In a recent Search off the Record podcast, Google’s Lizzi Sassman and John Mueller discussed the use of AI-generated images on websites.
Some of their opinions may seem surprising given the way AI-generated text content is handled by Google.
John Mueller pointed out the inherent limitations of AI image generator technology.
Automatically generated content
Auto-generated textual content is prohibited for Google Search within the limited scope of its use to manipulate search results.
Google’s Auto-Generated Content Guidelines state:
“In cases where it is intended to manipulate search rankings and not help users, Google may take action on that content.”
Google’s John Mueller has also publicly stated that AI-generated text content is considered spam:
“For us, these would basically fall into the category of auto-generated content, which is what we’ve had in the webmaster guidelines since almost the beginning.
I suspect the quality of the content might be a bit better than the very old school tools, but for us it’s still auto-generated content, which means for us it’s still contrary to the guidelines for webmasters. We therefore consider it to be spam.
…but for us, if we see something being auto-generated, then the web spam team can definitely take action on it.
And perhaps as a sign of the rapid pace of technological change, there are gray areas in Google’s bans on auto-generated content.
For example, using machine text translation to generate content is against the guidelines, except in cases where a human is reviewing and curating the content.
In the above-quoted directive on automatically generated content, automatically translated content is prohibited with the following statement:
“Text translated by an automated tool without revision or human curation before publication.”
Google also allows automatic generation of meta descriptions, probably because meta descriptions aren’t used for ranking purposes.
“For large database-based sites, like product aggregators, handwritten descriptions may not be possible. …programmatic generation of descriptions may be appropriate and is encouraged.
Thus, Google does not ban AI content at all levels, but only in certain situations.
Since AI-generated content may qualify for ranking in Google Images, one would think that AI-generated images are also prohibited.
But apparently that’s not the case.
Lizzi Sassman and John Mueller discussed the hypothetical use of AI-generated content on Google and they were pretty much in agreement with it.
Here is what they said:
“Lizzi Sassman: Hey! So just to start, I know you’ve done a lot of work with DALL-E on the Craiyon site, and all those sorts of places to get some fun images.
And I was wondering what you would say about using DALL-E to generate images for our site, Google Search Central, if we just started refreshing our images sitewide. What would you say to that?
John Mueller: That would be an exciting decision.
The only part where Mueller expresses reservations about using AI for images is when depicting something that should be a real thing, like a screenshot.
“I think the tricky part would be if you were showing screenshots of specific things, and inserting them into a machine art generated thing, then maybe you don’t necessarily get any real screenshots.
Lizzi Sassman: It could go in an interesting direction. Alright, looks like you’re convinced. Would you?
John Mueller: I would try. I mean…
Lizzi Sassman: You don’t want to tell me no?
John Mueller: I’m not going to say “no”.
I have no idea what that would look like. Maybe it will look really cool. Or maybe for Halloween, we could do that.
Limitations of AI-generated content
The only reservation John Mueller had about AI images is that the technology is based on image datasets and therefore the ability to generate an image is limited to what is in the image library on which she was formed.
Lizzi and John continued their discussion:
“I think one of the tricky parts of all of these tools is that they rely on a known image library.
And if there aren’t enough images reflected in it, then all you’re asking for is pretty vague.
So I tried a lot of SEO terms once, and most of the time when it recognized it was something like SEO-oriented marketing, it showed me a chart of, like, bar charts with a line graph
draw, and it’s like, “This is SEO.”
It’s like, “Well, it’s kinda like… it’s…”
Lizzi Sassman: It’s like your opinion, man.
John Muller: Yes. Exactly.”
Are the AI images currently correct?
Apparently using AI images in a website is acceptable.
Although auto-generated textual content is prohibited/restricted for ranking in Google Search, surprisingly, no prohibitions or similar caveats were discussed regarding AI-generated images and ranking in Google Images.
Listen to the Search Off the Record podcast
The part about using AI footage starts at around 34 seconds.
Featured Image by Shutterstock/san4ezz