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On the 6th February 2022, Google introduced Bard, an experimental conversational AI service powered by Language Model for Dialogue Applications (or LaMDA). It said that in just a matter of weeks, it’s going to be made more widely available to the public.

In terms of how this is going to look on the SERPs, Google’s mocked up Bard’s answer as sitting where featured snippets currently do, providing a direct answer to the user’s questions, with other results listed under it.

Image credit: Google

This understandably will have raised a lot of questions for content teams both in-house and agency-side, including:

  • Are featured snippets going to be a thing of the past?
  • What will page one look like, once you scroll below Bard?
  • Am I going to see a huge dive in organic traffic?
  • Should I be looking to AI for content creation?

The current role of ChatGPT

There’s been chatter around AI in marketing for years, but it really rose into prominence back in November 2022, when ChatGPT launched. You’ve probably already had a play around with it, but if you haven’t had chance to yet, then it’s a free (for now) AI chatbot that knows how to interact in a conversational way, and can formulate a digestible answer to any questions you ask.

ChatGPT is currently being used for a range of things, such as creating code, and formulas in Excel, but some people are now using it to create content.

To use ChatGPT, once you’ve signed up, you just need to provide it with a prompt. I asked ChatGPT to provide me with an overview of Yves Saint Laurent’s life – first asking it to tailor it to a five-year-old, and then to someone with a degree in fashion.

Answer one:

ChatGPT answer

Answer two:

These answers did what I asked them to, but if you wanted to use this to form a section within an article, you’d have to fact-check it to make sure it’s 100% correct, and also edit it, to make it less generic.

I then asked ChatGPT to write me a 2,000-word essay on the impact Coco Chanel had on the fashion industry. It gave me a 500-word answer, but again, it was extremely basic. It stated the facts, without adding any value – and that’s something that Google’s Helpful Content Update specifically stated they wanted to cut down on.

So, whilst ChatGPT might be able to help you with formulating the template of an article, you’d still need a content writer to put the pieces together, and create a guide that’s insightful and engaging.

How will AI play into Google’s Helpful Content Update?

In August 2022, Google announced it would be rolling out their Helpful Content Update, which was designed to prioritise people-first content. This means that the person who’s writing the content must have the depth of knowledge and expertise to cover that topic, and leave the reader feeling like they’ve found out what they wanted to.

Google also stated that content written primarily for search engines would be penalised, alongside content that left readers feeling like they needed to search again to find the answer.

Google has recently published a piece on AI-generated content. These guidelines reaffirm the above, and explain that you shouldn’t try to use AI content to manipulate SERPs – but it also states that there could be cases of AI content that are deemed helpful.

Of course, AI-generated content is still in really early stages, so we can only really speculate, but ultimately, as humans, we’re empathetic and want to help readers as much as we can, so shouldn’t content written for humans, be by humans?

Whilst your primary reason for using AI to create content for your site might not be to create it for the SERPs, it’s done to speed up the process, and in turn, it might be to publish as much content as possible. And that could be seen as wanting to get as many high rankings as possible, as opposed to genuinely wanting to help readers.

AI doesn’t always give factually correct information

On the 8th February, $120 billion was knocked off Google’s market value. The reason? Bard gave the wrong answer to a question that was used in its promotional materials, and Google employees didn’t pick up on it.

This is obviously causing concerns because this is just one example of AI pulling together inaccurate information, which isn’t being spotted by humans. If you were to publish factually inaccurate content on your website, at best, you might lose brand trust and sales, but the worst-case scenario is so much more drastic.

Ultimately, we can see that ChatGPT can be used to create content, but changing your strategy to get AI to write your content seems very high-risk, when we don’t know how it’s going to pan out. Whilst we can see why you might want to use ChatGPT to help you formulate a difficult email you need to write (making sure you sense check it before you send it!), there could be a lot of consequences if you ask it to write a blog for you.

That being said, it’s something that as marketers, we should all be looking into and learning. Ultimately, it’s talented writers who can craft content to adapt to a range of tone of voices, and provide context to the answers they give – it’s not been proven that AI can.

Want to find out more about the role of AI, or how we can help shape your content strategy? Get in touch with us!