How will Bing’s AI chat challenge search advertising?

THE FEAR: Will AI make old search engine optimization tactics obsolete and destroy traffic? If consumers get all their answers from an AI chatbot, the publishers could get nothing.

“An AI that can endlessly articulate anything you wish to know about a given subject, over time, will lead people to use the open web less,” said Andrew Casale, president and CEO of Index Exchange.

HOW DOES THE SEARCH WORK: Instead of a prominent link atop a search results page, links are inserted into citations within the AI chat responses. In one example, a person could ask Bing about big tech layoffs, and the chat cites the websites from which it gathers the information. In the citation, which is a numbered footnote, links are embedded and there is room for a sponsored link.

Sponsored images also appear in, say, a chat query about 4K TVs, which displays the ads in a carousel below the chat. In many ways, the ads look like traditional sponsored content, but it remains to be seen how often chat users will click on those links. Search ad specialists are worried about how the click-through rates, the number of times a person reads the citation or visits a site, compare to old-fashioned search.

According to Reuters, Microsoft is already talking with major ad agencies about the potential for AI in advertising products.

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