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Google To Purge The AI Spam Littering Its Search Result Pages
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Google To Purge The AI Spam Littering Its Search Result Pages

Google, the giant search engine company, announced its plan to crack down on AI spam content littering its search result pages.

The company announced changes to its algorithm to deamplify websites that “feel like they were created for search engines instead of people.”

Maybe this means the first page of Google Search will become useful again? Crossing my fingers.Illustration: Jody Serrano / Gizmodo

Google says it will begin cracking down on AI-generated content created solely for the purpose of gaming its systems and ranking high in Google Search — a change that could potentially have a ripple effect on the quality of what we see online.

The company made the announcement in a blog post on Tuesday. According to Google, this change involves algorithmic enhancements to its core ranking systems and is more complex than its usual updates. 

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The changes will affect three types of content, or abuse, as Google calls it, the most notable being automated content. This includes content created by generative AI.

“This update involves refining some of our core ranking systems to help us better understand if webpages are unhelpful, have a poor user experience or feel like they were created for search engines instead of people,” Elizabeth Tucker, a director of product management at Google, said in the announcement. 

“We believe these updates will reduce the amount of low-quality content on Search and send more traffic to helpful and high-quality sites.”

While the blog itself didn’t mention generative AI by name, a Google spokesperson told Gizmodo in an email that the updates directly address “low-quality AI-generated content that’s designed to attract clicks, but that doesn’t add much original value.”

Tucker said Google expects that the new changes will reduce low-quality and unoriginal content in its search results by 40%.

AI-generated content optimized for SEO — which stands for “Search Engine Optimization,” a series of guidelines that aim to help a website rank higher in Google — has grown increasingly present in Google Search results in recent months, according to multiple reports. 

At least some of the increase can be attributed to the growing availability of AI tools, which can create content in the format Google likes in seconds, and how easy it is to use them.

SEO consultant Jake Ward went viral on X/Twitter last November for bragging about how his company had used AI to steal 3.4 million in total traffic from a competitor. 

Ward explained that he had exported a competitor’s sitemap and created 1,800 articles with AI based on its URLs. 

Ward’s behavior elicited widespread disgust online, but unfortunately, it’s just one example of how people use AI to game Google’s search results.

“You contributed to the enshitification of the internet. But, hey, you made money, so who cares, right?” the user @LigerzeroTTV said in response to Ward’s post on X.

Besides addressing AI-generated SEO trash, Google’s new updates will target people who publish low-quality content on websites with a high reputation score. Here’s an example from Google:

“For example, a third party might publish payday loan reviews on a trusted educational website to gain ranking benefits from the site. Such content ranking highly on Search can confuse or mislead visitors who may have vastly different expectations for the content on a given website.”

Going forward, Google claims it will consider this type of low-value content from third parties to be spam.

Lastly, Google said it knows that some people buy up expired domains of beloved websites and repurpose them with low-quality content, aiming to use the dead site to boost the shady content’s search ranking. 

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One recent example of this practice is The Hairpin, a women’s website that shut down in 2018 and was recently brought back to publish AI clickbait.

“Search helps people with billions of questions every day, but there will always be areas where we can improve. We’ll continue to work hard at keeping low-quality content on Search to low levels, and showing more information created to help people,” Tucker, the director of product management, said.

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