Insights / SEO

PUBLISHED: May 17, 2023 8 min read

How Brands Can Prepare For An AI-Driven Search Environment

Dayna Lucio

Senior Strategist, SEO

Over the past few months, there have been many new accessible tools and AI-generated technologies, including ChatGPT, BingChat, and Bard. Most recently, Google’s SGE announcement. Understanding how AI could potentially impact paid and organic search has been top of mind for our team. As search engine results continue to evolve and new technologies are seemingly released daily, how well is your brand positioned in the new era of search?  

How Does AI Answer Questions About Branded Queries?

When it comes to the questions that users are asking about your brand online – how are tools like ChatGPT (3.5), Bard, and BingChat responding? Is the information that they are providing accurate? To gain some insight into how AI tools respond to branded questions, we asked these tools ourselves.

For the most part, ChatGPT, BingChat, and Bard all had similar answers regarding questions about Nike’s history, headquarters, founders, or the products offered. Most of this information is found on Nike’s website or other authoritative sources, like Wikipedia. ChatGPT often offered robust answers to these questions, while BingChat provided quick answers with “learn more” links. Bard provided shorter answers and rarely included links or additional resources. 

There are a lot of companies out there that are smaller and share their brand names with other entities. One example is the outdoor retailer MooseJaw. When asking BingChat, Bard, and ChatGPT the question, “Where was MooseJaw founded?” the results varied. BingChat and Bard both provided information about Moose Jaw, which is a town in Canada. BingChat changed the question to search for “Where is Moose Jaw located.”

ChatGPT recognized that the question was about the retailer, provided information about where the company was founded, and offered additional insight as to why it gave information about the retailer when prompted. 

From these searches, it appears that AI tools are able to provide accurate information about known facts surrounding a brand, such as history or other public information. For example, currently, ChatGPT has historical information until 2021, but this will change in browser mode. These tools can be tripped up when the question isn’t clear about what entity you may be referring to when entities share similar names. 

How Does AI Answer Questions About Products and Services?

Here’s an example. We asked specific questions about Nike’s running shoes.

“Do Nike Running Shoes Run Small?” BingChat was able to answer this question and provided a few sources to learn more. These sources included websites focused on running and shoes over blog content or the size guides on 

“Are Nike Shoes Good For Running?” Again, BingChat and Bard cited other websites that include information related to product reviews, whileChatGPT provided a robust answer about Nike’s reputation, technologies used, and types of shoes they sell. 

We tried a similar exercise with Ulta Beauty to learn about the company’s return policy and services:

What services does Ulta Beauty offer? ChatGPT provided a robust list of services with a description along with a disclaimer that services vary by location. Essentially the content that’s available on the site’s service page. BingChat provided a quick description with no-site links.

What is Ulta Beauty’s Return Policy? BingChat provided a quick answer stating the policy is 60 days and cited three websites before ChatGPT provided information about the company’s return policy, with a disclaimer that the knowledge cutoff for this information is September 2021. 

What Does This Mean For Brands?

Users can use ChatBots such as Google’s Bard or BingChat to receive information about your brand. Depending on the questions, the answers provided by AI tools can inform user perception of your brand and possibly influence buyer decisions. 

Based on what we saw when testing branded queries and questions, the content that ChatBots are pulling is coming from brand websites and multiple other sources on the web, like product review sites and Wikipedia. Some of those sites are considered owned content, meaning that a brand can help to control the narrative and provide users/search engines with the information they are looking for, such as information about a company’s history, founders, or community initiatives.

AI search integrations are still in the early stages. However, changes are happening fast, with new updates and product integrations coming out rapidly. Last week at Google IO, there were multiple announcements about how Google plans to integrate AI more into search. The newest feature from Google, Search Generative Experience (SGE), which you can opt-in for, will allow users to start seeing AI-powered answers at the top of search results for selected queries. 

As Google and other search engines continue to test new ways to evolve the search landscape, businesses should look for ways to adapt to these new features. 

How Can Brands Position Themselves To Answer The Right Questions?

When it comes to educating users about your brand, products, and services, businesses should answer user questions rather than find information elsewhere. If users are utilizing BingChat, Bard, or SGE, then brands should be making an effort to provide information around common user questions to help provide these tools with accurate information through content on their websites. This means having a robust About Us page and being transparent about information, including: 

  • Company history
  • Shipping information
  • Service warranties
  • Product return policies
  • Sustainability practices
  • Material sourcing
  • And more

These types of questions can be answered through specific pages, FAQ pages, and/or informational blog posts. How can you figure out what questions need to be answered? There are a few different ways to get you started. 

Utilize People Also Ask Questions

One of the best ways to understand what people are asking about your brand online is by looking at the search engine results pages (SERPs) themselves. The “People Also Ask” section displays commonly searched questions that are related to the search term. These questions can be identified via manual searches or by utilizing keyword research tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs and looking at branded queries. From the list of questions you find, you can prioritize targeting branded queries where your website doesn’t own any of the results for these queries. 

Explore the types of questions Google Autocomplete suggests when entering your brand, product, founders’ names, etc., into Google Search. Additionally, take a look at the related searches that are suggested as users scroll through the SERPs. Can you identify any connections or noticeable trends among these queries? 

Review Google Search Console Data:

Analyze the search queries in Google Search Console to identify question-related searches that generate traffic to your website. To capture these queries, use a regex filter that includes question-based terms such as “who,” “what,” ”where,” ”how,” and “why.” 

By reviewing your site’s internal search questions, you can understand users queries via your site’s search box. These questions show user engagement on the site and may suggest that the information they seek is difficult to find or unclear in terms of where to locate it. 

Google Business Profile Q&A (Local Businesses)

For local and multi-location businesses, taking inventory of the common questions that users are asking on Google Business Profiles can help inform what information should be included on a company FAQ page or local landing page. These questions come from people that are actively trying to find information or learn more about your business. 

Try BingChat, ChatGPT or Google Bard

Take a look at the questions that BingChat is suggesting once you start a conversation about your brand. These could be follow-up or related questions that users would have after reading the original answer. Would you prefer your brand provide the information instead of relying on Bard, BingChat, or ChatGPT sourcing it from another site? If the information is something you’d like to be the main source of information for, consider updating existing content with relevant information to answer these questions. However, if it’s a more broad question related to products or services you offer, these can help inform future content, such as robust service pages or blog posts. 

Putting A Plan In Action

Understanding the changing landscape of paid and organic search is only one part of a data-centric, performance-driven strategy, giving you the power to know and do more. Dig deeper into how AI is impacting paid and organic search, or let’s talk about how to achieve more for your marketing — and your business.