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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

How to survive the search results when you’re using AI tools for content

The rise of AI content creation has been a game-changer – for better or worse.

On the one hand, you have benefits like:

Improved efficiency.

Powerful content ideation.

Rapid research.

These efficiencies have allowed SEO programs to move faster and produced cost savings, added value and, in some cases, more revenue.

On the other hand, you have issues like:

Generic content.

Poorly written text.

Ineffective content.

These drawbacks can lead to a bad user experience, lost rankings or deindexing from the search results.

As more and more people eagerly adopt AI content tools, it seems two schools of thought are emerging around how to use AI:

AI enthusiasts believe that with the right tools, AI can crank out content ready to publish faster than you can say, “Google spam update.”

Traditionalists argue that AI is a tool, and without the insight of a human writer, the content lacks the depth and expertise needed to succeed.

I fall into the second camp. However, AI tools are rapidly evolving, and some tout you don’t even need to edit the content to be ready to publish and rank.

They are more likely to mean “publish and not get caught” because if ranking were that easy, everyone would be No. 1. The risk is on you.

Next, let’s explore these two schools of thought around AI content creation.

The AI-only approach

While it’s true that AI tools are getting more sophisticated by the minute, that doesn’t mean we should act too soon.

Brands that acted hastily have experienced consequences – from embarrassing content that led to PR snafus (like MSN, Sports Illustrated and others) to being removed from the Google index in Google’s March 2024 updates.

While we don’t know which AI tools those sites relied on, we know it went badly for them.

Here’s a fun test: Go to ChatGPT and start the stopwatch timer on your phone. Copy and paste the following prompt:

“Write an article that discusses “how to repair a broken light switch,” list several types of light switches, add some statistics about the usefulness of multi-way and dimmer light switches and add a one-question FAQ section.”

Took about a minute or less? Those who think they can earn top rankings out of millions of results with this approach to creating content with little to no human intervention will fail.

There are more sophisticated AI content tools out there. And many of them are intriguing. I question how many are just better at wording and are targets for a future Google trap.

We must be cautious about using these tools, regardless of how good they appear or their promises – until we figure out the best way to engage with them and prove they can withstand Google’s algorithms.

It’s no secret that Google’s March 2024 updates targeted websites abusing AI content.

My thoughts:

AI tools can help create content but avoid violating Google’s spam policies. The content must include unique elements such as expert perspectives or personal experiences.

When using AI tools, avoid merely stitching together information from search results without adding extra value.

It’s acceptable to use AI tools to perform research, create unique outlines, provide content summaries and even give chunks of text to be edited (so long as you can fact-check its validity), but avoid plagiarism and generic content.

You’re playing with fire if you’re going “all in” on an AI content tool without a good process.

Dig deeper: AI for SEO content creation: 5 real-world examples

The collaborative approach

If you want content that can survive Google algorithms and offers something valuable to your readership, and you also want the efficiencies that AI can offer, you need:

Professional writers and editors.

The right AI tools.

A good process.

It sounds simple – because it is!

Don’t completely remove writers and editors from your marketing projects. Instead, hire writers and editors who know how to use the right AI tools the right way (read: with discernment).

For example, AI tools helped with the following in the article you are reading right now:

Brainstorming article titles (which ultimately weren’t used but helpful in getting the ideas flowing).

A content outline (about 50% of the suggestions were considered and the rest was scrapped).

Summarizing some of my previously published content into a list of ideas to edit or expand on.

So repeat this mantra: “Only the quality content survives,” and then follow these rules as you add AI tools to your content creation process:

Produce user-centric, unique and valuable content that builds trust, authority and credibility in your niche.

Focus on creating helpful, people-first content that addresses the needs of your audience.

Ensure your content adds something unique to the conversation, avoiding a “copy/paste/reword” approach.

What does the collaborative process look like? I’ve written about this in my AI content creation beginner’s guide, and here are some tips:

Prework

Develop a solid process for prompting AI tools to generate content, including defining the persona, target audience, tone of voice and format of the content.

Content creation

In the content creation phase, use the AI tool to generate ideas, create outlines, do research, provide summaries, create intros and/or conclusions to be edited and, in some cases, create a first draft.

When I say first draft, I mean it’s a start. Without a doubt: Do not publish any AI content verbatim unless you want to risk a hit from Google’s spam policies.

Put in the work to make it unique to your brand, your perspective and differentiate it from what’s out there in some way.

Editing

Many times, the writing and editing processes happen at the same time. Regardless of when you do it, make sure that when you are creating the content, you do the following:

If large parts of AI content are baked into the final piece, the editor must use an AI detector and/or plagiarism tool to ensure everything looks good. And then have them look again. When you use AI enough, you will recognize the phrases and wording common to an AI writer.

Fact-check by making sure the statements, the data and anything else AI generates is factual and what the brand would get behind.

Review the content for tone of voice synergy, grammar and adherence to brand guidelines.

All these things take time. So, you and your team must know if AI saves you time and money in the long run. If not, then maybe there’s a different way you should be using it.

The balancing act between automation and collaboration

Things will change – Google’s algorithms will change and strategies will change. So, the advice I’m sharing now is what I believe to be true for the foreseeable future.

However, a solid content strategy puts quality first, which will never change.

While AI tools offer efficiency in content creation, they are tools, not solutions. The key is integrating AI tools into the writer’s process, not replacing the writer.

Continue to provide value to your audience and adhere to Google’s guidelines to ensure your content stands the test of time.

Dig deeper: 7 reasons why your AI content sucks (and how to fix it)


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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