Will AI-Powered SEO Ruin Google’s Search Results?


    A long read at the Verge explores the quality of Google’s search results — and whether they’ve been affected by the Search Engine Optimization industry. But it begins by saying that “A lot of folks’ complain that “The links that pop up when they go looking for answers online, they say, are “absolutely unusable”; “garbage”; and “a nightmare” because “a lot of the content doesn’t feel authentic.” If so, the question is why. SEO Daron Babin warns that “We’re entering a very weird time, technologically, with AI, from an optimization standpoint… All the assholes that are out there paying shitty link-building companies to build shitty articles, now they can go and use the free version of GPT.” Soon, he said, Google results would be even worse, dominated entirely by AI-generated crap designed to please the algorithms, produced and published at volumes far beyond anything humans could create, far beyond anything we’d ever seen before. “They’re not gonna be able to stop the onslaught of it,” he said. Then he laughed and laughed, thinking about how puny and irrelevant Google seemed in comparison to the next generation of automated SEO. “You can’t stop it…!” Nowadays, he mostly invests in cannabis and psychedelics. SEO just got to be too complicated for not enough money, he told me. [SEO Missy] Ward had told me the same thing, that she had stopped focusing on SEO years ago. But the Verge also spoke to Danny Sullivan, the former journalist who started the SEO-industry site Search Engine Land — who was eventually hired by Google as their “public liaison for serach.” And Sullivan “is pissed that people think Google results have gone downhill. Because they haven’t, he insisted. If anything, search results have gotten a lot better over time. Anyone who thought search quality was worse needed to take a hard look in the mirror.” Sullivan was not the only person who tried to tell me that search results have improved significantly. Out of the dozen-plus SEOs that I spoke with at length, nearly every single one insisted that search results are way better than they used to be… This was not what I had been noticing, and this was certainly not what I had been hearing from friends and journalists and friends who are journalists. Were all of us wrong…? I began to worry all the people who were mad about search results were upset about something that had nothing to do with metrics and everything to do with feelings and ~vibes~ and a universal, non-Google-specific resentment and rage about how the internet has made our lives so much worse in so many ways, dividing us and deceiving us and provoking us and making us sadder and lonelier. SEO Lily Ray says Google did change its algorithm in 2016 to fight disinformation, trying to favor sites with “experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.” But the point that really hit me was that for certain kinds of information, Google had undone one of the fundamental elements of what had made its results so appealing from the start. Now, instead of wild-west crowdsourcing, search was often reinforcing institutional authority… The second major reason why Google results feel different lately was, of course, SEO… Google is harder to game now — it’s true. But the sheer volume of SEO bait being produced is so massive and so complex that Google is overwhelmed. “It’s exponentially worse,” Ray said. “People can mass auto-generate content with AI and other tools,” she went on, and “in many cases, Google’s algorithms take a minute to catch onto it.” The future that Babin had cackled about at the alligator party was already here. We humans and our pedestrian questions were getting caught up in a war of robots fighting robots, of Google’s algorithms trying to find and stop the AI-enabled sites programmed by SEOs from infecting our internet experience. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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