ChatGPT A Threat to Search Engines and SEO

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Dave Kelly
December 19, 2022
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If you are in the SEO industry and/or deeply involved in the preparation of content for websites, as we are, you have probably been hearing something about "AI Chat Bots" lately.

In essence, these are tools that harness the power of AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology to allow you to interface with the tool in a chatbox-style environment: you ask a question - quite literally about anything - and the tool goes to work, plowing through the information it knows about to analyze, organize it and reports it back to you.

One of the most popular tools is known as ChatGPT. Launched in November of this year (2022) by the AI and research company OpenAI.

Currently, access to ChatGPT is free of charge (that will likely change in the future). We went over to the site and created an account. Once verified, you can sign in and start chatting with the tool.

Some Examples of ChatGPT "Chats"

The first question we asked of this tool was "Who are the top bariatric surgeons in New York City?"

Here's the response we received:

First off, notice how the AI bot "recognizes" that this question is asking for a recommendation ("top" as in "best") and inserts a disclaimer that it cannot make medical provider recommendations.

After that, what follows is a short list of things that should be considered in selecting a surgeon. A writer looking for a good outline for a webpage would find this useful - as a starting point.

The second question we asked ChatGPT was "What do I look for in a residential roofing company?"

Here's the response generated:

For this reply we did not ask for specific recommendations, asking instead only for general criteria in choosing a roofer.

Again, the content returned to us was generic but useful information. Both potential roofing customers and writers looking for guidance would find this a good place to start.

For our final query, we asked "What causes inflammation of the eyes?"

This is a question about a specific medical condition: eye inflammation. The returned content is again very useful and helpful, in our judgment.

Is This a Threat to Search Engine Traffic?

Here's something worth noting: While this tool pulls information from webpages that it knows of (and presumably finds trustworthy), the user of this tool is never presented with any links back to the site or sites that are the source of this content.

This tool has bypassed the need for a search engine search, in the traditional sense - input a query, look at the links & snippets, click links and investigate further.

This has led some to speculate that AI chatbots may one day put an end to traditional searching. Less traditional searching means less traffic from search engines.

In the (near?) future, it won't matter much what your site's search engine ranking is for a search query if people are not using the search engine. At least this is the thinking of some.

But here at Posirank, we don't think that AI chatbots are a threat to search engine traffic, at least not in the short term.

Why? Because AI chatbots are going to be reluctant to give specific recommendations on who offers the "best" service, the "cheapest" service, the "most reliable" product -- that would take them into uncharted waters and possibly result in legal action, hence the disclaimers about not giving recommendations.

Simply put, at the end of the day, customers will need to do comparison shopping. They will need to know what sites are out there that can meet their need for whatever it is they are looking for.

And for that, they are going to need traditional search, which displays filtered results and requires the user to click links and research further.

Will AI-Generated Content Rule?

When it comes to content creation, however, the usefulness of AI chatbots becomes obvious.

The question is whether or not such content will be detectable by search engines - and if it can be identified as AI-generated, will search engines value it?

In other words, should you post AI-generated content on your site as webpage content?

That will be the subject of our next blog post, so stay tuned!

Written By Dave Kelly
Dave was one of the pioneers of the SEO industry, long before Google even existed, and before "SEO" was a meaningful acronym. Dave brings extensive & long-running experience to the PosiRank team.
Dave has also been behind some of the most well-known & cutting edge tools in the SEO space for the past decade, and PosiRank is no exception.
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