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Will Google be replaced by AI? (The Scary Truth)

Will Google be replaced by AI header image
Will Google be replaced by AI header image

As Google scrambles to respond to the meteoric rise of ChatGPT, an alarming question has arisen in the digital world, “will Google be replaced by AI?”.

It was rumoured that the search giant has had to issue a “code red notice”, stepping up their efforts to develop competing resources at a faster pace. Could this spell the end for the Californian behemoth? After all, some already claim “Google is done”.

Our answer? Not exactly, but Google will need to utilise AI more, sooner rather than later.

As AI chatbot usage and awareness increases, and AI search engines are introduced as a result, there is widespread debate over the threat posed to Google by tools like ChatGPT and AI-driven search engines like You, Neeva, or Perplexity.

The Threat of AI towards Google

The emerging threat posed to Google from AI tools is currently less to do with its business model as a whole, as Google makes billions in ad revenue on a monthly basis, and searchers are less likely to use AI for monetized queries.

Instead, by providing quick and simple answers to informational queries and negating the need to visit multiple result pages during research, AI tools like ChatGPT can provide a better search experience than Google for a segment of searchers. 

If enough users prefer a tool that can provide this experience over Google, then this usage could be capitalized upon with a focus on ad integration. 

Currently, a user is likely to ask AI to perform a quick task for them, perhaps make some suggestions for a daily routine, which could be followed up with a request to create a timetable.

For a more transactional search however, such as “best bike for kids”, searchers would be much more likely to turn to Google.

The biggest threat to Google is if AI can start filling the space for these monetizable queries with the increased depth of searcher intent they offer.

If searchers can ask AI for “the best bike for a 13-year-old boy who will be cycling to school and occasionally over the local forests” and get pinpoint-accurate highly-relevant product suggestions, then advertisers will be clamoring to get their products in the mix for results.

Or better yet, AI can be used to develop apps which negate the need to use search. For example, if you need help finding a gift… 

Or if you want a travel itinery…

Money talks, and if AI search engines can get monetization up and running quickly enough then yes, Google could face an existential threat from AI search. 

There are many conclusions we can jump to following AI development and its impact on search, but at this moment in time, it’d be brave to bet against the world’s most popular, profitable, and powerful search engine. 

What is instead more likely, if a little less dramatic, is that Google will continue to integrate AI into its search algorithms and results, which leads us to our next point…

Does Google use AI?

Google has already been factoring AI technology into its algorithms for about 7 years, with MUM being the most recent major instance. 

FATJOE graphic explaining how Google uses AI

We expect the functions, and output available to users, of Google will evolve with AI development in time, just as new SERP features have become more regular in recent years.

It has been rumoured that Microsoft are planning to compete with Google by integrating ChatGPT into Bing in the coming months, so Google will need to expedite any plans they may have for AI integration. 

It’s worth noting that Google does already have its own AI chatbot called LaMDA – you may recall back in June when an engineer was fired for claiming that it had become sentient!

Why hasn’t Google released its own AI Chatbot?

EDIT: FEB ’23. Google has now publicly announced the launch of it’s own chatbot, Google Bard. Read more about Google Bard here.

Aside from the controversial claim – and the prospect of a robot overlord – there’s an article below that provides some indication as to why Google’s ChatGPT alternative isn’t available to the public yet.

Read more: Google’s LaMDA vs OpenAI’s ChatGPT

It begins with a more techy explanation of the differences – which is a little outside the remit of SEO – but, the key takeaways are:

  •  LaMDA apparently doesn’t work with Google’s current advertising strategy.
  • Due to informative inaccuracies and potentially offensive statements, there is a reputational hazard for a ubiquitous brand like Google.
  • If/when LaMDA is released, it apparently has advantages over ChatGPT, in that it uses:
  1. A ‘groundedness’ metric to validate the reliability of sources.
  2. A quality meter that evaluates the SSI (sensibleness, specificity, and interest) of its replies.

Meanwhile, Meta has already released a prototype AI chatbot in the US, called BlenderBot.

What is Google’s next move?

As AI tools, TikTok, and Meta create competing alternatives to Google search, there is undoubtedly pressure on Google to adapt. 

In a recent interview with Time magazine, Demis Hassabis, of Google’s AI subsidiary, DeepMind, revealed that they are considering releasing a private beta for a chatbot named Sparrow some time in 2023, although there was no mention of whether this is related to LaMDA.

The delay for this release is due to ongoing work on reinforcement features, such as source citations, which would provide important context to potentially inaccurate responses from the chatbot.

According to the article, DeepMind has taken a much more cautious approach to releasing their research and related features, for a variety of ethical reasons. 

In spite of this, the article mentions that Demis admitted “the company may soon need to change its calculus” – no doubt, this will be in response to competitive pressures. 

If LaMDA/Sparrow is to be made available to the public, it’s rational to assume that its release date may need to be expedited, or at least the technology will need to be published in some form, sooner rather than later.

Ultimately, only time will tell whether Google can hold its place as the go-to search platform, but for both searchers and publishers alike, we can only prepare to explore new technology and experiment with it to draw our own conclusions. 

What this all means for SEO

From an SEO perspective, Google’s focus on E-E-A-T is likely to become increasingly important. 

FATJOE graphic explaining Google's E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness)

The recent addition of ‘Experience’ as an indicator of content quality is not coincidental and may, in fact, be Google’s strategy towards counteracting AI-generated content. An example of this would be their recent Helpful Content Update which is just one of the many ways they are aiming to cut down on low-quality results.

With this in mind, it looks like their short-term strategy will be to promote the reliability and authority of their results, before publicly expanding into AI-powered solutions themselves.

Regardless of AI integration, if you want to be found in search via Google, or any other search engine in the future, your Experience, Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness are likely to be paramount, so focus on producing quality content which demonstrates these 4 elements, and always aim to benefit the user.

What should you do next?

There are countless ways to utilise AI tools for SEO, aside from merely ‘spinning’ content.

Practice prompts which can help you conduct research, and find uses that can reduce menial tasks. As a marketer, blogger, or anybody publishing content for people to find in search, there has never been a better time to begin utilising AI tools to your benefit.

There are very exciting times ahead!

Daniel Trick
Daniel Trick

Head of Content

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