It seems like you can’t get away from discussions about AI chatbots and the impact they will have on digital marketing at the moment.
And yet, here I come to add to the noise. Sorry.
I’m sure by now you’re sick to the back teeth of reading posts about how AI is going to steal your job, not only by being able to plan an entire SEO strategy, but also by making websites obsolete.
However, if you’ve had access to the beta version of Google Bard this week, as I’ve said before, I think you’ll agree that there is really nothing to worry about.
Let’s try it out.
Testing the accuracy and creativity of Bard
First of all, I appreciate that this is in Beta.
But given that the demo of Bard resulted in Google losing $100 billion in market value after it shared inaccurate information in a promotional video, I’d have assumed it would be pretty polished by now.
I thought I’d start with something easy.
As I eat the same dinners on rotation, I thought I’d ask Bard to help me out with some recipes I can make with the leftover chicken from the roast dinner I cooked on Sunday.
The results were, um, fairly awful. One of the proposed recipes doesn’t even include chicken, and I’m not convinced that’s the best way to go about making the pie or the sausage casserole.
Additionally, I wouldn’t really call these recipes. There are no measurements or cooking times, and in most cases, the chicken is chucked in as an afterthought.
Seeing as that was a complete failure, I thought I’d move onto some more complex questions.
Today, I woke up with the earworm ‘My Name is Batty’, a song performed by Robin Williams in the animated film Fern Gully, and so I asked Bard what message the film was trying to convey.
From what I can remember of the film, it pretty much nailed it. But I checked, and James Cameron did not write the novel (Diana Young did). And it wasn’t a Disney film. So no idea where it got that information from.
So far, it’s not doing so well, eh?
I decided to revert back to asking something easier.
And Bard did deliver.
For simple queries, this is where I can really see it being helpful for users.
Now, if you’ve written a blog post about warm places to visit in Europe during April you’ll likely not be too chuffed that Bard serves up this answer. It could mean that your website now gets less traffic as there is no need for a user to actually visit your site to find out this information.
But I wouldn’t book a holiday based on that information alone, and feel that this would be used as a starting point to research destinations. So with that in mind, you could look to include this information within more extensive guides about each place to make up for traffic being lost to Bard for queries like this.
And to be fair, the answer to this query is already presented as a featured snippet, so a user looking for a short and concise answer to this query likely won’t be clicking a SERP anyway.
As AI is apparently poised to steal my job, I decided to ask it to help me with writing some content.
OK, so I’ll give it some credit for the outline being somewhat useful. But the rest of the information is a bit wacky.
Not only is the content bland as hell, but it’s pretty difficult to steal an entire static caravan I’d imagine, plus most static caravans are situated in caravan parks, rather than ‘remote areas’. I’m also not sure why ‘your personal circumstances’ would affect the type of static caravan insurance you need either. Unless perhaps your job is a fire eater, and you like to practice indoors.
Let’s try something else.
Seeing as it’s a Google product, I was hoping it might be better at answering common questions about GA4. And it did well here.
GA4 uses a simple AI chatbot to provide answers to queries such as ‘What are my top countries by revenue?’ using its Insights feature, so it would have been embarrassing if Bard couldn’t at least provide an accurate response about one of its own products.
So should SEOs be concerned about Bard and other AI chatbots?
There has been some chatter about Bard becoming so good at answering questions that websites will soon become obsolete. To that, I say, ‘what a load of old pish’.
To explain why I think that, here are a few examples.
A (sadly rather large) number of people will read a headline posted on social media while not actually bothering to read the article and go on a tirade in the comments without understanding the overall context. But lots of people do still click the link to get the full story. The non-clicker will get the gist of what the topic is about but the headline alone doesn’t give enough information to draw an accurate conclusion.
Additionally, when I can’t be arsed to type, I’ll use voice search to ask a question. The answer is likely to be short and concise – but it will often present me with sources to find out more.
To me, Bard will be used in much the same way; to get a very top-level understanding of a topic, or to be presented with a quick answer. A lot of people will still want to find out more, and will still use the internet in the same way as they do now to research things further. And part of that includes assessing how trustworthy the source of that information is.
One thing I’m sure you’ve noticed is that Bard doesn’t tend to cite its sources. Which is not great, especially as most of the information was inaccurate. The Bing AI, however, does appear to include annotations that cite sources.
Google has explained that when Bard does show a significant portion of content lifted directly from a website, it will likely show citations. Bizarrely, this was one of the only queries I could get it to provide citations for:
And the first result links to a site which is currently down.
Still, the jokes are pretty good.
In summary, I don’t think that SEOs need to be worried about losing their jobs to AI, because:
- The information is inaccurate a lot of the time
- The content is poo – not only often incorrect but boring to read
- It can answer simple queries well, but not really anything beyond what you already see in a featured snippet
- If it’s ripping off large parts of your content, it should be adding your site as a citation, and if you’re that worried, you could attempt to prevent it from crawling your site altogether