Will Search Engines Lose 25% of Traffic by 2026?

Will Search Engines Lose 25% of Traffic by 2026?

Gartner predicts that instead of Google Search, people will turn to generative AI tools like ChatGPT and Claude for answers.

Will search engine traffic to your website reduce by 25% by 2026 as generative AI answer engines gain traction? This is what Gartner, a technology research and consulting group, predicts.

Why we care. SEO and PPC are quite significant. Search traffic may generate money and profit (whether it is converted into leads, sales, or any other sort of conversion that is important to your company).

The emergence of generative AI has sparked valid fears that Google’s Search Generative Experience (and other AI-powered answer engines) may “steal” traffic that would have previously gone to your website or drastically increase advertising expenses. Many people feel that ChatGPT is already taking market share from Google.

The Prediction. Gartner predicts that consumers will choose generational AI conversational assistants (e.g., ChatGPT, Claude) over traditional search engines (e.g., Google). If accurate, this would represent a significant shift in both paid and organic search marketing techniques. Gartner expects:

By 2026, traditional search engine volume will be 25% lower, with search marketing losing market share to AI chatbots and other virtual agents.”

But. A forecast (this one was issued in a press release today and is based on extensive research that needs a subscription) is simply a guess. Gartner’s projections are often well-informed, yet they remain the best estimates.

Respected analyst businesses are rarely called out when they make mistakes since individuals rarely double-check. For example, Gartner recently predicted that 50% of customers will limit or give up social media by 2025, but then backed off a bit.

A forecast for 2028. Gartner has earlier forecast that “organic search traffic will decrease by 50% or more as consumers embrace generative AI-powered search.” This was based in part on data from a poll (of 299 customers in August 2023), which found:

  • 79% of respondents planned to use AI-enhanced search within the next year.
  • 70% of customers trusted generative AI search results.

For that forecast, Gartner urged brands to be ready for disruption due to AI-based search.

  • “Marketing leaders whose brands rely on SEO should consider allocating resources to testing other channels to diversify,” stated Emily Weiss, senior principal researcher at Gartner.

This is not guaranteed. Gartner may be correct; we’ll find out for sure in 2026. However, I strongly advise reading Gartner projections in the same manner you would read a ranking factor correlation research produced by an SEO tool/platform. It’s amusing, maybe educational, and even beneficial in a directed sense, but it’s not flawless.

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