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"Marketing to Machines" Part 1

Chris Mills
June 15, 2023

Last week I downloaded Microsoft’s Edge browser and clicked “chat” under the search bar. 

A box slid down my screen.

Welcome to the new Bing AI.

“Welcome to the new Bing,” it said, “your AI-powered copilot for the web. Ask complex questions. Get better answers.”

I asked it to describe my company, PRP Group. Before I tell you what it said, here’s what you need to know about us:

PRP Group is a PR firm that specializes in the education market. We are not located in India. While we frequently win awards for education leadership, we are not leaders in safety, testing, inspection, or certification. Nevertheless, here’s what Bing’s chat had to say:

“PRP Group is an award-winning education PR and marketing intelligence firm serving the preK—12 and higher ed community.

They are dedicated to safety, social good, and sustainability. They are a leader in standards development and in testing, inspection, and certification in India. 

Their mandate is to hold the future to a higher standard products to consumer's..."

Bing's AI-powered search chatbot did not have the right information about us.

What is an AI-powered search chatbot?

Bing’s chat feature is one of several up-and-coming AI-powered search engines that use generative artificial intelligence powered by large language models (LLMs). 

(Note that a “generative” AI isn’t the same as a “general” AI like Haley Joel Osment in Spielberg's 2001 Pinocchio pastiche “A.I.“ “Generative” merely means it can create new content like pictures and text.)

Google’s Bard and AI search (you can join the waitlist for Google AI search here) are similar to the new Bing AI chatbot. Each of them is powered by a large language model (think ChatGPT), but unlike ChatGPT, also searches the web in real-time. As one lawyer found out the hard way, a large language model (LLM) is more like a really advanced version of the predictive text function on your phone than a search engine. LLMs like ChatGPT are not AI-powered search engines and might not be accurate. 

But AI-powered search chat, on the other hand, has the potential to be so accurate that you never bother with websites again.

In the ever-evolving landscape of search engines, the rise of AI-powered platforms like Bing's new chat feature has transformed the way we obtain information. These AI-powered search engines utilize generative artificial intelligence, driven by large language models, to deliver answers with enhanced accuracy. However, it is crucial to understand that optimizing your web presence for AI-powered search requires a different approach than traditional search engine optimization (SEO). In this blog post, we explore the challenges and strategies of marketing to machines in the age of AI-powered search.

Your old SEO won't be enough

In the future, when you want to find information on the web, you won’t search for keywords and click on a bunch of different links. Instead, you’ll ask a question.

For example, instead of typing “best education public relations firm” and scrolling through a list of links to find PRP Group, you’ll enter a chat message like this:

“What’s the best public relations firm for a mid-size education technology company like mine? I need to get my product in front of superintendents at large mid-western school districts.”

Your search engine will reply. Here’s what Bing said when I asked this exact question:

Bing AI Chatbot responds to a search query.

“There are many public relations firms that specialize in working with mid-size education technology companies. Forbes has a list of America’s Best PR Agencies for 2021, which includes 200 firms that were selected based on a survey of more than 12,700 experts and 20,500 customers. Some of the top PR firms on this list include Edelman, Zeno Group, and Outcast Agency…”

Where’s PRP Group? We’ve literally won “best EdTech PR firm” multiple years in a row. 

When we built our website, we put a lot of thought into search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is the process of making sure that your website shows up when people search for relevant information. Many companies pay out the nose to make sure they’re at the top of your search results.

PRP Group usually ranks near the top when you search for relevant search terms like “public relations for the education market.” And of course, if you go to our website, you’ll see accurate information about us.

But now, our SEO isn’t working. Bing’s AI-powered chat didn’t mention us, and when I asked it about us, some of the information was just plain wrong! According to Search Engine Land:

“These evolutions have many SEO implications. In the past, SEO was largely focused on marketing to humans. However [...] SEO is now also about marketing to machines.” 

So what is SEO for AI-powered search engines? Can it be done? Can you really market to machines? How is it different from regular SEO? 

I set out to find out whether I could change Bing’s answers. Can I get it to recommend PRP Group? If so how?

Find out what we’re doing to stay ahead of AI-powered search in Marketing to Machines Part II.

Read Part II


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