ChatGPT Brings Us the Era of Conversational Search

ChatGPT is the hottest thing on the Internet right now. The ability for humans to search for information through a conversation is something we’ve not ever witnessed with Google Search.

I’m not talking about natural language querying. I’m talking about being able to ask a series of follow-up questions (utterances) and having ChatGPT retain context of the whole conversation. Google can’t do that. This will radicalize our concept of search marketing.

conversational search with chatgpt
ChatGPT allows you to search and learn through a conversation

Enter the Era of Conversational Search

If you asked Google a question, and then asked it a follow-up question, it would not remember the first question.

The term, “conversational search” has been around for a long time, but up until now, it referred to being able to ask Google a question in natural language. But with ChatGPT, it now means being able to engage in a conversation with a computer that is able to retain context.

ChatGPT has the ability to let you search and learn through a conversation. It can remember your first question, and your second, and your third, all the while giving you answers that remain in context with each other. If want to do this with Google Search, you have to add context to your follow-up questions. But with ChatGPT, you just keep on talking like a normal human being.

Here is an actual conversation I had with ChatGPT. (Note that I clipped ChatGPT’s answers because it’s answers get very long)…

ME: “how many years will it take to travel to Alpha Centari?”

ChatGPT: “If you were to travel to Alpha Centauri at a speed of about 17,500 miles per hour, which is the average speed of a commercial airplane, it would take approximately 77,000 years to reach it…”

ME: “How many people would be needed to travel there?”

ChatGPT: “It is not possible for humans to travel to Alpha Centauri or any other star system within a practical time frame using current technology. The distances involved are simply too great, and it would take many thousands of years to reach even the nearest star systems using conventional propulsion methods…”

ME: “What if we replaced people with robots?”

ChatGPT: “It is theoretically possible to send a spacecraft to Alpha Centauri or other star systems using robots rather than humans. However, there are a number of challenges that would need to be overcome in order to do this…”

If you asked Google Search the second or third question, it would not remember to give you answers in context with traveling to Alpha Centauri. It would just give you vague or generalized answers.

Why Conversational Search is Huge

Human beings learn more effectively through conversation.

When we can ask follow up questions, we are able to explore in greater detail. It allows us to grasp concepts quickly, understand their impacts more clearly, and narrow down results efficiently. This is what makes ChatGPT a game changer for the search industry.

Imagine if ChatGPT became a search app on your cellphone. Imagine if it had access to your GPS location. You could start a conversation similar to the following…

  • What are some really good Mexican restaurants close by?
  • Which of those restaurants have a full bar?
  • Do any of them have Patron?
  • Okay, give me directions to that last one.

Google is not able to engage in that kind of conversation. If you asked it the second question, “Which of those restaurants have a full bar?” it would not remember what restaurants you’re talking about, let alone being able to understand the third question or fourth.

Albeit, the current state of Schema technology still does not allow codification of restaurants into categories of “full bar” versus “beer and wine”, as well as brands of tequila, the fact remains that ChatGPT is already in position to offer this type of conversational search.

If you wanted to accomplish the above conversation with Google, you’d have to insert context into your follow-up question. “Find a good Mexican restaurant close by that has a full bar, and serves Patron, and set a course for that restaurant.” The problem with asking lengthy questions like this is that you never know to ask them to begin with. You have to keep pumping Google with longer and longer questions, until you finally get what you’re looking for.

ChatGPT allows you to talk like a normal human being.

Will Conversational Search Eliminate the Need to Visit Websites?

If ChatGPT is able to teach you what you want to know, all within its interface, will that eliminate the need for people to visit your website? Highly doubtful, though it depends on the website…

  • People will still visit e-commerce websites to make purchases.
  • People will still order food from restaurant websites.
  • Reading the news on websites and videos will still be faster and more accurate than getting it from ChatGPT.
  • People will still interact with each other on social media.

But what about those content websites that write extensively on a narrow subject like, “raising chickens in your backyard”, or “how to make the best beef jerky”? It sounds like ChatGPT could very well indeed replace the need to visit these websites. However, if the publishers of these websites could offer people the ability to interact in real time, host podcasts, videos, or answer personalized questions, then perhaps they can stay a step ahead of ChatGPT.

Will ChatGPT Spell the End of Content Creation?

The irony is that ChatGPT needs content creators to feed it knowledge. Somehow, ChatGPT should reward those creators with citations, links, or at least a micro-payment for every answer it used. Otherwise, why would we even bother to create content anymore?

In some respects, you could draw parallels between ChatGPT and Wikipedia. The publisher of the community-curated encyclopedia already includes a list of citations within the footnotes of each page. These footnotes do drive traffic to source pages. Will ChatGPT offer something similar each time it hosts a conversation?

If ChatGPT were to one day replace Google Search, or is at least licensed by Google, there needs to be a way to reward the people who created the content that fed it knowledge. Otherwise, without reward, will anyone feel incentivized to research and publish new knowledge? Where will ChatGPT get its knowledge from if no human being is willing to publish it?

Can We Even Trust What ChatGPT is Telling Us?

As it stands right now, it’s understood that ChatGPT aggregates its answers from a variety of webpages (or even videos). It does what the other AI content tools do, it learns from a large pool of information, then aggregates its answer into a string of text not currently found elsewhere. It’s only as intelligent as what content it absorbs…

  • What about sensitive subjects like vaccines, elections, climate change? Which side is it taking?
  • If ChatGPT cannot show us the source of where it “learned” its knowledge from, how are we to trust it?
  • What if the programmers who created ChatGPT decided to implement filters that blocked it from absorbing conservative-leaning content?
  • What if the people behind ChatGPT refused to censor content?
  • Would the lack of censorship cause Apple and Google to remove all ChatGPT-powered apps from their stores?

How Much Can ChatGPT Learn About Each of Us?

Imagine if you asked ChatGPT for a barbecue sauce recipe and it knew you like things extra spicy, so it decided to double the cayenne. That kind of customization might be welcome for most of us.

But we’re in an age where Facebook heard you say “kitty litter” through the mic on your cellphone and displayed an ad for Fresh Step on your feed.

Well, what if ChatGPT also heard you say, “kitty litter”, but also heard the greater conversation about how expensive it’s getting to keep a cat, and thus showed you a coupon for a cheaper brand of kitty litter at Walmart.

For marketers, this is wonderful. But for consumers, it’s yet a higher level of invasion that makes guys like Mark Zuckerburg the guy we love to hate, but can’t manage to live without. But, as digital marketers, we all know that this is where AI is going, and we all know that even the people who created ChatGPT is not immune. That is, I have to believe that even Mark Zuckerburg had good intentions for Facebook at first. But as they say about the Road to Hell…

Conversational Search is Where We Always Wanted to Be

The bottom line is that conversational search is what we wanted to happen all along. We wanted this when we saw C-3PO on Star Wars, or Hal-9000 on 2001 Space Odyssey, or even the “robot” on Lost in Space. This is how we always imagined what talking to a computer should be like.

If you take the time to use ChatGPT, you’ll realize that it still needs work. As good as it is, it’s still learning how to have a conversation like a human being. But the good thing is that we human beings no longer have to talk like a computer. The bad thing is… now that we’re bringing computers up to our level, we should be careful about what we wish for.


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