AI Chatbots and Other Virtual Agents Will Drive Search Engine Volume Down 25% by 2026 Predicts Gartner

Such a drop could bring about a major shift in search engine marketing strategies by brands.

AI Chatbots and Other Virtual Agents Will Drive Search Engine Volume Down 25% by 2026 Predicts Gartner

Such a drop could bring about a major shift in search engine marketing strategies by brands.

A new report from Gartner is predicting that by 2026 traditional search engine volume will drop 25% as AI chatbots and other virtual agents cut into its long-held market share.

“Organic and paid search are vital channels for tech marketers seeking to reach awareness and demand generation goals,” said Alan Antin, Vice President Analyst at Gartner.

“Generative AI (GenAI) solutions are becoming substitute answer engines, replacing user queries that previously may have been executed in traditional search engines. This will force companies to rethink their marketing channels strategy as GenAI becomes more embedded across all aspects of the enterprise.”


 

Gartner added that quality and authenticity will be focal points as virtual agents replace traditional search. And, as GenAI drives down the cost of producing content, there is an impact on activities including keyword strategy and website domain authority scoring.

“This will force companies to rethink their marketing channels strategy as GenAI becomes more embedded across all aspects of the enterprise.”

“Search engine algorithms will further value the quality of content to offset the sheer amount of AI-generated content, as content utility and quality still reigns supreme for success in organic search results,” Gartner said in a release.

There will also be a greater emphasis placed on watermarking and other means to authenticate high-value content with government regulations are already holding companies accountable as they begin to require the marketing content assets created by AI to be identified. This will likely play a role in how search engines will display such digital content.


 

“Companies will need to focus on producing unique content that is useful to customers and prospective customers,” said Antin.

“Content should continue to demonstrate search quality-rater elements such as expertise, experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.”

Writing in Search Engine Land, Danny Goodwin says we should approach the prediction carefully.

“It may turn out that Gartner is right – we’ll know for sure in 2026,” writes Goodwin, adding, “But I highly suggest reading Gartner predictions in the same way you should read a ranking factor correlation study published by an SEO tool/platform. It’s entertaining, perhaps informative or even useful directionally, but not unimpeachable.”


Image by Ott Maidre.

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