What Effect Will AI Have On Google Rankings?

For millions of webmasters and online businesses, the whole GPT revolution seemed like the ultimate golden goose.  Out of nowhere came the opportunity to eliminate content creation costs, and have a free-to-use robot take care of everything.

But even from its earliest days, experts were issuing stark warnings about over-reliance on AI-generated copy. Not to mention, the inevitability of the major search engines eventually taking action against sites loaded with machine-written text.

And if Google’s March 2024 Core Update statement is anything to go by, the day of GPT reckoning might have already arrived.

A Stark Warning from Google

Put simply, Google has warned all websites that have become AI-dependent that they face the prospect of a 40% decrease in visibility.  Something that could effectively wipe countless businesses off the map, as their rankings plummet.

This really shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, given how warnings about GPT reliance have been doing the rounds since it first came onto the scene. SEOs and analysts alike have said from the start that the copywriting war will be won by real writers, and this looks to be a step closer to that being the case.

Here’s what Google had to say on the matter:

In 2022, we began tuning our ranking systems to reduce unhelpful, unoriginal content on Search and keep it at very low levels. We're bringing what we learned from that work into the March 2024 core update.

We’ve long had a policy against using automation to generate low-quality or unoriginal content at scale with the goal of manipulating search rankings. This policy was originally designed to address instances of content being generated at scale where it was clear that automation was involved. We’re strengthening our policy to focus on this abusive behaviour.

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.

Based on our evaluations, we expect that the combination of this update and our previous efforts will collectively reduce low-quality, unoriginal content in search results by 40%.

A Case of Quality and Originality

In a sense, the above seems a significant departure from Google’s previous statements, in which they’ve said in no uncertain terms that automation alone is not a flag for poor content quality.

But given the repeat mentions of ‘quality’ and ‘originality’ in their more recent statements, their sentiments on the whole thing really couldn’t be clearer.  Not to mention, their growing focus on E-E-A-T.

Four human traits AI can technically never fulfil - Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. And as all AI-generated content is simply rewritten copy scraped from existing sourced, it can never technically be considered original.

But as is usually the case, it’s unlikely those who’ve offloaded their entire content strategies to AI will take the risks seriously, until they’re hit where it hurts. When and how that will happen is anyone’s guess, but all signs indicate it will be sooner rather than later.