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.