At this point, most all of us are familiar with and have already tried out some form of generative AI. Whether it’s been ChatGPT or Bard, this technology has made its way to the mainstream public. This has created a lot of hype in the public about these new technologies. I’m constantly encountering people outside of the search and marketing industries that are talking about how they are testing out these platforms.
All of this progress has led to a new race for search engines to beat one another and either capture more market share (Bing) or maintain market share dominance (Google).
Bing is taking the most straightforward path. They have chosen to partner with OpenAI and integrate their technology (right now, specifically GPT-4) into Bing search. This is largely because Microsoft concluded that OpenAI’s generative AI technology was superior to their own internal technology. Bing has already integrated GPT-4 and its generative AI capabilities into live search results, but you can only access this when using the Microsoft Edge browser.
Google has taken a different path and chosen to leverage their own technology. They have release Bard, which is a ChatGPT competitor and in addition have also released Search Generative Experience (SGE) in a beta format that you have to sign up, receive access, and opt-into testing.
Both SGE and Bing’s use of GPT-4 offer a very similar format and user experience at a high level. However, the quality of the results differ a lot. Both can embed a generative AI result directly into existing search results, and both offer a chatbot app-like experience as well.
Here is what the generative AI format looks like in Bing search results (red highlight added by me):
Here is what the generative AI format looks like in Google search results (red highlight added by me):
In our testing, so far, the GPT-4 technology produces more sophisticated and helpful answers. However, both leave a lot to be desired for this technology to truly replace existing search results.
Here is an example result produced in Google for the prompt: “Create a travel itinerary for a trip from Boca Raton to Islamorada. Include recommendations that are family friendly for a family of four with two children under the age of 2.”
You’ll notice that the answers are generic, and don’t provide many components and links that would be helpful. For example, it doesn’t state the best route to take for the drive or provide a link to a map. Another example is that it recommends to “have dinner at one of the many family-friendly restaurants in Islamorada” but doesn’t provide any restaurant recommendations or links to them.
Here is the result for the same search/prompt using Bing. As you can see, it at least provides recommendations for specific places and even provides sources for where to read more information about some of the locations. However, the information is limited, only some recommendations have citations, and as someone who lived in Boca for years and travels to Islamorada every year, I know there are a lot of places that are missing from the list that should be there.
It’s possible, but not anytime soon. The generative AI results are significantly worse than most well written content on a given topic. Although it will continue to improve, the more likely scenario is that generative AI will be used as another search feature to provide a variety of result types based on user intent and search query. Just like they have moved from 10 blue links to images, videos, news and much more, generative AI results can be a new result type.
I can certainly see generative AI results being prominent and helpful when there are niche searches that aren’t well served by existing content on the web. However, when someone takes the time to create a well-researched and written piece of content on a topic, I don’t see an “anonymous” generative AI result (that doesn’t have authority, expertise, or trustworthiness) replacing core search results anytime soon.
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