How Are AI Tools Affecting The Digital Marketing Landscape

Alem Al-Khamiri, Mentor of the STEAMhouse Hatchery Program and Digital Director of Fuel Communications, writes about how ChatGPT and other AI Tools are affecting the current digital marketing landscape.

ChatGPT has been causing quite a fuss in Digital Marketing circles these past few months, especially with regard to SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Back in April '22 Google emphatically stated that AI-generated content goes against its guidelines, which means websites caught using ChatGPT and similar tools would, at best, see no benefit from the AI-Generated content on their website. Since then, their stance has softened, albeit only slightly. 

In a blog post published in February '23, Google explicitly stated that "Using automation—including AI—to generate content with the primary purpose of manipulating ranking in search results is a violation of our spam policies", however, it also says that it will continue "rewarding high-quality content; however, it is produced". This is what's causing a bit of a debate. You see, last year, Google released its 'Helpful Content System' with the aim of better rewarding websites with content that demonstrate Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T). There is one school of thinking that believes AI-Generated content is currently incapable of adequately emulating these things, while another feels that AI-Generated Content has reached the point where it's basically indistinguishable from human-generated content. 

It’s worth noting at this point, there are people all over the Digital Marketing Forums praising AI-Generated Content and crediting it with improving the Organic Ranking of their websites and the websites they work on. Unfortunately, this does absolutely nothing to settle the argument, as this isn’t the first time that something Google clearly said it doesn’t like improved a website’s Organic rankings. 

You may or may not remember that in the late 2000s, Google’s reputation for providing quality search results was taking a pounding. The reason for this was that Google’s algorithm was being gamed by digital marketers who had a good enough understanding of what it looked for; they could make even mildly related websites appear totally relevant. There were a number of methods of achieving this, from generating hundreds of inbound links from external sites to using content spinners that would basically take existing content, run it through a thesaurus, and produce a copy that was basically the same but worded differently. Another method that was basically the same but different was using ‘Content Farms’, which generated reams upon reams of low-quality, keyworded content that would help to skew Google’s algorithm in a website’s favour by making sites appear relevant and authoritative for search terms that they weren’t. 

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The thing is, Google was very clear that spam content was against its guidelines and that sites utilising this sort of content would be penalised. Despite this, many digital marketers utilised content spinners and content farms to boost their websites’ rankings as they didn’t believe that Google could identify whether or not the content has been written organically or automatically generated. As it turns out, Google was capable of working it out when the Google Panda algorithm update rolled out in 2011, the results of 12% of possible search queries were affected. A huge number when you consider how many searches are made using Google across the world on any given day.  

Long story short, Google has shown that it has no issue with retroactively penalising sites for going against its guidelines. You may see an initial boost or benefit in the short or medium term, but it’s not in a Search Engine’s interest for sites using these tactics to succeed in the long term and will ensure they don’t. 

Back to the topic at hand; seeing as how you could easily generate 10, 15 or even 20 webpages worth of keyword-heavy content in an afternoon using ChatGTP or similar tools if you were so inclined, it’s easy to see AI Content Generators as something of a marriage between Content Spinners & Content Farms. Because of this and given Google's previous stance on AI-Generated Content, I would assume that any degree of acceptance has been reluctantly adopted. I would recommend airing on the side of caution when using AI tools to generate web content for indexable website pages. 

That said, while I am not using ChatGPT or any similar tool to write SEO content for my clients, this isn't to say that it cannot be used for research purposes or to create content for non-SEO webpages. For instance, it is not uncommon for digital marketers to create pages that cannot be found through a website or organically on Google for the sake of Pay-Per-Click and/or Email campaigns. These are referred to as Orphaned Landing Pages and as they are 'unindexed', their content does not contribute to a website's SEO ranking so AI-Generated Content can be used safely without risk of reprisal from Google.

Digital Director of Fuel Communications

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