My Take on Google Search's Guidance on AI-Generated Content & Law Firm SEO
February 17, 2023
If you're like me, you have some degree of AI, ChatGBT, Bard, exhaustion. Now don't get me wrong, this is stuff is remarkable and is changing, well, a lot. But before you hook up the ChatGPT API to your WordPress API and crank out 10,000 pages, here are a few things to think about.
Let's start with SEO.
First, Google implied that AI-generated content was against their guidelines and alluded to countermeasures that might demote it from search results. Then it wasn't clear. Then, on February 8, 2023, Google published guidance about AI-generated content. Here are a few highlights:
"When it comes to automatically generated content, our guidance has been consistent for years. Using automation—including AI—to generate content with the primary purpose of manipulating ranking in search results is a violation of our spam policies."
"Spammy automatically generated (or "auto-generated") content is content that's been generated programmatically without producing anything original or adding sufficient value; instead, it's been generated for the primary purpose of manipulating search rankings and not helping users. Examples of spammy auto-generated content 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 value"
Gee, thanks Google.
So, if your intent is generating content with the primary of manipulating ranking in search, bad. In other words, don't do SEO...
I mean, let's be real, adding a title tag to a page is generating content for the purpose of ranking.
But I digress...
Tactically speaking, from an SEO perspective, Google is going to try to ferret out completely auto-generated content produced by ChatGPT. How do we know this, because they've been doing the same thing for all sorts of content generated prior to ChatGPT. In fact, they remind us:
"Our focus on the quality of content, rather than how content is produced, is a useful guide that has helped us deliver reliable, high quality results to users for years.
For example, about 10 years ago, there were understandable concerns about a rise in mass-produced yet human-generated content. No one would have thought it reasonable for us to declare a ban on all human-generated content in response. Instead, it made more sense to improve our systems to reward quality content, as we did."
So, you can stop staying up too late trying to get ChatGPT to pump out completely automated blog posts.
On the other hand, ChatGPT published ChatGPT for Legal Marketing, which immediately took the first spot for exact match search and remains high on the first page at the time of publishing.
But what about AI-generated content that is subject to human review for value, quality and user experience?
You're probably safe.
In fact, Google even makes a few recommendations:
"Automation has long been used to generate helpful content, such as sports scores, weather forecasts, and transcripts. AI has the ability to power new levels of expression and creativity, and to serve as a critical tool to help people create great content for the web."
"As explained, however content is produced, those seeking success in Google Search should be looking to produce original, high-quality, people-first content demonstrating qualities E-E-A-T."
For the uninitiated, their aim is to reward content that demonstrates aspects of experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, or what they call E-E-A-T.
Of course, the devil is in the details. How much editing is enough?
Generally speaking, from what I've seen, if you use ChatGPT for source material for an original post that you're publishing, and assuming ChatGPT got it right, you should use it!
Did I mention how remarkable it is?
But it does get stuff wrong. Like really wrong. Particularly with respect to things that can have a bit of nuance, you know, like the practice of law.
So, be sure to review for accuracy. Don't assume it's like a calculator that you can pretty reasonably rely upon for the right computation.
At least not yet.
Of course, there are a myriad of potential new legal ethics issues at play here too. Is it misleading to use ChatGPT as seed content? If not, how much is not misleading?
Does a disclaimer cure that issue?
What about copyright issues?
Can ChatGPT infringe on ChatGPT?
All right, enough of that. Here are few ways you might use ChatGPT in the context of your law firm's SEO strategy:
Ideation - It's a great tool to come up with ideas to things to write about.
Source Data - As previously noted, it's a great way to get data at your finger tips. But check it.
Headlines - It's remarkably good at coming up with variations on headlines.
FAQs - The model could be trained to analyze patterns in client inquiries, such as the types of questions that are most frequently asked, or the topics that are most commonly searched for on the firm’s website (ChatGPT recommended this one).
READ THE GUIDELINES!
Whether you use it yourself, your marketing staff is using it, or your agency is using, you ought to have a conversation about guidelines on permissible uses in the various contexts of SEO, legal ethics, and copyright.
But like most other technologies we discuss here, the answer isn't to put your head in the sand or clutch your pearls.
Firms that find ethical and effective ways to integrate AI-generated content into their workflows will have a significant, growing competitive advantage over those that do not.
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