Can Perplexity AI beat Google at its own game?

  • Categories:

    Industry Trends, Search

  • Date:

    February 15, 2024

Can Perplexity AI beat Google at its own game?

Industry Trends Search

The speedy evolution of artificial intelligence is changing how we interact with technology, and it’s already affecting how we search for information online.

AI search startup Perplexity has staked a claim on natural language search — search results that provide answers in simple, plain language instead of a list of links. Based on recent news reports about Perplexity raising over $70 million, including investments from Amazon founder Jeff Besos and microchip maker Nvidia, it’s clear that some technology thought leaders also see its potential.

In the fast-moving world of AI chatbot releases, Perplexity caught my eye as a direct challenge to Google, which hastily launched its own AI chatbot called Gemini (formerly known as Bard) last year and has been under fire recently for low-quality search results. But is Perplexity just another contestant in the race to lead the AI landscape, or does it warrant brands’ close attention? What should marketers be doing now to stay ahead of the pack?

Let’s take a closer look.

What is Perplexity AI?

Perplexity touts itself as an answer engine, countering Google’s ubiquity as the most-used search engine. Instead of providing a list of sponsored results and organic links for the user to sift through, Perplexity uses two online large language models to synthesize an answer sourced live from the internet. It also provides links to the sites it used to create the answer.

How does Perplexity AI work?

Perplexity is AI-powered, but instead of focusing on conversations like ChatGPT does, it specializes in search capabilities. Furthermore, it’s designed to avoid the common AI problems that made headlines in 2023 (it’s hard to forget ChatGPT confessing to an alternate identity and trying to get a journalist to divorce his wife). To solve hallucination problems and provide more accurate answers, Perplexity focuses on:

  • Continually scanning the internet to stay updated with the latest information

  • Checking answers across multiple sources to avoid hallucinated responses

  • Combining the conversational nature of LLMs with greater accuracy and reliability

Perplexity AI vs. Google Search

Google results have become increasingly diluted, forcing users to work hard to find a reliable information source. This problem is compounded by low-quality content that manipulates SEO just to rank higher on the search engine results page.

Perplexity aims to streamline the user experience by synthesizing a single answer. It shows its work by offering a handful of sources with the generated answer. For now, the quality of its answers is inconsistent. At its best, Perplexity can be a time-saver for users learning a new topic.

And, while this doesn’t signal the end of Google, it pressures legacy tech giants to evolve.

Searching with Perplexity AI

  • Prioritizes delivering direct answers with select source links

  • Is free of sponsored content

  • Offers a copilot feature to suggest follow-up questions

  • Has “threads” to continue queries, but their quality can be inconsistent

  • Falls short in local search compared to Google

Searching with Google

  • Requires effort and time to sift through multiple webpages

  • Suffers from a poor user experience caused by diluted results and SEO manipulation

  • Constantly evolves, adding or updating helpful features such as widgets, bios, maps and categories

  • Excels at accurate and helpful local search

Why should brands pay attention to Perplexity?

User dissatisfaction with Google. Younger consumers are shifting searches to TikTok. In the organic search industry, the winds of change are blowing — and those winds are fierce. And while Google is likely here to stay, brands should constantly assess new AI startups as they relate to search.

Perplexity’s privacy promises and ad-free space make it appealing to people who want quick answers and the ability to double-check sources. We’re already seeing its influence on Google with the search giant’s addition of generative AI through Google’s Search Generative Experience (for those with Search Labs turned on).

What should brands do now to stay ahead?

Do you feel like we’re caught in a maelstrom of AI platforms these days? Consider it an opportunity to reexamine your content program for opportunities and gaps. Take these steps to stay educated on the latest AI tools:

  • Make testing part of your daily routine. Early adopters stay ahead of the curve and gain a competitive edge.

  • Keep tabs on how and when your brand shows up in relevant search results. Answer engines such as Perplexity have big implications for non-branded, top-of-funnel content. Monitoring brand visibility can help you understand consumer behavior and preferences while providing insights for content optimization.

  • Be open to changes in consumer search behavior. Staying on top of the latest changes will help your brand remain relevant to your target audiences.

  • Stay informed on privacy and data handling. Perplexity places a high priority on protecting user data, a stance that could attract users and help brands safely use the AI tool without compromising sensitive information.

Want to learn more? Read my article, “How AI Can Help (Or Hurt) Your Website’s SEO Strategy.”

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