The Inevitable, Impending Death of the Internet Search Engine

The Inevitable, Impending Death of the Internet Search Engine

LLMs are ushering in both opportunities and setbacks for organizations large and small.

With ChatGPT now boasting more than 100-million users a month, it’s becoming increasingly more apparent how LLMs are fundamentally changing the way we use the internet.

This reality brings up some interesting—and perplexing— questions. What happens when everyday internet users start typing their queries into their LLM of choice more often than they type it into a Google search bar? What happens to all the businesses who’ve invested in building content-marketing strategies so Google’s crawlers will find their content and point users to it? What happens to SEO?

Right now, LLMs like Claude and ChatGPT hallucinate and get things wrong enough of the time that relying on one to answer your every question isn’t something the majority of people are willing to do.

However, new AI-powered search engines like Perplexity AI have emerged, without the ads and flush with VC funding, while billions of dollars are being constantly funneled into companies like OpenAI, Anthropic, and Inflection to solve their hallucination issues.

Earlier this year, Google released Search Generative Experience, which uses AI to power searches and now offers image and text generation—a move that makes it hyper-apparent that Google is aware of the changing landscape.

But even so, one day in the probably-not-too-distant future, mainstream LLMs will be near perfect in their responses. Their monthly user counts will continue to grow. And no matter what Google does at this point, mainstream LLM adoption will have an effect on how they move forward, while provoking wide-ranging consequences for the internet.

In the past, it’s been Google who’s been driving our actions. (This Verge article called “The People Who Ruined the Internet” is a must-read.) They’d make a change to their algorithm and businesses would respond. The major difference here is that Google seems to no longer be in charge.

It’s the users this time, and the users are changing their behavior.


Does content still matter?

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that SEO in its current state is dead. Let’s assume keywords don’t matter and your content no longer positions you at the top of a search queue. Do you abandon your content strategy altogether? Does content even matter anymore?

Well, yes and no.

In an early morning Slack message with my colleague Chris Leone, CEO of Web Strategies, Inc., an SEO and inbound marketing agency headquartered in Virginia, he postulated that sites and publishers that are not creating anything unique will get wiped out, while the ones that write real, informed perspectives ripe with new thinking will be the new content LLMs are ultimately trained on.

“If you’re creating content that no one else has covered,” he wrote, “the LLMs will need to give you some form of credit, since they can’t stake claim to that info. So, anyone who creates that type of content will still have a place in this new world.”

Chris and I are in alignment on this point in the sense that what you create, what you write, still matters—in more ways than one. Whether you’re a Fortune 500 company or a small business, you have a target audience, and that target audience has questions that only you can answer. So your perspective, assuming it’s unique and substantive, is one your audience still needs to hear.

It’s also worth understanding that the benefits of writing, of creating content that answers questions and solves problems and adds value, go far beyond simply serving as fodder for an internet search engine.

I once heard someone say that you can’t think your way into writing, but you can definitely write your way into thinking. In that sense, writing is one of the most beneficial contributions you can make to your business.

Clarify your thoughts about how you meet your customers’ needs and solve their problems. Write those thoughts down. Rethink them and revise them. Then publish and share your best thinking. Ands while you’re at it, do yourself a favor and forget about SEO.

Your writing will be better for it.

Search engines may not be the avenue new customers use to find you in the future. But when they inevitably do find you, no matter how they got there, your unique knowledge and perspective will provide them incredible value.

So, keep writing and keep creating original, informed perspectives.

New thinking is more valuable now than ever before.

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