In testing the new crop of AI ChatBots, I noticed a consistent and fascinating trend, hunting for search results really sucks, and I want someone to tell me what I want. I want the AI bot to give me the answer. Not Bing or Google result pages or yelp listings. Tell me what I want to know. Here is a recent scenario: I’m heading to NYC to do college tours with my daughter and staying at a hotel in New York near NYU. The Sunday before, I plan to do brunch with two friends. One is a pescatarian, and the other is vegetarian – I eat practically anything and everything. We want the place to have a casual environment so we can hang out at a table or couch with drinks after and be within walking distance of my hotel.
I hit Google and manifested this as the search term “Brunch spots near NYU with vegan options.”
Google’s first set of results overlays some great-sounding places on a map. Now, I’m looking for locations or jumping at whatever name sounds great. The ratings are all 4+ stars or higher, so that’s not necessarily useful.
If I continue to scroll, I’m met with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) SPAM pages of the ten best lists that are AI-generated puff pieces with no actual human curation or Yelp’s search SEO spam pages that often have nothing relevant to my search.
Yelp when clicked shoes a search on the topic with the upper top 1/3 of the page full of ads and sponsored posts that are not relevant to the search. Sadly, Yelp did not have a list of places near NYU, so I was met with a list of restaurants in Manhattan.
I get a list of options in the remaining results – some good, some not. Genuine articles from actual New Yorkers, local bloggers, or local neighborhood papers are nonexistent.
So after getting frustrated and feeling defeated, I decided to ask ChatGPT.
This is the full transcript:
There are many great brunch options in New York City, but here are a few recommendations that meet your criteria:
1 Cafe Mogador – This East Village cafe is known for its Mediterranean-inspired brunch dishes, including Shakshuka and Moroccan couscous. They have plenty of vegetarian and pescatarian options, as well as meat dishes for you. The atmosphere is casual and relaxed, with indoor and outdoor seating options.
2 Bluestone Lane – This Australian-inspired cafe has several locations throughout the city, including one near NYU. They offer a variety of brunch items, including avocado toast, breakfast bowls, and a smoked salmon bagel. They also have a selection of vegetarian and pescatarian options, and their atmosphere is cozy and welcoming.
3 Jack’s Wife Freda – This cozy cafe in Greenwich Village has a Mediterranean-inspired menu with plenty of vegetarian and pescatarian options. They’re known for their shakshuka and their grilled haloumi cheese sandwich. The atmosphere is casual and inviting, with indoor and outdoor seating.
All three of these options are within walking distance of NYU, have vegetarian and pescatarian options, and a casual atmosphere that’s perfect for hanging out after brunch.
From here, I chatted with ChatGPT and added additional thoughts and filters, like wanting a place that served mimosas and one with traditional American breakfast options. I picked a spot, made reservations, and was done.
The experience made me realize that hunting for search results and the growth of SEO SPAM has turned search into something that no longer produces results. Are the results from ChatGPT genuine? No, but it feels more authentic and direct to my request. It gave me an answer. This content may not tap into alternative New York magazines or the hip new blogger, but it feels definitive.
What is funny is that Google could have gotten here quicker. It did get here faster. Many protested the company’s urge to skip showing results and provide direct answers or snippets. If you remember, Google said you need a definition; why link to 15 different dictionary sites if you can answer the question? This generated tons of fear among small businesses and digital marketers as it quickly cut off a powerful funnel for leads. Worse was the fear that the logic for deciding this would be primarily money driven and hidden from the larger population.
Folks that is what ChatGPT does and exactly what we’re craving. Would you like Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant to tell you where to go for dinner and not give you a list of 8 million possibilities? I would. Choice may not be what we are looking for after all. Right? Right…