Why it’s not a great idea to get AI to write your content

Can Google spot AI content? A new Google search quality enhancement update means it now can. Which means it won’t be as easy to get away with ChatGPT doing your writing for you.

What’s really important though, is that it could affect your search ranking.

The Google ‘helpful content’ update, activated in March 2024, is now part of the core ranking system. Elizabeth Tucker, Director of Product, Search at Google, wrote, “We expect that the combination of this update and our previous efforts will collectively reduce low-quality, unoriginal content in search results by 40%.”

Which means Google is likely to downgrade poorly-written or obviously AI-generated content. Bad luck if you’re getting Chat to knock out your articles, blogs, web pages and so on.

Anyone can write, right?

How hard can it be? After all, technology is now so advanced that you can simply get AI to write something for you. Right?

Apart from the fact that ChatGPT writing is generally pretty dire, Google is now going to potentially downgrade that content.

Not quite. If you have any copywriting requirements, it is tempting to fire up ChatGPT and tell it to produce reams of scintillating prose. But the reality is that by applying this quick fix, you could be doing your business a serious disservice. Apart from the fact that ChatGPT writing is generally pretty dire, Google is now going to potentially downgrade that content.

Google has released an update that is designed to spot AI-generated copy and downgrade it in online searches. So, if you want your content to stand out in the internet’s sea of information, cat pictures, conspiracy theories, and videos of brides falling over, you need to get humans to write your content. Google could drop you way down the rankings if you farm out your writing to ChatGPT. Or any other AI model.

What does Google have to say about all this?

The explanation from Google is that its ‘spam definition’ includes the use of automation, such as Generative AI applications. And Google goes on to say that “for some queries, people are really seeking out content that comes from other people with relevant experiences.”

Removing humans from the equation will remove value from your written content

This gets to the heart of the matter. “People” is the operative word here. Removing humans from the equation will remove rather than add value to your written content.

“There is high-quality and low-quality content across all content types,” the Google statement continues. And this is why it should be a no-brainer to opt for high-quality content. Google wants to “surface the best of the web”.

While the use of “surface” as a verb is certainly questionable, the intent is clear. The world’s biggest search engine is trying to make the cream rise to the top. This is where you want – and need – your content to be good quality. If you want it to appear whenever someone searches for your business, organisation, or keywords anyway.

Other reasons why humans should write for you

Nonsense illustration in pen and ink, showing a man rolled up like a fruit winder but in a kind of Victorian style and wow it's hard to write the alt text for this one

Enough with the nonsense

The risk of sliding so far down the Google rankings that you end up in Antarctica should be enough of a wake-up call. But if you need more convincing, there are very good reasons to get actual, skilled people to write your words.

Inaccuracies

ChatGPT is not an infallible source of information. Quite often, it will produce copy that includes utter nonsense, fake news, and absurd facts. If you’re not careful, you could end up publishing content that could have been written by a lying, insane fantasist. This will inevitably make you and your organisation look ridiculous.

Additionally, it is not an alternative to using a search engine. As an example, I was once writing about human rights violations on supply chains, and asked ChatGPT for examples of relevant court cases, just to see.

Unfortunately, the examples that AI spat out were all bogus. Luckily, due diligence was performed, the truth was uncovered, and I did not submit a report that included phantom court cases. But many others have not been as thorough, and published garbage as fact.

Word salad

Instead of clear, lucid copy, AI applications can instead make a not-very-tasty word salad. ChatGPT is entirely guilty of using 30 (ridiculous) words when five (excellent) words would do. By relying on the technology, you run the risk of publishing mistake-riddled, poorly-written waffle.

Also, if there are grammatical and punctuation errors in the information you feed into an AI application, it can produce copy that mirrors the original input. It learns from its users, don’t forget that. (And if that’s not enough to worry you anyway…)

And yes, there are online grammar-checkers, but these are not perfect either. They can miss context-specific expressions, and idiom and nuance can be lost. They aren’t great at picking up structural errors in copy, and can even make inappropriate, dated or inaccurate suggestions. Again, this is where the human touch is crucial.

Tone of voice

The machines have not mastered tone of voice. Not yet, anyway. And so ChatGPT can be a useful starting point for a writer, but it should never be the finished product.

For example, if a lot of information needs to be summarised for clarity – or because people have the attention spans of kittens these days and won’t read thousands of words – feeding that information into ChatGPT and asking for a summary isn’t necessarily a terrible idea. (Disclaimer: As long as the information fed into the AI machine is accurate…)

But even though you might get a serviceable summary, it’s very unlikely to be interesting to read. This is where ChatGPT and others often fall down with a mighty thud. These applications just don’t produce copy with verve, sparkle, and life. It tends to read like the information inside a box of antibiotics, rather than something interesting and engaging. So even if you’re using it in the early stages of production, you need to give the copy a lot of polish to turn it into something decent.

So is it useful at all?

AI can be good for generating ideas, or getting you started on something. But if you want Google to appreciate your copy and rank it favourably, steer clear of publishing AI generated content as a finished production. That goes for blogs, website content, articles, whatever.

You want more than just serviceable content. ‘Serviceable’ is a good description for a hard-wearing tablecloth fabric. But you can – and should – do better than that when it comes to the written word. If you think of the best writing in the world, it is always more than just serviceable.

Getting the tone of voice right is hard to quantify. It’s about finding the right words to capture moods and emotions, to intrigue readers, to make them want to know more about your story.

Making sure the facts are accurate is just the beginning of the journey. You need to take a human writer along for the ride. It’ll be more enjoyable, interesting and successful than riding with the machines.

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About the Author: Georgia Lewis

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Georgia Lewis has worked in Australia, the Middle East and the UK as a writer, editor and manager of multiple magazines. She has covered a wide range of subjects, including travel, lifestyle, energy, technology, business and culture.

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