Google’s Search Engine Is Undergoing Its Most Important Revolution Ever. So Far, It’s Been a Disaster

  • AI-generated results are causing problems for a search engine that's trying to renew itself.

  • The reputational impact is meeting an economic one: The drop in media traffic is already noticeable.

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With its search engine, Google has been a dominant force on the Internet for the last 25 years. However, the emergence of ChatGPT has raised the question of whether OpenAI’s AI system could be a better search option than Google’s search engine. To prepare for this potential future, the tech giant has introduced a new AI feature to its search engine called “AI Overview.” However, so far, it has received very negative feedback.

AI Overview. You might’ve seen the new snippets of AI Overview on Google’s search result page. Th feature, initially available only in the U.S., allows users to receive AI-generated answers to their queries. It was unveiled at Google I/O 2024 and is an evolution of Google’s Search Generative Experience, which was first launched in 2023.

Google’s AI is doing a bad job at searching for you. The problem with these AI-generated responses is the same one that affects all chatbots: They make things up. Recently, it provided incorrect information about cheese and pizza, and users have reported other errors on Twitter. This lack of reliability poses a risk for Google because users are losing trust in this feature, prompting the company to take unusual actions.

If it’s wrong, we delete it. When an AI-generated response is found to be incorrect, Google removes it. Google spokeswoman Meghann Farnsworth confirmed this to The Verge, stating that they’re “taking swift action” to eliminate AI-generated summaries for specific queries. She emphasized that this is done “where appropriate under our content policies, and using these examples to develop broader improvements to our systems, some of which have already started to roll out.”

I’m no longer getting views from Google. Another significant issue arising from this AI revolution affects content creators and the media. For years, Google and its search engine have been crucial sources of traffic and advertising revenue. However, Google’s AI-generated responses are changing this landscape. Previously, Google introduced snippets that provided information without users needing to leave the search engine. Now, content creators are increasingly concerned about the impact of AI-generated responses on their work.

Google 1 Changes in Google’s algorithm favor its search engine results, threatening those who create original content (including Xataka On) and stopping them from receiving visits. Source: BBC/SEMrush

Why visit your website when I can find everything using a search engine? Google has always emphasized the importance of the web ecosystem, but at the same time, it has worked to provide better answers in its search engine and reduce the need for users to click through to websites. A study by SEMrush, as reported by the BBC, demonstrates that traffic to several websites has been steadily decreasing, or at best, barely maintained, following the latest changes to the search engine. There’s concern that this trend will continue in the future.

I use Google to search for content on Reddit. Many websites have experienced a decline in traffic due to these changes, but Reddit is an exception. It has become more relevant due to the presence of “human” opinions, answers, and experiences, which has led many users to search Google using “site:reddit” to filter their results based on that specific community.

Google’s AI obsession is getting serious. The company initially hesitated to introduce solutions like Bard (now Gemini) due to their limited accuracy. However, pressure from Microsoft and OpenAI has accelerated the AI race, resulting in Google integrating AI into several aspects. This has led to reputational issues and internal criticism, particularly because users expect Google’s search engine to be consistently accurate, unlike ChatGPT, which is still expected to have some limitations for now.

Image | Javier Pastor and Midjourney

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