Does Google’s helpful content update penalize AI content?

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Picture this: you’re a content creator working tirelessly on your blog – late nights, endless cups of coffee, and all for the sake of that perfect blog post.

You’ve heard whispers about AI writing tools promising to make life easier. They churn out blog posts faster than a caffeine-fueled writer on deadline day! 

But wait – does using these nifty little robots put your hard-earned search rankings at risk? Is it true that Google might penalize content created by artificial intelligence?

Do search engines favor human-written content? 

Let’s go on a quick journey to find out the answer.

What is AI-generated content?

AI-generated content refers to text generated by software and not human writers. It is automatically generated content that’s largely output with minimal human effort.

With the fast advancements in natural language processing, machine language models, and many other technologies, AI writing tools are proliferating the market.

And that is for good reason, too, as they help:

  • Writers and publishers scale production.
  • Improve content quality.
  • Reduce research time.

The advantages of AI in content creation are too many to mention here. However, many publishers fear that search engines like Google can penalize them for using AI-powered software like ChatGPT to produce content.  

This is a legitimate fear since 85.1% of marketers report using AI for article writing.

Dig deeper: AI can’t write this: 10 ways to AI-proof your content for years to come

Can Google detect AI content?

Google and many other third-party tools have become increasingly adept at detecting AI-generated content.

They use various techniques to identify and flag machine-generated content, including natural language processing (NLP) algorithms that analyze the text for patterns and syntax common in computer-generated writing.

So yes, Google can detect AI content.

Should you be worried?

Let’s find out. 

Impact of Google’s helpful content update on quality standards

Before we answer whether Google penalizes AI content, let’s briefly look at one of the search engine giant’s most recent algorithm updates – the helpful content update.

This update seeks to promote content :

  • Created with a specific audience in mind.
  • Demonstrating expertise.
  • Published on a site with an overarching focus.
  • Satisfies search intent or user queries.
  • Meets other Google’s webmaster guidelines like E-E-A-T.

In short, Google will favor people-first content.  

What does this have to do with AI content?

A whole lot!

Google’s priority when it comes to content is not the methods used to create the content but the quality of the content. Most recent algorithm updates have been about combating low-quality content and spammy sites.

Contrary to popular belief, the helpful content update was not a response to AI content.


While Google may have referenced that helpful content had to be “written by people,” they quickly removed that statement from their documentation.

For many, that was a silent nod indicating that AI content was not necessarily an issue.

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If quality is the issue, the C.R.A.F.T is the key

We’ve established that Google’s priority regarding content is quality.

And to be honest, many AI writing tools spin up content that leaves much to be desired. However, some can produce decent content with the proper prompt engineering. But you don’t want decent content. It won’t cut it, especially in highly competitive niches. 

You want exceptional content.

To get this, you’ll need a combination of AI output and human editing.  

You’ll need an artificial intelligence optimization (AIO) writer who understands the C.R.A.F.T editing framework, which I came up with to guide writers embracing the art of AI optimization.

FYI,  C.R.A.F.T stands for:

  • C: Cut the fluff.
  • R: Review, edit, optimize.
  • A: Add images, visuals, and media.
  • F: Fact-check.
  • T: Trust-build with personal story, tone, and links.
CRAFT framework for better content

This editing framework will help polish up your content, improving its quality and making it more human-like.

However, it’s still AI content, just upgraded.

At this point, we’ve looked at two kinds of AI content: 100% AI content output and edited AI content.

Both are affected by our question – does Google penalize AI content?

So, does Google penalize AI content?

Having looked at so many factors, including Google’s helpful content update, we can now safely answer our question.

And the answer is no!

Google does not penalize AI content. It penalizes poor content.

Many publishers cite getting good rankings for AI content that was well-executed. Here’s an example from Bankrate:

Bankrate article

This article ranks 14th on SERPs, higher than MailChimp (a high DA site) for the keyword “what is contribution margin.” When you read the article, you’ll find an interesting disclaimer:

Bankrate article disclaimer

This is clearly labeled AI content, and it’s ranking pretty well for a very competitive search term.

But that’s not an outlying article. A simple search for “What is financial liquidity?” produces this result.

Bankrate article

This time, Bankrate is ranking third for a highly competitive term!

And they used the same content creation strategy they use for most of their articles: leveraging AI.

When you ask Bankrate if Google penalizes AI content, what do you suppose their answer will be?

A definite no!

And this is just one of many examples of a brand crushing it on SERPs with AI-generated content. Most aren’t labeled AI content, so you can’t tell with the naked eye. 

Leveraging artificial intelligence for effective SEO strategy

As long as your primary goal remains to deliver value through relevant content, search engines won’t penalize you for using AI content. This is why I preach AI wherever I can. And that’s something coming from someone who used to trash-talk AI writing tools.

The problem comes when you try to game the system with low-quality filler texts created purely for keyword-stuffing purposes.

AI-driven solutions are here to stay. And they’re already becoming integral aspects of our content creation workflows. They allow creators to optimize their strategy while reducing production costs and turnaround times.

Don’t be afraid of Google penalties. Leverage AI tools in your content creation, but do it ethically and ensure you edit and add a human touch.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning have revolutionized the digital marketplace and profoundly changed how we approach content creation. They allow us to automate processes, improve efficiency, and enhance content quality.

Dig deeper: 17 tips to improve your AI-assisted content creation process

Google wants to reward good content

So, we’ve journeyed through the intricate world of AI content and SEO

What’s the conclusion of the matter? Does Google penalize AI content? 

The short answer is no – as long as you create high-quality content that meets their search quality rater guidelines.

Remember that while Google has mechanisms to detect automatically generated low-quality spammy material, it doesn’t categorically shun all machine-created work. With their helpful update rewarding good content regardless of its origin (human or machine), they’re making sure you get credit where credit’s due!

The key is never to rely 100% on AI content output. Instead, have an AIO writer edit the output to ensure factual accuracy and add a human touch.

Dig deeper: Master AI content creation with the FACTS strategy

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Julia McCoy
Julia McCoy is an 9x author and a leading strategist around creating exceptional content and presence that lasts online. As the President at Content at Scale, she leads big initiatives for one of the fastest-growing AI content writing tools for SEO marketers on the planet. She’s been named in the top 30 of all content marketers worldwide, is the founder of Content Hacker, and exited a 100-person writing agency she spent 10 years building with a desire to help marketers, teams, and entrepreneurs find the keys of online success and revenue growth without breaking. Now, she's leading the charge and pioneering the field in AI-driven content efficiency.

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