Can Machines Produce Authoritative Search Results?

    May 9, 2012
    Chris Crum

If the future of journalism is machine-produced content, it may face one major obstacle – search engine visibility. We’ve written about Narrative Science, a company whose business just happens to be providing such content, several times. In fact, earlier today, we posted a piece about the company’s attempt at bursting the “filter bubble“.

We’ve also been paying a lot of attention to Google’s quality guidelines in light of the Penguin update, which targets sites in violation of them. One of those guidelines is:

Avoid “doorway” pages created just for search engines, or other “cookie cutter” approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.

If you click that “little or no original content” link, it takes you to a page with some examples. Among them: thin affiliate sites, doorway pages, scraped content and auto-generated content.

Wait a minute. Auto-generated content?

Auto-generated content: Content generated programatically. Often this will consist of random paragraphs of text that make no sense to the reader but that may contain search keywords.

Well, I don’t think Google had something like Narrative Science in mind when they came up with that, but it poses an interesting question: just how does Google feel about this kind of content? On the one hand, it is “content generated programatically”. On the other hand, it’s not going to “consist of random paragraphs of text that make no sense to the reader.”

Supposedly, the technology is getting better at writing more human-like articles. By some accounts, perhaps even less prone to mistakes than human-produced content.

Google can certainly identify with that logic (driverless cars, which are supposed to be safer than human-driven cars).

It seems fairly likely that we’re going to see more Narrative Science-like companies emerge. For example, Automated Insights seems to be traveling down a similar path. I would not be surprised to see a new wave of content farms (of the robotic kind) in the near term. Google might have some new fun to deal with in that regard.

The real question is: if the machines are producing higher quality content (or even just as high as) than humans, should this content be ranking better in search results? What do you think?

Are companies like Narrative Science going to be able to produce content that meets Panda guidelines? Google wants to provide more authoritative results. Can machines produce authoritative content?

These are the kinds of questions we’re likely to be faced with, covering the search industry.

We’ve reached out to both Google and Narrative science to dig into this further, and will update as info becomes available.


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.