With all the buzz around generative AI in search, Google today reiterated and clarified some of its advice about AI-generated content.
In short, Google does not care who – or what – writes your content, as long as that content is written to help people and not to manipulate the search results.
Google’s take. Google wrote:
“Our focus on the quality of content, rather than how content is produced, is a useful guide that has helped us deliver reliable, high quality results to users for years.”
– Danny Sullivan and Chris Nelson of the Google Search Quality team
Google went on to explain that you can use AI and automation to create helpful and useful content:
“Automation has long been used to generate helpful content, such as sports scores, weather forecasts, and transcripts.”
Google also said you can use AI to help you write better content:
“AI has the ability to power new levels of expression and creativity, and to serve as a critical tool to help people create great content for the web.”
Focus on people-first content. What you should focus on is not how the content is produced but whether the content is created to help people, not primarily to rank on search engines. Google previously provided its guidance around the helpful content update:
“The helpful content system was introduced last year to better ensure those searching get content created primarily for people, rather than for search ranking purposes. … As explained, however content is produced, those seeking success in Google Search should be looking to produce original, high-quality, people-first content demonstrating qualities E-E-A-T.”
Who, How and Why. Google added a new section to the people-first help documentation on “evaluating your content in terms of ‘Who, How, and Why’ as a way to stay on course with what our systems seek to reward.” Google then explained what they mean by who, how and why.
Just to be clear, the who, how and why are not a requirement but rather guidance provided by Google, as is E-E-A-T.
Here is how Google put it (quoting the revisions to the page below):
Who (created the content). Something that helps people intuitively understand the E-E-A-T of content is when it’s clear who created it. That’s the “Who” to consider. When creating content, here are some who-related questions to ask yourself:
- Is it self-evident to your visitors who authored your content?
- Do pages carry a byline, where one might be expected?
- Do bylines lead to further information about the author or authors involved, giving background about them and the areas they write about?
If you’re clearly indicating who created the content, you’re likely aligned with the concepts of E-E-A-T and on a path to success. We strongly encourage adding accurate authorship information, such as bylines to content where readers might expect it.
How (the content was created). It’s helpful to readers to know how a piece of content was produced: this is the “How“to consider including in your content.
For example, with product reviews, it can build trust with readers when they understand the number of products that were tested, what the test results were, and how the tests were conducted, all accompanied by evidence of the work involved, such as photographs. It’s advice we share more about in our Write high quality product reviews help page.
Many types of content may have a “How” component to them. That can include automated, AI-generated, and AI-assisted content. Sharing details about the processes involved can help readers and visitors better understand any unique and useful role automation may have served.
If automation is used to substantially generate content, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Is the use of automation, including AI-generation, self-evident to visitors through disclosures or in other ways?
- Are you providing background about how automation or AI-generation was used to create content?
- Are you explaining why automation or AI was seen as useful to produce content?
Overall, AI or automation disclosures are useful for content where someone might think “How was this created?” Consider adding these when it would be reasonably expected. For more, see our blog post and FAQ: Google Search’s guidance about AI-generated content.
Why (was the content created). “Why” is perhaps the most important question to answer about your content. Why is it being created in the first place?
The “why” should be that you’re creating content primarily to help people, content that is useful to visitors if they come to your site directly. If you’re doing this, you’re aligning with E-E-A-T generally and what our core ranking systems seek to reward.
If the “why” is that you’re primarily making content to attract search engine visits, that’s not aligned with what our systems seek to reward. If you use automation, including AI-generation, to produce content for the primary purpose of manipulating search rankings, that’s a violation of our spam policies.
FAQs. Google also published this new list of FAQs on the topic of AI-generated content and search:
- Is AI content against Google Search’s guidelines? Appropriate use of AI or automation is not against our guidelines. This means that it is not used to generate content primarily to manipulate search rankings, which is against our spam policies.
- Why doesn’t Google Search ban AI content? Automation has long been used in publishing to create useful content. AI can assist with and generate useful content in exciting new ways.
- How will Google Search prevent poor quality AI content from taking over search results? Poor quality content isn’t a new challenge for Google Search to deal with. We’ve been tackling poor quality content created both by humans and automation for years. We have existing systems to determine the helpfulness of content. Other systems work to elevate original news reporting. Our systems continue to be regularly improved.
- How will Google address AI content that potentially propagates misinformation or contradicts consensus on important topics? These issues exist in both human-generated and AI-generated content. However content is produced, our systems look to surface high-quality information from reliable sources, and not information that contradicts well-established consensus on important topics. On topics where information quality is critically important — like health, civic, or financial information — our systems place an even greater emphasis on signals of reliability.
- How can Search determine if AI is being used to spam search results? We have a variety of systems, including SpamBrain, that analyze patterns and signals to help us identify spam content, however it is produced.
- Will AI content rank highly on Search? Using AI doesn’t give content any special gains. It’s just content. If it is useful, helpful, original and satisfies aspects of E-E-A-T, it might do well in Search. If it doesn’t, it might not.
- Should I use AI to generate content? If you see AI as an essential way to help you produce content that is helpful and original, it might be useful to consider. If you see AI as an inexpensive, easy way to game search engine rankings, then no.
- Should I add author bylines to all my content? You should consider having accurate author bylines when readers would reasonably expect it, such as to any content where someone might think, “Who wrote this?” As a reminder, publishers that appear in Google News should use bylines and author information. Learn more on our Google News policies page.
- Should I add AI or automation disclosures to my content? AI or automation disclosures are useful for content where someone might think “How was this created?” Consider adding these when it would be reasonably expected.
- Can I list AI as the author of content? Giving AI an author byline is probably not the best way to follow our recommendation to make clear to readers when AI is part of the content creation process.
Can AI write content that has experience? I asked Google this and Danny Sullivan said not all pieces of content need to showcase experience, expertise, authority and trust. In fact, it is not always possible for every piece of content to hit all marks.
Google reiterated and clarified that trust is the most important part of E-E-A-T, as highlighted in our coverage of the new quality raters guidelines. Google updated this part of this page to add this section, in case you missed it in the revised PDF document.
- “Of these aspects, trust is most important. The others contribute to trust, but content doesn’t necessarily have to demonstrate all of them. For example, some content might be helpful based on the experience it demonstrates, while other content might be helpful because of the expertise it shares.”
Why we care. If your goal when using AI is to find creative ways to add further context and information to help your readers, that is great. If you are using AI to find ways to get more content indexed by Google, then that is not great.
How will Google know the difference? Well, they figured it out with content farms, as I described here.
As Google has been saying for longer than most SEOs have been calling themselves an SEO, write content for the people and you will be rewarded. Now, how that content is written does not really matter.