Recently, Microsoft announced plans to integrate its AI chatbot, ChatGPT into the Bing search engine. Similarly, Google announced plans to use its chatbot, Bard within the Google search engine in 2023. These steps mark the beginning of a seismic shift in marketing and advertising tactics within the paid search space.
Chatbots allow users to ask more complex questions than a standard internet search. Instead of searching for, “best Orlando hotels for kids,” a user could ask, “What are the best hotels with a pool in Orlando for a family with three children under the age of ten, and availability on April 10th-15th?” This ability to perform highly-specified queries could increase the number of “clickless searches,” or searches that do not result in a website visit. Users would find the information they need without visiting a website through either paid or organic search results. With clickless searches, the information a user requests appear above the search results in a separate box, in many cases eliminating the need for them to click into a website to find additional information.
The implementation of chatbots within search engines could decrease the relevance and effectiveness of paid search advertisements as users bypass traditional search results altogether in favor of curated recommendations that fit their specific needs. Microsoft has indicated that search results through ChatGPT could include advertiser links at the bottom of the AI-generated response. This would allow advertisers to continue paid search efforts, but with updated tactics to improve performance for AI-based queries. However, some experts believe integrating ads in AI-assisted searches would decrease the accuracy of the results, negating one of the most significant user benefits of AI searches.
Regardless of the potential advertising opportunities with AI-assisted search, advertisers will need to adjust their strategies to maintain relevance with their target audiences. Chatbot-generated searches will still obtain answers from content found on the internet. To make information easily discoverable for chatbot searches, sites will need to have highly relevant, crawlable content. This will likely switch the emphasis from pay-to-play search ads back to high-quality native content. Being an authority in your space, ensuring your product has a strong positive perception, and strategic PR and SEO efforts will be more important than the size of your paid search ad budget.
Brands can take steps to prepare their website for AI-assisted searches by reinforcing their existing content. Adding blog posts, white papers, and keyword-heavy landing pages will help their search rankings for both AI-assisted and standard searches. Creating quality content that engages viewers will also boost sites’ search rankings by making them appear popular, credible, and relevant. In the fight for top search rankings, quality content will win out over quantity. Brands should also explore opportunities to incorporate more specific keyword phrases on landing pages and other parts of their website that will help them appear in the more tailored queries that will be typical of AI-assisted searches.
With a de-emphasis on paid search ads, other advertising tactics will become more popular as advertisers seek alternate ways to connect with audiences. CTV ads and other upper-funnel advertisements offer opportunities to generate brand and product awareness. Both CTV and social media ads will allow advertisers to target specific demographics, making conversions more likely. The specificity of targeting that these types of ads provide allows brands to create campaigns for each part of the marketing funnel using the same channel. Remarketing tactics are likely to become a larger part of advertisers’ strategies as they look for ways to generate conversions after audiences are exposed to their products through custom AI search recommendations. Display ads and targeted social media ads will continue to provide benefits for brands who use them to support their upper funnel tactics. Brands should also take this opportunity to improve their campaign analytics across the board to ensure they are investing in the best channels and tactics for their audiences.
AI-assisted search could generate a massive change in the digital advertising landscape. With paid search ads potentially losing relevance, advertisers will need to adapt their strategies to focus on high-quality website content, upper-funnel advertising efforts, and targeted advertising to specific audiences. With foresight and a willingness to flex ad strategies to utilize new technology, advertisers and brands can meet this new phase of digital advertising with confidence.