Google reimagines search

ended 11. May 2023

Overnight, Google revealed it is rolling out more advanced AI technology to its search engine. “We are reimagining all our products, including search", said Alphabet chief executive Sundar Pichai. Google announced that Bard will be made available to all comers in more than 180 countries and more languages beyond English. Free PR platform and Newswire, Newspage®, asked digital marketers and AI experts how they envision the future of search as AI is embedded within it, and what the ramifications will be for PPC and SEO — and business more generally.

12 responses from the Newspage community

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The next phase of Google Search brings some incredible new features that make it even easier for prospective customers to find what they're looking for. It won't completely wipe out the "list of 10 blue links" we are used to, as that will still be relevant for many searches. But for products where it is easier to see a video, or for things like recipes, this will just make Google even better to use. This will be an evolution of the search experience. Google will try to answer stuff there and then, rather than you having to sift through lots of sites, say for informational purposes, it will elevate the experience. The creator economy should benefit from this, especially in the video space. Brands will have to focus even more on providing the right information to their target audience, of extremely high quality, and ensure their transactional experience on their owned platforms are top notch.
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The irony of AI is that is that it could make search more human. For too long, search has been optimised for bots and not humans. We had to sift though long keyword-rich content at the top of Google when all we really wanted was short, snappy and relevant answers. AI is about relevance and relevance is about knowing the human condition and reading between the lines. Complicated search algorithms are going to very quickly look out of date compared to AI and may mean that companies may now need to focus more on the quality and relevance of their product rather than the advertising spend. The more AI knows what we like, the more it will sift out what we don’t like. This could be fantastic news for genuinely useful products and services with a good price point but not good news for products and services playing the numbers game and throwing money at PPC and hoping something will stick. Let’s hope this will give us more of our most valuable resource, time. And less digital noise.
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It's business as usual for the SEO industry. Google is creating a different search experience, but the general principles of SEO will be as they have always been, namely a focus on creating exceptionally good, helpful content created for the reader. It's an evolution, not a revolution as far as I can see. For years, we have been optimising our clients’ websites to appear in the featured snippet box and People Also Ask section and the Generative AI section should be seen as an extension of this. Creating content that helps your site rank in positions 1-3 is essential now more than ever to get top-of-search visibility. Google SGE will also be huge for ecommerce sites and SEOs will need to make sure their clients’ Google Merchant Centres are optimised to the max. The impact for YMYL websites remains to be seen as Google doesn’t want to risk giving out generative AI-sensitive information.
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As they say, if you can't beat them, join them. In response to the release of ChatGPT last year, Google updated their algorithm two weeks later, adding an extra E to their quality rating guidelines, E-A-T. 'Experience' joined 'Expertise', 'Authority' and 'Trust', the principle being that AI can't demonstrate experience. There is a sea change afoot. TikTokers already use that platform as a main source of 'how to' information, rather than Google. ChatGPT and their ilk have also stepped in as 'ways to answer a question'. Whereas Google will give you pages of links for a question posed such as, 'how do I code this feature to add to my website?', requiring you to then further research to get your answer, AI will just give you the code. Three months ago Google Exec, Clay Bavor, left to set up an AI company with ex-Twitter, ex-Facebook, ex-Salesforce entrepreneur Bret Taylor to 'help solve problems in businesses'. There are challengers out there and Google need to hang onto their crown.
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Is AI going to change the way people use search? Absolutely. The idea of rich data is not new, but the idea of being able to have a conversation with your search engine certainly is. So what does this mean for the future of SEO? My personal view is, not a great deal. The AI engine, whether it's ChatGPT, Bard or any other, still has to get all of its answers from somewhere. What I think it may lead to though is website content that is itself written in a more conversational style finding it is way more popular than before. It is also going to be crucial to include images and video within the SEO mix. Don't just think about the words, as a picture tells a thousand words and could appear in thousands more AI query responses than it does in the SERPS. So what about PPC? Google may be many things but it certainly isn't a turkey that votes for Christmas. I'm sure they will find a way of incorporating PPC into the AI results.
Google Ads is a massive earner for Alphabet, so they won’t bite off their nose to spite their face. PPC will very much feature in the results. SEO will still be the same, namely create the best, most relevant content that people want to read that answers their question. If anything, advertisers will know more about their users' intent as they’ll be able to drill down into the results Google give them more easily. Feels like good news for everyone.
Google has shown once again that people shouldn't be so quick to write it off. For all that Microsoft and its services can offer, so can Google, and the company's I/O conference yesterday showed just why. CEO Sundar Pichai came out firing on all cylinders, and it's a testament to Google's true potential. Critics will be quick to point to Google's long-term market share decline, but that's to be expected as more search engines come to market. What should be noted, however, is the resilience in its share since the refreshed Bing was made available to the public. App downloads have held up well, which goes to show that Google remains the default search engine for many, and it's going to continue building on this with its new AI offerings.
Google's mission has been to organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. Bringing AI tech to this is just another way forward. Google appear to be carefully and slowly bringing this into search. This won't be the end of SERPs, merely an enhanced version giving searches yet more meaningful and relevant results for what they are looking for. For SEO, PPC and marketing in general, it means that teams are going to need, more than ever, to consider how their content adds value, offers the E-A-T that Google looks for to rank content. The best will get better and those that don't keep up with it will continue to trail behind in their rankings. I believe the future of search is going to become far smarter and easier for users and advertisers alike, making the opportunities for discovering new information endless. Whilst I don't think that AI will completely transform the way searches are done, I think that it will improve the quality of searches.
My recommendation for business owners would be to focus on developing their visual content. Not only will Google start to prioritise more creator-led content — think TikTok or other short-form videos — but different forms of visual content will be seen as more valuable and relevant.
AI technology is a harvesting and analysis tool. There will still be a need for original opinion, research and trend interpretation. SEO will definitely evolve but there is always going to be a need for original human-generated content.
This could help content creators who spend time and effort researching high quality content and articles, as the generic responses coming from AI in its current form don't inspire. When you read an article in the paper, and it has real-life examples and quotes from people in the story, it is far more interesting than a bland non-relatable piece. The person doing the searching is still human, and will react more to a human response in the search.
There is no doubt that AI is already shaking up the world of web design and SEO, but I see this as more of an evolution rather than a revolution - albeit a large evolutionary step. As a web designer and SEO specialist, it is my responsibility to test and understand this technology so that I am on the crest of the wave and can pivot quickly for my own business and my clients. I don't see this as the end to all that we know, but rather as another tool that we can use to offer a better service. AI is not going away and is already creating enhanced search algorithms, impacting voice search and content creation optimisation. It will make us work harder and smarter to ensure that we are providing up-to-date information and website design that will set us apart from those who choose to ignore the massive impact that AI will have. It is yet another way that we can offer value to our clients.