illustrated retro robot serving dinner to a group

How Will AI Impact Search Traffic?

David Gibson

AI is a reality that will impact almost every industry, function, role, and task. One area that I and many others are curious about is Search Marketing and the threat of losing organic and paid search traffic to AI Chat Bots.

No one can say for sure how AI will affect search, but any digital marketer who knows their stuff will agree that it will be huge.

Search traffic is vital for any business that depends on online conversions. If the AI chat bot is the genius that can answer any question and customize that answer to your specific needs instantly, will users still use Search Engines and websites to find answers?

There are many scenarios where the answer will vary. But since I’m the one who does the cooking in my house, I’ve been thinking about recipe sites lately. How will AI disrupt the current source of traffic to these sites from search engines?

Let's set the table.

Not long ago, if you wanted to host a dinner party you would go to a search engine and look for “meal planning ideas for a dinner party” and spend time going through website after website for different ideas. You’d make a list of dishes and then do searches for each dish - keeping in mind various people’s dietary restrictions, preferences, dislikes, and browse each recipe page. And I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand these recipe pages. They’re optimized for search and ad revenue, so you have to scroll through ads and useless SEO content until you finally get to the recipe way way way down at the bottom. You read it. You read the reviews. Maybe it’s the one and you save the URL or god forbid, print it. Then for each recipe, you need to adjust ingredients quantities for your party and then create a consolidated shopping list… by hand. UGH. Shoot me.

Now, I can go to any AI chatbot and ask: “I’m having a dinner party for 7. I’d like to try something Indian, Thai or Nepalese and medium spiciness. One person is gluten-free. Another person hates onions. Can you suggest 5 different menus?”

Let’s see how Search compares to AI in helping me with dinner.

Not bad right? Bing AI gave me a great set of menu options that took into account the preferred styles of cuisine as well as eating restrictions. It helped me pick the winner by telling me which would be easiest to cook, and provided the recipes for each with a shopping list. All in one neat package. Now, if only it could then cook it for me... just wait.

Back to the topic at hand, in this scenario, yes, definitely, AI chat will be very effective for users and therefore affect traffic from search. And it's not difficult to imagine other scenarios where users will prefer to use a chat bot to get information instead of search.

So digital marketers might begin preparing for search traffic to slowly drop. Pay close attention to what techniques evolve to get the attention of the AI bots, while considering other channels for connecting with customers and drawing them back to your website for conversion.

The silver lining is that this will take time. It will take some time for people to learn how to use AI chat and when to use AI chat. And Google and Microsoft will do everything they can to protect their paid search revenue model. Organic search / SEO however, may be another story. These bots do need website content to learn from and reference… but only to some extent. Remember, once the knowledge is synthesized by the AI, it no longer needs the reference content.


Dave Gibson, President

Photo credit : Dave prompting MidJourney