The new update is designed to combat low-quality content.

Google has opened a new line of attack in its never-ending war against low-quality content and spammers.

On March 5, Google announced its newest core update. These broad updates make major changes to the all-important search algorithm that dictates what you see when you do your Googling. Small changes in the algorithm can make or break a site, rocketing it to front-page traffic or dooming it to obscurity at the bottom of page 5 forever more.

The March 5 update focuses specifically on low-quality content and spam, including several different abusive practices that make Google searches less useful. Among these are site reputation abuse (when a high-quality site hosts low-quality, third-party content that then surfaces based on the site’s reputation) and expired domain abuse (squatting on a domain that was formerly home to a trusted site and using it as a repository for low-quality content).

 

 

But above all, this content update strikes at what Google calls “scaled content abuse.” Here’s how Google defines it in their announcement:

We’ve long had a policy against using automation to generate low-quality or unoriginal content at scale with the goal of manipulating search rankings. This policy was originally designed to address instances of content being generated at scale where it was clear that automation was involved.

Today, scaled content creation methods are more sophisticated, and whether content is created purely through automation isn’t always as clear. To better address these techniques, we’re strengthening our policy to focus on this abusive behavior — producing content at scale to boost search ranking — whether automation, humans or a combination are involved. This will allow us to take action on more types of content with little to no value created at scale, like pages that pretend to have answers to popular searches but fail to deliver helpful content.

 

Reading between the lines: AI-generated content is getting better. It’s hard to tell if something is automated, but it doesn’t really matter if the content isn’t helping people find answers to their questions.

“Marketers can’t have nice things,” said Derek Chew, founder and CEO of FMDM, an Orlando-based creative and media agency. They thought generative AI would change the game overnight – and it did, but for the worse.

Chew gave the example of starting a website that shares winter vacation ideas. All the content is created with generative AI. Another person does the same. Then another. Suddenly you have 100 people creating sites with the same generic content, completely obliterating the usefulness of search results for winter vacation ideas.

“Suddenly, everything is just spam because the AI is probably going to write the same thing for you as for the 100th person,” Chew explained. “There’s really no uniqueness at some point when it becomes a mass adoption. Then it becomes very low-quality content.”

Chew points to the irony of Google, a company which itself pushes generative AI tools, in suddenly needing to crack down on the kinds of content its tools make possible.

“They’re fixing their own problem,” Chew said. “And they’re not fixing a problem that is new. They’re fixing problems with low quality content, what they call unoriginal content. They’re trying to keep spam out of your index. If I were to read between the lines, my hypothesis is that Google has enabled a new type of spam, a very high-class, high-level procured spam. And now they’re trying to fix it.”

How to protect your content from algorithmic changes

The biggest takeaway from this update, Chew says, is that, “Good things don’t come easy.”

“It’s really having that patience to really deploy the best and time-proven strategies for content,” he said. “And honestly, if you’re working with a brand that doesn’t have the patience to develop content, it may not be the right client to work with.”

That isn’t to say that there aren’t good reasons to use AI in content creation. Chew notes it’s a great tool for brainstorming and researching. But it just isn’t where it needs to be to create helpful, original content – especially at scale.

So the best way to keep yourself safe from this newest algorithm update is to simply keep creating content that answers real questions in plain language using smart experts and judicious use of AI.

And really, that’s always the best strategy.

Allison Carter is editor-in-chief of PR Daily. Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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