Category Archives: Technical SEO

Does Google Penalize AI-Generated Content?

A Big Negative SEO Attacker Is Betting On It

AI Content Generators

Online marketers are divided on whether using AI to generate web content is a good idea. With some pretty amazing capabilities coming from tools like Jasper and ChatGPT, we’re able to quickly and inexpensively create articles with a ton of pretty specific information–not just fluff–that reads like it’s written by a live reporter.

Google’s Take on AI

Let’s ignore for the moment the possible hypocrisy of Google leaning on AI in its search algorithms yet telling the rest of the world using it is cheating. Google’s position on CONTENT generated by AI is that it’s spam–see this article from Search Engine Journal from April 2022. Google’s John Mueller says:
“My suspicion is maybe the quality of content is a little bit better than the really old school tools, but for us it’s still automatically generated content, and that means for us it’s still against the Webmaster Guidelines. So we would consider that to be spam.”

See John’s comments in the video around the 23 minute mark.

Of course, for many SEOs, the real question isn’t whether Google disapproves or not–it’s can Google detect it…and will they get caught.

What if you Wanted to Get Caught?

Starting in early 2022, I started seeing a new type of negative SEO links in attacks against a few of my clients. The attacker is creating pages with computer-generated nonsense on them–pages that are instantly obvious to any human that they’re garbage. Here’s an example:

Computer generated gibberish

What’s the goal here? Unlike some sites that auto-generate content in a desperate attempt to rank for something, place AdSense ads on the site and make $$$ that way, these pages aren’t designed to make money. When I’ve seen these appear, it’s been on a massive scale, with links to my client’s website appearing from thousands of different domains in a single month.

At time of writing, I have a list of 12,873 domains with these kinds of gibberish pages on them, linking to clients of mine.

My theory: these pages are deliberately designed to be busted by Google for auto-generated content, and thus the victims’ websites will be seen as having thousands of links to them from penalized websites.

But…Does it Work?

So far, I have not seen any clients who appeared to be penalized from this. Having said that, the clients where masses of these links have appeared have all been ones with pretty strong backlink profiles, with plenty of good solid links, and have been under a negative SEO attack for many months–so, we’ve been ahead of the curve on spotting and disavowing these. The percentage of their overall links that have been this kind of crap has been pretty low.

Given the number of domains these attackers have invested in creating, I’d have to think they’re pretty convinced they can draw a Google penalty with this technique, under the right circumstances: where the percentage of the site’s overall backlinks that are these kinds of domains is relatively high.

3 Train Wreck Link Schemes You Didn’t Even Know Had Hit You


MOST webmasters of medium-sized and bigger sites are getting hit by one of these schemes right now…and some of you are getting hit by all three. And just because you’re not seeing a precipitous drop in traffic (yet!) doesn’t mean your backlink profile isn’t edging its way over the precipice where Google starts losing trust in your site.

Train wreck link schemes Photo courtesy Tom Brandt on Flickr
Continue reading 3 Train Wreck Link Schemes You Didn’t Even Know Had Hit You

TripleChecker: a Spelling, Grammar, and Broken Link Scanning Service

I discovered TripleChecker recently, when they did a freebie intro scan of my site and found a whole bunch of typos and broken links. Their interface makes it easy to see what’s wrong, and links to the page with the problem. Super helpful at keeping your site clean, professional, and functioning as it should. Have it check your website monthly (up to 1000 pages) for $14.99/month, or weekly (up to 2,500 pages) for $19.99/month. Sure, you can manually do a crawl test regularly with something like Screaming Frog to find the broken links, and you can go page by page and feed the text into a tool like Grammarly, but this wraps it all in a neat package that you don’t have to remember to do each month. I liked it enough, I added it to my Resources menu, and to my standard set of site audit recommendations. TripleChecker logo

Google indexing pages despite explicitly blocked in robots.txt

UPDATE: I had always (wrongly) thought that Google wouldn’t index pages that were blocked in robots.txt. But John Mueller clarified this for me (thank you John): robots.txt will control the crawling BUT NOT the indexing. Good explanation of that is here: —————- Google is now sometimes indexing pages DESPITE explicitly being blocked in robots.txt: Google Search Console report showing blocked pages indexed anyways The screenshot above is from the new Search Console index coverage report, and shows that Google is choosing to index 36 pages that they see are explicitly blocked in robots.txt.