OpenAI Search, Google Share Loss, Yelp Assistant

OpenAI Search, Google Share Loss, Yelp Assistant

OpenAI Search Imminent?

There's been speculation that OpenAI is preparing a more direct search challenge to Google. That chatter intensified over the past few days, as the subdomain '' appeared in server log files. OpenAI is reportedly also hosting an event on May 9, ahead of Google's developer conference, where many expect the formal launch of Google SGE. ChatGPT can today search the internet using Bing. But existing analytics data argue ChatGPT hasn't captured much "search" usage. is the AI platform that has most directly positioned itself as a Google alternative, including the incorporation of Yelp data for local. In a recent podcast interview OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said, "The thing that’s exciting to me is not that we can go build a better copy of Google search, but that maybe there’s just some much better way to help people find and act on and synthesize information ... I don’t think the world needs another copy of Google." His vision for a next-gen search experience is a hybrid combination of search and LLMs, which is what Google is essentially doing (somewhat awkwardly) with SGE.

Source: DALL-E

Our take:

  • For years we anticipated an Apple search engine, only to be repeatedly disappointed. (Google 'default' payments essentially prevented it.)
  • If some sort of enhanced ChatGPT search capability is coming, it probably wouldn't be a stand-alone product. But that's a strategy decision.
  • Google's brand has lost its shine for many people. But OpenAI would need to deliver something very strong to compete. Habits are hard to break.

Data: Google Losing Search Share

We noticed (via SEL) that Google appears to have lost meaningful search market share in the US. According to Statcounter, Google had ~87% of search in March but that declined to ~77% in April. At the same time, Bing and Yahoo grew by roughly 5 points each. Globally, Google's share appears to be down a more modest 4 points. SimilarWeb doesn't show a similar drop for Google, although the data I saw was from February. We haven't seen any other validation for the accuracy of the Statcounter findings, suggesting it may be a mistake or glitch. Statcounter says on its site that, in generating search market share, it analyzes "every page view referred by a search engine." And Google just had a very successful first quarter, where it asserted that search volumes and engagement were growing. Yet there's evidence that younger users are transferring some search activity to Instagram and TikTok. There's also anecdotal discussion online of people using ChatGPT (and other AIs) instead of Google in many instances. For example, my Google usage is down perhaps 50%.

Source: StatCounter

Our take:

  • There are three possibilities here: the data is simply wrong, the data is correct or, more likely, there's some "directional" accuracy to it.
  • We'll find out soon. Statcounter (and Google) will be compelled to respond once investors get wind of this and demand a response.
  • Update: Because Statcounter is measuring traffic referrals it may mean Google is simply sending less traffic to websites rather than losing usage.

Yelp's New AI Assistant

Over the past few years, Yelp has steadily lost ground to Google in local search. However, higher CPCs, more ad clicks, broader monetization and cost cutting have keep the company growing. More recently, Yelp has been trying to figure out how to use AI in order to create a differentiated experience. This week it announced the Yelp Assistant, which offers a more conversational and intuitive entry point for Yelp's request for quote (RFQ) system. I assume Yelp has used its historical data to train the assistant on relevant questions to ask by vertical/job type. And it appears to supersede the current wizard-forms that front-end the RFQ system. If it works, it could increase the volume of quotes requested – and revenue to Yelp. This would also represent a different experience from what's offered today on Google. (We don't yet have access and so can't comment on the user experience.) Yelp also announced upgrades to its Fusion API and Guest Manager tool. The Fusion API now includes natural language processing for more flexible search options on partner sites. Guest Manager is a front-of-house restaurant management tool.

Source: Yelp

Our take:

  • Services delivers 60% of Yelp's ad revenue; home services is a subsidiary category but probably the biggest revenue driver within "services."
  • The current Yelp RFQ process seeks to maximize the number of pros that receive the lead, which isn't always best for the end user.
  • Overall, the Yelp Assistant appears to be a smart approach – with the caveat that we haven't used it yet – to competing with Google.

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