- ChatGPT is capable of writing somewhat decent content that can be improved by giving the AI very specific instructions.
- However, it does not provide real statistics or links. Additionally, its content should not be considered original – or even helpful, in some cases.
- While ChatGPT can be helpful, it should not be the sole source of on-page content for a brand or business.
I’m Casey, a Content Manager here at Redefine Marketing Group. On top of helping our clients reach their organic growth goals through quality content, I also manage this blog, and occasionally contribute posts of my own. A few months back, I wrote an article about how often someone should blog in order to maintain SERP rankings. It was written the traditional way; I outlined, researched, typed, and edited the entire post myself (with thanks to Stephanie for a round of edits as well.)
You’ve likely heard of ChatGPT and other AI writing tools. It has sparked imaginations and started conversational fires across the web, with constant disagreements over the validity and appropriateness of using it to write blog content for a website. Public opinion is mixed, with 27% of U.S. adults surveyed by Insider Intelligence trusting AI-generated results, and 31% showing either mild or major distrust.
AI-generated and AI-enhanced content can be a blessing or a curse, though Google has attempted to clear the air as to how it feels on the subject of “rewarding high-quality content, however it is produced.”
While what AI writing will do for your SERP is an entire post of its own, what I’m here to examine is how well artificial intelligence, specifically the ever-popular ChatGPT, can write content. In order to test this, I asked it to write an article alongside me – the blogging frequency-focused article I mentioned above. If you’re curious about the process of writing with AI tools, and how well the final result holds up, follow along as I give it two attempts on two prompts for the same blog post.
How good is ChatGPT at creating content?
Letting ChatGPT write: The first attempt
ChatGPT is blissfully free, allowing anyone to set up an account easily. While there are paid versions of the platform, the average user can get what they need from the free edition.
After understanding the rules the platform provides upon entry that can be summarized as ‘ask away, don’t share sensitive information, and check your facts,’ I’m greeted with a blank slate. I begin the interaction with a hello before feeding it my first prompt, starting with the less detailed input: “Please write an outline for a blog post about how often someone should blog for SERP success.”
It churns out a hefty outline, decorated with Roman numerals and everything you’d expect from a blog post. An introduction, a conclusion, a call to action, and even a spot for cited sources and references.
The only change request I make is that it does not provide a cited sources section, and instead cites sources within the text. I know already that I’m setting myself up for disaster here: ChatGPT is not connected to the internet. Because of that, it cannot actually provide me with a genuine statistic, source, or link.
Additionally, I’m curious as to what it will drum up here, where it has created sections for three different update frequencies. While there are benefits to daily, weekly, and monthly blogging, there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer here. Team size, niche, and the ability to create actually helpful content can have an impact on how often a site’s blog should, and can, update. Laying it out as a simple list of pros and cons seems to oversimplify the matter, as what might be a detriment for some could present a non-issue for others.
It also connects guest posting and repurposing. Since we do love link building here at Redefine Marketing Group, and we’ve written about reusing and recycling content before, I’ll let it dive deeper into this.
After making my requested change about the cited sources, I set the bot free to do its thing. It writes a 611-word article for me based on the outline generated in the prompt above. On the shorter side, but above our usually recommended hard minimum of 500 words. Let’s see how it makes use of those 611 words.
First and foremost, let’s dive into the content itself. All things considered, the writing quality isn’t bad, per se. There are no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors, as is to be expected in AI writing since it scrapes from correctly spelled sources on the web. From this baseline, there’s not much to worry about.
After reading the article, it does provide overall correct information. Search engines like Google favor websites with content that is fresh, relevant, up-to-date, and valuable. It makes no mention of E-E-A-T or specific content updates that lay out what writers should strive for when creating their content, since aiming to do so might impact one’s writing frequency, but, to be fair, I didn’t tell it to factor that in.
Creating a narrative
It presents the information in an acceptable way, though I might have reorganized it slightly differently. For example, under the fourth heading, ‘Assessing Your Niche and Goals’, it says: “Before determining your blogging frequency, consider your niche and target audience.” While this is true, it says this after outlining a few frequency options to consider in the “Daily, Weekly, Monthly” paragraph.
A strategy for crafting engaging online content is to subtly create a narrative and tell a story. In the ‘story’ of deciding how often a blog ought to be updated, I’d suggest laying out everything a content team should factor in first before providing ways to put those considerations into practice.
There is a slight issue with repetitiveness in this article. For example, in its bullet points for ‘Daily, Weekly, or Monthly Blogging,’ it starts each bullet point’s first sentence almost the exact same way. “Daily blogging can,” “Weekly blogging strikes,” and “Monthly blogging focuses.” While this isn’t exactly wrong, it’s not a shining example of stellar writing quality. Were I editing this, I’d likely rephrase these to make each paragraph slightly more interesting to read.
It’s not just the occasional repetitive sentence starts – it also never strays away from paragraphs with two or three sentences each in the body of the post, favoring two-sentence paragraphs more often than not. Additionally, these paragraphs average the same number of words each and every time. It starts to feel rhythmically repetitive. While shorter paragraphs are favorable for readability, a mix of short and long ones makes for an easier, more enjoyable experience.
Bullet points aplenty
In that same ‘Daily, weekly, monthly’ section, Chat GPT’s article uses bullet points for each blogging frequency. Again, this isn’t wholly incorrect. Many writers turn to bulleted lists for SEO best practices because they tend to make an article more ‘scannable’, and can sometimes fetch a coveted featured snippet. After doing some research on sites like Reddit, Twitter, and Quora, it seems that many users have noticed that the platform seems fond of bullet points and numbered lists.
However, were I editing this for SEO, I would likely take these bullet points and turn them into their own nested headings. A heading structure, built out with H2s, H3s, and H4s, will not only help us use keywords in headings and improve readability, but it will also help search engines understand what the page is all about.
The cited sources
Alright, this one’s on me.
I asked it to cite sources in the text, and, well, it certainly tried to. The thing I have learned about working with ChatGPT is that you need to be hyper-specific. I should have asked for it to include internal links to authoritative sources, rather than inline citations. It seems to be drawing from academic texts and popular sites like Wikipedia to create this style of citation. Not what you’d typically see in a blog post, though.
I didn’t tell ChatGPT who or what the call to action (CTA) should involve, so it does its best with a guess, suggesting readers sound off in the comments, subscribe to a newsletter, and follow a nebulous ‘us’ on social media. I can’t fault it for its vagueness here. I would only knock points off for the way it uses ‘Call to Action’ as a heading – usually, a CTA heading (if you even have one, instead of grouping it in with the conclusion) should play a part in the overall ‘point’ of the CTA.
I didn’t give it a target keyword to optimize for, so it didn’t try to optimize the article toward one. While this article might have a chance to rank for keywords akin to its general purpose of informing a reader how often they should blog for SERP success, it might have a difficult go of it with its current structure and relatively thin content.
Letting ChatGPT write: The second attempt
This time, I got much more specific with my request and skipped the outlining stage. My full message was as follows:
“Thank you for this article. I’d like you to start over completely and follow these instructions:
Write a blog post for Redefine Marketing Group, an online marketing agency that creates organic growth strategies for mid-market and enterprise companies. The topic of the blog post is how often a brand or business should post to their blog according to SEO best practices. Please optimize this blog post for the keyword ‘how often should you blog’. Keep Google’s algorithms and emphasis on helpful content in mind. Use a heading structure that utilizes H2, H3, and H4s. End with a call to action that encourages the reader to reach out to Redefine Marketing Group for help with their organic growth through online content. Link to online sources and studies within the blog copy.”
Yes, I did give it a slightly tricky keyword to work with and incorporate naturally into the text, but I wanted to see what it would come up with.
Already, we’re off to a better start. It seems to have taken my suggestion rather well, starting with an H1, following with an H2, and even nesting in H3s and H4s. The factors it suggests are industry and niche dynamics, audience expectations, and available resources – something it lays out early in the post. It seems to have varied its paragraph structure and length a bit more this time as well, though it still favors shorter blurbs.
While it isn’t notably longer than the first go, at 635 words versus the original 611, it does seem to make better use of that wordcount. I appreciate that it emphasizes content that resonates with an audience and never compromising on quality – I wonder if this is because I reminded it about the importance of helpful content.
The order here works a bit better, as it lays out a more logical thought pattern into deciding on frequency than before.
There are a few points in the article, though, that I would suggest it expounds upon. It states that a website updating daily will ‘attract search engine crawlers more often,’ and doesn’t elaborate more on the subject, like why that happens or what exactly it means by ‘attract search engine crawlers’.
It also states that “progress in SEO might be slower” for weekly blogging as opposed to daily. Aside from this sentence not quite making sense (I would phrase it as ‘progress in search engine rankings’ as opposed to ‘progress in search engine optimization’), it doesn’t feel wholly correct. Simply posting often doesn’t mean that a site will hit the top ten rankings faster. What matters more than anything is quality and consistency.
Finally, in what may initially seem like a nitpick, the heading to the penultimate paragraph before the conclusion reads “Adapting and Measuring Success: The Iterative Approach.” However, it does not actually discuss what it means by ‘the iterative approach,’ instead just suggesting the user harness tools like Google Analytics to track progress. The word ‘iterative’ isn’t even used in the paragraph. This isn’t just a nitpick, though: setting up expertise and trust involves meeting a reader’s expectations, which this passage fails to do.
It still loves bulleted lists
These pro and con lists are short, and I’d prefer something more fleshed out and explanatory, as I mentioned in the content section. Once again, specificity seems to be the name of the game. If you don’t want it churning out a bulleted list, you’ll need to ask it plainly not to. There’s nothing wrong with a bulleted list, but it isn’t always necessary.
The cited sources
I can’t win with this one.
Once again, ChatGPT defaults to the previously mentioned Wikipedia-style citations with brackets instead of making up an online source, as I and other users have noticed it opting for before. I am curious to see if it is stuck in a learned habit from the previous prompt, and if starting in a completely new ‘conversation’ with the AI would foster a different result, or if rephrasing to say that I’d like ‘external links’ might be the best strategy here.
ChatGPT does manage to work in the awkward key phrase a few times without it feeling too shoehorned in. With expansion and variation on the existing content, there’s a chance this article might be able to find footing, provided the author already has a solid handle on SEO best practices and is willing to put in time getting it up to standards. All told, ChatGPT only has a baseline understanding of search engine optimization, and merely using a keyword a few times doesn’t mean it’s an automatic first-page win. There are dozens of other contributing factors, from UX elements like page speed and accessibility, to off-page link-building and social media, that can help shape the future of a piece of content.
Once again, it heads the call to action with ‘call to action’, but this time it mentions us by name and suggests that we help the reader ‘redefine your content strategy for organic growth,’ and ‘redefine your approach to digital marketing’ – a slight return to form with the repetitiveness of the earlier article, but I can definitely see what it’s going for here by working our brand name in.
Additional experimentation with ChatGPT
I decided to keep poking around at the tool outside of this prompt to get a feel for how it writes through extensive usage on a wide variety of topics. I fed it prompts ranging from ‘vague and general’ to ‘ultra-niche and specific’ to make it show off what it was capable of.
It handles voice well
Upon being asked to write in an academic voice, it maintained a slightly austere cadence that never wavered into coming off ostentatiously stuffy or flowery, favoring extrapolation and facts over filler and fluff. When I asked for a more casual, lighthearted tone, it peppered in exclamation points and a relaxed, conversational voice.
Fake stats and links
I asked it to draw up an article about free things to do with kids in summer to help beat the heat, and to please include external links and statistics. It offered up statistics about pool usage in the US and sun protection that it clearly pulled out of a hat. There were also, as expected, fake links, though at the very least it spelled these links out instead of defaulting to citation style. The dummy links usually had a basis in reality, such as leading to a real Southern California parks and recreation site, but the subfolder and exact page turned up a 404 error every time.
The platform itself advises that users check their facts, as it is liable to give information that is incorrect. While this might not matter as much for some topics, offering up false information is never a good look, both to search engines and, importantly, your readers.
Sometimes, it doesn’t listen
Some businesses are very particular about their brand voice. For example, especially for academic articles, avoiding referring to the audience as ‘you’ might be preferable for professionalism and neutrality. I asked it to write an article without referring to the audience as ‘you’, instead sticking to the third-person plural, and it simply refused to, defaulting to the second-person singular. Upon asking for two more rewrites, and trying with other prompts, it still wouldn’t shake the habit of ‘you’. There are other isolated incidents where it simply ignores part of a prompt if it deviates from the information it scrapes from too heavily.
So, does ChatGPT write good content?
To elaborate, I would suggest against using it, unedited, as the source of your online content. If you really feel like you need a hand, let ChatGPT draft up an outline for you and work from there. With recent Google algorithm updates, originality and helpfulness are critical, and that’s one thing that ChatGPT cannot do: provide truly original content. It scrapes the internet for answers and cobbles together a reply to your query. In addition, the amount of editing needed to get the post truly attuned to SEO best practices might outweigh the convenience of using the tool in the first place.
AI detection tools
If you’re worried that your writers are supplying AI-generated content, open up a dialog about what the expectations for written content are, and read submitted posts with a critical eye. You can use online AI detection tools, like GPTZero or Copyleaks for free but slightly limited options, or Originality.ai for a robust paid service with plenty of features, to suss out the validity of a piece of content before it goes live. Bear in mind, though, that every tool has a slight margin for error.
Other versions of Open AI’s technology
As stated, I used the free version of the site to write this article. The free version is ChatGPT 3.5, while the paid service was upgraded to 4.0 in March of 2023. It’s possible that those using the paid edition might have a different experience in creating blog posts or other on-page text. Open AI claims that results are more useful and reliable with this update, but we cannot confirm or deny the validity of this.
Content by humans, for humans, with Redefine Marketing Group
We get it: creating content can be difficult and time-consuming, no matter how you’re doing it. Even using an AI generation tool should still involve working in a prompt, providing super specific instructions, and editing the variable content it provides. However, there’s no denying that having content of some kind is critical to SEO success.
That’s where Redefine Marketing Group comes in. Whether you need help with topic ideas and keyword research, or want a hand with writing original, people-generated, helpful content in a way that search engines love, we’re ready to dive in and create engaging, original content designed to help you meet and exceed your organic growth goals. Contact us to see how our team of humans can help yours today.