Directing AI to Create Content with Perplexity

  • June 25, 2024
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Growth Memo Insights and Perplexity Pages Analysis

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Understanding Perplexity’s Strategic Shift with Pages

Perplexity’s newly introduced Pages feature has sparked significant controversy among publishers. However, this reaction appears to be somewhat exaggerated. More importantly, it presents a fascinating case study in the realm of user-directed AI content (UDC), as opposed to traditional user-generated content (UGC).

What is Perplexity Pages?

Perplexity Pages allows users to craft “beautifully designed, comprehensive articles on any topic.” Essentially, users can transform a sequence of prompts or a detailed thread into a full-fledged article.

The Growth Strategy Behind Perplexity Pages

As an avid reader of Growth Memo, you will recognize that this initiative is a strategic move aimed at generating AI-powered content that can rank well in organic search results. The ultimate goal is to drive traffic to Perplexity.ai, converting these visitors into paying subscribers.

This strategy aligns with CEO Aravind Srinivas’s vision of Perplexity as “an aggregator of information.” By enhancing user experience significantly, Perplexity aims to harness demand and commoditize the supply of information.

Impact and Controversy: A Drop in the Bucket

When evaluating the actual data, it becomes apparent that the media reaction is overstated—both in critique and actual impact. While it’s justified to request Perplexity to adjust attributions and follow web standards such as robots.txt and use official IPs like search engines, the overall benefit to Perplexity from the Pages feature is minimal.

Developer Ryan Knight points out that Perplexity uses a headless browser for web crawling, masking its IP string. CEO Srinivas claims compliance with robots.txt and attributes the masked IP to a third-party service. He also acknowledges that the advent of AI necessitates a new working relationship between content creators and platforms like Perplexity.

Traffic Analysis

According to Similarweb, Perplexity’s overall domain consists of just 950 pages, with 600 being from Pages. Compared to larger sites like Wikipedia, which boasts 6.8 million articles on its English version alone, Perplexity’s footprint is small. As Pages gains more traction, more significant scale effects will become evident.

Current data indicates that 91% of organic traffic to perplexity.ai stems from branded search terms like “perplexity.” Out of 217,000 monthly visitors, only 47,000 (21.6%) visit Pages from organic, non-branded keywords globally. In the US, this figure rises to 55% (20,000 out of 36,000). Compared to traffic from branded search terms, Pages still has minimal impact on Perplexity’s overall organic traffic.

Addressing Plagiarism and Attribution Concerns

A review conducted using GoTranscript found minimal text similarity between a Perplexity page about “Bitcoin Pizza Day” and its linked sources, indicating little evidence of plagiarism. Furthermore, Perplexity has updated its system to highlight sources prominently, addressing earlier issues concerning missing attributions.

Challenges and Future Prospects

Perplexity still has room for improvement in accurately summarizing content and reducing “hallucination” in AI-generated answers. As seen with Google’s AI Overviews, initial inaccuracies can be mitigated over time with better models.

One significant point of contention is that Perplexity should ideally summarize articles when requested, similar to what occurred in the lawsuit between OpenAI and the NY Times.

Role of Perplexity’s Pages in the Larger AI Content Landscape

Despite the crawling issues that need addressing, the backlash seems exacerbated by Perplexity’s positioning. The announcement of Pages highlights its ease of use for non-writers, capable of breaking down complex subjects into digestible articles. This is particularly threatening to journalists as AI increasingly covers standardized content formats such as guides and tutorials.

User-Directed Content (UDC) — A New Paradigm

Unlike entirely AI-generated content, Perplexity’s Pages rely on human prompts, termed User-Directed Content (UDC). This involves users guiding the content creation process and adding their authorship to the final articles. Similar trends may emerge in reviews and other content types, with platforms offering tools to streamline content creation while maintaining quality.

Competing with Human-Authored Sites

The success of Perplexity Pages in competing with fully human-written sites like Wikipedia, which has 116,000 active contributors, remains to be seen. The core growth strategy appears to be leveraging summarized articles to create AI podcasts and videos, potentially outperforming original content in search rankings.

Balancing AI Answers and Traffic Attribution

One enduring challenge is balancing between giving comprehensive AI answers and directing traffic to original sources. Effective personalization of AI-generated content could provide a distinct value—tailoring summaries to individual user preferences—potentially outperforming both generic AI summaries and traditional human-written guides.

Future of Personalized AI Content

The future could see a convergence of defined knowledge and personalized AI content. As major players like Alphabet and Apple leverage their extensive user data for personalized AI responses, their advantage in encompassing broader contextual information, from location to app usage, becomes evident.

Currently, personalized answers are more a vision than a reality, but the potential to surpass generic summaries and human-written guides is significant.

Conclusion

Examining Perplexity’s strategic move with Pages reveals the complex dynamics of integrating AI into content creation. While faced with challenges, the path to providing personalized, high-quality AI content holds immense potential.

Additional Resources

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal


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