Google’s new AI is bad news, especially for Google

Simon looking through binoculars at the words "It's time to look beyond Google search for results"

Google announced that it’s AI will start to “do the googling for you”. One less thing to do is always a good thing, right? No, this is not good news at all for your business.

On the face of it, it sounds like it should be useful. Google providing summaries and answers to questions right there in the results page could save people a lot of time – no more wading through all those SEO-optimised blogs written for search engines, not humans; no more having to click through to a website to find the information they want…

No more clicking through? This is bad news if you’re the one writing the blog posts, hoping to drive traffic to your website. Instead of more traffic, Google will come to your website, read it, learn it and then use AI to summarise the content in the search results.

As a business, you lose human visitors to your site, you lose your email sign-ups, you lose your ebook downloads, and you lose conversions and sales. A lot of people – me included – have used on search results as a way to build their audience. Not for much longer.

The internet as we know it is about to change, so how can you adapt?

Google’s AI paradox

With these impending changes, the traffic your website gets from Google will likely decrease as Google keeps more people on the search results pages.

This makes building and maintaining a website less attractive. Your business still needs a website that you can direct people to and showcase your offer and share your ideas. But it will become less effective at growing your audience ‘for free’. So it will become harder for your website to ‘pay for itself’.

This isn’t just an concern for businesses, the paradox here is that Google is actually undermining itself.

Google has built a vast empire of riches by ‘indexing’ the internet and letting people search that index. Many have relied on this to build their own businesses, and they generate a large portion of their revenue from the traffic Google sends to them.

For a lot of answers that people search for, Google will now read and summarise the first 10 links for the user, rather than users having to click through to those webpages. Google search results will still drive some traffic to other websites – it’s not possible to cover everything on a results page.

But how much traffic can Google afford to cut off? If the number of visitors drops too much, then people will stop updating their websites with new content. And then what will Google use to generate its answers?

Google is still relying on people making and updating content – the very thing it will effectively be discouraging.

The likelihood is that Google will start slowly, testing the balance of keeping people ‘on-page’ vs. sending them to other sites and therefore incentivising the creation of new content. Being part of that experiment doesn’t sound like a good thing to me.

Don’t rely on Google to connect with your audience

So, should we just give up now and go and live in the woods? No, all is not lost.

Firstly, Google is currently not that good at surfacing relevant content. Try Googling a simple question and the first 10 links are SEO-optimised blogs stuffed with affiliate links and keywords. This is a world of Google’s own creation. As AI gets better at generating this kind of ‘spam’ content, then the businesses that rely on this gaming of Google’s search algorithm will likely fail or find something else to spam. Over time, this will mean that businesses that show up consistently, genuinely and generously will rise to the top as the noise decreases.

That’s going to change some long-established business models.

However, I believe the real opportunity is elsewhere. Which is bad news for Google.

People are already moving away from Google as the place to go to find answers. They look for reliable recommendations on TikTok and Instagram. They check out YouTube.  They listen to podcasts. They increasingly ask their online communities (including WhatsApp groups) about recommendations for services or products. This is all ‘private’ and beyond the reach of Google’s crawlers and AI.

Showing up where your audience and communities are will become a far more effective way to reach the people you want to work with.

Google has held the throne for a long time but I feel like it’s time at the top is coming to an end.

But … Surely Google will realise it’s eating its own tail?

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts about this recently, and they have all made the same point.

But Google is so big that the conflict isn’t registering internally. Google has to push its own AI products to keep its share price from plummeting. It has to show that AI is being rolled out. When companies are as big as Google, only share price matters.

The decline of the very thing Google relies upon for its revenue is a dark cloud on the horizon that they’re hoping will just blow over, or only arrive when someone else is in charge.

It’s time to look beyond search for results

Relying on Google traffic to build your audience and authority is going to become increasingly difficult. But your content is still the key to finding and engaging with the people you want to work with. Diversifying where you show up and the ways you deliver that content is an effective marketing strategy that doesn’t rely on Google, or any other one platform.

If this blog has got you thinking, then I have lots more content on my blog, YouTube and podcast. I also send out a Monday marketing motivation email; you can become a subscriber to get that email each week below.