OpenAI Search, Reddit Overexposed, 'Clarifying' AI Content Policy

OpenAI Search, Reddit Overexposed, 'Clarifying' AI Content Policy

OpenAI Search to Challenge Google

According to a story appearing in The Information yesterday, OpenAI is reportedly working on a new search engine that would be more directly competitive with Google. The report also says that it would at least partly be powered by Bing. ChatGPT currently can use Bing to search the web – although the experience is mixed. It's unclear, assuming the story is accurate, what the new experience would look like and whether it would be integrated into ChatGPT or become a new product entirely. My bet would be on integration but a new product might more readily open the door to ad revenue, as OpenAI tries to "double its yearly run rate" by next year. The report is being taken seriously enough by Wall Street that it sent Google's shares down about 2.5% earlier today. According to Microsoft, every point of search market share is worth roughly $2 billion in ad revenue.

Source: ChatGPT

Our take:

  • BingGPT has not moved the needle for Microsoft in search. That raises the question of whether ChatGPT would suffer a similar fate, although ChatGPT has built a strong consumer brand, which Bing has not.
  • SEOs appear split (informal poll) on whether Google is getting worse or it's the internet itself. This debate wasn't happening three years ago.
  • There is a growing perception, fueled by media reports, that search quality is down and some evidence of pent up demand for alternatives.

Google Shows Reddit Too Often

As Google has increasingly promoted social and forum content as part of its "Hidden Gems" strategy, Reddit has been a major beneficiary. Glen Allsopp analyzed Google results for "10,000 hand-picked product review terms" to see how well forums were ranking in Google SERPs and which ones dominated. He found that the "Discussions and Forums" module appeared in 77% of these product search results. Reddit was dominant, appearing almost 98% of the time in nearly two out of three positions, as shown in the image below. This "excessive promotion" of Reddit may also be contributing to spam. Allsopp says, "51% of Reddit’s top-ranking threads currently have spam as a top comment." Many of them are filled with affiliate links. (Other studies have similar findings.) Allsopp concludes that Reddit moderators are not keeping up, as Google sends more traffic to the site and marketers try to exploit its growing visibility in search. Smaller forums are showing up for specific verticals, but "Reddit and Quora had more than 3X the visibility of every other forum combined," according to the study. Allsopp laments, "Current search results are the worst I can recall seeing." He recommends that Google get rid of Discussions and Forums entirely or significantly diversify the links it shows.

Source: Google

Our take:

Google to 'Clarify' on AI Again

Google originally took the position that "automated content" (read: AI) was spam. Then, recognizing that widespread use of AI was perhaps inevitable, the company changed its position last year. Google said this in 2023: "Our focus on the quality of content, rather than how content is produced." That came with the caveat that using AI "to generate content with the primary purpose of manipulating ranking in search results" would be penalized. This qualifying language is how Google finessed the relaxation of its AI content prohibition while trying to maintain the appearance of consistency. This guidance, however, wasn't particularly helpful given the reality of the way the market operates; the primary job of SEOs is to rank in Google. Google's every algorithm change creates incentives for marketers in one form or another (see above). Saying "yes" to AI usage has encouraged widespread integration of AI into content and website development. And it's now being deployed by publishers, agencies and brands at scale. According to a recent report from Semrush, AI content is ranking and, in some cases, more successful than purely human-generated writing. SERPs are now full of "automated content" in one from or another (see, e.g., here, here). Seeing this, Google is ready to offer another AI "clarification." It will likely be a reiteration of HCU guidance.

Source: Gemini

Our take:

  • Google's spam problem is partly a function of its success as a search monopoly. Ranking on Google is an incredibly high-stakes game.
  • Marketers will do everything they can for advantage, including (very often) dubious, spammy, artificial or unethical things.
  • Google must do what it claims to be doing already: ranking genuinely good content. But it has trouble figuring that out. It also needs to put more resources against fighting spam, which would help in a major way.

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