From SERPs to CHERPs: Generative AI results need their own name
Introducing the CHERP, or chat experience results page. It's time to give a name to the output of today's generative AI experiences.
Search results are not chat results.
In search, the input is a query. The output is what we have called a SERP, or search engine results page.
A SERP is full of answers and ads. It has links to websites, text, images, featured snippets, and videos. “SERP” has been used in search marketing for more than two decades.
In chat, an input is a prompt. The output is text, ads, images, videos (and sometimes clear links, in the form of small citations) – often trained on or powered by search results.
But what’s that page of results called, exactly?
We at Search Engine Land believe that this LLM-fueled, generative AI, end user-facing output – whether it’s Google’s Search Generative Experience, the new Bing or another search/AI platform – needs a name.
“Kein ding sei wo das wort gebricht,” my colleague Kim Davis put it recently. Translation: “No thing can be where the word is lacking.”
So we are introducing a neologism into the search marketing lexicon: CHERP for Chat Experience Result Page.
Search vs. chat experience: The distinction is needed
There’s a fine line between language that clarifies concepts and jargon that unnecessarily clouds issues and creates confusion.
We are at one such crossroads right now with generative AI. Specifically: the results pages various chatbot interfaces produce.
We expect Google and Microsoft Bing to continuously update and test the various elements, just as they continue to tinker with the traditional search results pages.
The search marketing industry currently lacks the precise language needed to distinguish between traditional search results pages and the results produced by generative AI.
Google and Bing have referred to their generative AI offerings as “experiences.” So that’s why we’re suggesting a new acronym for the results by those experiences be dubbed Chat Experience Results Pages or CHERPs.
What is a SERP?
The term SERP stands for “search engine results page.” In simple terms, it’s a page of search results you see after you enter a query on Google, Microsoft BIng or any other platform.
Origins of SERP
The origin of the term “SERP” can be traced to 2000 in a forum post by Webmaster World founder Brett Tabke.
The earliest SERPs typically consisted of 10 blue links and endless pagination of search results. PPC ads were also present, usually above organic search results and on the right rail.
Evolution of SERPs
Google began reimagining the SERP with Universal Search in 2007, blending Search with news, video, images, local, maps and more. And as 2010 approached, Google was introducing a variety of instant answers, including weather and sports scores.
Big Google SERP changes continued in the 2010s, most notably with the integration of the Knowledge Graph into Google Search and seen on the SERPs via knowledge panels. In 2014, Search Engine Land reported on a new type of detailed answer that would later become known as featured snippets.
Now, in 2023, we have seen a massive change to Search: generative AI. Microsoft calls it the new Bing, or Bing Chat. Google calls it a Search Generative Experience.
As of this writing, both experimental experiences are not fully rolled out. But it’s only a matter of weeks or months before that happens.
What is a CHERP?
The term CHERP stands for “chat experience results page.” In simple terms, it’s the generative AI result you see after you enter a prompt on Google, Microsoft Bing, ChatGPT or any other generative AI platform.
Let’s illustrate with an example prompt – “what is a SERP” – using Google, Microsoft and ChatGPT.
The chat results page consists of:
- Two paragraphs of text (one dedicated to a Search Engine Results Page; the other to a Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan). This includes two citations (the clickable quotation marks) that, when clicked, result in a dropdown, which lets you click on three sources, which are brand names.
- Three links (with images) in the Snapshot, which in this case are duplicative.
- Suggestions to Ask a follow up.
The chat results page consists of:
- One paragraph of text (only discussing a Search Engine Results Page). This includes three visible numbered citations (plus two that are not visible, you have to click on the +2 more). The sources are domains.
- No other links or images.
- Two suggested follow-up question bubbles.
The chat results page consists of:
- Nine paragraphs of text, including an ordered list of six items (only discussing a Search Engine Results Page).
- No citations, links or images.
- No suggested follow-up questions.
All of these results minimize traditional search and are based on answering questions – and encouraging users to ask more questions. They are results pages unto themselves.
Search engines have SERPs. Answer engines have CHERPs.
Language must change to reflect new realities
Why is coining the term CHERPs necessary? Do search marketers really need another acronym?
Yes. It’s necessary for accurate communication and to provide clarity for clients or stakeholders when explaining whether you have visibility in the search or chat experience.
Just on Google, since it continues to be, by far, the biggest player:
- Is your ad appearing above, within or beneath SGE?
- Even if you have strong organic visibility in search results, will that matter if your competitors are getting cited (and potentially clicks from) the chat results above the organic search results?
Hopefully, Google and Bing will provide us with the data we need to understand and report on how people are getting to our websites.
Search continues to evolve. As it does, our language also must evolve.
CHERPs, as a new term, is familiar, while also being different enough to create a clear distinction.
Did you ever used to say or write, “rank on Page 1 of Google”? Well, you can’t do that anymore, thanks to Continuous Scroll. Google evolved. Our language must evolve with the platforms.
There has also been a push within tech to make terms more inclusive. That may be why Google renamed its Webmaster Guidelines to Search Essentials. The term “webmaster” has become a relic of an earlier era.
Thankfully, we hear the terms “white hat” and “black hat” a lot less. I’ve always found these to be cartoony (see also: link juice) and undermine all the great and professional work we do that drives billions of dollars in revenue every month for brands and businesses of all sizes.
Words matter. Clarity matters.
SERPs and CHERPs will co-exist
To be clear, SERPs will continue to exist – as long as Google and Bing serve search results. We’re not suggesting CHERP as a replacement for SERP, like how many have tried to “rebrand” SEO over the years.
No, we think of SERPs and CHERPs as two unique entities that may or may not occupy the same space on a platform that produces content using generative AI.
The purpose of introducing CHERPs as a new term is so that we, as an industry, can clearly distinguish between results pages from search versus chat.
We think it’s needed. We hope you agree.
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