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Introducing Bard: What does Google’s answer to ChatGPT mean for SEO?

By Lee Wilson | Service operations director

Vertical Leap

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February 14, 2023 | 8 min read

Google has stolen the limelight from ChatGPT with another artificially intelligent (AI) chat tool: Bard. But Lee Wilson of Vertical Leap has a balanced view.

Google Search

Google is still primarily a search engine at heart – at least, for now. / Dung Anh via Unsplash

With speculation building that ChatGPT could replace search engines in the near future, Google had to respond sooner or later. The answer arrived in the form of Bard, Google’s own take on an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chat engine that rivals ChatGPT in every way.

That’s not all Google announced, though. The search giant has promised to integrate AI technology deeper into the wider search experience, teasing features that would have a major impact on SEO.

Google unveils Bard amid ChatGPT hysteria

With ChatGPT making an early run for 2023’s biggest tech trend, Google has responded by unveiling its own answer to OpenAI’s intelligent chat system. Google and Alphabet SEO, Sundar Pichai, announced Bard’s release on The Keyword blog last Monday, February 6th.

Bard is an experimental project powered by Google’s LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications) technology.

In Pichai’s statement, the CEO goes on to explain: “Bard can be an outlet for creativity, and a launchpad for curiosity, helping you to explain new discoveries from N’s James Webb Space Telescope to a nine-year-old, or learn more about the best strikers in football right now, and then get drills to build your skills”.

Bard is more or less designed to do the same thing as ChatGPT. The biggest difference at this point is the data sources the two technologies use. One implication is that ChatGPT’s database includes information only relevant until some point in 2021, making it unreliable for anything that requires recent information.

Bard doesn’t have this problem – thanks to Google’s vast access to the most up-to-date information. Yet, despite having this advantage over ChatGPT, Google’s rival is seemingly winning in the first round of this AI battle.

A Bard first impression

Google was hoping its answer to ChatGPT would get plenty of attention on the day Pichai announced Bard to the world. The good news is that it is getting plenty of attention in the press, albeit not for reasons Google would have hoped for.

In fact, Google’s Bard announcement knocked $120bn off of parent company Alphabet’s market value – almost 10% of the tech giant’s value.

The issue brings us back to Pichai’s example questions for Bard where he suggests asking it to explain new discoveries from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to a nine-year-old.

Bard responds to 'what new discoveries from the James Webb Space Telescope can I tell my 9-year-old about?'

Unfortunately, The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) didn’t take the first pictures of a planet outside of our solar system; these were taken by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in 2004, according to Nasa – a good 17 years for the JWST launched.

In fairness, ChatGPT has produced plenty of false information in recent years but none of it has been on the same scale as Bard’s release. Aside from costing Google’s parent company a big chunk of market value, the error highlights a key limitation of AI technology and the dangers of not having the correct verification process in place.

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Google bringing more AI tech to Search

Bard may be getting all the attention right now but it’s not the only AI update making its way to Google Search. Last week, Microsoft unveiled a suite of AI updates for its own search engine and, now, Google is scrambling to catch up with Bing, of all things.

Google’s announcement followed the next day and it also vowed to incorporate more AI technology into the wider search experience to help people find the information they’re looking for.

While ChatGPT and Bard may be tasked with writing poems, Google Search is still a search engine at heart and its primary role is to connect users with information on third-party websites, not generate responses – at least, for now.

Google teases screenshots of Bard

In the examples above, Google appears to be generating summary responses to complex queries, giving users an overview of some of the different perspectives. Google says this will be particularly helpful for queries that can have multiple different answers, none of which are necessarily right or wrong.

What will AI search features mean for SEO?

The new AI features Google is teasing could save users from visiting multiple pages to get a rounded answer to their questions. For website owners and SEOs, this would potentially mean missing out on traffic while increasing the volume of zero-click searches. Speculation is rife but we’ll have to wait until these features roll out to analyze results and make any serious predictions.

Let’s assume users get the following AI response when asking whether guitar or piano is harder to learn.

This is quite typical of systems like ChatGPT and, presumably, Bard. Rounded answers that combine information from multiple sources without giving any clear advice. Some people say X, some people say Y and, while it’s helpful to know this, it doesn’t really answer the question.

If this is the future of Search, brands will need to understand the nuances of queries (e.g.: beginner guitar v beginner piano), be more relevant than ever, and provide the depth of information and advice that AI can’t.

Technology Data & Privacy Learning

Content by The Drum Network member:

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