Does Google Penalize AI Content? New SEO Case Study (2023)

We studied 487 search results to find out if Google penalizes AI content.

Here’s what we found about the top 5 ranking results:

Key Takeaways

  • The top 5 Google results scored 83% “Original” (according to Originality.ai)
  • ~1,778 was the median word count for the top 5.
  • And the median DR for the top 5 was ~71.

For our case study, we looked at the most lucrative keywords according to Google CPC data.

Here are some examples:

This case study aims to see if AI content performs as well, better, or worse than original content.

Here’s what we discovered:

Top 5 Google Results Scored 83% “Original” (According to Originality.ai)

We analyzed the top 5 ranking results for every keyword using Originality.ai (affiliate link).

Keep in mind that this is based on the likelihood that the content was created with AI.

In other words, it’s 92% likely that the top 5 results did not use AI to create the content.

The Top 5 Google Results Had a Median Word Count of 1,778

Backlinko’s massive case study found that the average word count for top-ranking results was 1,447.

We used the median in this case to eliminate outliers, but it’s within a similar range to Backlinko’s findings.

That said, word count itself isn’t a ranking factor.

However, longer assets are more likely to attract backlinks (which is a strong ranking factor).

This brings us to the next finding:

The Median DR was 71 for the Top 5 Google Results

No SEO case study is complete without including backlinks.

Unsurprisingly, the top-ranking results also have strong websites (from a link profile perspective).

Here’s the truth about the current state of the SERPs:

The best SEO content doesn’t always win.

What wins is website authority.

If you’d like to test this theory, create a brand-new website and try to rank for any competitive keyword.

I wouldn’t recommend it, but if you need proof, try it.

Does Google Penalize AI Content?

While this is a tiny sample set, it shows that Google’s algorithms favor original content (or the appearance of it). This doesn’t mean that Google penalizes AI content.

It just implies that Google shows a preference for pages with original content.

“Appropriate use of AI or automation is not against our guidelines.”

Google Search Central

Keep in mind:

Google’s goal is to show the most relevant and helpful content for the searcher.

So, if you can achieve that goal with AI content, then go for it.

But remember:

Content is only one part of the SEO equation. You also need website authority to achieve long-term results (and ranking stability).

Thanks for reading! 👍

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Nathan Gotch

Nathan Gotch is an SEO professional with over 10 years of experience. He's the founder of the #1 SEO business training program in the world, Gotch SEO Academy. And the author of The SEO Entrepreneur. Nathan's SEO expertise is featured on Semrush, Ahrefs, and Search Engine Journal.