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How to Prepare for a Potential 25% Dip in Search Engine Traffic by 2026

Gartner’s latest report may not have crossed your radar just yet, but you should know what they are predicting and how it could impact the digital industry, particularly search.  

Predictions from the Report  

The research firm, Gartner is predicting a shift in search engines. By 2026, traditional search engine traffic is forecasted to decline by 25%. 

The report laid out that this will be because of the rising influence of AI chatbots and virtual agents. Essentially, Generative AI (GenAI) chatbots from Google, Microsoft, and OpenAI, etc. will be taking over a huge chunk of the search engine market.    

Alan Antin, Vice President Analyst at Gartner, shared, “Organic and paid search are vital channels for tech marketers seeking to reach awareness and demand generation goals.” He further explained how “GenAI has become a substitute answer engine. GenAI already has and will continue to replace user queries that previously may have been made in traditional search engines.” 

3 Key Strategies for Adaptation  

How do marketers and advertisers alike adapt to these upcoming changes? The key may lie in three strategies:  

1. Quality & Authenticity

“With virtual agents and AI replacing traditional search engines, you should first focus on prioritizing the quality of your content. Second, bring authenticity to what you’re conveying. In a sea of AI-generated content, prioritize your value and authenticity to rise among the pack,” 

– Sarah Kernan, Director of Paid Search, Chacka Marketing 

2. Evolving Keyword Strategy: 

Now is the time to rethink your keyword strategy to align with AI chatbots’ growing influence. Start to focus on creating unique, customer-centric content. This should reflect your expertise and credibility to maintain visibility in organic search results.  

3. Regulatory Compliance:

The report also shared that government regulations are tightening scrutiny of AI-generated content. Companies will need to act with more transparency and accountability. How so? The report laid out this could include taking additional steps like watermarking and authentication —both could be key for verifying high-value content. 

Bonus Strategy 

In a discussion with Aubree Rose, Chacka’s Sr. Director of Paid Search, she shared the importance of finding opportunities beyond Google or traditional search engines. She said that, 

“While diversification isn’t a new concept, businesses should consider expanding to platforms like TikTok, which has its own search engine functionality, along with YouTube and Meta, to maintain visibility where the audience resides.” 

– Aubree Rose, Sr. Director of Paid Search, Chacka Marketing 

As search engines evolve, it’s important for companies to adapt and engage with customers across digital channels to remain competitive. 

Prepare for 2026 & Beyond  

The future of search engine marketing is quickly evolving. In the last year, AI disrupted traditional search engine dynamics —and it will only continue to grow. Stay ahead of the competition by prioritizing content quality, being authentic, and evolving with the industry. Now is the time to embrace new technologies and lean into the changes to grow in an evolving landscape.   

Need help with adjusting your strategy to meet the upcoming changes? Our team of experts are happy to help! Contact us today to get started. 

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