In a recent Search off the Record podcast, Google’s Lizzie Sussman and John Mueller discussed the use of AI-generated images on websites.

Some of their opinions may seem surprising, given how Google handles AI-generated text content.

John Mueller noted the limitations inherent in AI-generated technology.

Automatically generated content
Automatically generated text content is prohibited for Google searches in the limited context of using it to manipulate search results.

Google’s recommendations for auto-generated content are:

“Where it is intended to manipulate search rankings rather than help users, Google may take action on such content.”

Google’s John Mueller also said that AI-generated text content is considered spam:

“For us, they essentially still fall into the auto-generated content category that we’ve had in the Webmaster’s Guide since the beginning.

My suspicion is maybe the quality of the content is a little bit better than really old school tools, but to us it’s still auto-generated content, and that means to us it’s still against the Webmaster Manual. So we think of it as spam.

…But for us, if we see something automatically generated, the webspam team can definitely take action on that.”
And perhaps as a sign of the rapid pace of technological evolution, there are gray areas in Google’s bans on autogens.

For example, using automatic text translation to create content is against the guidelines unless a human is reviewing and curating the content.

In the aforementioned auto-generated content guidelines, auto-translated content is prohibited with the following statement:

“Text translated by automated means without human review or curation before publication.”

Google also allows auto-generated meta descriptions, probably because meta descriptions are not used for ranking purposes.

“For sites with large databases, such as product aggregators, handwritten descriptions may not be possible. … Software-generated descriptions may be appropriate and encouraged.”

So Google doesn’t ban AI content universally, only in certain situations.

AI-generated images.
Given that AI-generated content can qualify for ranking in Google Images, one would think that AI-generated images are also banned.

But apparently that’s not the case.
Lizzie Sussman and John Mueller discussed the hypothetical use of AI-generated content in Google, and they were quite agreeable.

Here’s what they said:

“Lizzie Sussman: Hey! So, for starters, I know you’ve been doing a lot with DALL-E on the Craiyon site, and all these places, to get fun images.

And I was wondering what you would say about using DALL-E to create images for our site, Google Search Central, if we just started plugging that in to update our images all over the site – what would you say to that?
John Mueller: That would be exciting.”

The only part where Muller expresses doubts about using AI for images is when he depicts something that should be real, like a screenshot.

Mueller continued:
“I think the tricky part would be if you show screenshots of specific things and you turn that into something created by machine art, then maybe you don’t necessarily get real screenshots.

Lizzie Sussman: That could go in an interesting direction. Okay, it sounds like you’re in business. Would you do that?
John Mueller: I would try it. I mean…
Lizzie Sussman: You’re not going to say no to me?
John Mueller: I’m not going to say no.
I have no idea what it’s going to look like. Maybe it will look really cool. Or maybe for Halloween, we could do it.”
Limitations of content created by artificial intelligence
John Mueller’s only caveat to AI images is that the technology is based on image data sets, and so the ability to create an image is limited to what is in the image library it was trained on.

Lizzie and John continued the discussion:
“I think one of the difficult parts with all these tools is that it’s built on a known image library.

And if there aren’t enough images in there, then everything you’re asking for is pretty vague.

So I tried a lot of SEO terms once, and most of the time when he acknowledged that it’s kind of SEO-centric marketing, he showed me a graph, like, some histogram with a line graph
It’s like: “This is SEO.”
It’s like, “Well, it’s like. it’s like…”
Lizzie Sussman: That sounds like your point.

John Mueller: Yeah. Right.”
Are AI images currently okay?
Apparently, using AI images in a Web site is fine.

While autogenerated text content is banned/restricted for ranking in Google Search, surprisingly, there was no similar ban or caveat discussed about AI generated images and ranking in Google Images.