As Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to advance, it has the potential to significantly impact the visibility and ranking of websites in search results. With the ability to provide highly personalized and relevant results based on user data, AI is changing the game of online search.

But what does this mean for new online services and websites that are not well known or able to invest in referral advertising?

In this article, we will explore the future of AI referrals vs traditional search engines and how small businesses might compete in this evolving digital landscape.

Forbes has an interesting article about the future of search engines.

The Advantages of AI for Quick and Relevant Results

One of the key benefits of AI is its ability to provide quick and relevant results for each user’s search query.

By analyzing vast amounts of data, AI algorithms can understand the user’s intent and deliver the most relevant information. This not only improves the user experience but also increases the likelihood of users being referred to a website.

Additionally, AI algorithms can analyze data in real-time and provide up-to-date information, making it a more accurate and efficient search tool compared to traditional search engines.

Whose data is it anyhow?

The question of data ownership and control is at the forefront of many discussions today. Much of the data used to train AI models comes from online sources, such as social media, forums, articles, documents, and code shared on the Internet.

Companies that have accumulated vast amounts of personal data from users can use it to train AI models and develop advanced technologies.

The following article cites many sources having this discussion today.
Content creators are concerned with the new AI features in Bing and Google.

Some argue that individuals have a right to control their own data, while others believe that data is a valuable resource that companies have the right to use and profit from.

Although website owners spend a significant amount of time and money on content creation, search engines that use AI to respond to search queries may not provide any links to the actual sources from which they found the information, making it difficult for content creators to receive proper attribution.

Furthermore, search engines monetize every aspect of their platform, which compels smaller online services to pay for visibility or risk being overshadowed by larger, better-funded companies.

It would seem that advertising on certain search engines is a futile effort considering the model.

Although these sites’ data may be used for AI, smaller businesses and content creators who contributed the data may find it much harder to be discovered in a referral-based world.

As AI takes ownership of more information, it may become increasingly challenging for smaller businesses and content creators to receive proper attribution and recognition, while well-funded companies may be referred by AI.

Consequently, smaller sites’ data may be used and owned by AI, regardless of whether or not they receive the recognition they deserve.

The Risks of AI for Website Visibility

While AI has its advantages, it also comes with some risks. One major risk is the potential for bias and manipulation, especially when money is involved. Large corporations with deep pockets can pay for higher levels of referrals, putting small businesses at a disadvantage.

Additionally, AI algorithms are not foolproof and may overlook important factors or prioritize results based on popularity or ad spending, instead of relevance or quality.

This could lead to irrelevant or low-quality results, negatively impacting the user experience and slowing innovation.

How Small Businesses Can Compete in AI-Driven Referral Environment

Small and new online services will find it increasingly challenging to gain visibility and reach their target audience if people rely solely on AI referrals. However, there are still ways for small businesses to increase their visibility and compete in this changing digital landscape.

  1. Building Relationships with Influencers: By reaching out to influencers in their industry and building relationships, small businesses can increase their visibility and reach.
  2. Utilizing Referral Marketing: Encouraging satisfied customers to refer their friends and family to the service can help to increase visibility and reach.
  3. Participating in Online Communities: By participating in online communities related to their industry, small businesses can build relationships, establish themselves as reliable sources of information, and increase their visibility.
  4. Paid Advertising: While it may be difficult for small businesses to compete with larger corporations in terms of ad spending, well-executed and targeted paid advertising campaigns can still be effective in increasing visibility and reach.
  5. Providing Exceptional Customer Service: Providing exceptional customer service can help to build a positive reputation and encourage satisfied customers to spread the word about the service.

The Social Angle

Website owners will continue to require high-quality, relevant content; though engaging with users, utilizing social media, and offering a great user experience may be key to being mentioned to an AI that may file that away as a response to another user.

This is assuming this ability is not removed by developers to ensure that only paid referrals become the norm.

The impact of AI on website exposure will become increasingly significant in the near future.

Was AI Used To Write This?

Some of you reading this will wonder if I used AI to write this and the answer is yes, partly.  I initially wrote something up and then fed it to ChatGPT. I further refined it and then fed it again. I used it to help clean up redundancy and to keep this as short as possible. The article isn’t meant to provide any answers or solutions but to think about what changes are coming including for our own online service, at least in terms of this website. If the websites become useless, our only hope of survival will be word-of-mouth and AI referrals.


Mike Paradis