Generative AI to have massive impact on search

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generative AI, search engines

Generative AI to have massive impact on search

By Justin Freid, Andrew Miller, and Franco Maffei, CMI Media Group

Artificial intelligence is on the cusp of drastically changing how we access information and the industry behind it. Since the launch of Google in the mid-’90s, when people needed to ask a question or find information they jumped to a search engine. While we have come a long way from the original 10 blue links, the search industry has not seen such a watershed moment in its lifespan, as it does now. 

Search engines won’t die, they will evolve

This immense opportunity is at the top of executives’ minds across the biggest tech companies. 

Microsoft, in partnership with Open-AI, was the most aggressive in pursuing generative AI to improve user experience. The partnership created Prometheus. This technology combines Bing’s Index, rankings, and search results with Open-AI’s GPT models. The additional layer of creative reasoning from OpenAI aims to provide better, more relevant responses from ChatGPT. 

At the time of this writing, OpenAI was rumored to be releasing an AI-backed search offering. We’re keeping close tabs on it, but do not expect to see an immediate change in the search landscape as so far the organization hasn’t announced a search offering, and if they eventually do, it can take time to establish a new offering.

Google is also placing big bets on generative AI. With new efforts in Google SGE, the company plans to help users “be able to understand a topic faster, uncover new viewpoints and insights, and get things done more easily.”

According to Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Alphabet, Google has utilized AI since the introduction of featured snippets in mobile results. SERPs (search engine results pages) have gone through significant transformation over their lifespan but will now go through their biggest evolution yet. During Google’s most recent developers conference, the focus was on the many ways the Gemini technology will be changing search. So we are certain to see many more announcements in the near future.

New technology and new destinations have already shown that users are willing to use a specific tool to find information. Amazon dominates the product search category. Over the final months of 2023, Amazon averaged anywhere from 2.3 to 2.7 billion visitors per month. We have also seen companies like Zillow and take ownership of the housing search market. Search on social platforms like TikTok and Reddit also continue to rise. 

How will this make users’ experience better? 

The infusion of this technology will allow search engines to better understand more complex questions and provide more in-depth, accurate answers. Previously, a user might need to perform multiple searches and piece together multiple answers to ultimately satisfy their needs. Now, users will be able to ask their complete question, no matter how complex, and receive an answer powered by generative AI. 

When users ask questions to a large language model (LLM) or search engines, they expect quality results. The promise of AI is that it will help better understand the context around the questions being asked and provide optimal results. Previous behavior within the platform, whether on Google or Gemini, can and has been used to provide a more personalized result. The more the LLMs learn, the more customized and relevant the results will become.

What does this mean for the pharmaceutical industry and brands? 

While the integration of generative AI into search will allow users to answer more complex questions, both Google and Microsoft are committed to sending traffic to relevant websites and continuing to serve ads. More than 56 percent of Google’s revenue comes from ads. 

Will brands still need SEO? Ultimately, yes. But SEO strategies will evolve, just as they always have. It may make sense to even call it something different such as LLMO (large language model optimization) or AIO (artificial intelligence optimization). But the underlying effort in which we optimize content for the end user will evolve.

With any change, opportunity presents itself for brands who are innovators and first movers. The search industry has always been ever-changing, but one constant will always remain: as long as search engines exist whose goal is holistically supplying users with information, they will offer the opportunity to optimize digital assets to receive the best results.

As the strategies get comfortable, the algorithms change and the advent of search engines embracing LLMs to provide tailored answers to user queries is just that: the next phase of our channel. The goal is still to ensure that search engines can understand digital content as easily as possible, so that they can connect users with valuable information. CMI will continue to find ways to make content more relatable, make experiences more accessible, and serve as a conduit for connecting searching users with the answers they are seeking.

And speaking of answers, one of the strongest ways to embrace some of the changes that are occurring in search is to understand the concept of answer engine optimization (AEO). This specific type of optimization focuses on being able to answer a user’s questions directly with your content in an easily discoverable format. This will allow you to influence an LLM result, which in turn will cite your content as its’ source. The citation creates brand recognizability and awareness, which will leave a lasting impression on your audience. To put it simply, you teach LLMs by providing them with the answers they need and they pass those answers on to your users and mention you as the source of support. Without a digital content source, like a website, you’re going to be missing out on a lot of connections.

No matter how search engines or LLMs evolve, there will always be a way to learn how they operate and use that knowledge to improve the engine’s favorability for your digital assets. SEO and AEO may look a lot different as technology becomes more advanced but its core will always be built on the idea of helping to improve your brand’s ability to connect with and educate your audience.

Now is the time to count on your content optimization for more than just keyword rankings. Your SEO and content partners should be talking about your audience profile, your wider search presence, and how to utilize AEO to your advantage. Those concepts are going to be what help you meet your search-based business goals

Justin Freid is chief media and innovation officer; Andrew Miller is executive VP, digital activation; and Franco Maffei is senior VP, SEO at CMI Media Group.