Instead of relying solely on traditional search engines, people are now turning to conversational AI models such as ChatGPT and Bard to conduct searches and obtain recommendations.
In fact, companies have already reported being approached by potential clients as a result of searches via ChatGPT.
What’s more, search engines themselves are implementing AI to provide an enhanced experience to users. Bing has already implemented AI copilot and chat, and Google is rolling out its AI-powered Search experience (SGE).
We are still in the early stages of this trend, but it’s certainly something that’s here to stay. If you offer products or services, it’s wise to consider the implications of AI search now, before your competitors get ahead.
How AI recommends content (for now)
AI-powered search and recommendations are a new and dynamically evolving field. We’re just starting to grasp how AI models like ChatGPT and Bard suggest brands, products, or services.
Right now, when you prompt ChatGPT for a recommendation (we mainly inquired about restaurants, hotels, and local businesses), it might indicate its inability to conduct real-time web crawling. Nonetheless, it can still provide suggestions based on data up until 2021 for ChatGPT 3 and 2022 for ChatGPT 4.
As of this post’s writing date (28 September 2023), ChatGPT has announced its chatbot can now access up to date information. Industry experts agree that this development will prompt more users to consult ChatGPT for queries otherwise traditionally directed at search engines and news outlets.
As for the factors that ChatGPT considers right now when recommending a brand, service or product, according to a recent study by NP Digital, these are:
- Brand mentions: The frequency with which a brand or product is mentioned across the internet appears to influence ChatGPT’s recommendations. The more mentions, the higher the likelihood of recommendation.
- Reviews: The quantity and quality of reviews play a crucial role. Numerous positive reviews, whether on a brand’s own site or on other online platforms, enhance the chances of getting recommended.
- Relevance: There is a significant correlation between the keywords in queries made to ChatGPT and the resulting product or company suggestions. The recommended entities typically have those keywords present on their associated web pages.
- Establishment age: ChatGPT seems to favour products or companies with a longer history when making recommendations.
- Endorsements: ChatGPT’s recommendations often align with websites that list and rate products.
- Credibility: Factors like social media presence, domain authority, and the reputation of the websites discussing the product or brand, all contribute. Generally, the more reputable the company, the more frequently it gets recommended.
In the case of Bard, we observed that it also leans toward suggesting established brands and businesses with enduring market presence and a solid reputation.
These findings suggest that current AI models might not prioritize newer businesses. Yet, ChatGPT is now equipped with real-time information access and web crawling capabilities. Bard is also advancing, with features like Google Maps integration, direct business website links, and more.
The reliance on AI for searching for products, services, or brands will only continue growing. Therefore, it makes sense to look at ways to optimize your brand so it gains more visibility in AI-powered searches.
Tips for optimizing for AI search
So, how do you adjust your brand to evolving consumer behavior and the increasing reliance on AI searches for products and services?
SEO practices remain relevant
Many SEO strategies continue to be instrumental in improving your visibility in AI searches. Here are some examples:
- Quality content: Both conventional search engines and AI-driven platforms prioritize high-quality content that provides value to users. Informative, engaging, and relevant content remains a staple for achieving online visibility.
- Keyword relevance: Incorporating appropriate keywords into your content and website metadata ensures you are discoverable when users search for related terms. Keyword research remains as crucial as ever.
- High-quality backlinks: These act as endorsements of your site’s credibility and authority. Securing backlinks from reputable sources signals to both AI models and traditional search engines that your content is trustworthy and valuable.
Specific tips for AI search optimization
AI searches, while rooted in traditional search engine principles, have some unique characteristics that call for additional optimization techniques.
- Conversational content: In AI-driven platforms, especially voice assistants, users tend to adopt a more natural language, as if they are having a conversation. This means that when writing your content for AI discovery, you should focus on using a conversational tone, steering clear of jargon and complex terms.
- Content relevance to user queries: Keywords have always been important, but their role gets extra essential when searching with AI. NP Digital’s study, highlighted ‘query relevance’ as a top-ranking factor for ChatGPT recommendations. This is not surprising, given that as platforms aim to offer very precise answers to user queries. While traditional search engines can show millions of results, AI’s responses are much more concise. This translates to intensified competition in producing content that exactly matches specific queries. By anticipating them, crafting answers and weaving them into your content, you can enhance the chances of appearing in AI search results.
- Online reputation: AI doesn’t just look at content quality. It gauges the overall standing of a brand in the digital ecosystem. Google searches, for instance, may not necessarily return results from the most highly rated brands and websites. In our tests with ChatGPT and Bard, the recommended brands had excellent online reputations and broad presence. In fact, these AI models actually cite ratings when suggesting businesses. This means that maintaining consistently favourable reviews on platforms like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Google, coupled with positive brand discussions across the internet, may increase its chances of appearing in recommendations by AI platforms.
- Prominence in authoritative media outlets: Building on the previous point, being featured in trustworthy media platforms adds credibility to your brand in the eyes of AI models. It signals that your brand is newsworthy and holds authority in its domain. Thus, an effective PR strategy can be an asset in AI-driven recommendations.
The AI-driven search landscape is evolving, reshaping how consumers discover brands, products, and services.
While fundamental SEO practices continue to matter, the distinct nature of AI search demands a blend of conversational content, increased rrelevance to user queries, robust online reputation, and authoritative media presence.
As the lines between traditional search engines and conversational AI models like ChatGPT and Bard blur, you must pivot for your brand to remain visible and relevant.
By understanding these nuances and proactively tailoring strategies, you can ensure your business secures its place in an AI-centric future of search and discovery.