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Can Google Detect AI Generated Content?

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Can Google Detect AI Generated Content?

Just when we thought that we could use everything AI to write all of our content, developers went and dropped AI writing detectors on us, too.

The creators of ChatGPT themselves released one just a few weeks ago, amidst new Google statements and updates on the whole issue of generative AI and content. 

It’s looking hard out there for these writing tools—but can engineers really develop a way to detect whether text has been by AI writers and conversational chatbots? Can Google detect AI-generated content? And, should you be worried about penalization if you’ve been using these tools yourself?

Let’s get into what this all means for your content production, and what you can do to avoid getting hit by Google’s algorithm. 

Is AI Content Bad for SEO?

Yes, AI-written content can be bad for your SEO. 

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Google has said multiple times in the past that purely AI-written content goes against its guidelines. We’ll get into why and how it can be a problem for you later on.

Google also has a long, long history of using and developing AI tech. So, it’s safe to say that they do have ways to tell if your articles are written by an AI tool. 

Why AI-Generated Content Goes Against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines

Is using AI assistance in writing explicitly prohibited by Google’s Webmaster Guidelines? No. But, there are guidelines that strongly condemn ‘spammy automatically-generated content.’ Specifically, they call out any article written by AI for the “primary purpose of manipulating ranking in search results,” which they state is a violation of our spam policies.

Google's guidelines on spammy, automatically-generated content

This is a mistake you can commit if you’re trying to churn out the most content simply to climb the ranks as fast as possible. 

So, it’s not that AI-generated content is, by default, something that Google will punish you for. But, if you’re just mass publishing content using AI, then it may ultimately hurt your rankings, rather than help. 

Danny Sullivan—a renowned SEO expert and representative of Google—made this clear in a past statement:

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We haven’t said AI content is bad. We’ve said, pretty clearly, content written primarily for search engines rather than humans is the issue. That’s what we’re focused on. If someone fires up 100 humans to write content just to rank, or fires up a spinner, or a AI, same issue…

How Can Google Detect AI Content?

To understand how Google can detect AI content, it’s important to understand how AI writing tools work.

Jasper, ChatGPT, and other similar AI use a process called Natural Language Generation (NLG) to generate copies and responses. NLG uses algorithms, trained on a large corpus of data, to generate human-like text. 

Google on the other hand can use machine learning algorithms to learn the different signals in content—such as text structure, grammar, and syntax in the text. This will help it detect patterns in the content that are indicative of AI generative writing. 

In short, if it falls within a structure that is noticed by the algorithm, Google can flag it.

This is entirely possible because AI writing is missing the natural variation, nuance, and complexity found in human writing. Plus, AI writing tends to be repetitive, and the facts and data they present may also be outdated or misinformative. 

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So, Can Google Detect AI Content?

Yes, even if it’s been run through your AI tools a couple of times. It can possibly even detect it if it sounds very well-written. 

It might not be noticeable while skimming through the text your tools generate, and it might even read naturally—and yet, it can be detected. 

That’s not to say that Google’s algorithm is 100% accurate, though. When asked in an interview if Google was able to automatically detect the difference between human and AI content, Google’s John Mueller responded “I can’t claim that. However, if the web spam team sees anything that is automatically generated, they will take action.” 

So, it’s clear that there is no foolproof way of detecting AI-generated content, at least not yet. As AI technology and machine learning continue to develop, it’s safe to say that they will develop a highly reliable way to detect and penalize it.Other AI Writing Detectors

As I mentioned earlier, there are several AI detection tools out there that can catch AI-generated content. 

The one developed by Open AI, which they’re temporarily calling “AI Text Classifier,” is just the latest in the long line of tools you can use. Originality AI is a premium tool that charges you 0.1 cents per credit and checks your content for both originality and AI. Another option is AI Content Detector from Writer, which you can use for free—though only for 1,500 characters at a time.  

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I tried them both myself. I first asked ChatGPT to write me an article:

ChatGPT writing an example article

Then, I put it into the AI detector tools, without any edits:

ChatGPT's example article being evaluated by an AI detection tool

Here’s what AI Content Detector had to say:

AI Content Detector's evaluation of ChatGPT's example article

So, these tools seem pretty reliable in finding purely AI-written content.

Should You Stop Using AI for Your Content?

“I’m using an AI writing tool, should I be worried?”

A lot of people are asking this question now. After all, with the introduction of ChatGPT in late 2022, and the explosion of AI software adoption, we all saw the incredible capabilities of AI. Suddenly, we all had free access to a tool that could replace a lot of the legwork and money that usually goes into content writing. 

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How could we not use this technology in our SEO strategies, when it was so good? 

And now, months later, many are wondering if their AI-written content puts them in danger of a Google penalty. 

So, should you be worried if you used an AI writing tool for your site? The answer is—it depends. 

The situation as I see it is this: when you use things like ChatGPT to make content, you either publish it as is, or edit it before doing so. 

The first puts you in a bad position because you’re putting out bad content. It will be downgraded by Google because it’s low-quality content that doesn’t provide a helpful, valuable experience for readers.

Why? Because tools like this only scrape and remake content that was fed to them. They do not provide anything novel, since you’re not adding your expertise, your thoughts, or your interpretations to the content. 

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So the name of the game now is knowing how to use these tools efficiently, while still adding quality (and a human touch) to your content. Always offer that expertise to it that makes it valuable to readers.

How Does This Affect AI-Generated Content?

You might still be skeptical, and feel safer if you’re writing content purely without AI.

However, what you should be worried about is choosing the best content writing tools, and making sure to use them properly. After all, given how much time and money you can save with this in your toolbox, it’s worth taking the risk—with a few guidelines set in place.

Google even supports this (in a way), in their updated page on AI-generated content:

Google's updated page on AI-generated content:

On the same page, they also said this: “This said, it’s important to recognize that not all use of automation, including AI generation, is spam. Automation has long been used to generate helpful content […] AI has the ability to power new levels of expression and creativity, and to serve as a critical tool to help people create great content for the web.

This is in line with how we’ve always thought about empowering people with new technologies. We’ll continue taking this responsible approach, while also maintaining a high bar for information quality and the overall helpfulness of content on Search.

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So no, you don’t have to stop using your tools. But you might have to revisit how you’ve been using them.

For starters, I suggest working with the right team. If the people using them are complete novices, then it might do your content more harm than good. 

Why? Because if they don’t know how to use these tools properly, then they might end up producing low-quality content that will, at best, be ignored by users (and at worst, get penalized by Google). Either way, the result is something you need to avoid.

Plus, if they keep churning out that kind of content on your site, you’re probably going to see a dip in your traffic and engagement.

On the other hand, if you’re able to train them to use these tools in such a way that creates great content for your audience with less time and effort spent, then it will become an extremely valuable asset for your site. In the right hands, it’s a powerful thing. 

So if you’re going to use an AI writing tool, invest some time in learning how to use them, and figure out what you should avoid doing with your content creation. 

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What to Do When Using AI for Content Creation

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Check the writing style, tone, flow, and grammar of the generated content. Nothing turns off a reader more than something that is poorly written—or sounds odd.
  • Use the tool to generate the bulk of the text. You could start with an outline, and ask for a paragraph or two for each point. This will make it easier for you to target as many relevant talking points as possible with less effort on your end.
  • Provide clear guidelines. Without proper instructions, AI tools can struggle to generate quality content. If you don’t do this, you’ll probably waste time trying to re-generate the content you’re looking for. 
  • Understand what prompts you can use. AI tools are programmed to respond a certain way to prompts, which can help you generate content in different formats, or for a dedicated focus. Knowing what prompts to use in a given situation can help cut down the time you spend trying to create the right content with your tools.
  • Your content should be relevant and informative. Don’t just push out articles and blogs for the sake of it. If it isn’t relative and informative, it has little to no value for any reader. 
  • Make sure to add your own take on the content—add in your expertise, your thoughts, and your comments on the matter. This human touch not only displays your knowledge of the topic but also transforms the content into something that will be uniquely yours

What to Avoid When Using AI for Content Creation

And here’s what to avoid doing completely with your tools: 

  • Relying completely on AI for your content. As I said earlier, doing this will do you more harm than good, especially since the tools (and Google’s algorithm) can sniff out purely AI-written content. 
  • Substituting AI-generated content for human creativity. Use these tools to cut down on writing time so you and your team can invest in something more valuable—your human creativity, insight, and expertise. Always insert that into your writing.
  • Using AI for complicated, niche topics. Depending on your industry, you might not always be able to use it for your content. While AI is pretty sophisticated in what it can answer, it often cannot answer questions that require inference, a nuanced understanding of language, or a deeper understanding of multiple topics. 
  • Keyword stuffing. This is an SEO content best practice as old as time. When you stuff your writing full of keywords, it will make your work sound spammy, and may even get you penalized by Google for being spam content.
  • Forgetting to proofread and fact-check. Don’t expect AI to be perfect. Always proofread and fact-check. Any data, statistics, or facts given by your tool should be checked for accuracy. 

Conclusion

Can Google detect AI-generated content? The answer is yes, but that doesn’t mean that you have to stop using it in your SEO. 

Though several AI writing detectors are out there—many of which are free to use—it’s clear to me that AI-generated content won’t be going away anytime soon. In fact, there are several ways for it to be used ethically for SEO

With the proper guidelines, you can add AI writing tools as a valuable addition to your content creation arsenal, without fear of penalization.



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Top Priorities, Challenges, And Opportunities

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Top Priorities, Challenges, And Opportunities

The world of search has seen massive change recently. Whether you’re still in the planning stages for this year or underway with your 2024 strategy, you need to know the new SEO trends to stay ahead of seismic search industry shifts.

It’s time to chart a course for SEO success in this changing landscape.

Watch this on-demand webinar as we explore exclusive survey data from today’s top SEO professionals and digital marketers to inform your strategy this year. You’ll also learn how to navigate SEO in the era of AI, and how to gain an advantage with these new tools.

You’ll hear:

  • The top SEO priorities and challenges for 2024.
  • The role of AI in SEO – how to get ahead of the anticipated disruption of SGE and AI overall, plus SGE-specific SEO priorities.
  • Winning SEO resourcing strategies and reporting insights to fuel success.

With Shannon Vize and Ryan Maloney, we’ll take a deep dive into the top trends, priorities, and challenges shaping the future of SEO.

Discover timely insights and unlock new SEO growth potential in 2024.

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View the slides below or check out the full webinar for all the details.

Join Us For Our Next Webinar!

10 Successful Ways To Improve Your SERP Rankings [With Ahrefs]

Reserve your spot and discover 10 quick and easy SEO wins to boost your site’s rankings.

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E-E-A-T’s Google Ranking Influence Decoded

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E-E-A-T's Google Ranking Influence Decoded

The idea that something is not a ranking factor that nevertheless plays a role in ranking websites seems to be logically irreconcilable. Despite seeming like a paradox that cancels itself out, SearchLiaison recently tweeted some comments that go a long way to understanding how to think about E-E-A-T and apply it to SEO.

What A Googler Said About E-E-A-T

Marie Haynes published a video excerpt on YouTube from an event at which a Googler spoke, essentially doubling down on the importance of E-A-T.

This is what he said:

“You know this hasn’t always been there in Google and it’s something that we developed about ten to twelve or thirteen years ago. And it really is there to make sure that along the lines of what we talked about earlier is that it really is there to ensure that the content that people consume is going to be… it’s not going to be harmful and it’s going to be useful to the user. These are principles that we live by every single day.

And E-A-T, that template of how we rate an individual site based off of Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness, we do it to every single query and every single result. So it’s actually very pervasive throughout everything that we do .

I will say that the YMYL queries, the Your Money or Your Life Queries, such as you know when I’m looking for a mortgage or when I’m looking for the local ER,  those we have a particular eye on and we pay a bit more attention to those queries because clearly they’re some of the most important decisions that people can make.

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So I would say that E-A-T has a bit more of an impact there but again, I will say that E-A-T applies to everything, every single query that we actually look at.”

How can something be a part of every single search query and not be a ranking factor, right?

Background, Experience & Expertise In Google Circa 2012

Something to consider is that in 2012 Google’s senior engineer at the time, Matt Cutts, said that experience and expertise brings a measure of quality to content and makes it worthy of ranking.

Matt Cutts’ remarks on experience and expertise were made in an interview with Eric Enge.

Discussing whether the website of a hypothetical person named “Jane” deserves to rank with articles that are original variations of what’s already in the SERPs.

Matt Cutts observed:

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“While they’re not duplicates they bring nothing new to the table.

Google would seek to detect that there is no real differentiation between these results and show only one of them so we could offer users different types of sites in the other search results.

They need to ask themselves what really is their value add? …they need to figure out what… makes them special.

…if Jane is just churning out 500 words about a topic where she doesn’t have any background, experience or expertise, a searcher might not be as interested in her opinion.”

Matt then cites the example of Pulitzer Prize-Winning movie reviewer Roger Ebert as a person with the background, experience and expertise that makes his opinion valuable to readers and the content worthy of ranking.

Matt didn’t say that a webpage author’s background, experience and expertise were ranking factors. But he did say that these are the kinds of things that can differentiate one webpage from another and align it to what Google wants to rank.

He specifically said that Google’s algorithm detects if there is something different about it that makes it stand out. That was in 2012 but not much has changed because Google’s John Mueller says the same thing.

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For example, in 2020 John Mueller said that differentiation and being compelling is important for getting Google to notice and rank a webpage.

“So with that in mind, if you’re focused on kind of this small amount of content that is the same as everyone else then I would try to find ways to significantly differentiate yourselves to really make it clear that what you have on your website is significantly different than all of those other millions of ringtone websites that have kind of the same content.

…And that’s the same recommendation I would have for any kind of website that offers essentially the same thing as lots of other web sites do.

You really need to make sure that what you’re providing is unique and compelling and high quality so that our systems and users in general will say, I want to go to this particular website because they offer me something that is unique on the web and I don’t just want to go to any random other website.”

In 2021, in regard to getting Google to index a webpage, Mueller also said:

“Is it something the web has been waiting for? Or is it just another red widget?”

This thing about being compelling and different than other sites, it’s something that’s been a part of Google’s algorithm awhile, just like the Googler in the video said, just like Matt Cutts said and exactly like what Mueller has said as well.

Are they talking about signals?

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E-EA-T Algorithm Signals

We know there’s something in the algorithm that relates to someone’s expertise and background that Google’s looking for. The table is set and we can dig into the next step of what it all means.

A while back back I remember reading something that Marie Haynes said about E-A-T, she called it a framework. And I thought, now that’s an interesting thing she just did, she’s conceptualizing E-A-T.

When SEOs discussed E-A-T it was always in the context of what to do in order to demonstrate E-A-T. So they looked at the Quality Raters Guide for guidance, which kind of makes sense since it’s a guide, right?

But what I’m proposing is that the answer isn’t really in the guidelines or anything that the quality raters are looking for.

The best way to explain it is to ask you to think about the biggest part of Google’s algorithm, relevance.

What’s relevance? Is it something you have to do? It used to be about keywords and that’s easy for SEOs to understand. But it’s not about keywords anymore because Google’s algorithm has natural language understanding (NLU). NLU is what enables machines to understand language in the way that it’s actually spoken (natural language).

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So, relevance is just something that’s related or connected to something else. So, if I ask, how do I satiate my thirst? The answer can be water, because water quenches the thirst.

How is a site relevant to the search query: “how do I satiate my thirst?”

An SEO would answer the problem of relevance by saying that the webpage has to have the keywords that match the search query, which would be the words “satiate” and “thirst.”

The next step the SEO would take is to extract the related entities for “satiate” and “thirst” because every SEO “knows” they need to do entity research to understand how to make a webpage that answers the search query, “How do I satiate my thirst?”

Hypothetical Related entities:

  • Thirst: Water, dehydration, drink,
  • Satiate: Food, satisfaction, quench, fulfillment, appease

Now that the SEO has their entities and their keywords they put it all together and write a 600 word essay that uses all their keywords and entities so that their webpage is relevant for the search query, “How do I satiate my thirst?”

I think we can stop now and see how silly that is, right? If someone asked you, “How do I satiate my thirst?” You’d answer, “With water” or “a cold refreshing beer” because that’s what it means to be relevant.

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Relevance is just a concept. It doesn’t have anything to do with entities or keywords in today’s search algorithms because the machine is understanding search queries as natural language, even more so with AI search engines.

Similarly, E-E-A-T is also just a concept. It doesn’t have anything to do with author bios, LinkedIn profiles, it doesn’t have anything at all to do with making your content say that you handled the product that’s being reviewed.

Here’s what SearchLiaison recently said about an E-E-A-T, SEO and Ranking:

“….just making a claim and talking about a ‘rigorous testing process’ and following an ‘E-E-A-T checklist’ doesn’t guarantee a top ranking or somehow automatically cause a page to do better.”

Here’s the part where SearchLiaison ties a bow around the gift of E-E-A-T knowledge:

“We talk about E-E-A-T because it’s a concept that aligns with how we try to rank good content.”

E-E-A-T Can’t Be Itemized On A Checklist

Remember how we established that relevance is a concept and not a bunch of keywords and entities? Relevance is just answering the question.

E-E-A-T is the same thing. It’s not something that you do. It’s closer to something that you are.

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SearchLiaison elaborated:

“…our automated systems don’t look at a page and see a claim like “I tested this!” and think it’s better just because of that. Rather, the things we talk about with E-E-A-T are related to what people find useful in content. Doing things generally for people is what our automated systems seek to reward, using different signals.”

A Better Understanding Of E-E-A-T

I think it’s clear now how E-E-A-T isn’t something that’s added to a webpage or is something that is demonstrated on the webpage. It’s a concept, just like relevance.

A good way to think o fit is if someone asks you a question about your family and you answer it. Most people are pretty expert and experienced enough to answer that question. That’s what E-E-A-T is and how it should be treated when publishing content, regardless if it’s YMYL content or a product review, the expertise is just like answering a question about your family, it’s just a concept.

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Roman Samborskyi

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Google Announces A New Carousel Rich Result

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Google Announces A New Carousel Rich Result

Google announced a new carousel rich result that can be used for local businesses, products, and events which will show a scrolling horizontal carousel displaying all of the items in the list. It’s very flexible and can even be used to create a top things to do in a city list that combines hotels, restaurants, and events. This new feature is in beta, which means it’s being tested.

The new carousel rich result is for displaying lists in a carousel format. According to the announcement the rich results is limited to the following types:

LocalBusiness and its subtypes, for example:
– Restaurant
– Hotel
– VacationRental
– Product
– Event

An example of subtypes is Lodgings, which is a subset of LocalBusiness.

Here is the Schema.org hierarchical structure that shows the LodgingBusiness type as being a subset of the LocalBusiness type.

  • Thing > Organization > LocalBusiness > LodgingBusiness
  • Thing > Place > LocalBusiness > LodgingBusiness

ItemList Structured Data

The carousel displays “tiles” that contain information from the webpage that’s about the price, ratings and images. The order of what’s in the ItemList structured data is the order that they will be displayed in the carousel.

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Publishers must use the ItemList structured data in order to become eligible for the new rich result

All information in the ItemList structured data must be on the webpage. Just like any other structured data, you can’t stuff the structured data with information that is not visible on the webpage itself.

There are two important rules when using this structured data:

  1. 1. The ItemList type must be the top level container for the structured data.
  2. 2. All the URLs of in the list must point to different webpages on the same domain.

The part about the ItemList being the top level container means that the structured data cannot be merged together with another structured data where the top-level container is something other than ItemList.

For example, the structured data must begin like this:

<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "ItemList", "itemListElement": [ { "@type": "ListItem", "position": 1,

A useful quality of this new carousel rich result is that publishers can mix and match the different entities as long as they’re within the eligible structured data types.

Eligible Structured Data Types

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  • LocalBusiness and its subtypes
  • Product
  • Event

Google’s announcement explains how to mix and match the different structured data types:

“You can mix and match different types of entities (for example, hotels, restaurants), if needed for your scenario. For example, if you have a page that has both local events and local businesses.”

Here is an example of a ListItem structured data that can be used in a webpage about Things To Do In Paris.

The following structured data is for two events and a local business (the Eiffel Tower):

<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "ItemList", "itemListElement": [ { "@type": "ListItem", "position": 1, "item": { "@type": "Event", "name": "Paris Seine River Dinner Cruise", "image": [ "https://example.com/photos/1x1/photo.jpg", "https://example.com/photos/4x3/photo.jpg", "https://example.com/photos/16x9/photo.jpg" ], "offers": { "@type": "Offer", "price": 45.00, "priceCurrency": "EUR" }, "aggregateRating": { "@type": "AggregateRating", "ratingValue": 4.2, "reviewCount": 690 }, "url": "https://www.example.com/event-location1" } }, { "@type": "ListItem", "position": 2, "item": { "@type": "LocalBusiness", "name": "Notre-Dame Cathedral", "image": [ "https://example.com/photos/1x1/photo.jpg", "https://example.com/photos/4x3/photo.jpg", "https://example.com/photos/16x9/photo.jpg" ], "priceRange": "$", "aggregateRating": { "@type": "AggregateRating", "ratingValue": 4.8, "reviewCount": 4220 }, "url": "https://www.example.com/localbusiness-location" } }, { "@type": "ListItem", "position": 3, "item": { "@type": "Event", "name": "Eiffel Tower With Host Summit Tour", "image": [ "https://example.com/photos/1x1/photo.jpg", "https://example.com/photos/4x3/photo.jpg", "https://example.com/photos/16x9/photo.jpg" ], "offers": { "@type": "Offer", "price": 59.00, "priceCurrency": "EUR" }, "aggregateRating": { "@type": "AggregateRating", "ratingValue": 4.9, "reviewCount": 652 }, "url": "https://www.example.com/event-location2" } } ] } </script>

Be As Specific As Possible

Google’s guidelines recommends being as specific as possible but that if there isn’t a structured data type that closely matches with the type of business then it’s okay to use the more generic LocalBusiness structured data type.

“Depending on your scenario, you may choose the best type to use. For example, if you have a list of hotels and vacation rentals on your page, use both Hotel and VacationRental types. While it’s ideal to use the type that’s closest to your scenario, you can choose to use a more generic type (for example, LocalBusiness).”

Can Be Used For Products

A super interesting use case for this structured data is for displaying a list of products in a carousel rich result.

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The structured data for that begins as a ItemList structured data type like this:

<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "ItemList", "itemListElement": [ { "@type": "ListItem", "position": 1, "item": { "@type": "Product",

The structured data can list images, ratings, reviewCount, and currency just like any other product listing, but doing it like this will make the webpage eligible for the carousel rich results.

Google has a list of recommended recommended properties that can be used with the Products version, such as offers, offers.highPrice, and offers.lowPrice.

Good For Local Businesses and Merchants

This new structured data is a good opportunity for local businesses and publishers that list events, restaurants and lodgings to get in on a new kind of rich result.

Using this structured data doesn’t guarantee that it will display as a rich result, it only makes it eligible for it.

This new feature is in beta, meaning that it’s a test.

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Read the new developer page for this new rich result type:

Structured data carousels (beta)

Featured Image by Shutterstock/RYO Alexandre

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