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The uncertain future for search

I’ve talked about the huge changes that are likely to be imminent in the world of search, which in turn is something everyone in marketing needs to be concerned by. Artificial intelligence is finally going to change ‘search’ into ‘get your questions answered’, but the elephant in the room is “how will this be paid for?”

Adverts as part of a list of search results works as a model. Google is likely to have made over $70,000,000,000 from ads last year. But what happens when the search results are replaced with an answer? Where do the adverts fit in? Search queries reached an all-time high just a few weeks ago, during the World Cup Final. You can guess what nearly all the searches were for.

The interesting thing is that it’s quite possible nobody knows more about AI than Google. The company is just choosing not to deploy that expertise in full yet. So the company will have the technology; but will it be able to ask itself the right questions to use that? If not, others probably will.

Non-upstart rivals

The online advertising market has been dominated for years by Alphabet (Google) and Meta (Facebook). However, their share is projected to have fallen to under 50% for the first time since 2014. The rivals are not upstarts, but Amazon, TikTok, Microsoft and Apple. In many cases, these companies have finally worked out how to get advertising revenue from something other than interrupting search or chat.

I suspect the changes in search will be gradual, even if they are significant. Google has already worked out that it can make money from having ‘featured snippets’, or it wouldn’t offer them. As Bill Gates said: “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”