What You Should Know About Automatically Generated Content

Have you ever landed on a web page that just seems off? The content is kind of what you were looking for, but before long, you stumble upon a word or sentence that seems oddly phrased. As you continue reading, you come upon entire paragraphs that are jumbled and barely make sense. Chances are you’ve found some automatically generated content.

Unfortunately, auto-generated content is all over the internet. Sometimes you’ll even come across it on a site that you’ve always considered reputable.

The reason this type of content reads so awkwardly is that it wasn’t made for humans; it was made to attract search engines. Google’s smarter than that, though. It can often spot this type of low-quality content and choose not to rank it.

What is Automatically Generated Content?

Automatically generated content is created using a code or program. While auto-generated content can be harmful, it’s not always considered a black hat SEO tactic. Many times, though, it is.

Often, the purpose of auto-generated content is to publish large amounts of pages online and have them indexed. This is a way to trick Google into highly ranking certain web pages in search results.

Can Auto-Generated Content Be Harmful?

Yes, auto-generated content can be harmful and considered a black hat SEO tactic. According to Google , these are some of the times when auto-generated content violates spam policies:

  • Auto-generated text that doesn’t consider the user experience.
  • Combining content from multiple web pages without adding anything of value.
  • Text that includes target keywords but doesn’t make sense in terms of readability.

Google defines spammy automatically generated content as “content that’s been generated programmatically without producing anything original or adding sufficient value.” By violating Google’s quality guidelines, action can be taken against your website that will negatively impact its rankings and, as a result, lower your organic traffic.

Auto-Generated Content and the User Experience

Google wants to see content that provides a positive user experience (UX), meaning content that’s original, unique and useful. Usually, automatically generated content delivers a bad UX due to:

  • Low-quality content
  • Poor optimization
  • Recycled information

A big issue is that auto-generated content isn’t written by a human, and that becomes obvious when you focus on incoherent wording and words that were replaced with unnatural synonyms.

Even though some content creators and website owners may use auto-generated content as a way to pad their offerings and improve ranking, it can actually increase bounce rate and lower dwell time.

How to Avoid Using Automatically Generated Content

Not all auto-generated content is a death sentence for your website. There are times when automatically generated content can be a help to content curators. However, it’s never a good strategy to have a website that only or mostly has auto-generated content. Whenever possible, consider these alternatives.

Topic and Keyword Choice

The topics and keywords that will reel in the most visitors are the ones your target audience is most interested in. There are a number of ways to find what to write about, including the following:

  • Get involved in the conversation by engaging with your audience in your blog comments, on social media, etc.
  • Stay on top of industry trends to determine what your audience cares about right now.
  • Use Answer The Public to find questions your audience is asking.

Creating topic clusters can also help you plan out your content and ensure you’re not missing a subject your audience cares about.

Search Intent

Search intent refers to the user’s main goal when looking for something online. It falls into four main categories:

  • Commercial: Searching for information about a specific brand, product or service. “Healthy options at Starbucks”
  • Informational: Researching a topic to learn more. “What are the healthiest meals to prepare at home?”
  • Navigational: Searching for a specific website or web page. “Chipotle online ordering”
  • Transactional: Ready to buy a product or service. “Instant Pot deals”

To figure out what type of content matches a keyword, search for the keyword and examine the top results. Assess the content, including what type it is (listicle vs. product page, for example) and its formatting, to determine the search intent. You can then create a similar type of content that will compete with the top results.

Original Content

So much competitor research goes into strategizing content that it’s easy to forget to add your own flavor. Even if you’re providing similar information to your audience that your competitors are covering, there’s something extra you can do to enhance it.

Maybe you have more first-person experience with the topic and can open with a personal story. Or, maybe you think there’s a better way to organize and present the content, which makes your article more readable than others. You could also offer a different perspective than the norm or fill in information gaps that competitors have missed.

High-Quality, High-Value Content

Remember, you’re creating content for a person, not a search engine crawl bot. Your content should be well-researched, authoritative and informative. It’s more important to produce quality content than a higher quantity of content.

It should also be clean, meaning free of errors. And you should be creating easy-to-read content, which some SEO plugins will check for you. Learn about Yoast’s readability scores here.

Keyword-Optimized Content

To create keyword-optimized content, place your primary and secondary keywords throughout the copy. Here are a few tips:

  • Aim for .5% or higher keyword density. For example, if you write a 1,000-word blog post, your primary keyword should be used 5 or more times. Just make sure it’s being used naturally instead of stuffing them in!
  • Distribute keywords evenly so there aren’t too many or too few keywords in any one spot.
  • Include your primary keyword in the first paragraph of the article.
  • Include your primary keyword in at least one sub-header.
  • Write image alt text that includes your primary keyword (this is in addition to the .5% keyword density).

Visually Appealing Content

Readable content has visual appeal. Improve your content’s aesthetics with these tips:

  • Apply formatting like bold and italicized words, headers in multiple sizes, and bulleted lists to make it easier to skim.
  • Keep paragraphs short. Anywhere from 1 to 5 sentences is fine.
  • Use images and videos throughout the content to break up the text.

6 Tools That Help You Create Content

There are a number of tools available, both free and paid, that will help you create great content. Whether you need a tool that just does one thing well or a more fully featured solution, there are plenty to choose from. Here are a few to start you off.

Grammarly

Grammarly as an alternative to automatically generated content.

Grammarly is among the best content creation tools for proofreading your work and improving its readability. After adding your copy, you’ll get an overall score, plus several suggestions for fixing typos, improving clarity, making it more engaging, etc. With a paid account, you can also run a plagiarism check to make sure you’re not accidentally stealing someone else’s words.

Hemingway

Hemingway to improve readability and simplify your content.

Hemingway is a free app that shows you how to simplify your writing. If you’re covering a complex topic and need to adapt it for the layman or you’re worried that your copy is too wordy, Hemingway is an excellent resource. Color coding shows you areas of improvement, like sentences that are difficult to read, instances of passive voice and phrases that have easier-to-understand alternatives.

Link Whisper

Link Whisper for internal linking while writing content.

The more content you produce, the harder it becomes to internally link to other relevant content on your website. With the Link Whisper plugin for WordPress, you can see internal link suggestions as you write. This is one of the many ways to create SEO content that is highly valuable to the reader.

Semrush Content Checker

Semrush content creation tool to help avoid automatically generated content.
Source: Semrush

The Content Checker from Semrush lets you run your copy through for SEO, readability and originality analyses. It also makes keyword suggestions and helps you create a stronger title and meta description. Also, if you’re always striving for on-brand content, this tool can help you maintain a consistent tone.

Surfer

Surfer for keyword research and SEO content.

Surfer can be thought of as a one-stop shop for keyword research and content creation. You can do some pretty in-depth keyword research with Surfer, and then the Content Editor helps you outline and write optimized articles that will compete with the top search engine results. It also integrates with WordPress for seamlessly creating optimized copy for your website.

Yoast

Yoast WordPress plugin.
Source: WordPress plugin library

For on-page SEO, a WordPress plugin can tell you how you’re doing as you create content. One of the leading SEO plugins is Yoast, which has both an SEO checker and a readability score. Best of all, you can get quite a bit out of the free version, so you may never feel the need to upgrade.

Final Thoughts About Automatically Generated Content

Optimized content is purposely designed to rank in Google and other search engines. And it’s meant for people, not just computers. That’s the main difference between auto-generated content and human-generated content.

  • Auto-generated content is only for search engines.
  • Human-generated SEO content is for search engines and people.

For a steady flow of organic traffic that increases over time and keeps you in good standing with Google, avoid using automatically generated content when possible.

Are you wondering if you can pay Google for higher rankings? The answer is “no…well, kind of.” Learn more here.

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