Over the past few months, the search landscape has been changing more quickly and dramatically than ever before. In our Future of Search series, Rosie Hopes has been unpacking the latest developments and what they mean for marketers. Today’s topic: chatbot search.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, you will be aware of ChatGPT and its meteoric rise to fame in November 2022. It became the fastest growing consumer application of all time, gaining more than 100 million users in the two months after launch. For countless people all around the world, signing up for ChatGPT was their first taste of AI-driven chatbot search.
How Can AI Be Used in Text Search?
AI technology is revolutionising the way we search online. Rather than spending time trawling through endless irrelevant results, AI can help you discover the relevant answers quickly and effortlessly. It can identify keywords and phrases in the data, tailor website rankings to suit your exact requirements and even adjust outcomes based on past searches. Within a few clicks, you’ll be able to find precisely what you’re after.
What is ChatGPT?
ChatGPT is a particular kind of natural language processing (NLP) that allows conversations with artificial intelligence-driven bots. By assessing the context of a discussion, ChatGPT can answer questions, make recommendations and even complete tasks such as customer service or sales. This groundbreaking technology is quickly gaining traction in chatbot design because of its highly engaging and personalised user experience. It can also be used for larger data collection projects for analytics and research purposes.
And, considering the topic of this section, it may not come as a massive surprise to you that… the last two paragraphs were written by AI. I made some minor tweaks – I have an aversion to both unnecessary exclamation marks and the word ‘moreover’ – but I pretty much took it verbatim from the suggestions given by Jasper, an AI content creation tool that we have been using as an agency for over a year now.
The Battle Between Google and Bing
AI chatbot technology has been around for years in various applications – usually gated by paywalls – but we’re at an important breakthrough moment now as both Google and Bing are incorporating it into their free search offering.
Many commentators are wondering whether Microsoft’s acquisition of OpenAI, the company that developed ChatGPT, is their most significant challenge to Google’s dominance in the search arena to date. Satya Nadella, Chairman and CEO of Microsoft, said the following at a press conference on 7 February 2023:
“AI will fundamentally change every software category, starting with the largest category of all – search.”
Not to be outdone, Google announced the launch of its own AI chatbot, Bard, the day before Microsoft. However, Google stock prices were hit when an incorrect response from Bard caused consumer trust in the technology to wobble.
Interesting fact: when I asked Jasper “what is Google doing to compete with AI chatbots?”, it told me about Google Duplex, which is its voice-based AI offering. It was announced that Duplex is being retired from the web in December 2022. So Jasper has missed both the Google Bard announcement and the retirement of Duplex and as such has given me an answer that is completely out of date in a fast-moving industry. This exposes one of the main hurdles of the current crop of AI tools: keeping its index up to date.
How Do These Developments Affect Marketers?
I could write an entire essay on AI chatbots alone – their benefits, weaknesses, developmental issues and the ethical quandaries they present, especially for education. But I want to keep my focus on how they may affect search and the people who harness search engine marketing for a living.
I think it’s very important to reiterate how new this technology is in the public search sphere. We can’t confidently say how it will affect the average person’s search habits, or what marketers can do about it. AI chatbots are not perfect fonts of absolute fact and wisdom, and the technology has a long way to go in terms of developing, learning and growing. I think that Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, says it best:
Chatbots can only analyse what they find in their index. And their index is *the internet*.
Without web content, chatbots are useless. They only work if brands, institutions, publishers and individuals are continuously adding new, fresh, accurate information to websites. The relationship has to be symbiotic. (If you’re interested in my personal take on why we still need human writers, take a look at this blog post.)
It can be easy to use new AI tools to make content production quicker and cheaper, but I would urge brands not to rely wholly on using AI-generated content on their own websites. Instead, think about how to provide your audience with a fresh take, a tailored response or a new insight. Rather than churning out four generic AI-made blog posts a month, concentrate on one human-made blog post that offers something new to the user – and the internet.
And if users decide that they prefer finding information through chatbots and our websites stop getting organic traffic? We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Because human beings are excellent problem solvers.
There’s still a lot more to know about the developing search landscape. Download our Future of Search whitepaper to learn about the most recent innovations in social, visual and voice search. If you still have questions, we’re here to help – get in touch for a chat.