Publishers need to wake up to the truth about Google traffic

Google-Extended does not stop Google Search Generative Experience from using your site’s content (

Google explained that SGE is part of the Google Search experience; it is a search feature and thus it should work as how normal search directives work. “The context is that AI is built into Search, not bolted on, and integral to how Search functions, which is why robots.txt is the control to give web publishers the option to manage access to how their sites are crawled,” Google told us.

I’ve been using both Bard and Bing CoPilot a lot lately and the direction is clear: while AI-driven search will link to original sources as references, they are not going to send much traffic your way. The aim is to provide the answer to any query on the results page, not one more click away.

This has massive implications for publisher traffic, particular for reviews and answers pages which I think are most vulnerable to AI-driven answers. I’ve been using CoPilot for purchasing research and it’s great. I can start by asking it for, say, laptops under £1000 with good battery life. I can then have a conversation to interrogate more about each product. It’s a superior experience to any web page I have ever used for that kind of product research.

Is it 100% accurate? No – but neither are a lot of reviews, particularly the kind of “best laptop for…” top tens that are written to hit the top of product searches on Google.

But it’s not just affiliate: search provides between 40-80% of publisher site traffic. And we have already seen Facebook traffic, the other biggest referrer, die off.

Publishers can no longer rely on Facebook and Google for the bulk of their traffic. The time has past when content strategies should focus on them. Instead, they need to focus on getting a loyal audience which they have direct relationships with. The SEO era is coming to an end, at least for large chunks of traffic.

Ian Betteridge @ianbetteridge