Google Bard is here and disappointing vs. Bing Chat and ChatGPT
As of writing, Bard has been open to a small portion of the public for a full day. I've had the opportunity to play around with Google's new AI chatbot, and I'm getting mixed results.
This article covers initial thoughts on Bard, details on how I got early access, concerns with AI answers, and first-hand experiences.
How I got early access to Bard
Google has confirmed that early access to Bard is currently only available in the U.K. and U.S.
If you are U.K. or U.S.-based and over 18, you can sign up for early access using a personal Gmail account, and Google will contact you once that has been made available to your account.
Alternatively, if you are involved with any Google-related schemes, such as Women Techmakers, Google will contact you directly to offer early access to Bard, which is how I got mine.
The AI chatbot currently only works in English, but Google has plans to expand to other countries and languages as they continue to improve the service.
"We'll continue to improve Bard and add capabilities, including coding, more languages and multimodal experiences. And one thing is certain: We'll learn alongside you as we go. With your feedback, Bard will keep getting better and better."
The digital marketing community's response to Bard
Before I share my thoughts and first-hand experiences, I think it's important to discuss the industry's initial response.
We see many inconsistencies with Bard, and it rarely cites sources. This leaves many SEOs concerned with how Bard will affect organic traffic to their sites.
There are also questions about how traffic from Bard will be shown in Google Analytics and Search Console.
With Bard's inconsistent approach to citation, the quality and authenticity of its answers become a potential cause for concern.
Google does not hide the fact the AI chatbot will make mistakes and could potentially share offensive responses.
"Accelerating people's ideas with generative AI is truly exciting, but it's still early days, and Bard is an experiment. While Bard has built-in safety controls and clear mechanisms for feedback in line with our AI Principles, be aware that it may display inaccurate information or offensive statements."
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Early findings on Bard
Bard has the potential to be an incredibly powerful and helpful tool.
However, I can't help but think it has been rushed into an early launch to compete with Bing Chat and ChatGPT.
Indexing speeds and inconsistent answers
When I received early access to the tool, I first asked, "Who is Billie Geena?"
It provided a short paragraph about me. It did not cite its sources, but after looking into it further, it appears to have combined information from my blog and LinkedIn profile.
When Bing Chat was released, we saw incredible indexing speeds that ensured its AI chatbot provided the most up-to-date information possible.
We can assume that IndexNow plays a part in this. Brodie Clark did a great experiment on how quickly Bing now finds and indexes information.
I wondered if Bard had something in place to match Bing Chat's impressive indexing speeds. I changed the data sources Bard used to answer "Who is Billie Geena?" and allowed a few hours for the information to update.
Upon searching a second time, I received the following answers.
Bard was no longer able to answer the question. I decided to specify my full name to see if more details would help it find an answer but to no avail.
I am curious about the consistency of Bard's answers and will continue to experiment with the same questions over a period of time.
Unlike ChatGPT, Bard cannot remember previous conversations. Thus, it's more likely that you will see significant changes in answers as each conversation will not have the context of anything prior.
Google has addressed bard's inability to remember conversations:
"Bard's ability to hold context is purposefully limited for now. As Bard continues to learn, its ability to hold context during longer conversations will improve."
One of the tools that SEOs will be most excited about on Bard is the "Google it" button. This connects Bard to what we know best, Google search.
However, on testing, I am not seeing that Bard can understand different user intents. I asked Bard, "What information is important to appear on Bard?"
Bard provides recommendations for getting information from your site(s) onto its data set.
However, when I click the "Google it" button, Bard does not know I am inquiring about itself. It sends me to a knowledge panel on bards, the storytelling poets from the middle ages.
With Bard having Google's entire index at hand, it is interesting that it struggles to understand areas of content with multiple meanings.
This can be reassuring for SEOs as it shows Bard won't be the end of Google search. Users might not always be able to find their answers on Bard and will likely revert to Google search to solve their query.
Overall, my experience using Bard has been disappointing compared to Bing Chat and ChatGPT.
I'm sure it will become a powerful tool as it continues through its experimental phase. However, it feels like Google rushed to push out a minimum viable product that does not compare to other tools on the market.
Will Bard be the end of Google Search?
We would not be SEOs without hearing the inevitable "SEO is dead" comment. This is absolutely not the case.
I believe organic search listings will still play a vital role in search engines. Bard will be a practical extension of this, not a replacement.
As the tool improves its citation and "Google it" functions, this might become another factor we attempt to target.
In its current state, though, Bard is an informational and factual tool.
Ecommerce, SaaS and service-based businesses will not experience competition from Bard other than in their blog/informational content.
For example, Bard does not recommend products when asking specific questions, such as "What shoes should I wear to climb mount fuji?"
Bard will likely enhance search and add more shopping features. But as SEOs, we will adapt and continue to have a role in the search landscape.
Bard could be better
While Bard is a trendy tool to use, it could be better.
The AI chatbot leaves much to be desired, especially compared to its competitors.
I will continue to test and experiment on Bard and document my findings.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
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