How AI Chat is Changing Search
31st March 2023
Chatbots are well and truly in the spotlight, with Microsoft’s ChatGPT-empowered Bing grabbing headlines and Google’s Bard promising big changes to the way we find brands, products and information.
While we’ve all had fun playing with chat-based search and getting to understand its capabilities, these powerful tools are raising larger questions, especially for businesses looking to optimise their SEO and paid ad strategies. How will chat change the way people search? And how will it impact SERP rankings?
Overall, the impact of chat-based search is still emerging. It remains to be seen how much of a hold chat will have on search in the coming years, and how SEO measures and paid ad formats will evolve to accommodate this trend.
However, businesses that stay ahead of the curve and experiment with new ad formats and optimisation strategies are likely to be better positioned to take advantage of the opportunities chat-based search presents.
Read on to explore the latest developments in chat-based search, including best practices for adapting to this trend and predictions for the future of chat-based search.
The State of Chat-Based Search
Chat-based search was thrown into the spotlight with the release of the new Bing, with chat enabled. This tool uses OpenAI’s GPT-4 to provide a conversational experience with users, helping them refine their search results. Through natural language processing and machine learning, Bing boasts that it can deliver more nuanced search results based on the user’s intent rather than simply their search terms.
Meanwhile, Google’s Bard is making waves, plugging Google’s unrivalled search data into an experimental AI tool that allows users to have a conversation with Google. Like Bing, Bard gives conversational answers to questions rather than links, but it offers the additional benefit of a “Google it” button which allows users to fact-check and find out what sources have been used in Bard’s answers. Bard is part of Google’s broader effort to integrate AI and machine learning into its search engine.
While chat-based search is still in the early stages of adoption, some businesses are already experimenting with this technology to improve customer engagement and enhance the search experience. As many SaaS businesses already use chatbots on their own sites to provide personalised recommendations, the world of B2B marketing seems primed for change.
The Role of AI in Chat-Based Search
AI is the key ingredient that makes search-based chat different. Natural language processing (NLP) is what allows the search engine to understand and interpret natural language queries, helping search engines to understand the user’s intent and deliver personalised search results.
For example, if a user searches for “best scheduling software for small businesses”, a standard search engine would find web pages that match the keywords within that search term. Meanwhile, NLP algorithms could analyse the sentence structure, grammar, and vocabulary to identify the context of the query. With sentiment analysis, the algorithms can even determine a user’s positive or negative sentiment towards the topic.
Based on this analysis, an AI-empowered search engine can provide tailored results that match the user’s intent, such as a list of highly-rated scheduling software, sorted by price range or how well it’s rated by small businesses. The search engine can also provide additional information about each solution, such as reviews, integrations, and contact information.
Pair this with machine learning, which is used to improve the accuracy of chat-based searches over time, and you’ve got a seriously powerful machine. Machine learning can improve search results over time by learning from user interactions. As users engage with chat-based search, the machine learning algorithms can identify patterns in the data it finds and users’ responses to it, and use this information to improve the search experience ongoingly
The cherry on top is AI-driven personalisation, which involves analysing the user’s search history, location, and other factors to deliver search results that are tailored to the user’s preferences and needs. This puts search algorithms one step ahead of its users, catering for needs that they didn’t even need to mention!
Chat’s Potential Impact on SEO
Chat-based search engines are designed to deliver personalised, conversational search results that more closely match the user’s intent.
However, a big change to the way users search for information means that businesses may need to adjust their SEO strategies to better optimise for conversational queries. This could involve a shift away from traditional keyword-based optimisation towards a more conversational, natural language approach. Businesses may need to create more conversational or answer-based content that is better suited to chat-based search queries.
A larger question is whether chat-based search will improve to the extent that users no longer need to visit websites. In this case, content such as product information, blogs, case studies, how-to guides and FAQs may lose relevance. Marketers will need to rethink their content strategies with the filter of an AI chatbot in mind, creating content that it is likely to pass on rather than content that users will enjoy engaging with directly.
Of course, such questions remain speculative for now. As the trend towards chat-based search continues to grow, businesses will need to stay abreast of the latest developments in order to remain competitive in the SEO landscape.
Chat’s Potential Impact on Paid Search
Another area where chat-based search looks likely to cause some serious disruption is paid search and pay-per-click advertising. Of course, Google makes 80% of its revenue from Google Ads, so it’s not going anywhere! However, as chat-based search becomes more prevalent, search queries may not result in direct click-throughs or conversions, changing the metrics by which we measure marketing success.
For example, if a user sees a PPC ad in a chat-based search result, they may be less likely to click on the ad, as they are already engaged in a conversation that is answering their questions. However, their exposure to the ad may influence a conversion later down the line.
This could potentially lead to a shift away from direct ROI to measures that take into account “assisted conversions”. Businesses may need to take a more holistic approach to measure the impact of chat-based searches on their overall conversion rates.
The rise in chat-based search could also present opportunities for businesses to create more conversational personalised ads that better match users’ intents. This could involve creating ads that use chatbot capabilities to engage users in a conversation.
Chat’s Influence on Customer Behaviour
As chat-based search is designed to be more conversational and engaging than traditional search, users are more likely to spend time engaging with the search engine rather than using it as a hub to engage with other content from. This means marketers need to start thinking about search engines as engagement platforms in their own right and tailor their content to be discovered and discussed by the chat algorithm.
Chat-based search is primarily focused on understanding the user’s intent and delivering personalised results based on that intent. Therefore users may begin to think more about the intent behind their search queries, rather than simply typing in keywords. Marketers need to take this awareness into account when creating content, answering pain points and leading with benefits.
Users are also likely to begin using more natural language when conducting searches, as they become conditioned to starting a conversation rather than choosing the right search terms. This may lead to a shift away from keyword-based SEO towards a more conversational approach. Long-term keywords will become more important, and marketers will need to pay attention to trends in natural language and slang.
Best Practices for Adapting to Chat-Based Search
Understand the Technology
We don’t quite know where chat-based search will take us yet, but we do know that in order to ride the changing tide, we need to understand it. Now is the time to research different chat-based search tools, finding out what they’re capable of now, what issues are being discovered by users, and what improvements are promised for the future.
Consider getting ahead of the curve by creating more conversational content that is tailored to your target audience persona’s intent. You should also be incorporating long-tail keywords, question phrases and other natural language elements into existing website content.
In time you will be able to leverage chat search technology to deliver more targeted and relevant content, but you can already benefit from personalising your content to appeal to specific audience segments or even individual users.
Experiment with Chat
Work out what you’re dealing with by integrating a chatbot with your own site. By leveraging AI to understand user queries and provide personalised responses, businesses can improve customer engagement and satisfaction while gaining a working knowledge of AI chat capabilities.
Monitor and Analyse
This is also an ideal time to build up the bevy of data you’ll need to refer to when chat-based search becomes more prevalent. That means analysing user behaviour to get a better idea of audience intent, and being ready to experiment with different strategies.
Carefully observe how the emergence of chat-based search affects your business specifically. This could involve tracking and setting benchmarks for key metrics such as engagement rates, conversion rates, and user feedback, and adjusting strategies as needed as the course of chat-based search progresses.
Keep Ahead of the Curve With Xander Marketing
Chat-based search represents a significant shift in the world of SEO and paid advertising. However, a lot is still unknown about the direction chat-based search will take us in and how we will need to change our strategies to keep up. Businesses that adapt early to this emerging trend are likely to be better positioned to succeed in the shifting search landscape.
Xander Marketing can help businesses stay ahead of the curve and take full advantage of the opportunities presented by chat-based search. With our expertise in SEO, PPC, and content marketing, we can help businesses optimise their strategies for chat-based search, creating engaging, conversational content that matches user intent.
Contact us today for a free 30 minute consultation and learn more about how we can help your business adapt to the changing world of chat-based search.