ChatGPT may very well end Google, based on a 40% traffic drop worldwide.
We’ve heard a lot of chatter lately in the SEO and content creation world, that ChatGPT will take our jobs. Many of us argue that ChatGPT “isn’t quite there yet,” but based on something I saw yesterday, those arguments may be missing the point.
Here’s what I mean:
Lately when I check traffic data in SEMRush, I’ve noticed a worrying 30%-40% drop in traffic for a few of my clients, starting in March.
40% Traffic Drop in Many Websites
I checked a few non-clients too, to see if this is an industry-wide trend, and it looks like it is. Here’s the monthly traffic for a highly successful resume site I used to write for many years ago:
Google Lost 1.8 Billion Monthly Visits — A 40% Drop
Then I wondered if SEMRush could show me data for Google as a whole. I’ve never tried it before, but I did now, and it seemed to work. Here’s what I saw:
If I’m reading that graph correctly, Google’s traffic as a whole dropped by 40% in March, and it has not recovered.
If that’s correct, then Google lost about 2 billion searches per month, starting in March.
ChatGPT Gained 1.8 Billion Monthly Visits
I was curious whether this might be just an aberration in the data, or if something might be driving it — such as a sea change in the way people use the internet. For example, people might be switching en masse from using Google to ChatGPT. So, I did a Google search of ChatGPT visits per month. The result? 1.8 billion. That corresponds exactly to the number of visits per month that Google lost.
What this suggests to me is that about 40% of us recently decided that Googling is a thing of the past. It seems to say that when we want to find out anything — from how to get more deep sleep to what that worrying rash is on our left forearm — we shouldn’t go to Google and wade through several articles to find our answer. We should instead ask ChatGPT.
Have you tried it? It’s convenient and quick. It gives you a straightforward answer. If you don’t understand, you can ask for more detail, just on the points you’d like to clarify. It’s kind of like having an all-knowing friend.
ChatGPT Is Flawed — And That May Not Matter
I’ve heard the criticisms against ChatGPT. It’s just a tool. It can’t think. It can’t vet sources to ensure accuracy. Its writing is stilted and unoriginal.
But, if what I’m seeing is accurate, those criticisms may be irrelevant. Marketing, after all, is a game of eyeballs. And if Google can no longer deliver the eyeballs, then the critics of ChatGPT may be barking in the wind.
Commercial Topics Still Performing
One ray of sunshine for Google (and for everyone who makes their living by it) — commercial topics seem to be continuing to perform. When I look at product sales sites where people go to buy things, those kinds of clients still seem to be doing well. For instance, here’s a bedding client’s monthly traffic:
This makes sense, since if you search for “Where’s the best place to buy high-quality bedsheets,” Google will give you a straightforward answer that points you to a shopping site. If you ask ChatGPT, you get vague, unhelpful recommendations.
So — that might mean that bottom-of-funnel topics will still work well for content strategy (Where can I buy a Sony mirrorless camera) but top-of-funnel topics may not (How can I shoot better bokeh photographs?)
What does this mean for SEOs, content creators, and writers? Is Google coming to an end?
It may be. In any case, this is a wakeup call that we may need to rethink how we attract the eyeballs needed for a successful marketing campaign.
But it may just be an aberration in the data. Only time will tell, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.