On Wednesday, February 8th, Google held a live presentation in Paris called, fittingly enough, “Google Live from Paris.” I attended the event — not via an all-expenses-paid trip to France where I sampled the finest local baguettes, unfortunately — but virtually. In a very unglamorous fashion, free of Vespa rides and Parisian coffee, I rolled out of bed early in the morning to squint at the webcast on my computer screen. In this post, I’ll break down the big announcements I caught while you were sleeping.
At the event, Google announced “Bard,” its AI-powered conversation network — a competitor of ChatGPT. In this post, I’ll break down what Bard is, what it means for search marketers, and all the other innovations Google announced in Paris.
The timing of Google’s “Live from Paris” event could not have been more purposeful. It took place merely a day after Microsoft held an event with OpenAI, announcing deeper integration of AI features into the Bing search engine and Edge browser. In the days before Google’s event, rumors circulated that it would be unveiling a tool to rival ChatGPT. Turns out, the rumors were spot on. In Paris, Google Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan unveiled “Bard,” a conversation network powered by the company’s patented LaMDA AI model.
Just like ChatGPT, Bard can answer inquiries from the user, such as “How do I plan a road trip?” and “What is the most scenic road trip route in the American West?” It can also automate tasks, summarize content, and write based on prompts the user gives it. The Google team mentioned that, in its future state, it will be able to build simple applications.
ChatGPT and Bard have many similar capabilities, but it is clear that the former is the current leader when it comes to AI-generated content. Below is a list of the similarities and differences between the two:
Google Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan laid out a vision for how the product will work in conjunction with search. In the future, Bard will populate results directly on the search engine results page for NORA searches, also known as queries with “No Right Answer” searches. These are opinion-based searches — for example, rather than searching “what is a constellation?” someone may search “what are the best constellations?” To answer “what are the best constellations?”, Bard would summarize several sources to give the user an informed opinion, rather than simply displaying the featured snippet from one source. It would also take into account information like the user’s location and the time of year, as these would determine what constellations are visible in the sky.
Recently, Microsoft integrated OpenAI’s ChatGPT with its Bing search engine. The integration involves using GPT-3, OpenAI’s model, to comprehend queries and provide more relevant and helpful responses. Bing allows users to have more conversational interactions with the search engine, similar to ChatGPT. You can learn more about the Bing and ChatGPT integration here.
Bard currently has a waiting list and is not widely available for use. Throughout the presentation, Raghavan and the team emphasized that it would adhere to its AI Principles and ensure that Bard was rolled out responsibly and ethically. Its integration with Google search is still a ways down the road.
You can learn more about Bard in this blog post from Google or join the waitlist here
You can breathe a sigh of relief that the world of search marketing hasn’t been completely upended — yet. Google and Microsoft are still working the kinks out of Bard and ChatGPT. It will take some time to get them to a place where they will be accurate and useful as companions on the search engine results page.
But once these new AI models are fully integrated with search, things may change. Some experts are saying that the use of these technologies could drive down pageviews for publishers, since users will be able to get their questions answered by the AI directly on the SERP, without clicking through to a website.
As an SEO, it’s my humble opinion that there’s no need for publishers to panic — it sounds like this technology will be used as an enhanced version of Featured Snippets. It’s true that once Bard is integrated with search, you may see a reduction in clickthroughs for surface-level informational queries, as Bard can easily handle those. But users will still need to click through to your site to read detailed articles, get more depth on topics, and most of all, avoid disinformation. As long as you’re publishing high-quality, in-depth content that readers love, you should be able to weather the storm.
Search marketers in the retail space are safe from any upheaval, as no one is going to trust suggestions from an AI when making important purchasing decisions — at least, not yet. They’ll want to click through to your trusted site to view product features, reviews, comparable items, and more.
At Google’s Live from Paris event in February, they announced a slew of innovations. Beyond Bard, they unveiled updates to Lens, Translate, Maps, and more. See everything they announced below:
A recurring theme of the event is that Google is trying to make search more accurately reflect how we, as humans, think. We don’t always think in text, we often think in images and want to ask questions about the objects we see in front of us. “Visual is the new keyboard,” Raghavan said, as he announced new enhancements to Google Lens.
With Lens, searchers can now point at objects and search for similar objects available for purchase nearby. For example, if you see a delicious pastry, you can take a picture of it and find nearby shops where you can buy one just like it. Lens can also help users visualize items, such as furniture, in their homes so that they can see where it would fit best. In addition, Lens users can identify a landmark or building by simply pointing their camera at it.
Raghavan also announced improvements to Google Translate, including the release of 24 new languages, representing more than 300 million people. The company also added 33 new languages to “Offline” mode, so that they can be used anywhere, anytime.
Chris Phillips, VP & GM of Google’s Geo Team, shared some of the latest innovations to Google Maps. With Maps’ new “Immersive View,” users can not only virtually view the outside of restaurants and businesses, but they can also go in the front door and check out the inside. It’s a great feature for assessing the vibe of a restaurant for a date night or finding the perfect location to host your event. “Immersive View” is only available in select cities at the moment, but it will be rolled out more broadly soon.
In addition to “immersive view,” Chris demoed “Live view.” With Live View, searchers can hold their phone up to a street, and, on their screen, they can see pins for nearby establishments. For example, you may see a pin for a coffee shop down the road, or even outside your field of vision. This helps users more easily navigate neighborhoods and find businesses near them.
Finally, Google Maps announced eco-friendly routing features to help users select the most fuel-efficient routes for driving from point A to point B.
At the end of the event, Marzia Nocclai, Product Manager at Google, shared a brief presentation about how Google uses its AI tools to preserve culture. Here are some of the ways Google is giving back to the arts and sciences:
Want to read more about the latest advances in search marketing? Check out these resources: