Nikhil Lai, Senior Analyst

Show Notes:

The fundamentals of search haven’t changed since the 1990s. Query goes in; list of related web pages comes out. But generative AI (genAI) is about to change that. In this episode of What It Means, Senior Analyst Nikhil Lai discusses the future of search and why Google will become the next Google.

Conversational search is coming fast. No longer will users passively sift through search engine results pages (SERPs) looking for the information they want. Instead, they’ll pose natural language questions to an AI model and ask follow-up questions. This, of course, leaves search marketers with a big follow-up question of their own: What about the clicks?

Clicks are the primary way that search marketers measure both paid and organic success. In the future, metrics will shift toward impressions. Organic search success will be defined as frequent appearance in AI-assisted conversations. Outdoor apparel companies will compete to be Google’s chosen answer for conversational queries such as “What gear do I need for a visit to Mount Zion in April?” rather than more opaque queries like “60-degree hiking gear.” For top-of-the-funnel campaigns, a no-click search will no longer be a failure.

As genAI has sent shockwaves through the business world, many have been quick to declare content dead in the water. But great content will only become more critical in a conversational world. As Lai explains, Google’s new automated bidding and ad creation tools will tie the quality of your paid ads to the quality of your website’s content. This doesn’t mean that content won’t need to change — it needs to become more customer-centric. Lai gives the example of “preowned” versus “used” cars: Which term do your customers use in casual conversation? Content will need to mirror customers’ language to succeed.

Listen to the full episode for Lai’s insights from conversations with Google product managers, including the AI technology that they’ve been waiting years to reveal. Plus, learn how challengers such as Bing still face an uphill (but not impossible) battle in their quest to dethrone Google from its dominant position.