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AI supplants conventional search engines, their loss of market share will change the digital ad landscape, says research firm Gartner.

A new report from the research firm Gartner, has some unsettling news for search engine giants like Google and Microsoft’s Bing. It predicts that as everyday net users become more comfortable with AI tech and incorporate it into their general net habits, chatbots and other agents will lead to a drop of 25 percent in “traditional search engine volume.” The search giants will then simply be “losing market share to AI chatbots and other virtual agents.”

One reason to care about this news is to remember that the search engine giants are really marketing giants. Search engines are useful, but Google makes money by selling ads that leverage data from its search engine. These ads are designed to convert to profits for the companies whose wares are being promoted. Plus placing Google ads on a website is a revenue source that many other companies rely on–perhaps best known for being used by media firms. If AI upends search, then by definition this means it will similarly upend current marketing practices. And disrupted marketing norms mean that how you think about using online systems to market your company’s products will have to change too.

AI already plays a role in marketing. Chatbots are touted as having copy generating skills that can boost small companies’ public relations efforts, but the tech is also having an effect inside the marketing process itself. An example of this is Shopify’s recent AI-powered Semantic Search system, which uses AI to sniff through the text and image data of a manufacturer’s products and then dream up better search-matching terms so that they don’t miss out on matching to customers searching for a particular phrase. But this is simply using AI to improve current search-based marketing systems.

AI–smart enough to steal traffic

More important is the notion that AI chatbots can “steal” search engine traffic. Think of how many of the queries that you usually direct at Google-from basic stuff like “what’s 200 Farenheit in Celsius?” to more complex matters like “what’s the most recent games console made by Sony?”–could be answered by a chatbot instead. Typing those queries into ChatGPT or a system like Microsoft’s Copilot could mean they aren’t directed through Google’s labyrinthine search engine systems.

There’s also a hint that future web surfing won’t be as search-centric as it is now, thanks to the novel Arc app. Arc leverages search engine results as part of its answers to user queries, but the app promises to do the boring bits of web searching for you, neatly curating the answers above more traditional search engine results. AI “agents” are another emergent form of the tech that could impact search-AI systems that’re able to go off and perform a complex sequence of tasks for you, like searching for some data and analysing it automatically.

Google, of course, is savvy regarding these trends, and last year launched its own AI search push, with its Search Generative Experience. This is an effort to add in some of the clever summarizing abilities of generative AI systems to Google’s traditional search system, saving users time they’d otherwise have spent trawling through a handful of the top search results in order to learn the actual answer to the queries they typed in.

But as AI use expands, and firms like Microsoft double– and triple-down on their efforts to incorporate AI into everyone’s digital lives, the question of the role of traditional search compared to AI chatbots and similar tech remains an open one. AI will soon impact how you think about marketing your company’s products and Search Engine Optimization to bolster traffic to your website may even stop being such an important factor.

So if you’re building a long-term marketing strategy right now it might be worth examining how you can leverage AI products to market your wares alongside more traditional search systems. It’s always smart to skate to where the puck is going to be versus where it currently is.

Feature Image Credit: Getty Images

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Sourced from Inc.

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