SEO Guy Mocks Google for Deindexing His "Gibberish" AI Sites

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Earlier this month, Google — the web’s monopolistic landlord slash organizer slash feudal ruler — announced a major spam policy shakeup.

Given that algorithmic search updates are often very boring, they don’t always make big media waves. But these updates, which largely read as a response to the rise of mass-produced AI-generated drivel proliferating across the internet, have been a big deal. And the spammier side of the SEO industry is feeling the squeeze.

“The manual action I got — they hit me with a ‘pure spam,’ and they also used wordings such as ‘automatically-generated gibberish,’ which is pretty intense,” Jacky Chou, a well-followed search engine optimization (SEO) guy, laments in a YouTube video about the updates titled “I GOT CLAPPED (Google March Spam Update).

“Um,” he continues, “I’ll wear that proudly, I think.”

In a follow-up video, he mocks people who follow Google’s guidelines.

“Alright guys, in light of recent events, I’ve decided to do everything the right way. I’m no longer going to spam the internet with AI content because it’s not profitable and you’ll eventually get clapped — I’m just kidding,” Chou declared in a followup to his “I GOT CLAPPED” video, this one titled “My Road to Recovery.”

“That’s ridiculous,” he added.

Few people searching Google make it past the first page of the platform’s results, let alone the first few links, so SEO specialists like Chou try every conceivable trick to get their sites there. Some work within the boundaries of “white hat” SEO, or optimizing practices that don’t push unhelpful spam into the Googleverse; others do the opposite, engaging in shady tactics to boost their rankings.

Unsurprisingly, beginning in late 2022 with the release of ChatGPT, many folks in this latter group have eagerly started using generative AI tools to publish large amounts of automated material. And while Google users have been complaining of deteriorating search quality for years, this proliferation of cheap AI content — think spammy celebrity listicles, oddly-written blog posts, and product “reviews” stacked with Amazon links — has driven the quality of search results to new lows.

Chou has been publishing a YouTube video almost every day for months, sharing his SEO tips and tactics for raking in click revenue by gaming Google’s algorithm. Many of the practices he recommends, like spinning up synthetic sites or mass-producing AI-generated commerce posts, certainly fall afoul of Google’s guidelines.

That said, we didn’t find Chou through his YouTube channel, or on any other social media. We came across him after stumbling upon some of the automated spam carrying his name.

Take a website for a product called Pixelfy, which hosts an incredible quantity of mass-produced product “guides” optimized for SEO success. Most, if not all, are published under an author named “Jack,” whose headshot is the same as the one found on Chou’s personal website. None of this content has AI disclosures; each also features a prominent disclaimer declaring that “this article was written and proof-read by a Pixelfy editor,” and will often include text promising any unlucky readers that a team of writers spent “hours” testing different products.

In reality, though, the content is incoherent and almost certainly produced at scale with AI. A post titled “Top 5 Best Flutes 2024,” for example, says it’s written by “passionate musicians and educators in music.” But when you scroll through the post, most of the “tested” products featured are cheap Amazon champagne flutes. Elsewhere, many post headlines, including extraordinary titles such as “Top 5 Best Pia%c2%b1ata Birthday Parties 2024” — this was supposed to say “Piñata” — and “Top 0 Best Ai Tools For Copywriting 2024” seem to be just the type of “automatically-generated gibberish” that Chou was bragging about in his video. (We reached out to Pixelfy to ask about the posts, but have yet to hear back.)

The Pixelfy posts are also strikingly similar to the AI-generated “blog” content Chou’s churned out at an e-commerce site he owns and operates called Far & Away. Like at Pixelfy, many of Far & Away’s product review guides similarly claim that the website’s team of human staffers spent “hours” or “countless hours” researching and testing various consumer goods, occasionally even claiming that products were put through their paces at a designated “testing facility.” The vast majority of these affiliate link-centered blogs are identical in structure and tone to the posts over at Pixelfy, and in a YouTube video published in November 2023, Chou shows his followers exactly how he uses an SEO content-writing AI tool to create them. (According to Chou’s post-update YouTube videos, Far & Away’s blog has been “deindexed and clapped” by Google. He says his other AI sites are still kicking, though.)

No matter how brutal the clobbering, though, black hat SEO influencers — particularly those with large social media followings — aren’t throwing in the towel. Google and those who try to master its algorithm and evade its attempts at policing along the way have been locked in a cursed dance for years, and since this latest update was issued, social media has been flooded with declarations of defiance against the search giant.

“Turns out, you can still 100 [percent] use AI content in your SEO… Google and influencer fearmongering latched on too hard, AGAIN, people drank the kool aid and had nightmares of traffic tragedy!” reads one particularly sanctimonious X-formerly-Twitter post from March 11. “The reality was, once more, ego is the enemy and emotional reactions will be the destruction of us all!”

We should add that while Google’s update has hit a lot of sites, it wasn’t a silver bullet that rid the web of all spam.

“We constantly develop new techniques and implement updates to our ranking systems to protect against spam,” a Google spokesperson told us via email. “But spam also adapts and evolves, requiring constant attention from our teams — and we regularly update our policies to effectively tackle new trends.”

As for why the spam crackdown was necessary to begin with? The spokesperson told us that “when people come to Search, they’re looking for high-quality content that’s made to be helpful to people — providing unique insights or value — not content that’s simply made to rank well in Search.”

“Our policies work to address abusive tactics that not only affect people who are searching for information,” they added, “but also hurt site owners and content creators who are creating fantastic, high quality content on the open web.”

With regards to AI spam, Google is in a strange position. As a major player Silicon Valley AI arms race, the tech giant is furthering the availability of the same generative AI tools that folks are using to abuse its search platform. It’s even integrating AI into search results, and also reportedly working on ways to automate news.

On the one hand, Google’s update and any subsequent SEO fallout is just another skirmish in the long-term search wars. And with Google carefully towing the AI line, how game-changing these updates will ultimately be remains unclear. But this is a war that generative AI has accelerated, and sometimes it feels as though the web’s very usability is on the line.

With that, we’ll leave you with this slam poem that Chou — who didn’t reply to repeated requests for comment — published to X on Friday:

“Times like this

After getting my cheeks clapped by Google

I’m glad I focused on profit first in the last year

Don’t worry Jimmy

I’m nearly finished

2024 is still the year of retirement”

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