AI and the Future of Search

21st December 2023

In the ever evolving world of technology, Google stands as a towering titan, shaping the way we navigate the digital universe. Synonymous with search, information and connectivity, there is a reason Google reigns supreme – beneath the surface of its user-friendly interface and instantaneous results lies a complex web of algorithms and artificial intelligence that drives the heart of the technological giant. In this blog, we will take a closer look at how Google is utilising AI to improve upon these algorithms – and the implications such advancements hold for the future landscape of search.

The Relationship Between Google and Artificial Intelligence: Where It Started

Google has been incorporating elements of AI into its products and services for quite some time. Back in 2014 Google notably acquired DeepMind Technologies, a British Artificial Intelligence company. Doing so brought an array of advanced machine learning capabilities to the search engine giant, who have since infused AI into a wide range of applications, including search algorithms, language processing, image recognition, and more. The company continues to leverage AI to enhance user experiences, improve efficiency, and explore new frontiers in technology. As such, the relationship between Google and AI is one that we expect to see continue and develop for many years to come.

Google AI Developments in 2023

During Google I/O 2023, Google announced that they are striving to make AI “even more helpful for people, for businesses, for communities, for everyone”. Whilst they have been focusing on being an AI-first company for the past 7+ years, 2023 signalled a turning point of sorts in the relationship between Google and Artificial Intelligence. All thanks to the introduction of generative AI.

An example of this is the introduction of “Help me write” in Gmail. Smart Reply (launched in 2017) offered users a range of short responses that you could select with just one click – this was followed by Smart Compose, which offers writing suggestions as you type. In the past year alone, these two tools alone were used over 180 billion times. Now, with a much more powerful generative model of AI, we have Gmail’s “Help me write”. For example, when responding to an email, simply submit a prompt related to the desired email content, and a fully crafted draft will emerge. This sophisticated system adeptly references pertinent details from the initial email where relevant, and provides a comprehensive foundation for your response. This not only constitutes a significant time-saving resource for any professional setting but also underscores the continuous refinement inherent in generative AI. The capacity for improvement over time positions this tool as an invaluable asset in enhancing productivity and communication efficiency within the workplace.

“Help me write” was rolled out in 2023 as part of Google’s Workspace updates – as were a number of other AI driven tools, including a new immersive view for routes in maps, and a new magic editor experience in Google Photos (as well as much more). You can read more about these updates within the Google Workspace Product Announcements.

2023 has also seen one of the biggest visual updates to Google SERPs that we’ve seen in some time – with Google’s Generative AI-powered Search Experience (SGE). You may be inquisitive about the limited information or absence of firsthand encounters with SGE. This could be attributed to the fact that SGE has not yet been officially launched in the United Kingdom. Google SGE was released in May of 2023, but is currently only available in the US on Google Labs (correct at the time of writing, November 2023). So what exactly is Google SGE, you may ask? SGE is a new feature being developed by Google, which will display information in response to a Google search, at the top of SERPs. Whilst you might naturally think that it sounds similar to Featured Snippets, it is much more advanced. Thanks to generative AI, Google SGE has been built to help make searching easier – so you have to do less of the heavy lifting. As google puts it, SGE allows you to “understand a topic faster, to uncover new viewpoints and insights, and to get things done more easily”. Not only can you use Google for searches containing more variants and information, the result you are provided will also be more informative, more descriptive and will even suggest relevant follow-up questions. You can see an example of this, below:

Search query: “If I am travelling to Woolacombe for a holiday with two children, is it best I stay at Woolacombe Bay or Twitchen House?

Context will be carried over from question to question, to help you more naturally continue your exploration. You’ll also find helpful jumping-off points to web content and a range of perspectives that you can dig into. Whilst this functionality and these AI generated search results are very different from what we’re used to seeing, we only expect more growth and development within SGE, over the coming months and years.

What to Expect from Google and AI in 2024

Aside from the developments within Google SGE, another area of AI being discussed near the end of 2023 and most likely to be a popular topic of discussion in 2024 is cybersecurity. Last month, Google Cloud Security Talks took place, marking the 20th anniversary of Cybersecurity Awareness Month. A key discussion as part of these talks surrounds the Google Cloud Security AI Workbench and Duet AI – two tools with the ability to help address pervasive and fundamental security challenges: the exponential growth in threats, the toil it takes for security teams to achieve desired outcomes, and the chronic shortage of security talent. It is incredibly interesting to see Google increase the use of AI in combating cybersecurity threats, as they have also warned of the potential for cyber criminals to significantly enhance the effectiveness and scale of cyber attacks in 2024, using AI. So whilst AI appears to be part of the solution, according to Google it could also be part of the problem.

In terms of SEO, Google Bard is also likely to see massive developments in 2024. Bard is Google’s own AI language model, created to hold an informative conversation with the end user. Whilst early adopters of these language models appeared to prefer ChatGPT, Bard is becoming increasingly popular in the world of SEO – and planned developments for the coming months such as integration with Google Assistant only add to the buzz and excitement surrounding the AI tool.

Find out about the very latest developments in Google, AI and Search Engine Optimisation

In order to stay up to date with the latest developments, and to monitor the impact of Google SGE in 2024, make sure you regularly check out our Varn Insights. In an upcoming post, we will be exploring SGE in more detail, as well as looking at how it impacts Google Shopping, Google Ads and more. We will also take a closer look at the specific data being pulled into SGE SERPs by Google, uncovering the potential of generative AI in search before it reaches the UK (hopefully by some time in 2024). Keep an eye on our blog or sign up to our newsletter today, to stay in the loop.


About Varn

Varn is an expert & specialist SEO search marketing agency. Technical SEO * AI & Data Analytics * Offsite SEO * Paid Search

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