I’m going to kick this off by saying that this post is going to be a little different than what we normally publish on The HOTH blog.
For the first time in a while, I’ve chosen to write for this site in the first person (though I do author many posts here).
Because AI is going to be more transformative than the advent of the internet. And that transformation is going to move much, much faster than you think it is– and you probably already think it’s going pretty fast.
So, I’m going to talk about Content and AI today, and I’m not going to pull any punches.
We help people at The HOTH. It’s part of our mission and culture. And I’m going to share some things we haven’t talked about much yet about using AI to generate content.
AI’s almost become a must-have part of any tech or marketing company’s product suite. But keeping up with what’s trending doesn’t necessarily mean you’re operating with the best intentions. Doing right by our clients has always been the most important thing.
Before we offered anything having to do with AI, we had to make sure of the following:
- Is AI content safe?
- Will AI content rank?
- How will Google treat AI content?
- Are the cost-savings of AI worth the risks?
- Or, will AI put sites in danger of a Google penalty or create assets with little value?
After carefully considering all of this for months, and being fully aware that we also wanted to be able to give our users who needed more blog content, but didn’t have the resources to spend more on HOTH Blogger, we came up with a pretty incredible solution.
But before I get into that, a bit more context.
Blogging for SEO
In 2016, I joined The HOTH as the creative mind and executor behind HOTH Blogger, The HOTH’s first content marketing service.
It’s almost unreal to say that blogging for SEO was actually a hard sell back then. Everyone wanted links (and, rightfully, so– in my opinion, they’re still the top ranking factor, or, at least in the top 3).
But as usual, we were ahead of the game, creating SEO-optimized, high-quality blog content. We handled the keyword research, and topic ideation based on social proof in the industry. We incorporated internal linking structures, external links for all citations, and featured images, offered unlimited edits and rewrites, and everything was optimized for web formatting and SEO-best practices.
And we hired incredibly talented freelance writers, many of whom have been with us, writing for you, for going on 7 years now (kind of unheard of in this sphere, but we put a high emphasis on culture, education, and connection among our team).
We’ve hit over 20,000 units (blogs) created and sold in a month. And since we’re a reseller, white-label service that can scale really, really, well, some of the biggest marketing and SEO companies started reselling our blogs to their own clients.
(I’m not allowed to say who they are, but… you’ve heard of them.)
So, yeah, creating high-quality SEO-optimized content at scale has been something that’s important to us, and something we’re really, really good at.
And now I’m going to pivot to our experience with AI.
The HOTH and AI for Marketing
We’ve been working and “playing around” (for lack of a better phrase) with various AI tools, sometimes with software, and mainly directly with Open AI for years now.
Our team got familiar with using these tools (never used for our clients–of course, we would never do that without their expressed permission). We saw their power, and we were excited.
We knew that AI content could be absolutely transformative when put in the right hands and leveraged in the right way.
What we didn’t know was that Chat-GPT would become mainstream in a handful of months and change everything.
The Truth About AI Content
So here’s where we at now, and they’re almost as many unknowns are there are knowns:
- AI Content is all repurposed from what’s been published on the internet, which raises some plagiarism questions
- Unless you are in a niche that doesn’t see a ton of competition, it probably won’t be high quality enough to gain significant rankings
- We really do not have a definitive idea of how Google will end up treating AI-generated content long-term
- However, the speed and accessibility of these tools cannot be denied, making them a useful resource, especially when budgets for content marketing are tight
- There are some industries or topics that really should not be using AI-generated content yet
Let’s break these down:
AI Content: Questions of Plagiarism
If you’ve been playing around with Chat-GPT (and if you’re reading this post, I’ll assume that you have), it becomes very evident very quickly that a lot of the content it generates appears to be quite similar.
This is why “prompt engineering” has become one of the newest buzzwords. You can get different, more curated answers, provided you give these tools the right prompts. But that takes work, and the kind of learning curve that those who want to jump on the Chat-GPT train may be looking to avoid.
Beyond that, Open AI being the very foundation of Chat GPT models brings some– oddly, rather philosophical questions– about plagiarism into the fold.
Zapier has a great post about how Chat-GPT works. In it, they say:
“All the tokens came from a massive corpus of data written by humans. That includes books, articles, and other documents across all different topics, styles, and genres—and an unbelievable amount of content scraped from the open internet. Basically, it was allowed to crunch through the sum total of human knowledge.”
Basically, Chat GPT’s ability to answer prompts comes from having access to everything that’s been digitally published. And while it can accurately answer queries or write text (and sometimes, well, get things super wrong), it’s not actually writing. The content it spits out is algorithmic, based on what exists already, based on what has already been written and published– by someone else.
In fact, AI-generated content is, as of now, not covered by copyright laws. This means that content you create using AI doesn’t belong to you.
This makes sense, because if that AI content is scraping and repurposing what’s already there, with no original thought, was it your content to begin with?
Isn’t all content repurposed in some way?
It feels appropriate to insert a cliché into this sentence. Who hasn’t heard that there’s “nothing new under the sun.”?
If you write, whether it’s marketing copy, corporate emails, or snappy tweets, you’re reworking content that’s already been written.
I’ve been a copywriter for a very long time now. And I’ve done copywriting for industries that I didn’t have direct, first-hand experience.
So, what did I do? I Googled. I researched. I pulled popular ideas, saw what people were responding to, and structured content around that. I rewrote what was there already.
I once wrote content for a Singapore Construction site. And I can honestly say that I did not have very many “original ideas” that I brought to the table writing their blogs. But they were good blogs. Useful, and well-written. They worked.
And what I could bring to the table was human insight, turns of phrase, and an inherent ability to relate to other people, and what they would care about– no matter the circumstance.
I’m going to get to how (we think– emphasis on think) Google treats and will treat AI content, but AI content as a first draft tool = definitely useful. AI content with no human oversight or interaction = is not as useful, and may be damaging to your SEO and brand.
Does AI Content Rank in Google?
To use another marketing cliché… it depends.
You’ll see anecdotes across Reddit and the web about how users are writing blogs with tools like Chat-GPT and Copymatic to create blog content that’s ranking well in Google.
As a long-time content creator and SEO, I’m sure that’s true for niches that are not competitive, or going after zero-search volume keywords.
But as a content marketing strategy, especially if you are in a competitive market, using AI content alone (with little to no human interference) is, honestly, the equivalent of buying 1,000 bunk links on Fiverr and calling that an SEO strategy.
You may see the needle move a little… at first… but it’s not going to stay there.
And while I’ve literally banned our marketing team here from using the clichéd phrase “Content is King,” real SEOs do understand that a site’s content is truly the foundation of a solid SEO strategy.
“Quality content” is a phrase that gets thrown a lot in this industry (more on that later). When I’ve spoken to what this actually means at various conferences, on podcasts, or on this blog, here’s how I put it:
Quality content is the best of what’s out there. Quality is determined by what’s already been published in your niche. Are you in a competitive niche? Are there thought leaders in your industry who set a high bar on what you should be speaking to? Are you in a “YMYL” industry? (more on that soon).
Basically, are you in 95% of active industries in the world right now?
Google’s job is to send its users the best possible answers to their questions. That’s it. There is no more or less to it. There is no “secret sauce” to SEO. Give the best answers to people’s questions. It really is that simple.
That’s why, while you can absolutely use AI to help with your content, you cannot afford to be using only AI for your blog content.
Google’s Helpful Content Update
It’s interesting because when Chat-GPT launched, and when Jasper got a ton of backing money, SEOs were pointing to Google’s Helpful Content Update (launched in September, and then juiced up in December) as evidence that Google was explicitly saying that AI Content would inherently be devalued and penalized if caught.
Here’s the quote everyone was pointing to:
“…we’re rolling out a series of improvements to Search to make it easier for people to find helpful content made by, and for, people.”
(But then, Google also admitted that they couldn’t yet detect AI content. But we figured that when they could, there might be trouble. Or maybe not? Which is kind of what’s happening now.)
Beyond AI, The Helpful Content Update was really about what was mentioned before– the fact that Google’s job is sending its users to the best possible answers to their questions.
Here’s the thesis behind the “Helpful Content Update”:
“Google’s helpful content update specifically targets “content that seems to have been primarily created for ranking well in search engines rather than to help or inform people.”
So, essentially, content that’s designed solely to “hack” Google algorithms (things like keyword-stuffing, hitting word counts for the sake of hitting word counts) but isn’t actually helpful to users, is going to be devalued.
Another recent Google Update that people point to when it comes to determining whether AI-generated content is going to be useful for their sites was the extra “E” added to E-A-T.
E-A-T stands for “Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness.” It’s a ranking factor designed to determine accuracy and relevance, usually referred to as a page or piece of content on a website, but it can actually apply to the whole site itself.
Simply put, the “people” behind the page or site are prioritized as a means to figure out if the page or site can be trusted. This primarily applies to the content’s author, but can also apply to the brand’s authority and recognition. And since Google uses links to determine authority and relevancy, backlinks also play into your site’s E-EAT.
“Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) sites seemed to be the main impetus for EAT. These are sites having to do with things like healthcare and finances– things that, if the wrong information is shared, could have a devastating impact on a person’s life.
The other “E?” It stands for Experience. Something, one could argue, AI-generated content alone is not equipped to handle. This was added in January 2023– just a few short months after Chat-GPT hit the mainstream.
For instance, if you have a website that shares info on how to best file your taxes, the content needs to be written by someone with direct experience– like an actual tax professional– to be authoritative enough to rank for such an important subject.
It’s already been established that purely AI-generated content isn’t always accurate. I think it’s pretty obvious that AI does not have direct experience with, well, anything.
This additional “E” and its timing (after Chat-GPT, Jasper’s funds, and the final Helpful Content rollout), points to it being a direct response to the democratization of content creation via AI.
Google’s “Official” Stance on AI Content
Officially, Google says that as long as a website’s content is helpful, the medium it took to get there is inconsequential.
That said, I talked about how Google’s position on AI seems to have shifted. And “seems” is putting it nicely. It has.
I’d say that Google was definitely anti-AI-content, and, actually, has been for years now.
Think about this: one Black-Hat SEO tactic was to use “spun” content that took already existing content on a subject out there. It’s was obviously not written by people, or for people (to pull again from that “Helpful Content” update). Here’s an example:
It was made for search, made for link building, and obviously, was AI-generated content. But it was also really crappy, and had been around for a while.
Also– Google was created by two academics. The original algorithm was inspired by the necessity of citations in academic works and journals (backlinks = sources, and sources are to be trusted).
AI-generated content, in my opinion, almost seems to go against the very philosophies that Google was built on. The quest to build the world’s greatest search engine by two Stanford students who saw how various academic articles were linked would probably not be in line with writing that was not original, and, almost inherently, plagiarized.
Both the “Helpful Content Update” and “E-EAT” point to Google being anti-AI.
But then, they admitted they couldn’t actually detect AI content.
And then, Bing– somewhat a joke up, until recently, in the SEO sphere, proved that while they weren’t necessarily the search engine to beat when it came to traditional search, they could very well potentially be the search engine that actively incorporated AI to beat.
In the weeks since releasing the AI chat and Edge Browser, Bing hit 100 million active users.
To be very, very clear, this is still a drop in the bucket compared to Google users. But the growth is becoming more and more exponential.
And with the talk of Chat GPT itself becoming a new search engine, Google has to get into the AI game and value AI. It’s what’s the market demands, and for the first time in many, many years, they are not spearheading the market.
My takeaway? Google says it won’t devalue AI content as long as its useful, right now. But from what we’ve seen so far, I do not think we can say for sure how it will treat AI content in the future.
If I was building a sustainable SEO-driven content marketing strategy, I would absolutely use AI as a tool (more on that in a minute), but I would not feel comfortable relying on content that was solely AI.
AI-Generated Content as a Resource-Saver
Here’s the #1 Purpose of The HOTH, as outlined in our mission statement:
“The purpose of The HOTH is to help as many people as possible achieve success, get traffic, and earn money from Search Engine Marketing.”
When we launched in 2010, our focus was on providing white-label SEO services to resellers. People who had marketing agencies, and wanted to sell SEO at a fair price, but didn’t have the resources to do fulfillment on their end.
But the more word got out about The HOTH and how our products were helping people be more successful, the more we branched out to help other sorts of small, medium, and enterprise businesses with their SEO– even if they weren’t an agency.
These days, while we serve both types of users, our prices– no matter if you’re reselling, or using The HOTH to help your own business– remain the same for both parties.
So it would go against our belief system for me to discount a content creation option, something that can democratize and level the playing field for content generation for “the little guy,” for the sake of our own profits.
There is absolutely value in using AI tools to speed up content creation, and therefore, save time and money.
But you need to make sure you’re doing it the “right” way.
Because, if you thought the digital space was already saturated with content, buckle up. This is nothing compared to what’s going to happen when literally anyone can pump out content with a few clicks.
So if you already felt “behind” in your content, that feeling’s not going to go away. And churning out content with little strategy, SEO knowledge, or defined targets is not going to help.
Content inflation is a real thing. And it doesn’t just mean everybody needs to be creating more content. It means that quality, authenticity, and originality are actually going to be more important than ever.
Quality content is going to be more than answering the users’ questions. It’s also going to be about standing out.
So even when it seems like tools like Chat-GPT and Open AI have democratized content (and in one sense, that’s true), the noise this will create will make it even more difficult to cut through and be noticed– both by Google and by your ideal users.
So if you’re looking to take advantage of these amazing tools– which, you need to do to stay competitive– but also recognize that Chat-GPT alone is not sufficient in creating quality content that’s going to rank and appeal to your user, we have the solution.
It’s called HOTH AI Content Plus, and it’s the culmination of years of working with SEO content, and AI, and figuring out how we can integrate the two to get the best content possible at an affordable and competitive price.
Here’s how it works:
You share a few bits of info about your business and what you’re looking for.
We use Open AI (we actually work with it directly, and have spent a ton of time and effort developing tools to create superior prompts for virtually every industry) in order to create the first draft of your content.
Then, we leverage our incredible team of writers, SEO strategists, and editors to fact-check, edit, humanize, and optimize your content.
It’s taking advantage of the software without making sacrifices or taking risks.
It’s probably one of the most exciting launches we’ve had in years. I highly recommend checking it out here.
Conclusion: When to Use (and Not to Use) AI Content
We know that Open AI is still (quite literally) a few years behind.
If you’re looking in a fast-paced industry where you’re required to release content that’s up-to-the-minute, then HOTH Blogger (or your own writing team) is probably the better choice.
Honestly, I’d go with a combination of HOTH AI Content Plus and HOTH Blogger (or human-created content from top to bottom) to get the most for your website.
Here’s where I also don’t use AI Content: writing blogs like this. Because I actually write everything. Writing is, for me, the main love of my life (except for my family, and dog Max, of course).
So, don’t sacrifice what you’re passionate about doing to follow a trend either. That’s never the way.
But, if you are looking for amazing content with a 3-day turnaround time, at an extremely affordable price, and you don’t love spending hours writing and researching your blogs…
Then you should give HOTH AI Content Plus a go.