GenAI-Powered Search: Re-think Your Marketing Strategies

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Edited by Emilie Martin

The short answer is yes.

Businesses that rely on Google Search to bring traffic and revenue to their websites are always trying to keep up with how their results are shown or where they come up in the search results. Generative AI and AI chatbots are reshaping how people search and find information, challenging traditional SEO strategies.

It’s been over a year since OpenAI’s ChatGPT, backed by Microsoft, burst onto the scene. This created a frenzy of interest in generative AI (GenAI) capabilities from consumers, the media, and venture capital (VC) investors and put the largest search engine, Google, on red alert. This has led to Google and Microsoft going all in with generative AI as a core to their future of search.

The macroeconomic conditions for VC funding in 2023 had tightened for everything except AI-related startups, which received $68.7 billion in 2023, according to PitchBook data reported by Techcrunch. This forced Google to announce several new AI-powered products, including its chatbot named Bard, and launch its new AI answer-powered search engine called Search Generative Experience (SGE) in beta.

So, a question that has been on my mind for the last few months as I have been playing around with these AI tools: What is going to happen to startups, small businesses, and publishers who rely on search traffic from Google when they decide to roll this SGE out officially to users worldwide?

On December 12, Gartner put out several marketing predictions for 2024, one of which was about organic search traffic:

“By 2028, brands’ organic search traffic will decrease by 50% or more as consumers embrace generative AI-powered search.”

This rapid adoption of GenAI in search engines will significantly disrupt chief marketing officers (CMOs) ability to harness organic search to drive sales. They suggested that companies that rely on SEO should consider shifting resources to test other marketing channels to diversify.

Is this prediction accurate? According to Gartner, it came from a small survey of under 300 consumers. While the ultimate impact on organic traffic revenue remains uncertain as AI search evolves, it is on business owners’ minds.

In a recent Business Insider article about the rise of AI-generated content and the problems it is creating, Gary Survis, an operating partner at a VC firm, Insights Partners, told BI,

“AI-powered search experiences such as this may lead to traffic declines of as much as 25% for many websites.”

Will this mean that large brands will get all the search traffic, such as marketing consultant AJ Kohn has suggested is already happening? When you search for a topic in Google’s new SGE, it will display an AI-generated answer summary and cite the top 3 websites it used to generate that answer above the traditional ten blue links search results. The SGE experience feels like it is ranking for a Featured Snippet, AKA position zero. Still, instead of one answer, the AI parses snippets of content from several sites to show a comprehensive answer to a search query.

According to Search Engine Land columnist Julia McCoy’s perspective,

“Contrary to popular belief, this means SGE won’t steal your traffic. If anything, it’s giving publishers more ranking opportunities.”

It is too soon to know since SGE is still an experimental technology.

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