Inhuman Writing for Google Is Eating the Web

Mia Sato, the Verge:

[Jennifer] Dziura still updates her personal blog — these are words for people.

The shop blog, meanwhile, is the opposite. 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.


This is the type of content publishers, brands, and mom-and-pop businesses spend an untold number of hours on, and on which a booming SEO economy full of hackers and hucksters make promises ranging from confirmed to apocryphal. The industries that rely heavily on Search — online shops, digital publishers, restaurants, doctors and dentists, plumbers and electricians — are in a holding pattern, churning out more and more text and tags and keywords just to be seen.

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.

There are loads of examples and I recently found a particularly galling one after a family friend died. Their obituary was not published, but several articles began appearing across the web suggesting a cause of death, which was not yet public information. These websites seem to automatically crawl publicly available information and try to merge it with some machine learning magic and, in some instances, appear to invent a cause of death. There is also a cottage industry of bizarre YouTube channels with videos that have nothing to do with the obituary-aligned titles. I have no idea why those videos exist; none that I clicked on were ad-supported. But the websites have an easy answer: ghoulish people have found that friends and family of a person who recently died are looking for obituaries, and have figured out how to scam their ad-heavy pages to high-ranking positions.

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. I know it is not possible for every type of business. It does seem more resilient against the slowly degrading condition of search engines and the web at large, though.