Although they offer a completely different user experience, search engines like Google or Bing and AI-generated chatbots like OpenAI’s ChatGPT intersect in terms of functionality in a very important way: they help us find information.
Since ChatGPT took the world by storm in late 2022, we’ve seen the technology built into Microsoft’s Bing search engine and similar products appear from both Google and Facebook. It’s clear that big tech companies believe the impact of these tools will be truly transformative.
And it’s also true that all of these tech companies generate The section that is not underestimated Some of their revenue comes from advertisements shown to users when they perform searches. Millions of small businesses also rely on technology to direct potential customers to their websites through the power of search engine optimization.
If generative AI leads to a major shift in the way we use the Internet, these business models will change dramatically. And everyone wants to make sure they have a stake in whatever comes next.
So, what does this mean if you’re a small or medium-sized business that relies on search engine traffic to drive potential customers to your website? And how will the esoteric art of SEO be affected by a radical change in the way we find information online? lets take alook.
The main difference between the way a chatbot and a search engine provide answers is that the chatbot directly tells us what we need to know, while the search engine presents us with a page of results, known as a search engine results page (SERP).
Many companies of all sizes—from global media organizations to the local handyman—rely on search engines to drive traffic to their sites. This could be because they paid to show ads to searchers who use certain terms or because the search engine determines that a business page contains information relevant to their potential customers.
With the way AI chatbots work today, none of this happens because all the information is provided directly to the user without having to visit another page to find their answers.
The first impact of this will be a significant increase in the number of ‘no click’ searches, where users get their answers without having to take any further action. On the face of it, this is great for users but not so great for businesses.
The problem is that ads – annoying though they can be at times – power the Internet as we know it today. Companies create content and make it available online, often at no cost to us, either because it allows them to build an audience that can, at some point, become customers or because they get paid to show us ads on their own sites. It also gives big tech companies the revenue they need to create services like search and give them to us to use for free.
At the moment, it is not clear how this will be implemented. If chatbot providers (Google, Microsoft, etc.) went the route of charging users to pay to use their services, all the revenue would go to them, and there would be much less incentive for companies to create online content.
On the other hand, service providers may adopt a model in which companies pay to include their information, or even links to their pages, in chatbot output. This inevitably results in our results being biased towards providing us with the information that companies want us to see.
How will this affect SEO?
SEO means optimizing the keywords used on a page to encourage search engines to include that page in their SERP pages.
Generative AI has many implications. First, it’s great at creating SEO content. Anyone can use it to create content (or modify existing content) to be more attractive to search engines.
This can have a democratizing effect on content creation, as companies (and individuals) no longer need specialized SEO knowledge.
However, as anyone who has used generative AI will tell you, it’s great at creating specific content but isn’t necessarily good at anything involving original ideas or fresh thinking. In the short term, this could lead to an explosion in the amount of low-value content that simply rehashes old ideas.
Inevitably, the search engines themselves will respond to this. Google, Bing, Yahoo, and others all use their own sophisticated AI with the primary goal of making them useful to their users and providing truly useful and relevant results.
As an example, Google is expected to adjust its ranking algorithms to focus on them gain information. This means that pages with new information can rank higher, while pages that simply paraphrase and refresh information from elsewhere can be penalized.
Another potential consequence is the fact that since companies may have to rely on less page traffic from search engines, they may have to work harder to ensure that those visitors who arrive spend more time on their sites and are more likely to convert into customers. A strategy designed to address this issue could include improving the richness of a company’s content ecosystem to encourage repeat visits and increase conversion rates.
Another important point to keep in mind is that a widespread move away from search engines and towards generative chatbots can also cause trust issues. With search engines, it is usually very easy to find out where the information you are being directed to is coming from. On the other hand, chatbots, the most famous of which is ChatGPT, are often very opaque about their sources, which means that it is difficult to make a judgment about whether we can trust the information you give us.
The future of research
Bringing all these considerations together—in the context of an expected shift in consumer behavior that sees the use of search engines replaced by chatbots—means we may be entering the biggest period of change in the way we find information since the invention of Internet search.
The arrival of AI-powered mass-produced content can make off-page SEO factors increasingly important. These are metrics such as the number of backlinks a piece of content has or social signal metrics such as how often the content is shared on social media.
Meanwhile, search engine providers will likely continue to look for ways to monetize chatbot results in the same way they monetized search engine results in the early days of the Internet.
Initially, this will take the form of hybrid searches, as we’ve seen with Microsoft’s integration of ChatGPT into its Bing search engine. This allows them to provide us with regular search results (sponsored and organic) along with a chat interface when we need answers to specific questions.
In the long term, I think a more unified user experience is likely to emerge. We may, for example, become accustomed to generative chat results that provide us with a list of links to more relevant information as part of natural language responses.
After all, it was Internet search monetization – which Google is often credited with developing the PageRank algorithms – that really drove the mass commercialization of the Internet.
As with anything related to artificial intelligence, there are obviously ethical issues to consider. How tolerant we are of biased chatbot output, on the basis that we understand there is a need to generate revenue for both service providers and content creators, is an issue that the community will have to resolve in the near future.
What is certain is that if your business is built on being able to drive visitors to your site, you cannot ignore the changes that generative AI brings to the table. Being able to understand how the search and search engine optimization (SEO) landscape is changing has long been an essential skill in an organization, and now it’s more important than ever.
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