ChatGPT is an AI text generator that’s currently free to use (although paid plans have recently been announced). Based on a prompt entered by the user, the software then generates a text response. Whether it’s a factual question, a witty Tweet or even a Shopify product description, ChatGPT can respond with a single sentence or hundreds of words in a natural sounding, conversational tone. That’s just a glimpse of what ChatGPT is capable of though. Read on for more of our thoughts and to find out how AI content could impact your business.
When we hear the words artificial intelligence we may think about frustratingly unhelpful chat bots. Perhaps you’ve tried rudimentary AI text generators in the past that have returned questionable results. You might even think of AI in terms of sophisticated Deep Fakes as seen on social media. Enter ChatGPT, AI software that represents a huge leap forward in terms of making AI more accessible than ever.
Released to the public in December 2022, ChatGPT is rapidly evolving to become not only usable, but pretty good.
That’s right, I’m a marketer that writes content for a living stating that the AI content writing tool I’ve been testing for the past couple of weeks is pretty good.
Trust me when I say that realisation came as quite a surprise as I’d assumed I’d be able to spot the tell-tale signs of copy written using AI, but largely, the results have been pretty good and in some cases, surprisingly good.
However It’s by no means a slam dunk for the AI tool that’s garnered huge amounts of interest along with substantial praise and criticism over the last few weeks.
The implications of AI stand to impact every business with a website.
Whilst the technology continues to grow and improve, the opportunities presented (as well as the limitations) will become ever more apparent. For now, there are clear opportunities, not only for those of us that write for a living, but for the companies that need words writing for them. Put simply, the implications of AI stand to impact every business with a website.
In use, it was quickly apparent that ChatGPT could be of benefit in terms of ideas generation. For example, in considering the varied questions that consumers might need answering about a particular product or service and in providing ideas for new content when creative block rears its ugly head.
The more pertinent question perhaps for us and our Shopify website clients though, is how AI text generation could impact the world of SEO.
How will AI content impact SEO?
Let’s start by making it clear that the use of AI content goes against Google’s spam policy.
John Mueller at Google stated that copy written by AI is regarded as auto-generated, and therefor spam. This type of content can lead to a manual penalty, which can have a devastating, long term impact on the rank of a website.
As of November 2022 Google stated that they have filters in place that can not only identify AI generated content, but that they can also spot AI content that has been edited and that any such content will be demoted and increases the risk of attracting a manual action.
Search expert Neil Patel recently conducted an experiment and found that websites with AI generated copy saw an average 17% drop in traffic and dropped an average of 8 positions in search rankings.
Sites with modified AI content performed better, but still saw a 6% drop in traffic and an average drop in rank of 3 positions.
Whilst current research is limited, common sense dictates that using AI to write copy is risky at best. With Google refining and constantly improving its ability to spot and take action against AI content, using such copy may not be a smart move for SEO.
That doesn’t mean that AI tools like ChatGPT aren’t useful though.
We regard ChatGPT as a great tool when it comes to research and planning, and it’s helpful when generating new ideas and prompting creative approaches to content challenges.
Before writing new content, we will typically do a number of things, including clearly understanding the objective, looking at what information is already out there to see if we can approach it from a different or more expansive angle and we use keyword and search volume data along with tools like Answer The Public to formulate lists of questions about specific topics and to spot trends.
This provides us with a strong foundation on which to start writing content that we know will provide value and help improve website authority, whilst employing specific tactics designed to improve engagement and convert adds increased value to that content.
ChatGPT is a tool that can be utilised along with all of the existing methods we use to research and plan content, potentially providing us with novel angles, highlighting research or suggesting related topics that we might not have otherwise considered. In doing so, use of such a tool could result in even better copy being written, but that copy will, in its entirety, be written by a human.
In terms of planning and research at least then, we see ChatGPT as a potentially helpful resource. What about using AI to write your Shopify product descriptions or any other content intended to be published on a website with a goal of helping SEO? For the time being at least, that’s a firm no.
With Google already able to spot and penalise spam content and their algorithms constantly evolving in line with the evolution of AI, publishing such content on a website is an extremely risky tactic and one we would not recommend.
Consider too, that whilst passable written content might be provided, SEO goes much further than just the written words. Google uses additional ranking signals, considering everything from the use of hierarchical tags, how the content is structured, author schema markup and more, so AI content alone can’t currently replicate the extent and quality of optimisation required to rank well in Google.
Tone Of Voice And Business Authority
Let’s set Google aside for a moment and consider instead whether AI content is a good reflection on your business. Without human research, editing and your specific brand tone of voice, automated content is unlikely to fool everyone.
As an editor of a blog that receives hundreds of content submissions a year (that, I should add, are politely refused), there can be certain tells that make it possible to spot AI content.
Sometimes that can be factually incorrect information, questionable opinions or copy that could cite or link to direct competitors as sources – problematic for obvious reasons. Or perhaps more insidious, the copy could contain phrases or a tone of writing that just don’t scan right, and seem somehow ‘off’.
No business will want to risk a potential customer reading content that could mislead or damage trust, severing all hope of turning that lead into a conversion. Paying a reputable, ethical and experienced content creator or SEO agency to write copy then, remains the safest option.
Spotting AI Text
It might sound farfetched, but remember 15 years ago when it was common practice for some SEOs to outsource their content overseas? Huge numbers of websites were blighted with poorly written content, stuffed with keywords, containing very little real substance.
The Google algorithm caught up and heavily penalised those sites, forcing a more widespread ethical and sustainable SEO approach, focusing on helpful, informative and engaging content.
As it stands, those are still the foundations of a winning SEO strategy and as a business you’ll want to seek firm reassurance that your content won’t be potentially flagged and penalised for spam down the line.
Whilst some claim that Google hasn’t yet fully caught up to being able to identify all AI copy and that some is undoubtedly slipping through the net, it’s likely to continue improving in this area, and risking your domain authority and organic visibility by completely relying on AI for key areas of your website copy, is too great a chance to take.
Open AI the company behind ChatGPT themselves recognise that the ability for the authenticity of copy to be easily identifiable is of paramount importance. Consider an educational setting and the implications AI text generation has for students answering questions, writing papers and even entire chapters of a thesis.
A cryptographic watermark is expected to soon be introduced that would make it easier for ChatGPT-generated content to be identified. This would make it even easier for Google to identify content that doesn’t meet their strict guidelines.
Consider too, the role that Google Author Markup – a type of structured microdata – plays. It’s conceivable that in future, authors themselves could have their own verified watermark, helping Google to further identify content that deviates from a particular authors usual writing style.
AI enhances, but doesn’t replace human-written content, particularly when it comes to SEO. With the advent of ChatGPT, AI content creation is getting smarter all the time and it can be an extremely useful way to kickstart the creative process and to assist in researching a topic and planning content.
It is important to understand however that copy written by AI falls foul of Google search guidelines and when identified, could lead to a website being heavily penalised, causing potentially irreparable damage to organic rank.
SEO agencies and content creators alike need to be increasingly transparent about how they use such technologies and might want to consider an AI usage policy to clearly state how it is utilised and to what extent to ensure the work they do continues to meet Google search best practice guidelines.
Why Everyone’s Obsessed With ChatGPT, a Mind-Blowing AI Chatbot https://www.cnet.com/tech/computing/why-everyones-obsessed-with-chatgpt-a-mind-blowing-ai-chatbot
ChatGPT: the end of authenticity, or a new dawn for creativity? https://www.thedrum.com/opinion/2023/01/10/chatgpt-the-end-authenticity-or-new-dawn-creativity
Google Says AI Generated Content Is Against Guidelines
How The ChatGPT Watermark Works And Why It Could Be Defeated https://www.searchenginejournal.com/chatgpt-watermark/475366/