AI content is all the rage these days.
Tune into the SEO Twitterverse on any given day and you will find dozens of people talking about AI content, running case studies, and trying to figure out the role AI content will play in the future of SEO.
I’ll admit… I bought into the hype. Multiple times…
As a site manager who produces over 1,000 articles per year, I was enticed by the idea of a machine doing all of my writing. It would certainly save a lot of time and money.
So, is AI content the future or is it just an overhyped fad?
We’re going to address that question in-depth.
What is AI Content?
AI content is automatically generated content created by artificial intelligence algorithms.
Basically, you tell the AI what you want it to write, and it writes it. For example, I may tell an AI software to “Write me an article on the best fitness routines in a friendly, but professional tone.” The AI would get to work and start spitting out content.
In an ideal world, you would enter your “order”, and the AI would deliver it up as expected. Unfortunately, things are not that simple.
The current market-leading software for AI content generation is Jasper AI (formerly Jarvis, formerly Conversion.ai).
While the software is impressive (and arguably the best option on the market right now), it’s far from ideal. AI content has its shortcomings.
The Downsides of AI Content
In an ideal world, “ordering” AI content would be the same as ordering content from a content writer or agency (but cheaper and more scalable). You share your topic and guidelines and receive the article you desired.
Unfortunately, the technology is not that far along yet.
When AI content generators first hit the market, they specialized in short-form content, such as:
- Social Media Messages
- Product Descriptions
- Post Titles
The technology is slowly evolving and you can now generate longer-form content, such as blog posts. That said, this longer-form content isn’t created with one click. There is a lot of handholding and editing that is involved in creating quality articles.
Personally, I don’t see much value in having AI create short-term content. If you don’t have tools/scripts to automate the process, there is still a lot of manual work, making it much easier to just cut the AI out of the equation.
Long-form AI content is a compelling idea. That said, it still falls short for a few reasons.
AI Content Tools are Writing Assistance Tools
When you hear “AI-generated blog post” you probably picture a blog post written entirely by AI. This isn’t the reality.
For longer-form content, artificial intelligence is capable of spitting out a few sentences at a time (a couple of paragraphs at most). Each of these paragraphs needs to be read and edited before generating new content.
While the ideal process looks like this:
- Enter your article criteria
- Create an AI article in one click
The process looks more like this:
- Enter a comprehensive article brief
- Generate article headers with AI
- Generate the intro paragraph
- Read, edit, and regenerate if needed
- Generate the paragraph for the first section of the article
- Read, edit, and regenerate if needed
In this sense, AI content tools are more like writing assistance tools than they are content generators.
Yes, some people create AI content in bulk, but the quality is usually garbage. If you are using bulk-generated AI content to build sites, you are probably building churn-and-burn websites.
This leads to the next point.
AI Content Generation is an Inefficient Process
I work with dozens of writers, all of whom work at different paces. Some writers can pump out 10,000+ words in a day; others take hours to write a 1,000-word piece.
If you find yourself in the latter group, you may get some value out of an AI content generation tool. If you consider yourself to be a fast writer, you may find AI content tools to be counterintuitive.
I consider myself to be a fast writer. I’m about 700 words and 15 minutes into writing this post.
When I used AI tools, I didn’t save any time. Writing became more tedious and the article quality was suboptimal. I felt like I was training a computer to do a job I could do in half the time.
Once again, every writer is different, and some writers may be able to expedite their workflows with the support of artificial intelligence. I was not.
This leads to our next point, which deserves its own section.
Is AI Content Worth Reading?
Think about most of the content you read on the internet – I mean the content you actually read. It is usually intended to solve a problem or address a certain query.
Here are some basic examples of topic templates that many affiliate marketers write about:
- Best Products for (Desired Outcome)
- Best Ways to (Achieve Desired Outcome)
- (Product) Review
- (Product A) vs. (Product B)
- How to (Some Process)
What do most of these have in common?
They require some type of expertise to address properly.
For example, if I read a product review, I want the insight of someone who used the product or who has expertise in the product’s industry.
I don’t want to read a “Webflow Review” written by a bot – I want to read a review written by a developer.
I don’t want to learn “How to Speed Up Your WordPress Site” from a bot – I want to learn from someone who actually did it.
Not only can AI not convey the same expertise as a credible human writer – AI content is notoriously error-prone. There are no fact-checking mechanisms in place (which leads to both quality issues and ethical issues).
While AI content may be able to address basic queries, it doesn’t add the depth, expertise, or experience that a human writer can.
Sure, there are certain topics AI content is well suited for, and, yes, some SEO content writers write about topics without having expertise, but the SEO landscape is getting more competitive by the day, and only the best content will survive.
Think about this for a minute. Seriously. Do you think you could get the content you desire (as a reader) from an AI? Could any of the past 10 articles you’ve read be written by an AI? Unlikely.
If they could, we have another problem.
Google Already Uses AI
AI content is often viewed as a shortcut to building content websites that generate traffic from Google.
If a human generates 100 articles, it will likely cost $5,000+ or 100+ hours of time. If an AI writes those articles, the cost can be covered with a simple software subscription fee. This would mean that affiliate marketers could launch a new site daily and be on the fast track to affiliate marketing riches…
Take a minute to think about how AI operates. It scrapes content (learning), processes it, and spits out “results” in the form of fresh content.
This is exactly what Google does.
The SERPs have changed a lot in the past decade. What used to be a list of 10 relevant website results for a query is now a feature-rich page with knowledge panels, FAQs, featured snippets, etc.
For basic queries, Google is already capable of following a similar process as an AI content generator.
Type “best ab workouts” into Google and you get a list of the best workouts (vs. just a link to a website).
Type in “Canadian actors” and your query returns a row of celebrity headshots.
Google already handles basic queries better than AI content tools, and it would be reasonable to assume they will only get better.
Will Google Become an “AI Content Generator”?
After pondering the value of AI content, I was struck with the thought, “will Google eventually just create its own content?”
Think about it. If you can create automatically-generated articles for a mere $99/month AI content subscription fee, what could Google do with its billion-dollar budget and advanced technology?
Why would Google need you to generate an article on “the most lovable dog breeds” when it could generate a better version of the article and keep users from leaving Google?
While this would be entirely feasible, there is one clear downside – liability.
For the most part, Google is a neutral intermediary between searchers and content creators. The company aims to present searchers with the best resources, but it is not liable for the content in the results it displays.
If Google were to take on the role of “AI content creator”, it would be opening the company up to major liability. Imagine if Google started making bad, AI-generated recommendations for sensitive topics like medication, financial matters, etc.
Google already treads lightly with its current approach. Many rich snippets contain a link back to the original source (if the information is wrong, it’s not on Google) and others contain a feedback button to ensure accuracy and acceptability.
The Future of AI Content
So, what exactly is the future of AI content?
As far as I see it, there are two potential outcomes.
- AI Content Matches Human Content in Quality
- AI Content is Detectable and Becomes the Ultimate Liability
If the technology improves and AI content is on-par with human-written content, then all content becomes commoditized. You will no longer be able to compete on content alone.
We already see this in highly competitive niches. Look up any high-value, high-volume search term and you will see the top 10-20 results are 150% optimized. They are all 2000+ words, optimized with Surfer, linked internally, etc.
For these types of keywords, you cannot compete with content, regardless of quality. There’s no chance. You could hire the foremost expert on a topic and have them spend a month writing the perfect piece before passing it off to the best SEO editor in the world to review and optimize for another month. You still wouldn’t rank.
What does this have to do with AI content?
If everyone is able to create high-quality content at scale, the SERPs for every keyword worth targeting will be flooded with high-quality content. Content quality is a given, so the winners will be the sites with the most authority. Early movers in the AI content will have an advantage, but not for long.
While that scenario is possible, I think another scenario is far more likely.
Google will learn to detect AI content (especially on sites that produce it at scale) and penalize it.
I believe we are in the early stages of this.
Chances are you’ve stumbled across an AI content site while analyzing your backlinks or doing keyword research.
Here’s an example of one I found today:
The site was launched in March of 2022 and, as of April 28, 2022, ranks for 1.6 million keywords and receives 145,000 monthly visitors.
You only need to read one article on the site to recognize it the content is AI generated (as if getting 265,000 pages indexed in Google in 2 months wasn’t enough evidence).
If most decent search marketers can detect AI content in two seconds, Google will be able to do it too. Google is in the business of patching cracks in its algorithm. While “hacks” may work for a while, they rarely last for a long time.
I’d bet good money that the site above is penalized within a year and loses most of its traffic.
Here’s an example of a site that did just that. From 0 to 1 million traffic in one month, and back down to 0.
If you’re building AI content sites at scale, you’re not building for the future. That’s fine. Nothing wrong with a churn and burn strategy. You just need to have realistic expectations.
Final Thoughts on AI Content
AI content is the latest craze in the SEO world and it’s likely to continue growing in popularity. It is also likely to continue improving.
That said, I see very little value in it.
At scale, it is a major liability for any content site.
Without scale, it is just a writing aid.