Google Search to tune down AI-generated and other low-quality content

Google has introduced further steps to enhance its main product, Search. An update in March will tune its ranking system to reduce unhelpful and unoriginal content. And, starting May 5th, Google will penalize “third-party content produced primarily for ranking purposes.”

Website owners, publishers, content creators, SEO specialists, and many other users will have to adapt to Google Search algorithm updates, which will introduce two key changes: improved quality ranking and improved anti-spam policies.

“We’re making algorithmic enhancements to our core ranking systems to ensure we surface the most helpful information on the web and reduce unoriginal content in search results,” Google’s blog post reads. “We’re updating our spam policies to keep the lowest-quality content out of Search, like expired websites repurposed as spam repositories by new owners and obituary spam.”

The March core update is more complex than regular updates and involves multiple systems of how Search works.

Google has enhanced its core ranking system “to show more helpful results using a variety of innovative signals and approaches.” The ranking will be based on multiple systems identifying reliable information.

“As this is a complex update, the rollout may take up to a month. It's likely there will be more fluctuations in rankings than with a regular core update, as different systems get fully updated and reinforce each other,” the post to developers reads.

Google expects the first update, together with previous efforts, to reduce low-quality and unoriginal content in search results by 40%. The keywords are ‘helpful’ and ‘high-quality’ for websites to appear higher on search results in the future. Google’s systems will understand better which websites are “unhelpful, have a poor user experience or feel like they were created for search engines instead of people,” including sites primarily matching very specific search queries.

The tech giant assures creators they need not fret “as long as they’ve been making satisfying content meant for people.”

Improved anti-spam policies

To fight spam, Google announced three new policies against bad practices, which have grown in popularity in recent years: expired domain abuse, scaled content abuse, and site reputation abuse.

“We’ll take action on more types of these manipulative behaviors starting today,” the announcement reads.

Expired domain abuse: occurs when old websites are purchased and repurposed with the primary intention of boosting search ranking.

“This can mislead users into thinking the new content is part of the older site, which may not be the case. Expired domains that are purchased and repurposed with the intention of boosting the search ranking of low-quality content are now considered spam,” Google says.

Scaled content abuse: is the practice of automating content generation at scale with the goal of manipulating search rankings. Google will fight harder against such content produced with automation, by humans, or in combination.

“Today, scaled content creation methods are more sophisticated, and whether the content is created purely through automation isn't always as clear. To better address these techniques, we’re strengthening our policy to focus on this abusive behavior,” the blog post reads.

The algorithm will penalize websites that pretend to have answers to popular searchers but fail to deliver ‘helpful’ content.

Site reputation abuse: occurs when the same website has both great-quality content and low-quality content provided by third parties “with the goal of capitalizing on the hosting site's strong reputation.” For example, if a trusted educational website posts payday loan reviews with little or no first-party oversight or involvement, such content can confuse or mislead visitors.

“We’ll now consider very low-value, third-party content produced primarily for ranking purposes and without close oversight of a website owner to be spam. We're publishing this policy two months in advance of enforcement on May 5th, to give site owners time to make any needed changes,” Google says.

The new policy doesn’t consider all third-party content to be a violation, “only that which is hosted without close oversight and which is intended to manipulate search rankings.” And such content “needs to be blocked from Google Search to avoid violating our spam policies.”

Google provides guidelines for creators to check if their content is ‘helpful.’

While ranking systems keep many types of spam from ranking highly on Search, Google's updates “allow us to make more targeted action under our spam policies.” Against the websites that were determined as non-compliant by human reviewers, Google may issue a manual action.