tool] example showing a simple prompt, and its output.

While the three blog titles it generates are fairly good, they are standard – they have no air of individuality, no real indication as to what audience they are trying to reach, or the content that you might find in the article. Let’s try an example of a prompt with a bit more detail:

ChatGPT [AI tool] showing a detailed prompt and its output.

You can already see the difference between the two generated outputs. The bottom output is more attune to a younger audience, and builds ‘suspense’ [as requested’ by using language such as ‘secret weapon’, ‘dark side’, ‘surprising’. The titles are a bit more focused on the topic that was suggested, and less vague than the earlier generated titles. As you can see, however, I requested in the prompt that the heading must include the words digital marketing – and if you look at the first suggestion, this request was not met.

As shown above, by giving a more descriptive prompt, you are able to ask the AI to include certain keywords, write for a certain audience, or even give a tone or sentiment to write in – all can have a positive impact on SEO. We can also see, however, from the way the produced content does not follow the prompt exactly, that AI tools are far from perfect – and should be used with caution.

Does AI have a negative impact on SEO? Like with many things, the answer is not just black and white. The recent developments in AI are no doubt impressive; we have made massive leaps in technology – and we have likely not seen AI’s full potential as of yet, as technology continues to improve every day. At the time of writing, however, AI is not developed enough to produce long-form pieces of content that are truly unique, or that demonstrate expertise and therefore do not meet the requirements to rank highly on search engines without human input. That does not mean it is all bad news, there are some circumstances – such as generating ideas, metadata, keywords and more – where the use of AI tools can be beneficial.

While at Click we are inclined to agree with David (we are not biased, I promise, we just have faith in our experts), other people will no doubt have opinions that differ significantly on the matter. Regardless, it is clear that the use of AI in the field of marketing is here to stay. As marketers we need to adapt to the developing tech, and use it alongside our creativity to help our businesses thrive.

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