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Search Engine Trends in the face of AI

Category
Industry Updates
Date
March 7, 2023
Author
Brook Shepard
Social

It’s been a few months since ChatGPT entered the national consciousness, and I wanted to take a few words to describe how it – and AI in general – is affecting Search Engine Marketing.  I’m going to start with what I know to be true, proceed to what I believe to be true, move on to informed speculation, and then draw some conclusions.

Executive Summary

Increasing Automation is a fact of life; anyone who resists it should get ready to enjoy their retirement; the front door to the internet is wide open; our clients are well-positioned to take advantage of these opportunities. 

Bing is trying for piece of Google’s lunch, by integrating Chat GPT into their platform, and Google is rolling out their own version soon.

As an illustration, here are four searches for the same thing, on Google, YouTube, Bing, and Chat GPT.  Google, YouTube, and Bing are three versions of the same dish, while Chat GPT’s is totally unique.  

A Search for “best book to learn guitar” on Google

A Search for “best book to learn guitar” on YouTube

A Search for “best book to learn guitar” on Bing

A Search for “best book to learn guitar” on Chat GPT

To us, this comes down to platform diversification.  We don’t get to decide where our customers are, the customers get to decide.  We have to be in front of them, regardless of whether they are on Bing, Google TikTok, or Chat GPT. 

Things I know to be true

MSN was the king, Google came on seemingly overnight, and hasn’t let go.

I know that when I started in this business, clients advertised on MSN (Bing), Yahoo!, 7 Search, Ask Jeeves, Dogpile, Lycos, and more.

MSN was by far the highest-trafficked of those.  According to Pew Research, in May of 2002, MSN had 43 million unique visitors, Yahoo! had 38 million unique visitors, and Google recorded 36 million unique visitors.

I know that Google came on overnight.  I was sitting with a client around 2001/2002, he was having a hard time finding what he was looking for on Yahoo, so I said “try Google.”  He responded with something like “Guggle?  Giggle?  What’s that?”  I can’t imagine anyone saying that in 2003.

Today, in 2023, Google has 93.37% of the search pie, Bing has 2.81% and Yahoo! has 1.13%.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is one of the world’s most valuable companies, with revenues of $283bn in 2022 and a market capitalization of $1.3trn.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)  now powers Chatbots to access the internet via typed conversations, and receive colloquial, “chatty” responses as a reply.  Chatgpt, made by the startup Openai, leads the field.  Just two months after its launch, Chatgpt was being used by more than 100m people, making it the “fastest-growing consumer application in history”, according to ubs.

So to recap, Search Engine Marketing is somewhere between 20 and 25 years old, it’s a huge business, and Google owns most of it.

Things I believe to be true

I believe that MSN, Yahoo!, Reddit, Twitter, TikTok, and the like, are hungry for a piece of Google’s $283 billion in revenue.

I believe that technology and automation are increasing at an exponential rate, and that they are here to stay.

I believe that anyone who does not use Chat GPT (or the like) should get ready to enjoy their retirement.  The Legend of John Henry comes to mind.

Recapping: Google is the defacto front door to the internet; but history suggests that it might not be much longer; automation should be leveraged to our client’s benefit.

Things I can prognosticate

Because my job is to grow my clients’ businesses, it behooves me to forecast how these new tools will affect them.

Let’s talk about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) first.  Clients have asked me “why should I pay you when I can just have Chat GPT write my articles?”

A few things:

  1. We already use Chat GPT to research and get some ideas started.
  2. I don’t want a client that thinks the only – or even main – part of SEO is to churn out keyword-rich articles.
  3. Google can (today) detect AI-generated articles, so a human hand is (yet) needed to oversee this content.  
  4. Content is only part of SEO, and things that make that job easier should be celebrated.  This creates savings for clients and frees up valuable resources on the agency side to focus more on strategy.

Search Engine Marketing, specifically Pay-Per-Click advertising, is more complicated, because it will create new ways to advertise.  As above, we already use Chat GPT for research – although its keyword research is nowhere near as good as Google’s own tools – and ad copy creation assistance.

Here are my educated guesses about how this will develop:

  1. New models will emerge charging advertisers to influence the chatbot’s answers. For example:
    1. Pay MSN a fee, and when you search its Chat-GPT’s-interface for your product, you show up in the answer with links to your website.
    2. Expect to see product listings/images surrounding these chat replies.
  2. People will lose confidence in these Chat features if they fear their objectivity has been compromised by advertisers… if they can tell.
  3. Clients will need to be on more platforms if/when users migrate to Chat Enabled Search Engines.  Clients do not always have an appetite to try new platforms, but it is our job to convince them.

So I can make a reasonable guess that this new technology will be good for me and my clients because A) its usage will separate the good agencies from the bad B) It frees us up to have more strategic, intelligent conversations, because it saves us time C) it creates new and exciting ways to promote brands.

Summary

Google is the defacto front door of the internet, but there is nothing saying that it has to be forever.  

Bing is starting the Chatbot Search Wars because there’s so much money to be made there by wresting even a small  %’s of Google’s business away, but I think it’s more likely that Google will implement its own version of Chat GPT.

AI is already assisting our work flow by making it smoother and faster, and it will create opportunities for clients to try new platforms.