Can Google's AI Recognize AI-Written Content - And Does It Penalize Websites?

Web Development
August 22, 2023

In today's rapidly advancing digital landscape, one question consistently arises: Can Google recognize AI-written content?

But let’s be blunt – the real question that should be asked is if it can, does it penalize the website owner that depend on AI to write their content?

At the end of the day – the answer to this question breaks down to understanding how Google ranks or penalizes content in the first place. Further, it’s vital to understand what current generations of AI content platforms focus on when generating words, sentences, and paragraphs.

So, let’s explore this topic a bit further.

Let’s Define Penalizing Content

Before we attempt to answer the questions above, it’s vital to clearly define what it means for Google to ‘penalize’ a website based on the content populated on the platform.

A Google penalty means your site is either no longer listed on search results, or that your ranking for your targeted keywords has dropped dramatically. When your site gets a Google penalty, your target audience can’t find you. And when you are invisible to your target audience, your traffic, and ultimately revenue, drops.

It can happen to any website. A Google penalty can be the result of well-intended and honest efforts to improve your site’s ranking. But once you receive a Google penalty, it isn’t easy getting your good ranking back, and getting back into Google’s good graces.

Generally, three tactics will flag your website on Google’s massive algorithm:

  • Auto-generated or spun written content. This includes content that is published online and is rewritten by automated tools. And if you’re asking, does this include AI rewriting tools – that’s the million-dollar question. Generally, this refers to article spinners who simply rearrange words in a sentence to make them “unique”. However, it doesn’t read naturally.
  • Thin affiliate or sales product pages with OEM descriptions that add no value or uniqueness. So, if you have a service or product that you sell online and think it’s OK to just copy and paste what the manufacturer sends you – think again.
  • Scraped content from other websites. We see this happening a lot with websites that relate to larger manufacturers – such as franchises. The key is to rewrite the content uniquely – by incorporating key talking points but making the content unique for your service areas.

What is Google's AI Capabilities

I’ll be honest, if I had the insider’s information to answer this question, I’d be a perfect financial investor. The truth is, Google keeps its current and future capabilities extremely guarded. But what we can do is to explain what is currently known.

With advancements in machine learning, Google has refined its search algorithms, including RankBrain, to better understand user intent, content relevancy, and overall website quality.

But mainly, they are attempting to stay three steps ahead of their users and competition – with the primary objective to improve user experience throughout their platform.

So – to answer the question asked initially – YES – Google’s AI can recognize content that has been populated using AI writing platforms – like ChatGPT.

The Evolution of AI Content Creation

Over the past few years, AI tools, such as Open AI's GPT series, have evolved to produce high-quality content that is often indistinguishable from human-written pieces.

As these tools become more nuanced and sophisticated, the lines between AI and human content creation blur, making detection increasingly challenging.

However, the one area that AI content continues to struggle with is originality. It is already known that Google provides increased ranking for new and creative content that has not been repurposed or rewritten from existing pages that rank well.

But this is where AI writing tools gather their information – on existing content that has been published. So – if we go back to the third bullet which talks about the ways in which Google penalizes content – that should raise some red flags. 

Here, the limitations of using AI for content writing become apparent, as the capacity for genuine originality and nuanced understanding is still a distinct advantage of human content creators.

Quality of Content > Origin of Content

While it's tempting to ponder if Google can detect AI-generated content, a more pertinent question might be: Does the origin matter if the content is high-quality and serves user intent?

Google's primary goal is to deliver the best user experience. If an AI-written article is informative, well-structured, and matches user intent, there's no intrinsic reason for Google to penalize it based solely on its origin.

But again, this is a theoretical assumption – not fact based.

What facts do we know? FACT – Google does not reward regenerated content as well as unique content. So, if optimized ranking is your top objective – why would you risk it by trusting AI content writers to handle this task for you?

Google's Webmaster Guidelines emphasize original, valuable, and high-quality content.

However, as of the time of this blog post in August 2023,there's no specific mention of AI-generated content. The emphasis is on the content's quality and relevance. Thus, whether you employ human writers or AI tools, ensuring your content meets these guidelines is crucial.

Wrapping it Up

As AI content generation becomes more prevalent, search engines may need to refine their guidelines and detection mechanisms. And it’s quite possible that there might come a time when Google could consider the ethics and implications of AI content, leading to more explicit guidelines on its usage.

But technically, that time is not now.

We began this article with the topic title that focused on answering the most asked question about AI written content – can Google recognize AI-written content and will it penalize it?

The more relevant question – will Google reward AI content the same as a good human writer. And based on the information provided above, and Google’s standards for defining quality content – the answer is – NOPE.

So, what’s the moral here?

AI writing tools and platforms are fantastic for providing some basic information for content that will not be published online. It’s great for helping to create email templates, general sales content, even coming up with some creative article outlines, titles and meta descriptions for your blog or article content.

However, if your goal is to have that online content rank as high as possible, experienced SEO content writers who can infuse your brand messaging, understand your target audience motivation factors, and integrate SEO best practices – who uses AI correctly is the best strategy.