What a week it’s been for the search industry!
We’re still digesting the 2 major announcements we’ve seen this week, and working on understanding the implications – and the opportunities – for the future of search, but we wanted to take some time this afternoon to pen down some of our initial thoughts on what’s been the most exciting week we’ve seen in a very long time.
We’re sure we’ll be writing about this much more, and in much more detail over the months to come, but for now…here’s our round up of the news from the week.
Why was this week so exciting for search?
For the last 15 years or so, not much has really changed in search.
Algorithms have been tweaked and ranking factors have come and gone, but the way we search, and the way that information is returned and displayed to us, has been pretty much the same.
And of course, Google still dominates.
This week though, it really feels like we might be at a tipping point in search.
Some of the biggest fundamental changes we’ve seen in over a decade, are now closer than ever before. And this week’s announcements from Microsoft and Google are likely to be the first steps in a whole new chapter of search.
On Tuesday, February 7th, tech giant and long time search underdogs, Microsoft, announced a relaunch of their Bing search engine.
And this time, things were going to be very different.
Teaming up with Chat GPT, Microsoft unveiled a slew of new features to their Bing and Edge products that start to bring the power of AI to search in a real way.
Chat GPT has already broken records for having the fastest growing user base of any app ever – reaching in excess of 100 million users in just 2 months.
And now, this powerhouse partnership looks well positioned to drive a major change in the way search works.
Among Microsofts new AI powered capabilities are:
- A new search interface, designed to promote conversational, chat based information retrieval in a more natural way. According to Microsoft “The chat experience empowers you to refine your search until you get the complete answer you are looking for by asking for more details, clarity and ideas – with links available so you can immediately act on your decisions.”
- A new Edge browser. Edge will now be able to do things like summarize long web pages for you. Edge can now understand the content on the pages you visit, and “adapt accordingly”. In the live presentation that accompanied the announcement,Yusuf Mehdi (CVP of Modern Life, Search & Devices) showed off Edge’s new ability to quickly summarize a long and complex financial report from one company into bullet points. Then he went one huge step further. He asked it to compare it to another company’s financial report. And Edge was able to go and find that report on the web, then compare the key points in each in a simple table format.
- Create and compose tools.You’ll be able to ask Bing to “write an email, create a 5-day itinerary for a dream vacation to Hawaii, with links to book your travel and accommodations, prep for a job interview or create a quiz for trivia night.”
Obviously, Google couldn’t let that go unanswered.
So CEO Sundar Pichai announced Google’s own answer to chat GPT – Google Bard.
Google have their own Natural Language Processing model named LaMDA, which we’ve known about for a couple of years or so now. And this model is what’s being used to power their own AI tooling and capabilities.
Bard is a conversational style search and chat function, similar to what Microsoft unveiled and what Chat GPT became so popular for.
It’s still in the testing phase right now, but Google hopes to release it to the public in the near future.
On Wednesday the 8th (the day after Microsoft’s presentation) Google demonstrated Bard at a live event in Paris, where things didn’t exactly go smoothly. Bard gave what turned out to be an incorrect answer to a question, and a presenter was left fumbling on stage after losing her phone and with it, the ability to actually demonstrate the tool.
Not a fantastic start for Google.
But these teething problems are inevitable when you’re moving this fast, and the sheer rate of change and innovation in search right now, is pretty crazy.
How will this all impact search?
There are so many exciting applications for AI technology, and we’re already seeing dozens of specialized startups looking to leverage the power of AI across all kinds of industries.
This week’s announcements were the first major steps in bringing that technology to bear in the world of information retrieval.
As we move on through 2023, we’ll see many more innovations, features, products and companies emerging that will continue to incorporate and leverage the power of AI.
And as this happens, user behavior will inevitably change too.
For a few years now, SEOs have complained about reduced traffic from Google, as the search giant has worked to bring answers to search queries faster and more completely, with SERP features like the knowledge graph and featured snippets.
That trend is about to go into overdrive.
Users are going to have more ways to find information, and AI will continue to become more and more capable of answering those questions.
And as those more basic, fact based questions get more easily answered by AI innovation, those companies who leverage the power of their industry knowledge and expertise, will be the ones who come out on top.
As an industry, we’ve been telling clients for years that “high quality content is king” and harping on the need to demonstrate E-A-T (Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness) throughout websites and the content we produce.
Both of those things are truer now than they’ve ever been.
Because no matter how good AI gets, it can never replace expert knowledge from an experienced human.
And to top it all off… your competition might be about to get drastically reduced too.
As search engines become ever better at understanding content, the bar for quality rises higher and you may well find some of your competitors struggle to adapt.
How can businesses take advantage of these changes?
If your SEO strategy is built on low quality, thin content creation, you’re going to face some challenges in the year ahead.
The winners of this new era in search will be the companies who understand that long term success lies in creating content that showcases and leverages your specific expertise and experience. Content that builds your brand. Content that positions you as a leader in what you do.
AI can never replicate that.
If you want to take advantage of these exciting new changes in search, now is the time to take a detailed look at your content strategy.
Are you producing in-depth content that actually answers the questions that your target audience has? Does your content incorporate your expertise effectively? Does it offer something new?
If you want to discuss your content creation with one of our expert team, drop us a message today.
Matt is Marwick Marketing's Division Leader for SEO & Web Development and has over a decade of digital marketing experience in everything from local to national and international campaigns. He's led high impact strategies for major brands and currently oversees Marwick's global SEO and Web services.