Monday, June 19, 2023

Inhuman Writing for Google Is Eating the Web

Mia Sato:

Packed with SEO keywords and phrases and generated using artificial intelligence tools, the Get Bullish store blog posts act as a funnel for consumers coming from Google Search, looking for things like Mother’s Day gifts, items with swear words, or gnome decor. On one hand, shoppers can peruse a list of products for sale — traffic picks up especially around holidays — but the words on the page, Dziura says, are not being read by people. These blogs are for Google Search.


It’s a universal experience for small business owners who’ve come to rely on Google as a major source of traffic and customers. But it’s also led to the degradation of Google’s biggest product, Search, over time. The problem is poised to only continue to spiral as business owners, publishers, and other search-reliant businesses increasingly use artificial intelligence tools to do the search-related busywork. It’s already happening in digital media — outlets like CNET and Men’s Journal have begun using generative AI tools to produce SEO-bait articles en masse. Now, online shoppers will increasingly encounter computer-generated text and images, likely without any indication of AI tools.

In April, e-commerce company Shopify — which is used by millions of businesses, including toymaker Mattel and Kim Kardashian’s brand, Skims — launched an AI tool that allows businesses to generate product descriptions using keywords. Other AI companies offer tools that generate entire websites using automation tools, filling sites with business names, fake customer testimonials, and images for less than the price of lunch.


“If I made a blog post that was just what you would want as a person — ‘Here are 25 gift items under $25,’ [added] a picture of each one, a price, and a link — Google would not like it. Google would hate that list,” she says. “So here we are with all this text that is written only for a search engine.”

Via Nick Heer:

The sharp divergence between writing for real people and creating material for Google’s use has become so obvious over the past few years that it has managed to worsen both Google’s own results and the web at large. The small business owners profiled by Sato are in an exhausting fight with automated chum machines generating supposedly “authoritative” articles. When a measure becomes a target — well, you know.


At the same time, I have also noticed a growing number of businesses — particularly restaurants — with little to no web presence. They probably have a listing in Apple Maps and Google Maps, an Instagram page, and a single-page website, but that could be their entire online presence.


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I wish Nick Heer jag elaborated hos final point a bit. Not sure what he's trying to say, but I'd love to hear it

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