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Is Google Getting Desperate?
They're now asking for direct user feedback on website quality
Obviously everyone is aware that the SERPs have been hot garbage for a while now.
SEOs are getting extremely good at gaming the algorithm at the expense of quality. It’s safe to say that the user experience for the average searcher is complete dogshit at this point.
Google is aware of this. Why do you think they’ve been releasing algorithm updates every couple months for the past few years?
And that’s just the official updates. There are tons of “stealth updates” interspersed between the official ones (easy to notice when everyone is posting Ahrefs screenshots with extremely depressed/euphoric comments).
In case it wasn’t obvious: the updates are failing. The SERPs are still filled with nonsense. That’s why Google’s announcement yesterday is bigger than people think.
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Google’s new Search Quality User Report
Yesterday Google released a new user feedback form (Search Quality User Report) that lets anyone directly report sites that are violating their spam policies.
Google even admits that they released it because their algorithms are failing.
From the blog post announcing the new form:
User feedback helps us identify where our automated spam detection systems may be missing coverage, and is also used to improve our ranking algorithms.
So Google is basically crowdsourcing their algorithm at this point.
Is this a crackdown on AI?
One thing that’s extremely interesting is that there’s an option to report sites for using “automatically generated content”.
You can find it on page two after clicking on “The page displays spammy content”.
I don’t think I have to point out the fact that the SEO community has completely lost its mind to AI mania ever since GPT 3.5 came out in December.
I’ve always been one of the Few who recommend that you use human-written content on your site.
It’s because the party isn’t going to last. And when it ends it’ll be painful for a LOT of people.
It was always inevitable that Google would crack down on AI spam at some point. I even predicted it at the end of 2022.
Think about it in terms of incentives. Google has its own LLM and it needs human content to feed the beast. If AI feeds off AI eventually it’ll become completely useless.
Not to mention the obvious quality issues and fake facts (hallucinations).
SEOs who are using AI justify it by pointing to Google’s February guidance about artificially-generated content:
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.
But they apparently didn’t scroll down far enough on the page.
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.
Google has many years of experience dealing with automation being used in an attempt to game search results. Our spam-fighting efforts—including our SpamBrain system—will continue, however spam is produced.
This said, it's important to recognize that not all use of automation, including AI generation, is spam. 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.
Read that again.
“Using automation to generate content with the primary purpose of manipulating ranking in search results is a violation of our spam policies”.
That’s exactly what SEOs are doing when they use AI to churn out thousands of blog posts for topical authority. They’re not generating “sports scores, weather forecasts, and transcripts” (the examples Google gives for “helpful” AI content).
It seems like Google is having a hard time detecting this algorithmically. So now they’re relying on user-reported data instead. It’s definitely a desperation play, but it actually might not be a bad idea.
It’s very easy for a person to glance at a blog post and tell that it’s AI. I’m sure you can think of countless times where you ended up on webpages and instantly think “wow did this mofo really just copy/paste from ChatGPT wtf”.
Now you can notify Google about it.
I know some of you OG’s remember content spinners from back in the day. A bunch of dorks thought they were the smartest people in the world…and then Panda dropped.
Spammy tactics work until they don’t.
Conclusion: what you should do with the Search Quality User Report
Start reporting your competitors.
Don’t be stupid. You can’t report all competitors just because they’re outranking you and you don’t like it.
But if you see a site in your niche that is obviously using AI, buying links, or doing anything similar you should go ahead and report them (use your personal Gmail account not linked to Analytics or Search Console).
I’m sure you’ve noticed that other people in the “SEO community” aren’t talking about this form.
There’s a reason for that.