Zach Jackson

AI chatbots with real-time web-browsing and scraping capabilities are on the rise, as are their user bases, disrupting the traditional user journey for search.

Search engines are still doing the heavy lifting behind the scenes, but with LLM AI tools brokering the exchange of data, the user never has to visit a search engine interface or even view any results pages.

In this article, we discuss how the relationship between artificial intelligence and search engines introduces a new form of AI bias that may change the way you approach SEO.

What is AI bias?

The term ‘AI bias’ is usually assigned to any response given by artificial intelligence that is coloured in some way by human prejudices and biases. AI is trained on human data - and both good and bad aspects can slip through into a response.

However, there are different types of bias, and the kind we’re exploring here is more technical in nature in that it has nothing to do with human cultures. Rather, it involves the relationship of AI chatbots to particular search engines and what that means for marketing in the digital space.

The issue: A new way to lose or gain visibility

Unlike the early days of ChatGPT, where responses to prompts were based solely on a static data set, people can now use AI tools to essentially browse the web with highly specific, conversational queries, bypassing direct interaction with traditional search engines. But that’s not to say they aren’t involved.

Chatbot-style artificial intelligence can only access the web via search engines. And, typically, it’s a one-engine-per-AI deal - which brings us to the crux of the matter. 

Different search engines - different ranking signals

As the largest, most popular search engine, people often consider Google’s ranking signals as the be-all-end-all guidelines for gaining visibility on SERPs. However, competing search engines don’t necessarily agree with Google on what constitutes valuable content.

There will inevitably be some overlap, but, broadly speaking, search engines use different ranking signals to order websites on their results pages for service differentiation.

As such, an AI chatbot using a search engine exclusively will rely on a particular ranking system when searching for information and formulating responses to prompts.

This means, for example, when using an AI chatbot powered by the Bing codex, it's more likely that information and citations sourced from websites ranked highly by Bing will be incorporated into the AI's response than those ranked well by other search engines like Google.

Despite the AI tool eliminating SERPs from the interaction, well-positioned websites on the search engine in question’s SERPs still benefit from highly curated exposure. Conversely, a website's low ranking by the search engine employed by the AI not only deprives it of curated visibility but also isolates it from users who predominantly rely on AI-driven browsing.

What should you do?

Until more AI chatbots are granted access to the web via multiple search engines, thereby democratising the information-gathering process, we recommend embracing the current system.

Keeping up to date with the relationships between popular AI chatbots and search engines provides valuable insights for your SEO strategies, helping to broaden your approach and increase visibility across multiple search platforms and AI tools.

Shift some focus from Google to Bing

Google may enjoy the lion’s share of the search market, but when it comes to generative AI, they’ve been slow out of the gate, especially compared to their closest competitor, Bing - from Microsoft.

Not only has Microsoft been developing their proprietary AI assistant, Copilot, for years, but they’re prime investors in OpenAI, the company that created ChatGPT.

Providing OpenAI with computational resources as well as financial backing, Microsoft played a foundational role in advancing artificial intelligence. 

Through this synergistic collaboration, Microsoft was able to use OpenAI’s GPT technology to build Copilot, and OpenAI was granted access to connect ChatGPT to the web via Bing.

As discussed earlier, this creates a form of AI bias towards websites ranking well on Bing as opposed to other search engines. This is why understanding and leveraging the ranking signals of alternative search engines, particularly those with direct links to AI chatbots capable of web browsing, will become more important over time.

Are there really that many people using ChatGPT & Copilot?

According to recent SEMRush traffic reports, ChatGPT dominates the AI industry, enjoying a 60% market share – as evidenced by the platform’s 6.3 billion visitors throughout February 2024 alone.

What’s more, recent statistical analysis suggests that, combined, Bing and ChatGPT have over a 10.5% share of the global search query market.

Is SEO for alternative search engines worth it?

Optimising your website for alternative search engines can be incredibly beneficial. Bing, for example, offers distinct advantages that marketers should consider - visibility in chatbot responses is just the tip of the iceberg.

The benefits of optimising for Bing

Importantly, Bing isn’t just Bing; Microsoft also owns Yahoo and supports many other search engines, so when you cater to Bing, you stand to earn more visibility than you might initially think.

Collectively, Bing and Yahoo have a stake of 12.92% of the desktop search market, which is by no means insignificant when considering roughly 63.1% of the global population are internet users.

What’s more, in general terms, Bing and Yahoo traffic is seen as more valuable, with observations suggesting that Bing users are more likely to convert than Google users. Why this is the case is unclear, but it’s thought to relate to Bing users being more mature and thus having greater spending power.

Would I have to sacrifice Google rank to boost rank elsewhere?

In short, no. While Google dominates the search market and carries out frequent algorithm updates, many core ranking signals are shared across various search engines, including Bing. As such, optimising for Bing does not necessarily mean sacrificing your Google rank.

Instead, it's about understanding the unique preferences and ranking factors of each search engine and tailoring your SEO strategy accordingly. For example, Bing places greater emphasis on multimedia content and values social signals more than Google. Therefore, by incorporating more multimedia elements and focusing on enhancing social sharing, you can improve your visibility on Bing without compromising your Google rank.

Summary - and how TDMP can help

  • AI x search engines: AI responses can be influenced by the ranking signals of particular search engines.
  • Google isn’t always top dog: Not all AI tools with web browsing capabilities rely on Google’s idea of quality content when formulating responses.
  • A broader SEO focus: Given Bing's association with AI chatbots and other search engines, as well as its substantial market share in the desktop search market, there’s increasing value in optimising for Bing’s ranking signals.
  • More change to come: Stay informed about which AI chatbots use which search engines to access the web. This knowledge could influence SEO efforts.

At TDMP, we’re well versed in the ranking signals of both Google and its major competitors. We can development and implement effective and dynamic digital marketing campaigns that increase your website’s visibility across multiple search platforms without limiting your ranking power on Google’s SERPs.

Leveraging an in-depth knowledge of artificial intelligence and how it relates to search engines, our optimisations ensure that your site not only performs well now, but also remains resilient to future changes in the search market and user search behaviour.

Contact TDMP today for made-to-measure SEO and paid media strategies that reach and resonate with your target audience - no matter their search engine preferences.

Final thoughts

As more advanced chatbots equipped with browsing capabilities emerge, they are likely to attract a growing number of users away from traditional search methods. Consequently, it becomes increasingly important to monitor and understand the relationship between these chatbots and search engines.

Putting all your eggs in Google’s basket isn’t necessarily a bad move. Still, by ignoring alternative search engines, especially those with direct ties to AI chatbots, you’re missing an opportunity to diversify your content and reach massive untapped audiences with impressive spending power.

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