SEO Tip #89: Does Google See Automatically Generated Content As A Bad Thing?

Matt Cutts: Let me start with the second question. I even have a little bit of a problem with how you are phrasing the second question; “If I publish uncopyrighted content.” At least in the United States whoever writes stuff it’s copyrighted. You don’t have to go to the copy right office and get the proof that it’s copyrighted.

Within the United States, as soon as you write it you basically have copyrighted it as I understand it. I’m not a lawyer so your mileage may very but whenever you are saying “if I publish uncopyrighted content on my site,” and the way that you are phrasing it, “it’s coming in via different sources and sites via a Word Press plugin” it kind of sounds like “I run a keyword rich site and I’m not going to tell you the url.”

So the answer to that question is it’s certainly possible that there could be penalties. Usually Google doesn’t want to see a bunch of re-warmed-over affiliate feeds or RSS feeds or content scraped from other places. We want to see added value for the users.

We want to see some reason why a user would select that page rather than just stumbling on that page because it’s in the search results and not really having a good experience. So that’s the answer to the second part of your question.

Now let’s go back to the first part of your question, “does Google see automatically generated content as a bad thing?” Well, it can be. Given the context of the second part of your question it very well, probably might be. But automatically generated content doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

For example, Google’s web results are automatically generated. I think those are pretty helpful. The world seems to agree. A lot of people come to Google every day to web searches. But we still, even though we automatically generate pages we block them in robots.txt so that other search engines and other people don’t crawl them and it doesn’t pollute up their search results.

So here’s the analogy that I would use with hand-made content versus automatically generated content; if you’ve ever watched a TV show called America’s Funniest Home Videos what you see is these people are always kind of accidentally hitting themselves and falling over and they’re on pogo sticks and trampolines and they always crash into things, hit trees and fall into water, all that sort of stuff.

But there’s a theme I’ve noticed as a connoisseur of America’s Funniest Home Videos and the theme is this: if it’s just them they usually can only hurt themselves so much. If you’re under your own power, like you’re riding your own bike or you’re jumping off onto a rope or something that, that’s your own power. You can usually only do so much damage.

It’s when you have automatically generated power, you have a car, you have a motorcycle that people really start to get injured. So it’s kind of funny whenever people like bounce around on a bed and fall over on their head they normally seem to be okay because there’s only a finite amount of damage they can do under their own power. But whenever you power up the automation, whenever you get some sort of engine involved that’s a lot more stuff and you and you can hurt yourself a lot more.

So does automatically generated content have to be a bad thing? No it doesn’t. But in many cases it can be powerful enough that if you’re not careful, if you’re not keeping an eye on it you can shoot yourself in the foot a lot faster than you could do if you were trying to chisel yourself in the foot and would stop when it started to hurt.

I hope that helps and hope that gives you a little bit of ideas about ways to generate content and ways not to generate content.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About the Author

Andy Johnson

Andy Johnson has been on the Internet since the its dawn(ie his first computer program was recorded on cassette tape) and his first hard drive cost about as much his current MacBook. His first byline was in 1993 for a local newspaper rag he eventually helmed, and his last “real job” was at a computer start up which ended when it ended. Throughout it all he’s freelanced and blogged. Now he is mesmerized by Search Engine Optimization forever trying to “rise to the top” for the right reasons. He’s been married to his wife Julia for as long as he can remember and has two lovely, wonderful children. He looks forward to sharing the latest in the technical best for all the online entrepreneurs.