It was not long after ChatGPT was released for public testing that Google was cast as its biggest potential casualty. As it has now shown by launching its own AI chatbot, Bard, and perhaps pushed by Microsoft’s own AI moves, Google was not going to let ChatGPT loosen its stranglehold on search.
The writing wasn’t quite on the wall for the world’s biggest search engine, but the leadership at Google knew that AI chatbots have the potential to disrupt search in very significant ways.
Bard and the new ChatGPT-assisted Bing are showing us what the future of search will look like. But what does this mean for the future of SEO and digital marketing in general? How can businesses prepare themselves for a world of digital marketing dominated by AI?
Let’s find out.
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A Bot Battle of the Ages?
ChatGPT vs Bard pits Microsoft against Google, a rivalry we are well familiar with. Up to now, Google the search engine has battered Bing, reducing it to a bit part player controlling just 8.85 percent of the global search market.
Controlling over 85 percent of the search market, Google’s success lies in part with its early adoption of AI, most notably with BERT and MUM. Both had a massive impact on SEO. Bard will mark another important milestone for Google’s AI journey and a significant moment for SEO.
There is no doubt that the sensational start to life of the Microsoft-backed Open AI’s ChatGPT chatbot has hurried Google into launching Bard. Could it now be forced to radically change the way its search engine works in response to the shifting competitive landscape?
How Will AI Chatbots Affect the Competitive Landscape in Search?
Early concerns about ChatGPT were that it was going to kill search as we know it. ChatGPT appeared to provide quicker, more digestible answers to specific queries than Google.
Predictably, Google has now responded. Although that may have been the play all along, Microsoft has also responded by embedding a revamped, more accurate version of ChatGPT into Bing.
Google’s response has been clumsy and, resultantly, costly. But the little we have seen of Bard tells us that the ubiquitous search engine will live on. Instead of being the death of search, ChatGPT may have blown another wind into its sails.
For Microsoft, as we have seen with the speed with which it has embedded ChatGPT into Bing, employing conversational AI in search offers an opportunity to attract some users away from Google. How that will work as a strategy depends on how well the new Bing performs.
And now that Google has responded, how much market share Microsoft can claw back from Google also depends on whether Bard actually improves Google’s search product.
Both Bard and ChatGPT use machine learning and large language models to generate answers to queries. They are also both trained on vast amounts of data sourced from the internet, although – unlike ChatGPT – Google says its chatbot uses up-to-date information.
Displacing Google is a difficult, nigh impossible task for Bing, but the search engine that solves search chatbots’ pesky accuracy problem faster may win the bot war. If Microsoft succeeds even in a small way, SEOs and search marketers will need to pay more attention to it than before.
Will Chatbot Answers Replace Traditional Search Results?
As an SEO, the question you can’t wait to get answers to is how SERPs will look after the full integration of Bard in Google search. Early signs from what Google has teased about the new Bard-powered search experience are that the traditional SERP is not going away, though there will be a few major modifications.
The featured snippet could be the main casualty of the new chat-integrated search experience. As the image above shows, when the new AI features roll out the featured snippet’s place will go to Bard’s response.
Will the new ‘read more’ carousel underneath the Bard response be the ‘new featured snippet’? So many questions!
Google may yet decide to retain the featured snippet for some queries and replace it with Bard for complex queries that have no one right answer and where it may be more helpful to combine multiple perspectives to produce more digestible answers. Again, it’s too early to tell.
According to Google, AI allows us to understand information better and convert it into useful knowledge more efficiently. It offers the ability to contextualize searches and ascertain search intent more accurately and enables a conversational and more personalized search experience, which equals more intuitive results for searchers.
Given its commitment to ensuring more open access to information and surfacing authentic voices and diverse perspectives, you can expect Google to continue to give content creators a platform on the SERPs.
Yes, some SERP features that we have optimized and relied on for traffic, like the featured snippet, may not survive in their current form. But we can be sure that Google will continue to send traffic to independent websites, which means SEOs are not going out of work anytime soon.
Where Does Bard Leave SEO as an Industry?
If there’s anything SEOs have learned about Google, it is that things rarely stay the same for very long. Every core update is accompanied by much SERP volatility and lots of new factors to optimize for. But Bard offers a new kind of challenge, doesn’t it?
Bard will answer queries in a more conversational, human-like way. Searchers will love that. But other than providing the big picture quickly, will the answers be more informative? As we have seen, some of the answers may not even be accurate.
That ongoing challenge with the accuracy of answers AI chatbots provide is the reason Google will not do away with traditional search results. It understands that not all searchers will trust Bard’s answers.
Many searchers will want to fact-check Bard’s answers and Google will rather they do that on the SERP than leave for Reddit, Quora, or Bing for that matter. So as an SEO, you will do well to concentrate on making it easy for Google to find your pages and understand what they are about.
Clearly, the SEO industry will need to adapt to a new way of doing things post-Bard. But that’s how the industry has always operated since, as we have pointed out, there are rarely ever any constants in SEO. SEO will not die, but it may need to adapt yet again.
How Will AI Affect the Way We Conduct Keyword Research?
We do not yet know whether the new Bard-powered Google will change its rules on how it interprets the intent behind searches. Or whether topical relevance and context will matter a lot more than keywords!
We will know the answers to those questions soon enough. But what we already know is that the use of AI in search will have major implications for SEO. We also know that AI in general can significantly improve the way we do SEO.
AI tools can quickly sift through data and uncover search trends, providing a useful means of discovering untapped opportunities within your area. By leveraging AI-driven insights, you can identify high-value keywords that have the potential to bring in more organic traffic and conversions.
By using AI, marketers can reduce the amount of time they spend on tedious tasks such as gathering data from multiple sources or recognizing trends in search queries. You can use the time you save to focus on more strategic tasks.
Since AI algorithms are constantly learning from new data sets, they’re also able to provide more accurate results than manual methods alone. They are also a lot better at understanding context and the intent behind searches, which can help publishers create more impactful content.
Despite the advantages, there are still some difficulties associated with using AI for keyword research, such as inaccuracies caused by incorrect data or inadequate datasets during training.
If not used correctly, AI tools may also provide irrelevant recommendations, which could lead marketers astray when optimizing content and formulating SEO strategies.
Google Will Push the Bar on Content Quality Even Higher
From a content creator’s perspective, you would imagine that Google will place even more importance on the quality of pages it serves its users, a fair few of whom will be keen to get a different, fact-based perspective from that of Bard.
If Google is going to show your page on the first page of the SERP, your page has to, at the very least, match Bard or better it in terms of facts, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
If you are using AI writers to generate content, expect that the new generative AI features will make it easier for Google to tell good from poor-quality content. It will likely be easier for Google to detect poor-quality automatically generated content that is published without human oversight.
Google has already said it will not penalize AI content. That does not mean it’s not preparing for the reality of mass-produced AI content swarming its platforms. Your strategy going forward should therefore be to serve your audience with fact-based, high-quality AIO content that puts readers first.
Longer Content Will Continue to Perform Better
Other than changing your content strategy right away, you should continue doing what has always worked and watch to see what significant changes Bard will bring.
Google will continue to reward higher-quality content, so, instead of watching Google’s every move, let that be your focus. Research has shown the average length of content ranking on Google’s first page to be around 1,890 words long. Longer content also gets more social shares. Expect both trends to continue.
The good news is with AI-powered content creation platforms like Content At Scale, you can publish more content without sacrificing quality. Especially so if you adopt our AIO framework for editing AI content to make sure it is factually sound, reads well for human readers, and is optimized to rank high in search engines.
Key Takeaway: AI chatbots have the potential to revolutionize search and SEO, providing improved user experiences and interactions with content, more relevant results from search engines, and automation of tasks for enhanced efficiency.
Consumers and Search Marketers are Less Anxious About Bard than SEOs
Consumers and marketers have a lot to be excited about Bard and the new ChatGPT-enabled Bing. Generative AI chatbots like Bard have the ability to gather information from multiple sources and distill complex information in ways that make more sense to searchers.
As the chatbots absorb more knowledge and field more questions from consumers, they will grow increasingly more informed about consumers’ pain points. Insight from this growing brain will help marketers shift their messaging and get to the heart of what their target demographics struggle with.
The new search experience will deliver higher quality results due to conversational AI’s ability to interpret context better than keyword matching algorithms, for example, could previously. Bard will make searching for information online a faster and friendlier experience.
FAQs – The Future of SEO
Is SEO worth it in 2023?
SEO will still be a worthwhile activity in 2023 and well into the future. As long as search engines exist and still use keywords, topics, and trust signals like backlinks to rank web pages, there will be plenty of work for SEOs to do. That said, the inevitable AI chatbot takeover in search will mean the SEO industry has to adapt.
How to use AI in SEO?
Artificial intelligence tools are being used for optimizing website content to cover topics fully and achieve higher search engine rankings. NLP technology – a branch of AI – is also useful for understanding the context behind search queries, beyond just focusing on single words. AI also enables deep learning to uncover the more complex relationships between different search elements, which leads to more informed, data-based SEO strategies.
Is AI-generated content against Google’s policy?
Google is not against automation or the use of AI-generated content. Its only concern is the quality of that content. If your AI-generated content is well-researched, comprehensive, reads well for human readers, and aligns with searcher intent, it will perform well on Google.
What is AIO?
AIO stands for artificial intelligence optimization, which is the process where a human writer edits and optimizes an AI-generated piece of content to make sure it is factually accurate, reads well, engages readers, and is optimized to rank for the right searches in Google.
AI-Assisted Search is the New Reality
It is too early to make any conclusive statements on how an AI-assisted search experience will look for both Google and Bing. Both may not fully roll out their new AI features for some time. But we can all agree that AI chatbots will be a prominent feature of search engines going forward.
The influence of generative AI on search engines and SEO approaches will be tremendous. It will shape the future of online marketing. Digital marketers and businesses alike will need to stay informed on the changes the new AI-powered search experiences will bring to remain competitive.
By understanding how AI will shape the marketing landscape, SEOs and search marketers can quickly update their strategies and mitigate any risks associated with the inevitable AI takeover in search.