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Google makes Shopping listings free – what will it mean for search marketing?

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On 21st April, Google announced that it would be free for merchants in the United States to list products on Google Shopping from the week commencing 27th April, with the change rolling out to the rest of the world “before the end of the year”.

The move was framed as a measure to help retailers that are struggling during the coronavirus pandemic to “reconnect” with consumers online at scale. Interestingly, Google implied that this change had already been in the works but had been brought forward as a result of the crisis, writing that it was “advancing [its] plans to make it free for merchants to sell on Google.”

On top of this, Google announced a new partnership with PayPal that would allow merchants to link their accounts and speed up the onboarding process – an important step for businesses that can’t afford to waste any time in getting additional sources of revenue up and running.

Taken together, what will these changes mean for businesses in the current crisis – and further into the future? And how will they affect search marketers and the wider search landscape? We turned to some experts to get their thoughts.

Giving Google a boost in the product search race

Malte Landwehr, VP Product at Searchmetrics:

I believe this announcement means Google has realised that it’s losing out in the race to become the top destination for product search – where consumers go to research products and make online purchases. And while it’s positioning the news that it’s making its Google Shopping product listings free in order to help smaller retailers caught up in the COVID-19 crisis, Google must also have one eye on the likely ecommerce boom that’s going to happen as ‘locked down’ consumers are forced to make purchases online rather than going to physical stores.

In the end, Google Shopping has become a pretty light-weight product search engine and ecommerce marketplace. Right now, Amazon and eBay are the dominant players in this space. In fact, it’s unclear if Google Shopping is even number three in the United States, where it’s also competing with the likes of Walmart and niche marketplaces such as Etsy for product search traffic.

In most of its other key markets such as general web search, video search, maps and local search, Google is still number one. And that’s a nice position to be in before starting to monetise a service. With Google Shopping I think it’s introducing free product listings to try and retain and increase its market share. Many other services from Google are free – it’s something the company often does to capture market share.

I also believe that the current positive run that Amazon has in the stock markets is an important factor. It seems analysts and investors find KPIs like “number of sellers” or “number of SKUs” in a marketplace much easier to understand than the obscure patents that Google has in areas such as Natural Language Processing or similar.

Levelling the playing field for small businesses

John Earnshaw, Chief Product Evangelist at Pi Datametrics:

This will immediately have the most beneficial impact on small and perhaps medium sized businesses as it will quickly and effortlessly put them on an almost level playing field with bigger players in ways that would previously not have been possible. This is especially true with improved PayPal integration. The timing of this initiative could not have been better.

Matt Brown, Director of Media at Syzygy:

For companies that historically hadn’t gone near Shopping campaigns, like a new online retailer, what a wonderful opportunity. The biggest barrier to entry (cost) just got thrown out the window. But this is not an approach to be undertaken without thinking of how it impacts on other channels and touchpoints.

If you had relied on Shopping campaigns previously, and haven’t been prioritising SEO, you could be in for a rough ride – standing out in the virtual space is a different beast to typical storefronts, and it can require continual maintenance.

An opportunity for retailers whatever Google’s motives

Wesley Parker, Managing Director at Clicteq:

There is a saying that “you only know who is swimming naked when the tide goes out” and the coronavirus pandemic has been that tide for the UK brick and mortar retail industry, with numerous household name retailers collapsing into administration.

Google’s announcement to make results within the Google Shopping tab free is an unprecedented move to react to what is an unprecedented time. This will provide a great opportunity for brick and mortar retailers to go digital and help stem losses and keep their business afloat by getting their products in front of millions of readers until we are through to the other side of this crisis.

But make no mistake, even though this is a great PR move, this space is going to be freemium and will be a gateway to help generate interest in Google paid shopping campaigns as it responds to Amazon solidifying its dominance in shopping. Brands will also have to think about their strategy for earning this space, once it becomes more clear how you rank.

How will listings be ranked in ‘organic’ Google Shopping?

John Earnshaw:

From an organic perspective, a big question is – under the paid-for layer – if these are truly organic results, how will they be ranked?

That last bit for me is the most interesting question.

Building ‘one’ view of search

Matt Brown:

For SEO, this news further highlights the need to be closer to PPC teams. Building this ‘one’ view of search means, regardless of whether things are paid for or organic, you’re ready for the inevitable changes that Google consistently throws our way, from algorithm changes to updates.

From a PPC perspective, we now have to consider what will happen to those budgets previously spent on shopping campaigns? Often clients don’t switch media money into SEO-driven retainers. That money has to stay in media, perhaps in PPC campaigns. If that happens we can expect to see our CPCs fluctuate: higher demand for less inventory will mean a price increase.

So what do brands need to do? Here are five things you need to consider now (not tomorrow!):

  1. Where will you shift your PPC budget? Think broader terms, protecting your brand, and alternative channels rather than a gold rush to seize this opportunity
  2. Prioritise SEO. If you haven’t, you’re in trouble – you need to get a hold of your SEO roadmaps and make sure they are main priority
  3. If you haven’t run Shopping campaigns before, then you need to get all the essential components ready, such as your feed. Make sure they are in as robust a state as they can be before activation
  4. Build a ‘one search’ approach. SEO and PPC – whether at one agency, between two, or in-house – should have a fully joined-up approach that maximises your organisation’s visibility.

Be ready for your competitors. If you’re doing the above well, so are they! You need to be prepared for their activity – as it will impact your own plans.

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Google’s Next-Gen AI Chatbot, Gemini, Faces Delays: What to Expect When It Finally Launches

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Google AI Chatbot Gemini

In an unexpected turn of events, Google has chosen to postpone the much-anticipated debut of its revolutionary generative AI model, Gemini. Initially poised to make waves this week, the unveiling has now been rescheduled for early next year, specifically in January.

Gemini is set to redefine the landscape of conversational AI, representing Google’s most potent endeavor in this domain to date. Positioned as a multimodal AI chatbot, Gemini boasts the capability to process diverse data types. This includes a unique proficiency in comprehending and generating text, images, and various content formats, even going so far as to create an entire website based on a combination of sketches and written descriptions.

Originally, Google had planned an elaborate series of launch events spanning California, New York, and Washington. Regrettably, these events have been canceled due to concerns about Gemini’s responsiveness to non-English prompts. According to anonymous sources cited by The Information, Google’s Chief Executive, Sundar Pichai, personally decided to postpone the launch, acknowledging the importance of global support as a key feature of Gemini’s capabilities.

Gemini is expected to surpass the renowned ChatGPT, powered by OpenAI’s GPT-4 model, and preliminary private tests have shown promising results. Fueled by significantly enhanced computing power, Gemini has outperformed GPT-4, particularly in FLOPS (Floating Point Operations Per Second), owing to its access to a multitude of high-end AI accelerators through the Google Cloud platform.

SemiAnalysis, a research firm affiliated with Substack Inc., expressed in an August blog post that Gemini appears poised to “blow OpenAI’s model out of the water.” The extensive compute power at Google’s disposal has evidently contributed to Gemini’s superior performance.

Google’s Vice President and Manager of Bard and Google Assistant, Sissie Hsiao, offered insights into Gemini’s capabilities, citing examples like generating novel images in response to specific requests, such as illustrating the steps to ice a three-layer cake.

While Google’s current generative AI offering, Bard, has showcased noteworthy accomplishments, it has struggled to achieve the same level of consumer awareness as ChatGPT. Gemini, with its unparalleled capabilities, is expected to be a game-changer, demonstrating impressive multimodal functionalities never seen before.

During the initial announcement at Google’s I/O developer conference in May, the company emphasized Gemini’s multimodal prowess and its developer-friendly nature. An application programming interface (API) is under development, allowing developers to seamlessly integrate Gemini into third-party applications.

As the world awaits the delayed unveiling of Gemini, the stakes are high, with Google aiming to revolutionize the AI landscape and solidify its position as a leader in generative artificial intelligence. The postponed launch only adds to the anticipation surrounding Gemini’s eventual debut in the coming year.

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Google Brings Bard Students Math and Coding Education in the Summer

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Google Brings Bard Students Math and Coding Education in the Summer

Google is stepping up its AI efforts this summer by sending Bard, its high-profile chatbot, to summer school. The aim? To boost the bot’s math and coding smarts. These developments are excellent news— when Bard first debuted, it was admittedly not a finished product. But Google is steadily plugging away at it, and have now implemented implicit code execution for logical prompts, and handy Google Sheets’ integration to take it to the next level.

Thanks to implicit code execution, Bard can respond to inquiries requiring calculation or computation with Python code snippets running in the background. What’s even more amazing is that coders can take this generated code and modify it for their projects. Though Google is still apprehensive about guaranteeing the accuracy of Bard’s answers, this feature is said to improve the accuracy of math and word problems by an impressive 30%.

In addition to this, Bard can now export directly to Sheets when asked about tables. So, you don’t need to worry about copying and pasting, which comes with the risk of losing formatting or data.

From the company’s I/O keynote address, it is clear that they are focused on making the most of what Bard can offer. As they continue to speak highly of the chatbot, we’re sure to expect more features and capabilities when the summer comes around.

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Google Bard vs. ChatGPT: which is the better AI chatbot?

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Google Bard vs. ChatGPT: which is the better AI chatbot?

Google Bard and ChatGPT are two of the most prominent artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots available in 2023. But which is better? Both offer natural language responses to natural language inputs, using machine learning and millions of data points to craft useful, informative responses. Most of the time. These AI tools aren’t perfect yet, but they point to an exciting future of AI assistant search and learning tools that will make information all the more readily available.

As similar as these chatbots are, they also have some distinct differences. Here’s how ChatGPT and Google Bard measure up against one another.

Which is better, Google Bard or ChatGPT?

This is a tricky question to answer, as at the time of writing, you can only use Google Bard if you’re part of a select group of early beta testers. As for its competition, you can use ChatGPT right now, completely for free. You may have to contend with a waitlist, but if you want to skip that, there’s a paid-for Plus version offering those interested in a more complete tool the option of paying for the privilege.

Still, when Google Bard becomes more widely available, it should offer credible competition for ChatGPT. Both use natural language models — Google Bard uses Google’s internal LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications), whereas ChatGPT uses an older GPT-3 language model. Google Bard bases its responses to questions on more recent data, with ChatGPT mainly trained on data that was available prior to 2021. This is similar to how Microsoft’s Bing Chat works.

We’ll have to reserve judgment on which is the more capable AI chatbot until we get time to play with Google Bard ourselves, but it looks set to be a close contest when it is more readily available.

Are Google Bard and ChatGPT available yet?

As mentioned, ChatGPT is available in free and paid-for tiers. You might have to sit in a queue for the free version for a while, but anyone can play around with its capabilities.

Google Bard is currently only available to limited beta testers and is not available to the wider public.

Banner of Google Bard intro from February 6.

What’s the difference between Google Bard and ChatGPT?

ChatGPT and Google Bard are very similar natural language AI chatbots, but they have some differences, and are designed to be used in slightly different ways — at least for now. ChatGPT has been used for answering direct questions with direct answers, mostly correctly, but it’s caused a lot of consternation among white collar workers, like writers, SEO advisors, and copy editors, since it has also demonstrated an impressive ability to write creatively — even if it has faced a few problems with accuracy and plagiarism.

Still, Microsoft has integrated ChatGPT into its Bing search engine to give users the ability to ask direct questions of the search engine, rather than searching for terms of keywords to find the best results. It has also built it into its Teams communications tool, and it’s coming to the Edge browser in a limited form. The Opera browser has also pledged to integrate ChatGPT in the future.

ChatGPT Google Bard
Accessible through ChatGPT site. Only text responses are returned via queries. Integrated with Google Search. You only need to change a Google setting to get your regular search results when using Google Bard AI, and vice versa.
ChatGPT produces answers from its trained database from 2021 and before. Google Apprentice Bard AI will be able to answer real-time questions.
Based on GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer). Based on LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications).
Service has a free and paid plan option (called ChatGPT Plus). Service is free.
Has built-in plagiarism tool called GPT-2 Output Detector. No built-in plagiarism detection tool.
Available now Still in beta test phase

Google Bard was mainly designed around augmenting Google’s own search tool, however it is also destined to become an automated support tool for businesses without the funds to pay for human support teams. It will be offered to customers through a trained AI responder. It is likely to be integrated into the Chrome browser and its Chromium derivatives before long. Google is also expected to open up Google Bard to third-party developers in the future.

Under the hood, Google Bard uses Google’s LaMDA language model, while ChatGPT uses its own GPT3 model. ChatGPT is based on slightly older data, restricted in its current GPT3 model to data collected prior to 2022, while Google Bard is built on data provided on recent years too. However, that doesn’t necessarily make it more accurate, as Google Bard has faced problems with incorrect answers to questions, even in its initial unveiling.

ChatGPT also has a built-in plagiarism checker, while Google Bard does not, but Google Bard doesn’t have the creative applications of ChatGPT just yet.

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