Photo courtesy of LinkedIn

For years, Google has been the first place people think of when they search for something. However, the rise of Generative artificial intelligence (AI) and TikTok have threatened that dominance by being top options for search.

A New Contender for Search Supremacy: TikTok

Google is undoubtedly the app of choice for millennials and older internet users when looking for a business or brand, whereas TikTok or Instagram is the solution for the younger demographic.

Last summer at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference, Prabhakar Raghavan, senior vice president of Google, recognized that younger generations are turning to TikTok and Instagram for more immersive ways than we’ve been accustomed to in the past.

“Last year, the big threat to Google was Amazon, and now with the rise of TikTok, we know that younger generations are starting many of their searches there or on YouTube Shorts,” said Lily Ray, senior director of SEO and head of organic research at Amsive Digital.

More specifically, Gen Z internet users have turned to TikTok for information pertaining to experiences such as places to eat or places to vacation and how to go about the booking process.

According to Ray, the social media platform is becoming preferred to Google because, unlike search engine results, users know who is behind the information presented on TikTok making it more trustworthy.

“I feel like I am getting a more personal experience. I can see people’s true reactions to things,” Jared Smith, a USC student, said during a survey conducted by Annenberg Media.

In a simple test of searching “Places to eat” performed by a Social Chain Agency, Google was shown to display a list of links to companies who either have the financial capacity to adopt an effective SEO strategy, have a sizable ad budget, or both.

This showed that Google does not put the interests of the user first. TikTok on the other hand is made to provide people with material that is very relevant. Additionally, the results are narrative-driven, concise, and presented in an accessible and comprehensive format.

The gap between Google and other search engines is massive, as the data below shows, but it could be new players such as TikTok that are the threat:

Find more statistics at Statista

To meet the upcoming consumer search needs, Google announced Perspectives, a search filter designed to highlight both long and short videos, photos, and written posts from across the web in May.

Ray also pointed out that the change in search preferences among consumers is an important point for brand marketers to note in order to reach their target audience.

Moreover, with regard to targeting consumers, marketers are no longer only banking on paid search to get their ads seen by consumers. Instead, advertisers are expanding their targeting by adding more audience-based data to their keyword bidding such as consumers interested in a specific product.

This creates a more personalized approach to search advertising which is becoming useful as third-party cookies are phased out and additional privacy laws are put into place.

Not Just TikTok – Generative AI Challenges Google’s Search Dominance Too

Photo courtesy of Tinuiti

Another technology disrupting the search space is generative AI. Since its mainstream debut through ChatGPT, the technology has also been a significant competitor to Google search.

For a similar search query, ChatGPT usually provides users with more relevant and summarized answers to their questions. The information is also more comprehensive and time-saving since users do not have to peruse several links.

As a way to compete with these capabilities and retain their market share, companies with search engines such as Microsoft have resulted to integrating AI capabilities into search products, for instance, Bing is now powered by OpenAI’s GPT-4.

Google also launched the Search Generative Experience(SGE) which combines search engine results with ChatGPT-like results providing users with the best of both worlds. However, the SGE is yet to reach ChatGPT’s level of providing answers both speed-wise and in terms of relevance.

Beyond threatening Google’s place in the search sector, AI is also going after the tech giant’s stellar advertising dominance. As more users rely on other search options, Google loses more advertising income which is the main benefit the company reaps from dominating the search industry.

It is yet to be determined how much AI will revolutionize search as we know it since the technology is fairly new. What is certain however is that the search industry will never be the same again.

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