The popular Freakonomics podcast recently devoted a whole episode to the question, Is Google Getting Worse? If you feel the quality of your search experience has suffered, you’re not alone.
There are many things you could blame it on. Maybe Google’s monopoly power and anti-competitive behavior has disincentivized maintaining a great user experience. Or maybe it’s just too cluttered with ads—Google is, after all, the world’s top provider of search ads.
Of course, another explanation is that the Internet itself has declined in quality, perhaps as a result of its own success. The Internet is filled with clickbait and content designed to game the SEO algorithms, whether or not it is actually helpful. And as social media culture shifted toward user-generated visual content—and away from sharing third-party articles on Facebook—media brands have gone back to putting much of their content behind a paywall. Quality, free content is just harder to come by. Even the very newsletter you are reading has become more difficult to assemble over the years, as we always try to provide links to inspiring, informative content on the web.
And now a new threat has emerged that threatens to put a final nail in the search coffin. Chat-based AI tools are great at answering questions and giving advice. Where a search engine will provide a list of pages for you to continue seeking answers, a tool like ChatGPT will simply give you the answer. It’s a much more natural way to engage the hive mind that is the Internet.
Axios recently reported on the impact of AI on media engagement and writing strategies. Referring to a conversation with Dan Abrams about his site Mediaite, they wrote, “The thinking has changed from ‘find the SEO angle’ or ‘find the Facebook angle’ to ‘find the Mediaite angle, and a large, loyal audience has followed.’”
Perhaps search isn’t dying—there will always be a place for that—but it is definitely evolving and will become less dominant in how we interact with the internet. How can you navigate this change? In short, focus on building a brand that stands for something and serves more specific audiences.