I've been looking for a case to illustrate what I think will be the end of Google Search as we know it. I found it in a Twitter thread by Nate Hake @natejhake who publishes the travelblog TravelLemming. Here's what happened in May 2023 to the visibility of five travel blogs after a Google search system update, as posted by Lily Ray on Twitter:

Visibility index for five travel blogs on Google search

In 2022 Google sold link clicks for $54.4 billion. When you click a sponsored link, Google makes money. When you click an organic link, a search result from a blog, Google does not make any money. No surprise, sponsored links are presented at the top of the page.

  • Google Search attracts users by providing relevant high-quality search results. Reviews, travel tips, personal finance, communities, news. Content Quality is the number one Ranking Factor for content creators.
  • These 'quality search results' are produced by humans. Humans who make money from visitors on their site: affiliate, subscriptions, selling products, sponsorships, and ads - on their site.
  • Google Search makes money from clicks on sponsored links in search results, Google Ads. They do not make money from forwarding traffic to sites with 'Quality content'.
  • To generate more revenue Google Search is making users spend more time on the SERP, Search Engine Result Page, to increase the likelihood of a paid link click.
  • By presenting AI-summarized 'Quality Content' they keep visitors on the SERP and remove the incentive to click through to the site.
  • Google makes $54.4 billion. Content creators, nothing.
    Google is competing directly with creators.

This technology called SGE Search Generative Experience can be tested in the Google Search Labs.

A real life example

Here's how this plays out in real life...

  • I google "things to do in Denver".
  • In Google's search results I find "rich results" with headlines and images from Travel Lemming's blog on what to do in Denver. Great!
  • I click the results and is presented with a summary, a larger image, and a link to Travel Lemming's post on the Botanical Gardens in Denver - all on the SERP Search results page.
  • The excerpt and image is enough info, Travel Lemmings seems to provide solid family-friendly guidance. I don't have to click through to the travel blog, I write down 'Visit botanical garden' on my list on what to do when I'm in Denver.

I stay on Google's search result page (the 'SERP') which kills any potential revenue for the creator. Google does not compensate creators for their work.

Nate Hake writes..

It sure feels like it's the intention of Google to reduce click outs to creators. It seems like the company can't grow market share anymore, so it's turned to squeezing everything it can out of SERPs by keeping searchers on Google.

The end of quality content?

Google's number one ranking factor is Quality Content, rewarding creators with page one search results. These results are then presented in a AI generated 'rich view' which prevents clicking through to the source.

The sponsored links do not have any quality requirements or verification, they are pay-and-play. Integrating AI into search leads to a significant decrease in website traffic for publications that rely on Google searches, the AI-generated summaries provide users with enough information without requiring them to visit the source.

Soon, no need to Google

LLM assistants will be everywhere, integrated into apps and platforms, providing the answers we previously googled for. Rihard Jarc wrote about this in a tweet

Search is over 50% of google's revenue, and it is becoming increasingly apparent to me that sLLMs, when combined with the proper UI and flow, are a better solution to solving the core problem that Google Search addresses, which is answering a question.
The other issue that is becoming clearer is that we will soon have LLM assistants who can answer different questions in many touch-points we didn't have before. So, solutions for solving the problem of answering a question become accessible at almost every step.
Example: Microsoft Office and other products, WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, Amazon, Apple Siri, not to mention a variety of startup products and apps, both on apps and platforms as well as hardware products. With it, the need for you to go "Google" something becomes smaller.

What to do as a content creator?

Google could share revenue with creators. With a 95% market share they have little to no incentive to do that. As a creator you have to find other strategies...

Brand your images!

Use automated services like Placid or Bannerbear to brand your images. With Placid, social media posters are created instantly when publishing. Images in Search results promote your site, strengthens your brand, and drive traffic.

Paywall your content

Put some of your content behind paywalls for registered or paying subscribers. Allow some of your content to be indexed and served by Google, lock down unique and valuable content. Experiment with 'leaky paywalls' offering a number of free articles and other strategies.

Build a mailing list

Have visitors sign up for your own e-mail list. Ghost does this really well, integrating blog posts, subscriptions, paywall and mailing list.

Become a brand - use all available channels

Don't rely on Google Search as your only traffic source - use subscriber e-mail lists, share reciprocal links with other sites, and share content on social media channels. Do not build your community or base you revenue model on a single platform that you do not control, Ryan Frahm tweeted...

There are other options...

Here's Perplexity AI search for Things to do in Denver - with the sources for the result listed and clickable. The summary creates an incentive to click through; some things in the summary catches my eye - I click through for more details. Perplexity AI has a subscription model, they do not make money from link clicks.

Follow the developments...

Read the full Twitter Thread for more comments and perspectives. Danny Sullivan is the Google Search Liaison, on Twitter at @searchliason and has profile on BlueSky...

Google’s Search Liaison (@searchliaison.bsky.social)
Official posts from the Google public liaison of search, @dannysullivan.bsky.social, sharing insights on how Google Search works.

Cover image by Pascal Claivaz