Amid AI-Generated Content, Link Building is More Important for SEO


Published: | By Jason Khoo

Though artificial intelligence (AI) has existed for the past 50 years, it’s now reaching a level of sophistication that makes it accessible to the average consumer. AI tools are mainstream, including AI writing tools that write amazing content without human intervention.

AI tools are both a blessing and a curse for marketing. While tools like Writesonic, Jasper AI, and ChatGPT can streamline the content creation process, they must also improve them for content marketing and SEO.

How will AI-generated content rank in Google? Will it be penalized? Will the market become even more saturated with low-quality work?

We have yet to find all the answers (yet), but there is one thing we do know. If everyone has the same shortcuts, investing time and energy into long-term tactics like link-building are a means to stand out.

AI image

Image by Gerd Altmann

What Is AI? How Can It Produce Content?

AI is an umbrella term for related technologies that simulate the human decision-making process, such as natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML).

AI can interpret data to make decisions and learn without specific programming, which is why it has many use cases. Finance, healthcare, e-commerce, and, yes, marketing are all adopting AI technologies to streamline processes.

With content writing, AI tools began with simple assistance, such as correcting grammar. But with the launch of more sophisticated options like ChatGPT, AI can now generate entire articles using database resources – entirely without human intervention.

Here's the rub: according to OpenAI, the company that launched ChatGPT, the tool could be more reliable. In its own words, ChatGPT sometimes "writes plausible-sounding but incorrect or nonsensical answers."

 

There's already a flood of AI-generated content online, but it's essential to realize that ChatGPT, and similar tools, need to write for content marketing or SEO. They don't have a goal in mind – they're just providing information about a topic presented with a query.

These tools also use old data, so it's possible to get outdated or just plain wrong answers. That's why a human needs to be behind the process.

ChatGPT has already skyrocketed in popularity, and several big tech companies have competitive products in the works. These tools also learn as they go, so they'll only get better at what they do.

How Does Google View AI Content?

Google is getting ready to launch its own AI writing tool, but the tech giant has been clear about its views on AI-generated content. Specifically, AI content is considered spam and goes against webmaster guidelines.

Google-1

Image by Simon 

In the past, Google has taken a hard stance against AI-generated content, but that's not quite the case any longer. Now, Google is saying that not all AI content is terrible, but content that AI writes with the intent to manipulate the search ranking deliberately is. 

It goes against guidelines and Google's primary purpose – to provide an exceptional experience to the search user.

Based on Google's spam policies, content like this is "generated programmatically without producing anything original or adding sufficient value. Examples include:

  • Text that makes no sense to the reader but contains search keywords
  • Text translated by an automated tool without human review or curation before publishing
  • Text generated through automated processes without regard for quality or user experience
  • Text generated using automated synonymizing, paraphrasing, or obfuscation techniques
  • Text generated from scraping feeds or search results
  • Stitching or combining content from different web pages without adding sufficient valu

These examples don't just apply to AI. A human writer can create spammy, low-quality content at high volumes. 

Google doesn't care about the difference. Both are considered spam written for the search engine ranking, not the user. But it's important to note that AI writing tools aren't all doom and gloom.


A man and woman discussing content graphic illustration
Image by Gerd Altmann

How Can AI Be Used for Content Marketing?

AI can be used for content marketing in many ways, such as keyword research, website audits, proofreading, editing, etc. Let's look at some of these in more detail.

When used correctly, these tools can significantly enhance your processes in the following ways:

Keyword research

AI tools help automate and analyze search intent and collect relevant keywords for your content strategy.

Website audits

One thing AI does better than humans is interpreting data. Concrete data shows this as fact, not assumptions or biased humans. 

Machine learning (ML) tools can audit your website and find gaps or weaknesses to improve upon. A human still needs to be in the process, but it can be helpful.

Proofreading and editing

Human editors are essential to the content creation process, but AI writing tools can help with minor edits, typos, and misspellings to ensure that every base is covered. 

It’s basically like having a second set of eyes before publishing.

Topics and outlines

A lot of time goes into creating topic clusters and outlines, but AI tools can streamline the process by identifying trending topics ideal for a specific audience. 

It can also draft outlines to jump-start content creation.

Content ideation

If you’re struggling to come up with new content ideas all the time, AI tools can help. 

Not all ideas will be original, given that AI pulls from the same databases, but it can spark inspiration.

Voice search

Voice search is growing, and AI tools and voice search rely on NLP. These tools can help you optimize your content for voice search to help users find content more easily.

These are all ways that AI can enhance and amplify your processes, but note that a human is still involved.

What Are the Limitations of AI for Content Creation?

The primary limitation of AI for content creation is you can’t simply ask the tool a question and create a polished, complete article to publish without additional steps. 

AI tools are great for creating content, but you must use them strategically.

Here’s why:

Content strategy graph

Image by Zupo

No E-E-A-T value

In December of 2022, Google updated its well-known quality rater guidelines E-A-T guidelines with an additional E for 'Experience'. Now, it’s E-E-A-T for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.

The E-E-A-T guidelines align with the Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) pages, which include topics that can cause harm to a user if the information is incorrect. These include impactful topics like health information, safety, or financial well-being.

Google puts extra weight into these topics, combining them with E-E-A-T guidelines to determine the content's accuracy and value and its creator's reputation. If you leave it up to AI, you’re bound to take a hit in the rankings that will be hard to recover from.

Low-quality information or inaccuracies

AI writing tools rely on databases for training to come up with answers to queries. They are not connected to the internet. ChatGPT, in particular, is limited to information before 2021, so it has yet to learn of any developments, trends, or changes in the past few years.

Imagine how that goes for rapidly evolving industries like marketing or technology. You can’t rely on the accuracy of this information, and the tools’ creators never claimed they were 100% accurate.

Some topics also require a more nuanced understanding to be impactful. For example, B2B SEO written by AI could miss many of the subtleties in speaking to a B2B audience vs. a B2C audience. You’d likely get a standard SEO article with surface information, not an actionable piece.

Poor search results

Content marketers already have to compete with an onslaught of low-quality content written solely for search ranking and traffic. 

Users may need more trust in the information they find in a search, even if it appears on the first page. High-quality content rises to the top, just as it will with competition from AI-generated content.

AI will learn and improve, but it will continue to pull from its own potentially inaccurate content for its information. With each new spin, the content and its message will get further and further from the truth.

There are two possibilities for how this will develop. The search quality will collapse, leaving users unsure of anything they read, or authoritative content will become even more valuable in comparison.

Low barrier to entry

With AI content, anyone with access to an AI tool can create content and get it published. They don’t require knowledge, experience, or critical thinking to get an article and put it into the world in a few moments.

It won’t matter if it’s something trivial, like “10 reasons I enjoy ice cream,” or something potentially harmful, such as “best investment moves for your retirement.” 

The tool will provide the same content, which is now your competition.

How Does Link Building Fit In?

Link building

Image by Zupo

The rise of AI-generated content has some creators worried, and not without reason. But there is an opportunity for a competitive edge.

If everyone else is taking shortcuts with error-riddled AI content designed for search engine visibility only and missing value for the user, those who keep humans at the center of the process – both as creators and the audience – have a chance to come out on top.

And one of the ways to do that is with link building. Earning backlinks is crucial to successful SEO since crawlers follow links to discover pages and understand site hierarchy.

Backlinks, or external links, are links other websites include on their own content to direct readers to your content. When this happens, some of the authority of the linked site passes to you, boosting your ranking.

Correct links can improve your ranking, but the wrong ones can have enormous consequences. Link building is all about building authority from reputable sources. Relying on shady techniques will only harm your ranking, though many rely on them.

With AI content, low-quality links and spam are likely to grow. Fortunately, Google has tools to evaluate links and filter spam, differentiating some of the AI content from the quality, human-produced work.

Stay Ahead of the Pack with Quality Content

AI tools are an industry shakeup. While they can enhance content creation in some ways, it is doubtful they will ever replace human understanding or creativity. 

SEO practices like creating quality content, earning backlinks, and writing with the user in mind have always been relevant, but compared to AI, they’ll help you surge ahead of all the AI spam.

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Author bio

Jason Khoo started freelancing in SEO in college, sold his first agency, and now is the founder of Zupo, an Orange County-based SEO consulting agency helping construct powerful long-term SEO strategies for our clients. Jason also enjoys multiple cups of tea daily, hiding away on weekends, catching up on reading, and rewatching The Simpsons for the 20th time.

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