What Will AI Do to Search (SEO)?
Many people fail to comprehend the impact that ChatGPT (or whatever AI-driven solution) will have on your ability to search and consume content.
We have been trained to accept many unsatisfactory experiences online since the internet really got moving. You’ve been trained that it takes several searches to find an answer that relates to your question. You’ve been trained to adjust your search terms to increase your chances at an “okay” result,. You’ve also been trained to just GIVE UP sometimes if an answer is too elusive.
What we really wanted, what we’ve ALWAYS really wanted, is a simple answer to a simple question. Sounds crazy, but you are NOT being given simple answers by Google.
You are being handed a basket of junk and told to search through it to find what you’re looking for. You’re also being handed paid content (that you most likely didn’t ask for) that barely matches your expected answers.
What do you get with ChatGPT? You get a simple answer.
That answer might not be clever. It might be kind of generic. It might even be BORING… but it will be simple, easy to consume, and FREE OF ADS.
I didn’t realize that I’d been brainwashed until I asked a few simple questions.
Here is one of the questions posed to both ChatGPT and Google…
It doesn’t look like much, but the difference between the answers is subtle yet striking.
When I asked the question, I DIDN’T get a bunch of extra info I didn’t need.
I didn’t get 133,000,000 answers. I didn’t get advertisements.I didn’t even get LINKS.
All I got was an unbiased (as far as I’m aware), unadvertised information. I got information I could trust, because there is no one behind it. No one looking to sell me something. No one looking to connect me to a brand. No one trying to manipulate my decision making with some fancy copy, amazing promises, or straight-up lies about a solution.
It was just a simple answer with some logic to support it. Getting an answer like this eliminated almost every marketing approach I could think of…
No need for SEO if the answer was given without an ability to dig deeper into the data.
No need for ads with alternate solutions to my question.
No need to click on lead magnets.
No need to subscribe.
No need for a user account.
No need for a follow-up email.
Now, you may be thinking, “The answer provided by the AI could be completely biased by the programming of the creator.” This is exactly what my colleague Thomas von Ahn asked me during a podcast.
The truth is, it might be, and I still don’t care.
The reality is that most of our questions aren’t vital, they’re just useful at the moment. For this reason, I don’t care how or why the answer was provided, as long as it’s immediate and useful.
Just look at the top questions posed to Google in 2022 by average monthly search volume:
- what to watch – 9,140,000
- where’s my refund – 7,480,000
- how you like that- 6,120,000
- what is my ip address – 4,090,000
- how many ounces in a cup – 2,740,000
- What time is it- 1,830,000
- how I met your mother – 1,830,000
- how to screenshot on mac – 1,830,000
- where am i – 1,500,000
- how to lose weight fast – 1,500,000
Do any of these questions look vital? Do they look like they need a commercialized solution?
No, they’re simply helpful to individuals looking for information, and that’s a big fat problem for digital marketing.
Content Marketing, my personal speciality, has been rooted in search optimization since the dawn of the internet. Everyting you do in regards to content creation relates to the information being found through search engines like Google.
If people start using a solution like ChatGPT (potential biases and all) for even a percentage of their searches, it could completely disrupt the use of Google for content marketing.
Google will become the “eBay of information.” eBay was once THE solution when it came to selling items online, but after ecommerce websites like Amazon and the millions of independent companies got rolling, it became an auction website for speciality items.
This could happen to Google. It could simply become a resource for “commercialized” information. Something that you will only use when you WANT to be sold to.
Believe it or not, there are situations when you want and expect sales people (just imagine the last time you were comparing the prices, availability, and features of a new car).
The problem is, even a small reduction in searches could have a huge impact on why people create content for the internet. There are tens of thousands of marketing agencies and millions of individuals dedicated to content production, SEO, and website development and maintenance.
If this happens, no one will create content (other than commercial content) to be found on Google anymore. Rather than optimizing related information for Google, it will have to be done for ChatGPT, or something similar.
So, What’s Next?
Believe it or not, Bing will probably be the most used search tool in the near future. Microsoft Corp. invested $10 billion in OpenAI (the creator of ChatGPT) in early 2023, adding onto the $1 billion in funding it supplied in 2019 and 2021 (source).
Picturing Bing with the integration of a ChatGPT-like function may seem simple enough, but coming out with this service will be the biggest thing to happen to SEO and content marketing in the history of the internet.
For one, the integration of this function into Bing will exponentially increase the usefulness and quality of answers.
You need to realize that ChatGPT is creating content by aggregating data prior to 2021 (OpenAI has not disclosed how many years of data ChatGPT is currently basing answers on). This means that we’re creating much more content every second of every day that isn’t taken into account. Even so, its answers are extremely useful.
Now, take the processing power provided by Microsoft’s cloud computing system Azure (which is already powering Chat GPT), and feed it more recent data. The answers will be significantly enhanced.
Will ChatGPT be able to go “live” in terms of learning second by second with new information created online? According to ChatGPT, no. Here’s its response when asked:
It’s not possible for a model like ChatGPT to aggregate all the data created on the internet in real-time, as the amount of data generated every day is vast and growing rapidly.
It would take a significant amount of time and computational resources to process and incorporate all the new data into the model. Additionally, AI models like ChatGPT are typically trained on a static dataset, so real-time updates to the model’s knowledge are not feasible.
Just how much data do we create? Estimates suggest that in 2021, the average amount of data created online per day was around 2.5 quintillion bytes (QB). To give some perspective on how much data that is, consider that a long HD full length movie is about 8GB. That means that we essentially upload 3,906,250 movies per day since a QB is a billion times larger than a GB.
Remember that ChatGPT needs to “learn” information using a deep learning model called a “transformer network” trained on a static data set. It doesn’t simply reference different data sources to create answers, it was trained to generate text based on patterns in the training data and does not have the ability to track or recall specific sources of information.
The important thing to note here is that ChatGPT doesn’t know anything about anything that happened after 2021, meaning that new developments could have occurred.
With $10 billion in Microsoft money powering new development prior to commercialization, things may change a bit. Maybe “live” answers could be possible, or Microsoft may dedicate more Azure cloud computing to a new ChatGPT-based service.
The New SEO
As you can imagine, there will be a significant shift in SEO and content marketing practices. If you’re concerned that SEO will disappear altogether, don’t worry! It won’t.
It will change a lot though.
Given that ChatGPT can’t reference the sources based on the answers it creates, there will be little incentive to create content specifically to be found on search engines. For those of you who don’t know, that is why the majority of blog posts you see online are created.
A company or marketer will create content, typically an article, then optimize it for a specific search term that they believe their audience is using to find information. A potential customer will find the article, come to the website, then hopefully buy a product or service related to the content.
There are some major problems with this system. For one, only an extremely limited amount of articles will be found and viewed. Just think of your last Google search. How many articles that popped up did you click on? One or two? How far did you scroll down? Not far I’m guessing. That means that all marketers and companies are creating tons of information for relatively few clicks.
What if the amount of clicks decrease by 25% due to a new solution that doesn’t send traffic to content creators? How about 50%? How about 75%?
Companies like Bing only send you traffic because their users are searching for answers. If they can provide answers (better answers than ChatGPT currently delivers) without referencing content creators, then they could use the resulting attention to sell ads and eliminate the distraction of source data that isn’t controlled by them.
This will also decrease the amount of user queries which will free up processing power for faster and better answers. Bing (or whoever) has many, many advantages with this solution over current search technology.
If Bing implements a solution like this, the need for unfocused content generation will decrease significantly.
The bad news is that you won’t be creating content for search engines anymore… the good news is that you won’t be creating content for search engines anymore :)
You’ll be creating content for your REAL customers and prospective customers. No more throwing mud at a wall hoping that Google will send you traffic. If SEO is not going to work the same way anymore, how will it work?
Let’s review some historic examples from the future to find out…