Google Cracks Down on Spam and AI in Search Results

Google Cracks Down on Spam and AI in Search Results

Google is rolling out key new changes to its ranking systems in search as part of an effort to combat spam, manipulation, and low-quality AI-generated content.

The update marks a shift in the company’s approach to the use of AI in search. For search quality rankings, Google said in February that it did not care whether content was produced by humans or AI.

But that is now starting to change, according to Google director for product management Elizabeth Tucker.

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Google eyes “useful” info for users

Tucker says the policy change will cut back on spammy content made using generative AI tools. She hopes this will help users see information that is more “useful” for them and “fewer results that feel made for search engines.”

“We believe these updates will reduce the amount of low-quality content on Search and send more traffic to helpful and high-quality sites,” Tucker wrote in a blog post.

“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%.”

Two years ago, Google made a series of changes to its algorithm to eliminate what it called “unoriginal, low-quality content” from ranking highly in search results.

The California-based company says its new policy update aims to improve on past measures, but with a specific focus on spam and AI material made to “game our results with low-quality content.”

Getting rid of spam

It includes taking tougher action on websites that use automation, whether by humans or AI, to create thousands of pieces of “low-quality and unoriginal content” in order to gain clicks and manipulate search rankings. Google calls it “scaled content abuse.”

For example, Tucker spoke of webpages created at scale that “pretend to have answers to popular searches but fail to deliver helpful content.” She says Google will classify such sites as spam. For this type of spam, the policy came into effect on March 5.

Google’s new spam policy will also target what the company calls “site reputation abuse.” This is when websites that have their own original content rent out space to third parties who are looking to capitalize on the hosting site’s strong reputation,’ Tucker explains.

“For example, a third party might publish payday loan reviews on a trusted educational website to gain ranking benefits from the site,” she says.

“Such content ranking highly on search can confuse or mislead visitors who may have vastly different expectations for the content on a given website.”

Starting May 5, Google will consider content like this spam. The third-party pages that will be affected include sponsored, partner, advertising, or other content “without close oversight of the host site and provide little to no value to users,” the company adds.

The third spammy content practice that Google is aiming to tackle is “expired domain abuse,” or when someone buys a domain that was known to produce top journalistic content and repurposes it for boosting the search ranking of poor-quality content.

Indie blog ‘The Hairpin’, which shut down in 2018, is one example of an expired domain that’s been repurposed to churn out spammy AI-generated content meant to trick the Google search algorithm, Wired reports.

“This can mislead users into thinking the new content is part of the older site, which may not be the case,” said Google’s Tucker.

“Expired domains that are purchased and repurposed with the intention of boosting the search ranking of low-quality content are now considered spam.”

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.