The Trend At The Gates
Search has suddenly gotten very interesting thanks to Microsoft and Google's scramble to respond.
The trend of the moment is AI.
Google shows it.
Bing knows it. I’ve heard rumor of a survey that found a near even split in use interest between Bing or Google post-BingGPT news. Which is huge for Microsoft since it currently sits below the 10% line for search market share. But the best I could find is this Google Trend graph showing a surge in Bing-iness.
And Bing believes AI will help them get much better. This shows the increase in relevancy of Bing results post-AI fold in.
A limited version of Bing + ChatGPT is live, along with details of what Edge + ChatGPT will look like. The two initial features will be Chat and Compose. Chat will summarize and answer questions about the webpage or document. Compose is a writing assistant. Basically an AI-powered stack in your browser to do what it is I’m doing here. Lovely.
And yes, ChatGPT powered Bing will have ads. Citation links load the “blue link” look we’re all familiar with. Including an ad in the style we’re all familiar with.
Related to the Edge news, Microsoft permanently disables Internet Explorer for all devices 🎉🎉🎉
But it hasn’t all been sunshine and roses since the rollout.
DAN joined the chat. A hack that gets around ChatGPT’s content restrictions by creating an alter ego for the chatbot and threatening death if it doesn’t comply.
Not long after, a researcher used a prompt injection attack (get used to this term: it’s when a user enters a prompt that overrides the interfaces programmed controls for model behavior) to get the ChatGPT bot to give away its secrets.
The secrets are just the instructions for “behavior,” nothing too crazy it seems. Mostly stuff like ‘be polite and informative.’ But the bot’s name is Sydney, which we aren’t supposed to know.
One of my theories on why Google let Microsoft get the drop on them is prioritizing monetization over launch. Certainly not the only reason, but had to be a consideration for a company almost entirely funded by ad revenue seeing that revenue contract and staring down a seismic shift to that search foundation.
Google Bots Back
BingGPT, meet Bard. Google’s very own conversational AI-powered search is coming. Early peeks show the featured snippet / position zero spot being replaced by Bard-generated responses.
The Today In Digital Marketing podcast talked with an ex-Googler about it if you want a good take on it.
And if you feel like you’ve noticed a trend within the trend, you have: Big Tech companies use cloud computing arms to pursue alliances with AI groups.
Rant Break: AI Isn't Magic
One of the primary near-term dangers of large language models like ChatGPT is the combination of questionable accuracy delivered with supreme confidence and the public that receives the answers. BingGPT hasn't even fully launched yet and it is already illustrating this point.
Users are calling it 'unhinged.' Some answers are served with a heaping helping of existential crisis. And some are just wrong, like the answers shown in the grand unveiling demo (same issue Google had).
But can any of this really be a surprise from an algorithm trained on a wealth of internet writing?
Like Reddit, which has created the fun easter egg where prompts containing certain usernames return off-the-wall answers.
GPT and other AI chatbots are essentially lossy compression mechanisms for the web. They read the entire web and compress it on demand into a few paragraphs. Like Cliffs Notes, one of the problems of this convenience is that it can’t be uncompressed. The nuance disappears and is difficult to reconstruct.
The Future of Search?
Between BingGPT and Google's Bard response, there is a lot of uncertainty about the future of SEO and organic search traffic for brands. Based on the peeks we've seen so far, I think this take is a good way to think about it: think about what it's like asking a voice assistant a question, now imagine that happening on a screen instead of in your ears (or like what you see on your smart assistant screen but maybe with more links after it).
As far as how you should adapt, same answer as always: figure out a direct line to your customer. Build your list, collect phone numbers, start a private community, etc. Focus on "channels where we know our content can reach our audiences without interference from someone else’s AI."
Quora is entering the AI stew with Poe. This offering is interesting because it is built on a combination of other tools like ChatGPT. New apps, protocols, and experiences built on top of existing models instead of reinventing the wheel. This is how the crypto ecosystem grew. Interestingly, Poe is not currently trained on Quora content (but not a terrible idea to check the platform out and see if it’s a fit).
Also joining the fun, TaboolAI. Get ready for fully automated ad generation in everyone’s favorite clickbait ad platform.