June 28 2023


Understanding AI in Search: AI Chatbots, the Search Generative Experience, and Your Business 

Updated May 20, 2024

A Lot is Happening in AI 

Last year, we discussed Bing’s addition of OpenAI technology to their search platform, the same technology that powers ChatGPT. Since then, you may have seen a little beaker icon in the corner of your Google account for Google Search Labs, Google’s answer to that partnership. Google also announced Bard, its technology equivalent to ChatGPT, which was later renamed Gemini. Google then made “AI Overviews”, a feature for all Google users in the US that provides an AI-generated overview for certain search queries.

With the rapid rise of ChatGPT and the technology behind it, we are starting to see AI and search collide. While AI technology was already operating in the background of our current search experience, these newer additions are far more visible. At this point, you may be asking what’s the difference between ChatGPT and Gemini vs the AI features in Bing and Google? 

We define these AI offerings in this blog, how they affect search, and what they mean by a search generative experience. Finally, we’ll explore what all these advancements mean for your digital marketing strategies. 

What is the Difference Between AI Chatbots and AI-Powered Search? 

Here we break down the difference between these AI offerings and where they intersect. 

AI Chatbots: 

  • The keyword is create.  
  • These create content by collaborating with a user by providing human-like language to generate code snippets, foundations for writing, and definitional answers. 
  • There are no sponsored ads in the results at this time. 
  • You’ll find this technology in ChatGPT and Gemini.

AI in Search Engines: 

  • The keyword is aggregate. 
  • These aggregate content by finding information that helps answer questions or make purchases. 
  • It provides a range of answers in a variety of formats: a list of linked organic results, sponsored ads, videos, images, and now generative AI responses seen in chatbots. 
  • You’ll find this technology in search engines.

Differences in AI to remember.

What is a Search Generative Experience? 

All the above technologies are forms of generative AI—they can generate text, images, or video in response to user input. A search generative experience (SGE) generates results with content from websites that are discoverable and relevant to the query. The same principles as traditional search engines apply, but we get a more visual search with conversational answers.  

Search engines still pull this information from websites and links to sources used when generating an answer. It’s also possible to ask follow-up questions in SGE to further narrow down results.  

At a Google event, the vice president of engineering said that with a standard Google Search, people have to break up complex queries into multiple questions, sift through websites for information, and formulate the answer in their heads. With SGE, AI can do all that for you. 

What is Google Search Labs? 

Search Labs is a program for people to experiment with early-stage Google Search experiences and share feedback, much like Bing and ChatGPT. Those platforms offered trials first before making them available to everyone. It can respond to queries, make recommendations, and provide conversational results. However, that trial period seems to be ending. As of May 2024, AI overviews began rolling out to all users in the US along with new Search Lab AI features like multistep reasoning capabilities, planning capabilities, and AI-organized search results.

SGE uses AI to answer your questions directly in the landscape generating an answer by Google’s large language model at the top of the page or below ads, then features like “People Ask”, sponsored results, and organic results follow. The latter two features are in the traditional blue-linked format. It’s important to note that not all results have clickable sources, the same with Bing and ChatGPT. If they do, they appear below the generated answer.

A Google Search Labs result.

A Note on AI-Generated Content 

Google set initiatives that rank human-generated and helpful content high with slogans like E-E-A-T. AI has not impacted this and in recent algorithm updates the tech giant has targeted sites that abuse AI in creating unhelpful content. The company cautions against publishing AI content without human review. With an understanding of search engines, AI capabilities, and AI limitations, you can use AI best practices to improve your digital marketing and stay relevant during these algorithm updates.

Checking in on Bing 

Bing’s AI search experience has been rolled out to all users using Microsoft’s Edge browser. The experience looks similar to Google Search Labs but also includes a Chatbot tab similar to the ChatGPT experience called Copilot. While Bing’s market share has increased, it still has a long way to go before catching up with Google.  

As of February 2024, Bing has 7.8% of the market share compared to Google’s 88.9%. The chance to increase its share took a hit when Samsung dropped its plan to replace Google with Bing as the default search engine on Galaxy devices.  

Microsoft announced that OpenAI is using data from Bing to help improve its ChatGPT, allowing the chatbot to provide real-time information to ChatGPT Plus users (paid premium plan). This experience includes citations and links to sources. Microsoft said it will eventually roll out to users of the free platform, who currently receive data from before September 2021. 

Bing's chatbot
Bing results using the chat option.

What Does this Mean for Your Business? 

The idea of a search engine is evolving into an answer engine, with more definitional content and answers to frequently asked questions populating results. The issue for businesses is that paid and organic results are pushed down to accommodate the new AI features. 

The good news is the input is still coming from the same source—your customers. Focusing on user intent using the B-SMART MethodTM will still tap into those targeted keywords customers use, and the middle-man (AI) must follow to populate a relevant SERP. 

What is new is how to populate those large SGE definitional areas. It’s time to start thinking about what your users want to learn about your business—processes, materials, and other specifics versus providing general product information. Videos, reviews, and images are prioritized in local pack results in SGE, so localized content can put your website in the right search landscapes. 

Want to learn more about improving SEO and PPC in these new platforms? Contact your Account Team, or if you are not a TopSpot partner, contact the TopSpot Team to learn more. 

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