AI Clickbait: How Google Intends To Kill It

Google has announced updates and changes to its spam policy designed to remove all clickbait from its search results.

The March 2024 core and several spam updates, along with content system changes, have been incorporated into its overall core ranking system.

Google also announced new and updated spam policies that it will begin enforcing through automated algorithms and manual actions.

Elizabeth Tucker, director of product management at Google, wrote in a blog post that the change will reduce “low-quality, unoriginal content” in search results by 40%. It will focus on reducing what the company calls “scaled content abuse,” which is when bad actors flood the internet with massive amounts of articles and blog posts designed to game search engines.

Google on Tuesday released an updated version of its general guidelines for search quality ratings. The 170-page document covers everything from the purpose of search quality ratings to the needs met by a variety of different results.



One major problem is obituary spam. Google has struggled to contain obituary spam for years. The Verge describes it as low-effort SEO-bait websites that have popped to the top of search results after an individual dies. The sites then aggressively monetize the content by loading up pages with intrusive ads and profit when searchers click on results.

Generative artificial intelligence (GAI) tools appear to be accelerating the flood of low-quality fake obituaries. 

Pandu Nayak, a Google search vice president who oversees quality and ranking, acknowledged that GAI is a valuable tool, but told Fast Company the “problem is when you start creating content at scale not with the idea of serving your users, but with the idea of targeting search ranking.”

Today, scaled content-creation methods are more sophisticated, and whether content is created purely through automation is not always clear.

For decades, Google relied on advanced spam-fighting systems and spam policies to prevent the lowest-quality content from appearing in search results.

While that work continues, the updates to its policies will better address new and evolving abusive practices that lead to unoriginal, low-quality content showing up on Search.

Websites with their own high-quality content sometimes may also host low-quality content provided by third parties.

Google provides an example of a third party that might publish payday loan reviews on a trusted educational website to gain ranking benefits from the site. This is a way to confuse or mislead visitors who may have different expectations for the content on a given website, according to Google. 

Another aggressive approach to combatting search spam is “domain squatting,” a practice where scavengers purchase websites with name recognition to profit off reputations.

Expired domains are purchased and repurposed occasionally with the intention of boosting search ranking of low-quality or unoriginal content.

Google says this can mislead users into believing that the new content is part of the older site, which may not be the case. Expired domains that are purchased and repurposed with the intention of boosting the search ranking of low-quality content are now considered spam. Producing content for these sites has become much easier to do with GAI.

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