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Seamless and successful - it was like getting a recommendation from a trusted local.
Date Published:
Ryan McMillan from Atlas Digital
Ryan McMillan

Trends: ChatGPT-4o and the Future of Search

‘Wow’ is probably where I’d start. We’ve been told that the rate of improvement for LLMs (large language models) and GPTs (generative pre-trained transformers) will be fast, but ChatGPT-4o’s latest demo knocked me off my seat. The integration of video and voice to the app, along with faster processing times made the experience several times better than before (even using the free version). Trialling the product myself over the weekend got me thinking: ‘How will this change search engines?’

Date Published:
Ryan McMillan from Atlas Digital
Ryan McMillan

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The search and discovery experience

I’m currently in Melbourne, and asked ‘Ember’ my chosen ‘voice’ on ChatGPT-4o about visiting the aquarium over the weekend (I love a croc!). Not only did it tell me about the aquarium, it told me how long it might take, how to get there, and asked me what else I’m interested in, so Ember could make similar recommendations.

The results were seamless and successful. It was like getting a recommendation from a trusted local. I got just what I needed and closed the app in less than a few minutes.

This completely changed my search and discovery experience. Researching a destination typically would’ve taken me ten to fifteen minutes via Google Search, starting with the keywords ‘Aquarium Melbourne’ and then building on the search depending on the results. 

In just 18 months of ChatGPT’s launch, it has replaced a ‘local search’ i.e. what’s near me that I can do, with an outstanding experience.

How will this affect SEO and paid search engine marketing?

My experience immediately got me thinking: “How will this change the SEO and paid search space?”.

The short answer is: fundamentally. But let’s explore a couple of the ways that one might use ChatGPT-4o (or something similar) in place of a search engine, and then ask how that might influence the way we advertise to potential customers.

Information gathering

In my example, I talked about how ChatGPT-4o replaced the need for a search engine during my ‘local search.’

Traditionally, a travel website may try to write a blog article called ‘2024 Guide to the Melbourne Aquarium’ and aim to rank that in Google. The purpose of this article would be to generate traffic and brand awareness, ideally resulting in further engagement with the website.

The travel website could make money in two ways: 

  1. Ads on their website that you see as part of that journey.
  2. Affiliate links whereby they’d be paid a percentage of the ticket price in the case that you bought aquarium tickets via their website.

The need for using a search engine here is completely gone - it can all be done via ChatGPT-4o. 

So, what’s the point of writing the travel guide? 

Firstly, we can’t assume that everyone will simply migrate to ChatGPT-4o or similar right away. Initially, only early tech adopters are likely to use it. For example, for travel enthusiasts who get a thrill from researching their destination, the guide will still be useful.

Secondly, these LLMs need to gather their information from somewhere. The need for it to exist will remain, though it may not be directly searched for and engaged with as it was previously. The question will be how LLMs feedforward or reward content they are scraping, so authors are incentivised to keep producing it.

How to get your content seen

OK, so if an LLM still needs to see content in order to refer to it, how does it know to populate my content rather than an alternative? 

Search ranking signals will remain relevant. The more recent adage to optimise for user experience in Google is still a safe bet in the short and medium terms. While LLMs don't abide by Google’s algorithm, the theory of optimising for user experience still holds true. If it helps the user answer their question, the same approach will work for LLMs. 

That's the content side, the other aspect is how to be seen as more relevant than others? That will come down to trust signals and relevance. Think reviews, links, social media signals, longevity and so on. 

As a test, I asked Chat GPT-4o where to buy tickets to the aquarium, and then asked how it came up with the answer. 

Here's what Chat GPT -4o said:

“When recommending third-party apps for purchasing tickets, I consider several key factors to ensure reliability, user satisfaction, and overall value. Here’s a breakdown of the criteria used:

### 1. **Reputation and Trustworthiness**:

- **Longevity and Track Record**: Established platforms like Viator, GetYourGuide, and Klook have been around for several years and have built solid reputations.

- **Ownership and Affiliations**: Platforms owned by or affiliated with well-known travel companies (e.g., Viator is owned by TripAdvisor) tend to be more reliable.

- **User Reviews and Ratings**: Positive customer reviews and high ratings on independent review sites (e.g., Trustpilot, Google Reviews) are good indicators of trustworthiness.

### 2. **Ease of Use**:

- **User Interface**: The platform should have a user-friendly website and/or mobile app that makes browsing and purchasing tickets straightforward.

- **Booking Process**: A clear, intuitive booking process with easy-to-understand steps and options.

### 3. **Availability and Variety**:

- **Range of Offerings**: The platform should offer a wide range of tickets and experiences, including options for the specific attraction (e.g., Melbourne Aquarium) and potentially other local attractions.

- **Real-Time Availability**: The ability to show real-time availability of tickets and instant booking confirmation is a plus.

### 4. **Pricing and Value**:

- **Competitive Pricing**: The platform should offer competitive prices, discounts, and promotions compared to others.

- **Bundled Deals**: Availability of package deals that bundle multiple attractions for a discounted rate.

### 5. **Customer Service**:

- **Support Channels**: Access to reliable customer support through multiple channels (e.g., email, phone, chat).

- **Response Time and Helpfulness**: Quick and helpful responses to customer inquiries and issues.

### 6. **Security and Payment Options**:

- **Secure Transactions**: The platform should use secure payment gateways (look for HTTPS, secure payment icons).

- **Payment Flexibility**: Acceptance of various payment methods (e.g., credit cards, PayPal, mobile payments).

### 7. **Cancellation and Refund Policies**:

- **Flexibility**: Clear and reasonable cancellation and refund policies that offer some degree of flexibility in case plans change.

### Recommended Platforms Based on These Criteria:

- **Viator**: Established reputation, extensive customer reviews, and secure transactions. Owned by TripAdvisor.

- **GetYourGuide**: User-friendly interface, real-time availability, and reliable customer service. Known for extensive user reviews.

- **Klook**: Competitive pricing, frequent promotions, and mobile-friendly experience. Popular in Asia and expanding globally.

### Emerging Options:

- **Tiqets**: Newer platform with digital ticket focus, growing reputation, and user-friendly app. More research is needed on customer feedback due to its shorter track record.

By considering these factors, I aim to recommend platforms that are not only trustworthy but also provide a seamless and value-for-money experience for purchasing tickets to attractions like the Melbourne Aquarium. 

My take on the future of search

It's great to have the above insights. Google has been much less forthcoming in the past as to how they choose what to rank. 

If you're thinking about stopping publishing content, don't. It still has value for people who make up your audience or customer base. However, consider how that content will be read and what it will be read by. (Or who it will be read by. In the above example ChatGPT refers to itself as “I”...but that’s a whole other story). 

Think about what external factors you can influence to make an LLM like ChatGPT more likely to populate your content. Broadly, these include trust signals like social media, reviews and authorship, and usability of your website for users if they are sent there.

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