Since the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT-3 in November, the seemingly endless possibilities that the technology presents have been widely discussed and debated across the web.
The revolutionary software is a long-form AI chatbot, capable of answering complex questions in a conversational, back-and-forth manner.
The conversations around the chatbot’s impressive capabilities have opened up the potential of AI to a much wider audience, with marketers, business owners and more looking to explore how they can make use of the technology.
These discussions have also reignited a question that has circled around the world of search engine marketing for many years: will AI replace content writers? (In short, no.)
To answer this question fully, we must first establish exactly what AI content is, whether it can rank on Google and what limitations there are with the technology.
AI content refers to any content that is generated by artificial intelligence (AI) tools. This can include written content, as well as images, videos and other forms of media that are created using AI algorithms.
To generate written content, AI tools use a process called natural language generation (NLG), which involves the use of machine learning algorithms to analyse a large dataset of existing text and then generate new content based on the patterns and trends discovered in the analysis.
John Mueller, Google’s Search Advocate, has previously stated that AI content would fall into the category of ‘automatically generated content’, which has long been considered spam within the webmaster guidelines.
Essentially, AI content would be perceived as spam due to the nature of how it is created. In the eyes of Google, this process is no different than taking existing content and shuffling around the words or looking up synonyms to differentiate.
The consequences for breaking these guidelines will vary depending on the specific case, however, it is not uncommon to see site-wide penalties resulting in a substantial drop in rankings across the board. Even pages that have high quality content and don’t break any guidelines are at risk of penalty if there are other pages on the website that are considered to be spam.
Does this, therefore, mean that any use of AI content cannot rank on Google? Well, not exactly. As AI technology has continued to advance, the ability to distinguish between human-written content and AI-generated content is becoming more and more difficult.
Therefore, as AI tools like ChatGPT-3 continue to evolve (the launch of ChatGPT-4 is already rumoured for 2023), it is likely that the gap between human-written and AI-generated content will become increasingly narrow.
However, whilst AI technology has continued to push the boundaries, Google has consistently been placing more and more emphasis on “helpful content written by people, for people, in search results“. We can be certain that for every improvement in AI technology that comes our way, Google will return with an algorithm update prioritising human-written content.
Despite the remarkable potential of AI content, there are still some major limitations that hinder its potential to rank organically on Google. These include:
AI-generated content will not have the same ‘quality control’ that a good, knowledgeable content writer would ensure. There are still countless examples of AI chatbots making errors and providing incorrect information, which leaves users at risk of misleading their audience if they were to publish AI content on their website without proof-checking and editing.
There is also a risk of inconsistencies in the tone, style or language generated by AI content. This can result in content that starts in one particular writing style, before abruptly changing to another, resulting in work that can be hard for the reader to digest.
Additionally, even when AI content is accurate, it can often appear robotic or unnatural, and generally less engaging or less informative than content written by a person. As a result, the content generated by these chatbots often still lacks the quality required to rank organically.
No matter how fluently an AI chatbot can write content, it does so without truly understanding the substance of its own words.
As we’ve established, AI algorithms do a great job of processing and analysing large datasets, which they can then use to identify key patterns and trends to generate their own unique version of this data.
However, at no stage throughout this process does the AI tool actually understand the content it is processing, and therefore cannot provide a genuine insight in the way that a human could.
As such, these chatbots perform as sophisticated, yet ultimately unreliable parrots, capable only of regurgitating existing content from across the web.
Although AI-generated content is ‘new’ and ‘original’ in the sense that it has never before been published in such a way, there is an inherent lack of originality due to the reliance on existing bodies of work to analyse and subsequently generate content.
Ultimately, this process is simply an advanced, instantaneous method of combining existing information and presenting it in a new manner, rather than generating novel ideas.
So, even whilst some AI content may not encounter plagiarism concerns, the chatbots do not have the capacity to create forward-thinking thought leadership or pioneering work in a particular field.
Many companies will have a specific branding or style that they have curated over many years as the relationship with their audience has developed. These unique features can be difficult to replicate when relying on AI content.
Whilst specific writing styles and tones can be requested from AI tools, it is often challenging to outline these elements with specific wording. In addition, the inconsistencies in tone and style generated by AI content make it all the more difficult to accurately capture your brand voice.
Considering the unfavourable view taken by Google, and the above limitations, it would be unreasonable to suggest that AI will replace content writers. Without the input of humans, AI content is still capable of producing basic errors and incorrect information, and at risk of breaking Google’s Webmaster guidelines.
In reality, the more appropriate question that we should be asking is: how can content writers utilise AI to their advantage?
The true value in the future of content writing will be found by those that are able to harness the incredible abilities of AI technology and combine it with a human touch.
Many of AI content’s limitations can be rectified by the human eye, and there is undoubtedly potential for increased efficiency when utilised effectively.
As we’ve established, despite the uncertainty of using completely AI-generated content to rank, there is huge potential for writers to use AI tools to their advantage.
A key example of this is to stimulate ideas during the ideation phase of content creation. Many will agree that the most difficult part of creating content can often be just getting started. By inputting a question or topic into an AI chatbot, a number of ideas can be generated, helping to alleviate writer’s block.
Writers can then play around with these different options and discover which provides them with the best platform to put their ideas into words. Along the way, some of the other ideas generated by the chatbot could even present further opportunities for the writer to explore and create additional content within the specific topic area.
An advantage AI technology has over human writers is speed. These tools can interpret huge volumes of data much quicker than human writers and quickly generate content off the back of this analysis.
It can be useful for content writers to make use of AI tools when tasked with creating a large volume of text quickly.
Additionally, it can be useful to use AI tools to generate impartial results, such as definitions of words or phrases. When tasked with simply putting an already established description of something into your own words, there is no real downside in using a tool to do so.
By utilising AI technology for these tasks, content writers can free up their time to apply themselves more thoroughly to the creative work that requires their expertise the most.
If you have a couple of areas you know you’d like to dive into, even just being able to see an example of how you could structure these ideas across a full-length article can be useful.
Once this draft structure is in place, writers can use their creativity and expertise to make appropriate edits to enhance the draft and produce a finished piece of content that has the potential to rank on Google.
With Microsoft reportedly closing in on a $10 billion investment in OpenAI, ChatGPT’s creator, we can be sure that this technology is not only here to stay, but ready to evolve with increasingly impressive results.
So, while there should be no fears that content writers will be directly replaced by AI, those that wish to be at the forefront of their field should pay close attention to how they can utilise the technology to their advantage. If content writers choose to ignore AI, they will be left behind by the speed and efficiency of those who do.
Convinced that you could benefit from the creativity and expertise of human content writers? Check out our content marketing services or get in touch to discover how we can help you create industry-leading content!