In the race to build the best search engine, artificial intelligence is playing a key role.
Google and Microsoft unveiled plans in February to introduce new AI elements into search. Both announcements featured AI chatbots that can provide original, AI-generated responses to some search queries.
These sneak peeks offered a glimpse into how AI could radically change the way we experience the internet. It’s a future that could rely less on search engines presenting links to existing websites in favor of conversational, AI-written answers.
These changes bring lots of questions about search engine optimization, some that don’t have firm answers yet. But that doesn’t mean search engine optimization is going anywhere.
However, it definitely can, and will be, changing.
As we continue our series about the influence of AI on the content marketing and web design landscape, let’s look at these new changes and the impact they could have on SEO.
Google Bard and Microsoft Bing: What’s Happening?
The announcements from Microsoft and Google came just over two months after the November release of ChatGPT, an AI chatbot that can write original, conversational responses to questions and writing prompts.
Microsoft Bing has spent years as Google’s little brother, but it’s racing to change that by partnering with ChatGPT’s developer, OpenAI. In February, Microsoft announced it’s launching a new, AI-powered version of Bing. The new features include an improved search function, as well as a chatbot function that can assist with writing responses to more complex questions. The function is still in preview.
Google – which controls more than 90% of the search engine market share, according to estimates – also announced in February that it’s releasing its own rival to ChatGPT named Bard. Google’s AI will similarly attempt to answer complex questions in sentence form at the top of a search results page.
Google Bard is also not available to the public at large, but it could be within weeks.
Neither AI is perfect. The Bing chatbot has produced errors and some unsettling responses. And during a demo, Google’s Bard made an error in response to a query about discoveries from the James Webb Space Telescope. The high-profile mistake was followed by a $100 billion hit to Google’s market value.
The mistakes show how, as a whole, this new generative AI technology is still maturing and error-prone. But the companies are working on improvements.
SEO Won’t Die with Artificial Intelligence. But It Will Change.
What does all of this mean for SEO? The new chatbots aren’t replacing the search bar. But they will introduce significant changes in how many users experience search results.
Bing’s upgrades would maintain the site’s search function but would also add a chat option where users can ask more complex questions. The new chat version of Bing cites sources, providing links to the websites it refers to in its written answers.
Meanwhile, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has said that AI will begin appearing in search results soon. He said that Bard is meant to help compile information and distill it into digestible answers for circumstances when “there’s no one right answer.”
Some examples that Google has provided on how it will work include a page with a search query, an AI-generated answer, and a selection of “Read more” links underneath the provided answer. Those links allow users to click through to the web pages that Bard used to come up with the answer.
This new function would be another way that Google is working to present information directly to users rather than simply presenting a list of blue links to websites. For years, advertisements and various result page elements like featured snippets, knowledge panels, and image packs have taken up space on the page, offering other ways for sites to put themselves in front of people’s eyes.
However, websites will still have many opportunities to get in front of people’s eyes through these answers. Well-structured content that anticipates and answers user questions in clear, concise ways that will make it discoverable by both users and AI, giving it the opportunity to remain prominent and appear as a cited source in search results.
While the way people experience online search may change, producing content that fits what users are searching for, loads quickly, and provides a user-friendly experience is going to continue to be necessary.
Making information digestible and as easy to find as possible will still be an important guide for being discoverable on Google and Bing.
Artificial Intelligence Can Also Help with SEO
While artificial intelligence is changing the way we approach search results, it’s also a helpful tool for digital marketers and content creators to use.
There are several tools that use AI to help with SEO. AI can help you perform keyword research and generate post ideas based on those keywords.
OpenAI’s new GPT-4 will also be able to describe images using words, making it a potentially valuable tool for creating alternative text and captions. If you’re looking for guidance on how to leverage AI tools to help your website get more traffic, you can connect with the experts on Webspec’s digital marketing team. We’re happy to help boost your web presence with all of these new changes to content creation.