Tech Matters: New Google Search is almost here
Google unveiled its massive overhaul of Google Search at its developer’s conference last week that will change the way marketers advertise their products and the way all users will search. While the integration of Google’s chatbot Bard comes as no surprise, the full-on artificial-intelligence-assisted search took the tech community by storm.
For now, it is positioned as a Google “experiment” and you must join a waiting list to try it out, but it won’t be long until it’s the only way to use Search. Let’s look at how it works, so you are not blindsided by the new process.
In its introductory blog post, Google’s vice president and general manager of search, Elizabeth Reid, said, “With new breakthroughs in generative AI, we’re again reimagining what a search engine can do. With this powerful new technology, we can unlock entirely new types of questions you never thought Search could answer, and transform the way information is organized, to help you sort through and make sense of what’s out there.”
The new interface presents information in an entirely new way. Gone are the long list of links that you must scan to find the one that looks the most promising. In the new Google Search, dubbed SGE (Search Generative Experience), while it’s still in its research phase, you’ll type in a question per usual and instead of pages of results, you’ll see what Google is calling an AI Snapshot.
The AI Snapshot contains a cohesive written response to your question, instantly compiled from multiple trusted web sources to provide the best possible result for your query. You can expand your view to see exactly where the information came from. It also has a conversational chatbar where you can ask a follow-up question. If you’ve tried ChatGPT or Google’s Bard, you’ll understand that this process is very much like having a conversation with a real person. And the best part is that the chatbot never becomes tired of your questions — feel free to ask away.
For each additional question, Google will give you another snapshot, and it will remember your entire conversation and tailor its responses within the bigger context of your entire conversation. Again, you’ll experience the back-and-forth of a conversation.
Once you get used to this new conversational format, it should be faster to get the information you’re looking for, particularly when you’re researching a complex topic. Say you want to know the top vegan restaurants in beach towns down the East Coast that are wheelchair accessible and have beautiful views. With traditional search, you’d have to perform multiple searches and review many links. With the conversational AI method, you can ask multifaceted questions like this one and see the results immediately. You will also be able to copy those results into a Google Sheet for easy reference.
For now, the familiar search result links are still on the page, you just have to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page to see them. Do I think those will eventually be phased out? Yes. Google has also retained Search ads, but how long will those remain productive for businesses? Because a Google Search ad links to the advertiser’s page, taking the user off the Search page, I can see a big drop in pay-per-click effectiveness in the not-so-distant future.
For years, marketers have been working to make sure their websites come up on the first page of results, paying billions each year in PPC ads. In fact, whole businesses are devoted to search engine marketing, or SEO. If links are deprecated or removed entirely in Google’s new zero-click search model, SEO as we know will be obsolete. The objective becomes getting Bard to include a company in a related narrative, and that may prompt a new type of marketer. And it’s important to keep in mind, ads are Google’s top revenue source, so they’ll find a way to keep the money flowing.
Currently, there’s a waitlist to join Search Labs, with experiments rolling out “in the coming weeks.” To get on the waitlist, open a new window in Chrome like you do when you want to start a new search. Look for the the beaker icon at the top of the page. Click and it will take you to the sign-up page. You can do this on your computer or on your phone. Watch your email for an alert that it’s your turn to join.
In the meantime, start using Google Bard to become comfortable with AI-powered search. Google lifted the waiting list for Bard, so you can start right away. By using Bard now, you’ll be ready when the new Search is available to you.
Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at email@example.com.