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Is Google’s AI Search A Publisher's Traffic-Destroying Nightmare?

Google is testing AI-generated summaries to search queries on roughly 10 million users. And news publishers who rely on Google for traffic are watching a storm gathering.


Since May, Google has been testing the AI product Search Generative Experience (Google SGE) on roughly 10 million users and the intention is clear: To "supercharge" its core search engine to be able to generate summaries of news articles and answer questions about them. But where does that leave publishers who rely on Google Search to get their content to readers and viewers?


"A task force at the Atlantic modelled what could happen if Google integrated AI into search. It found that 75% of the time, the AI-powered search would likely provide a full answer to a user’s query and the Atlantic’s site would miss out on traffic it otherwise would have gotten."


Catastrophic Drop In Traffic


It's reported by The Wall Street Journal and elaborated on in the podcast WSJ Tech News Briefing that publishers fear they could lose between 20% and 40% of their Google-generated traffic if the generative AI search tool is rolled out widely. No wonder they're concerned! It could have a devastating impact on their businesses.


In addition to concerns about traffic and revenue, news publishers are also concerned about the quality of the information that is generated by the AI tool. They worry that the tool could provide inaccurate or misleading information, which could damage the reputation of news organizations and weaken public trust in journalism.


A Lot More Google, A Lot Less Source


Publishers, who rely on link-forward Google searches for web traffic, certainly push back on this powerful technology that has the potential to disrupt the way we/their customers consume news and advertising. But news publishers can't just block Google and find other pastures, their content must be fed into the search results, or they don't get traffic to the source.


Google says that it is committed to working with news publishers to address their concerns:

  • Google ensures that the AI search tool will accurately reflect the original content of news

  • Google will provide publishers with the tools they need to monitor and manage the tool's impact on their traffic


And news publishers will have to actively take part in finding a solution to the ownership of content versus the ownership of showing that content.


Search only works if there's content to search. Content is only shown if there's a reliable search engine. The two-way street is as ever quite the balance act!


Please reach out to us anytime for a talk about your concerns on what Google SGE could and will mean to your business.

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