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AI-Powered Search May Be Your Gateway to Generative AI

by Brendan O'Neill March 4, 2024

By now, you’ve certainly encountered Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) in one form or another. You may have read about Large Language Models (LLMs), like ChatGPT, and used them personally, out of curiosity, or professionally to increase the speed of certain tasks. Or maybe you’ve gone further, using visual GenAI tools, like Dalle or Midjourney, to create imagery from simple text prompts.

After all of that exploring, what if you’re still not sure about this AI stuff? Maybe you’re a late adopter, and you’d rather wait while the kinks get ironed out before incorporating such powerful tools. Well, if you use the Internet with any degree of regularity, you soon may not have that luxury.

The Next Generation of Search

GenAI is currently being experimented with in all sorts of search engines around the world, including testing environments at both Google and Microsoft. Chances are, you use Google when searching for something online, as it accounts for nearly 82 percent of the search market. At the moment, Google does not utilize GenAI, but that will soon change.

Since 2013, Google Search has used semantics to apply user intent and the meaning of words and phrases to serve up the right content for a given query. Google doesn’t write the answers to users’ queries, it searches the Internet for relevant information and provides the user links to those sites where the information can be found.

All of that is changing with the addition of GenAI. Google is currently testing its Search Generative Experience (SGE), which utilizes GenAI to not only find relevant content but also to process it and formulate appropriate responses to a user’s query. In short, the “old” Google locates possible answers for you to read, consider, and compare. The “new” Google SGE, on the other hand, will write the answer for you.

Although SGE is still being tested, and users must opt-in to activate it via Google’s Search Labs, Microsoft has already incorporated its GenAI tool, Copilot, into its search engine, Bing.

Positive and Negative Impact

So, how will this affect search results?

Simply put, the incorporation of GenAI technology may improve search results. This new approach to search can provide users with quick, clear overviews of search topics, summarize takeaways, and offer how-to instructions—all without having to click and visit individual pages. This is called zero-click search, where the search engine itself analyzes all the information and writes up an answer it believes best addresses your query.

GenAI also impacts visual search. Platforms like Google Lens and Pinterest Lens enable users to search for products and information with images instead of text. Using AI-powered image recognition technology that can identify objects within images makes it easier for search engines to understand and index visual content, further enhancing search results.

These options may provide increased speed and efficiency; however, some important questions remain, including:

  • Do we really want Google summarizing answers to everything its AI learns from other websites?
  • How well can it minimize some well-documented problems with AI technology, including bias and inaccuracies?
  • At this point, can we trust any AI?

While bias is a problem with traditional search engines, Google’s current search is simply a guide pointing users toward sources (and choices). It bears less responsibility for the content of those sources. Presented with the content and contextual information, users apply their own judgment to distinguish fact from fiction and/or opinion from objective truth, and they ultimately decide what information they want to use.

This judgment-based step is removed with a search engine powered by GenAI, such as ChatGPT, which makes it directly responsible for the biased or inaccurate results it may deliver. This creates a dangerous situation where the user may mistake a machine that learned via biased sources for an objective tool that must be correct.

Search giants Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo aren’t the only ones developing AI-powered search engines. The multitude of available options means there are more opportunities to reduce bias and inaccuracies. Many also address niche audiences, serving as valuable test markets. The following AI-powered search engines provide interesting alternatives to the big three—offering features such as a focus on privacy and prioritizing publisher sourcing, according to

How to Show Up in AI-Powered Search

The good news is that when it comes to brands, publishers, and company websites, good quality content will always be beneficial and findable. The best practices for developing successful content within an ecosystem that includes AI-powered search are essentially the same as they’ve been for the past few years with traditional search:

  • Create unique, relevant, useful, high-quality content.
  • Understand what your users want to know…and give it to them.
  • Fully optimize your digital presence with images, video, reviews, schema, and metadata.
  • Helpful and relevant localized content with high authority is always beneficial.
  • Leverage customer data and analytics (when possible) to personalize the user experience.

Even if your company is a late adopter of GenAI, your content can still perform via the search engines of today and the AI-powered search of tomorrow. The important thing to remember is that GenAI is not going away. While publishing high-quality content will always provide benefits, it’s critical to stay informed about key developments in fast-paced digital ecosystems to take advantage of opportunities and be prepared for innovative technologies, no matter what form they take.

Photo Credit: Alexander Grey | Unsplash

Brendan O'Neill
Content Strategy Lead

Brendan O’Neill is a Content Strategy Lead at One North. He helps clients evaluate and reimagine content structure, development, tactics, and strategy incorporating both industry best practices and innovative methodology. Brendan has an extensive background in journalism, editing, and managing content for everything from local newspapers and trade publications to national consumer magazines and Fortune 500 brands.