The future of search and what it means for your brand

andrew_frank_newThe future of search is changing rapidly: Gartner predicts that by 2028, some brands will see their organic site traffic decrease by 50% or more as consumers embrace GenAI-powered search. Not enough marketers today are taking this decline seriously.

While search traffic as we know it isn’t going to completely disappear tomorrow, there are three things marketers can do today to be successful in the new search landscape. Firstly, better understand how search technology and consumer preferences for search are changing; secondly, learn how to adapt their brand’s strategy for GenAI; and, thirdly, diversify channel investments beyond search.

How search is changing
Search engines are embracing AI. Last summer Google began testing Google SGE (Search Generative Experience) which includes generative AI powered search features. Gartner research shows that consumers are ready to embrace AI search, with 79% indicating that they’ll use it within the next year.

SGE provides a GenAI-powered snapshot summary of an answer to a natural language question prompt, replacing the keyword-based list of links. It also gives users the ability to ask follow up questions and suggests questions related to the original query so users can dive deeper into the subject.

Adapting brand strategy for GenAI
Brands confronting the new search landscape can adapt for GenAI by anticipating natural language queries, organising their content repository to address them and creating high-quality branded content that Google and others can cite as authoritative resources.

Marketing leaders can start optimising site content by curating their company’s own internal documents to ensure content teams can leverage it to create high-quality content for public GenAI chatbots. Companies that organise data in a single repository will get a headstart over others. High quality content has been an SEO best practice for years but now it’s becoming even more important for GenAI search.

Brands relying on search must diversify their approach
Marketing leaders and their teams need to take a hands-on approach to the future of search. To ensure their business isn’t overly reliant on search, leaders must diversify budgets and channel strategy.

Businesses also need to prepare for rising paid search costs and declining organic search traffic and look to start capturing social search traffic with tactics like videos on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. Overall, leaders must experiment with channels beyond traditional search like social advertising and streaming platforms to stay competitive in this new age of search.

Marketers must take action today
CMOs must prepare their budgets and team for the many different possible futures of search. They must start by exploring how their brand appears across the latest GenAI, social and retail tools. Then, they should audit internal and external search terms and begin optimising content for natural language search queries and develop a branded content plan.

In the next year, marketing leaders must begin budgeting for increased paid search costs, allocate time and money to experiment with other channels and formats like social videos featuring influencers and experts that answer natural language queries.

Andrew Frank, distinguished VP Analyst, Gartner Marketing Practice, is presenting at the Gartner Marketing Symposium/Xpo, taking place this week in London and 3rd-5th June in Denver, Colorado

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