AI Takes on Search Engines: The Fight to Curb SEO Spam

by | Jan 20, 2024

Search engines like Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo are currently in a battle against SEO spam, using advanced technology to fight against spammers. A study by Leipzig University, Bauhaus-University Weimar, and the Center for Scalable Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence has revealed the challenges faced by search engines in their fight against SEO spam and the impact it has on search results.

The study analyzed 7,392 product review queries over a year and found that a majority of high-ranking product reviews in search engine results pages (SERPs) are influenced by affiliate marketing or SEO product review spam. This correlation raises concerns about the authenticity and objectivity of search results.

So, what is driving the increase in SEO spam? The answer lies in the automation capabilities of generative AI. Tools like Midjourney and Stable Diffusion make it easy for individuals to produce content that manipulates search results. These AI-powered content farms scan existing human-written sites, use them as training data, and slightly rephrase them to avoid detection, flooding the internet with deceptive content.

AI tools not only affect SEO spam but also impact the creative industries. Platforms like ChatGPT and LLaMA have been accused of being “industrial-strength plagiarists” in a lawsuit filed by book publishers. AI-generated content blurs the line between human and machine-generated content, posing a threat to artists and content creators.

Search engines themselves face challenges in the fight against SEO spam. Google, in particular, has faced criticism for the declining quality of its search results. The study found a negative relationship between a page’s optimization and its perceived expertise, suggesting that Google’s guidelines may reduce search result quality. Google has acknowledged these concerns and claims to have made improvements, but the magnitude of the problem raises doubts about the sufficiency of these changes.

There is also a conflict of interest in affiliate marketing between users, search providers, and content providers. While search engines aim for relevant and trustworthy results, content providers are motivated to boost their rankings through SEO spam and affiliate marketing. This conflict presents a challenge in maintaining the integrity and objectivity of search results.

Legal issues related to AI-generated content have also surfaced. The New York Times has taken OpenAI to court, alleging copyright infringement. As AI advances and blurs the line between human and machine-generated content, such legal battles are likely to become more common.

The study also highlights the lack of legal capacity for most websites to combat automated spam sites enabled by AI tools. As AI becomes more sophisticated, the responsibility of identifying and combating spam falls on search engines, who must continuously update their ranking algorithms to stay ahead of spammers.

In conclusion, the battle against SEO spam remains an ongoing struggle for search engines. The rise of AI-powered tools has made it easier for individuals to manipulate search results through tactics like affiliate marketing and SEO spam. While search engines have made efforts to improve their algorithms, the pervasive influence of SEO spam continues to pose challenges. As AI blurs the line between human and machine-generated content, the fight against SEO spam will require constant adaptation and vigilance from search engines and content providers. Only through innovation and collaboration can search engines maintain search result integrity and protect users from deceptive practices.