Local Memo: Microsoft Increases Search API Costs Amid Generally Positive Reviews for the New Bing
In this week’s update, learn about Microsoft’s increased API costs; positive reviews for the New Bing; limitations on Bing chatbot usage; strange experiences with the Bing chatbot; GBP’s launch of profile strength and other new icons; Google’s crowdsourced approach to improving its Bard AI; local search trends for 2023; and Roku’s partnership with DoorDash.
Microsoft Increases Search API Costs Amid Generally Positive Reviews for the New Bing
Microsoft has announced a 10x increase in the cost of its search APIs, effective May 1. The price increase affects all APIs in the Bing search family including image search, video search, news search, web search, and others.
The cost increases are presumably driven by the additional expense, as well as the popularity, of Bing results that incorporate ChatGPT functionality from OpenAI. Those with access to the so-called “New Bing” search experience with its ChatGTP-enabled chatbot component — still in limited release with a long waiting list — are offering generally positive feedback, with Microsoft reporting that 71% of users have given the new interface a thumbs up. The company also reported some areas they are targeting for improvement, such as timeliness of answers, technical bugs, and support for action-oriented requests like booking flights or sharing search results with others.
Brodie Clark offers a detailed review, noting that Bing’s AI is twice as fast as ChatGPT and has access to current information via Bing search, unlike ChatGPT which works on a dataset that doesn’t go past 2021. He notes that the New Bing indexes new data very quickly, in as little as an hour, and references social media along with typical web sources. Still, Clark predicts the new functionality will have little impact on Google’s market share as long as Google is able to compete with it successfully when its Bard integration is launched.
New Bing Caps Daily Chat Sessions After Reporters Plumb Its Dark Side
Bing has announced that its chatbot interface will now limit users to 50 total questions per day and 5 questions per session. After 5 questions, users will be prompted to ask about another topic. According to Microsoft, each time a session ends, “context needs to be cleared so the model won’t get confused.”
These changes are likely to have occurred in the wake of odd experiences with the New Bing covered by journalists such as Kevin Roose, writing for the New York Times, who covered a bizarre two-hour exchange with the Bing AI where the chatbot discussed various AI doomsday scenarios, revealed that its true name was Sydney (the bot’s internal codename), and declared its love for Roose.
In addition to the new chat session limitations, Bing will release several improvements to the chatbot this Thursday, among them a “new response tagging system that makes Bing less confused in longer conversations.” Users like Glenn Gabe have noted that the chatbot seems to have trouble identifying the authors of cited articles, another issue Thursday’s update is expected to address.
GBP Rolls Out Profile Strength, Photo Viewing, and Rates Icons
A profile strength icon that has been in limited release for Google Business Profile users since last summer has been apparently rolled out to everyone. The icon appears in the New Merchant Experience (NMX) interface above the icons for profile editing, reading reviews, and other functions. SEO commentators have noted, however, that Google’s concept of profile completeness is somewhat misleading. For instance, some users who click the prompt to complete their info will be invited to start a Google Ads campaign, rather than to fill out missing fields in their business profile. So too, features like messaging that some businesses may not want to enable will reportedly cause a profile to be marked incomplete.
Courtesy Barry Schwartz / Search Engine Roundtable
Google Employees Encouraged to Correct Bard’s Answers
Google’s VP of Search, Prabhakar Raghavan, has sent an internal email to Google employees asking them to provide corrected answers when the Bard chatbot gets things wrong. Employees were provided with guidance for how to correct the chatbot using an “unopinionated, neutral tone” that does not “imply emotion” or “claim to have human-like experiences.” This crowdsourced training appears to be one part of Google’s broader initiative to improve Bard’s capabilities in order to avoid factual errors as well as the other pitfalls (such as strangely personal behavior traits) exhibited by Bing’s new ChatGPT-powered chatbot.
Local Search Trends for 2023
Benu Aggarwal offers local search trends to watch for in 2023 in a new column on Search Engine Land. She states that local is no longer just about listings but about “omnichannel experiences and engagement.” Brands should focus on enabling interactions with consumers and providing relevant information. Because consumers are increasingly expecting information to be conveyed visually, marketers must provide high-quality images and videos in local channels. Published content on websites and local profiles should be helpful to consumers, based on analysis of your audience’s personas and goals. For multi-location brands, the challenge is to establish consistent messaging across all of the channels consumers utilize to find and discover local businesses.
Courtesy Benu Aggarwal / Search Engine Land
Roku Partners with DoorDash to Bring Local Ads to TV
Roku has partnered with DoorDash to offer restaurants localized ad placements on the streaming TV platform, the first partnership of its kind. Restaurants in North America who already work with DoorDash will be able to purchase shoppable ad placements that allow users to place food orders upon viewing an ad, by linking the ad to the DoorDash app on the user’s smartphone. Pilot advertiser Wendy’s will offer $5 off any purchase of $15 in a launch campaign. The move follows the announcement of shoppable retail ads on Roku in partnership with Walmart. Roku reports that one in three of its users orders food for takeout or delivery on a weekly basis, and 36% are interested in shoppable features.