Top of page

Google vs. AI Content: The 2024 Showdown


In the world of Google search, a bold algorithmic update is setting the stage for a new war against using AI to produce content.

Two days ago, Google made a powerful proclamation: “We’re enhancing the Search so you see more useful information and fewer results that feel made for search engines.”

The announcement, which conveys Google’s latest Core Update has begun, is sounding alarm bells through the SEO community.

It’s being called the March 2024 core update. It also signals that the world’s largest search engine is aiming to vastly reduce AI content (40%, according to Google). Of course, Google isn’t calling it “AI content;” instead, it uses terms such as “low-quality, unoriginal and unhelpful.”

Additionally, Google announced a slew of new spam policies that it will begin enforcing through its complex search algorithms and even through manual interventions.

Folks, this one’s big. And there’s a lot to unpack here.

When Did the March 2024 Update Begin Rolling Out?

Google’s official announcement was published on March 5th. It may take as long as a month to roll out completely. Website owners may experience wild fluctuations in rankings as the core update releases.

The update will take a month because it’s complex and multifaceted. It aims to dramatically reduce unhelpful content, a likely response to the overwhelming amount of AI content flooding search results.

Google Says Its Refined Search Understands “Unhelpful” Content

Most of us have a pretty good idea of what poor content is. However, this premise is much more challenging for Google’s search engine, which must spider and appropriately rank millions of web pages.

However, Google has refined its algorithm to better understand which web pages are “unhelpful, have a poor user experience or feel like they were created for search engines instead of people.”

Spam Updates

Google also released new spam updates, which it’s calling the March 2024 spam update. These updates are related to the core update but focus on reducing three major content spam scenarios.

Content Produced At Scale

One part of the spam update seeks to reduce content produced through automation or a blend of automation and human intervention. This content is created for the sole purpose of ranking and often offers no new value to the search results pages.

“Our long-standing spam policy has been that use of automation, including generative AI, is spam if the primary purpose is manipulating ranking in Search results. The updated policy is in the same spirit of our previous policy and based on the same principle. It’s been expanded to account for more sophisticated scaled content creation methods where it isn’t always clear whether low-quality content was created purely through automation.”

This part of the policy is intended to unincentivize websites that produce content at scale to rank higher in results.

Expired Domain Tactics

For decades, site owners and sometimes companies have purchased expired domains with the intention of propping up poor content.

This tactic often confuses users and Google fully intends to stop it.

Site Reputation Spam

This malicious tactic involves publishing low-grade content on a reputable site to encourage improved rankings.

Google explained, “a third party might publish payday loan reviews on a trusted educational website to gain ranking benefit from the site.”

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

POV: AI Content & Content/SEO Strategy

As I said in the beginning, there’s a lot to unpack in what’s likely to become Google’s largest core update.

Let’s get to unpacking, shall we?

First, it’s blatantly obvious that Google is targeting the use of AI to create content for search engine ranking purposes. Over the past year, Google’s language in what constitutes “unhelpful content” has fluctuated greatly on whether or not it includes “AI” in the language.

Months ago, Google opted to use “unhelpful” as a general term, signaling that it understands content marketers will leverage AI to produce content. This gave the impression that helpful content is just that, no matter how it was produced.

But it now seems Google is reverting back to its original course of approaching AI content, which it terms “automation,” more plain-stated.

Google Gemini & The Great Contradiction

This latest update and Google’s associated verbiage have led many to point out that Google also markets an AI solution called Gemini. Formerly called Bard, the new Gemini offers both free and paid versions, setting it up to compete more directly with ChatGPT.

But it’s important to maintain perspective.

Google’s core irritation is content that’s unoriginal and mass-produced. This isn’t a new dilemma for the world’s most used search engine. Humans largely contributed to hordes of “spun” content for decades before the brash arrival of ChatGPT.

That said, ChatGPT made it a whole lot easier to mass-produce junk content.

Google isn’t likely to outright state that you can’t use AI to help with content, but it will do all it can to thwart efforts at mass content production that offers no value to searchers.

So, Can We Use AI for Content Marketing, or Not?

Let’s take a step back and breathe.

We’re all trying to adjust to the arrival of one of tech’s most capable and most feared platforms.

Google isn’t any different than the rest of us in that sense. They are attempting to understand better positive AI content use cases versus negative ones.

Using AI for content marketing can be a helpful way forward. Ideas for topics, discovering gaps in current content and cleaning up and improving copy come to mind.

The problem now is that companies who want to avoid paying writers are heavily using AI as a solution to mass-produce website content. Without humans crafting most of the copy, there are no original thoughts.

It’s important to ask yourself if your content reflects your expertise. The extent to which you relied on AI in the content’s production falls second to this concept.

AI can undoubtedly assist with content production, but content production should center around human expertise. If you don’t provide deep analysis and commentary, usher in new ideas and speak to your and your company’s expertise, you’re likely contributing to an unhelpful search experience. And you probably won’t rank.

It’s important to ask yourself how your content differentiates from other pieces of ranking content. If your content regurgitates, it needs to be in a better spot.

If your content cites your expertise, helps solve problems uniquely and informs and educates through thought leadership, you’re in a competitive place. It’s equally important to establish SEO KPIs that help you monitor overall success.


Cory Hedgepeth is 9Rooftops lead SEO strategist. He applies extensive expertise in search engine optimization and content marketing strategy to enhance digital visibility and engagement for brands. His vast background in data analysis and keen understanding of market trends helps brands drive sustainable growth. 

Connect with Cory on Linkedin

Let our experts craft engaging, Google-friendly content that stands out.

This is not an advertisement, and solely reflects the views and opinions of the author. This website and its commentaries are not designed to provide legal or other advice and you should not take, or refrain from taking, action based on its content.