Would You Pay a Search Engine Subscription Fee?

Would You Pay a Search Engine Subscription Fee?

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Would you pay a search engine subscription fee?  In 2023, we are witnessing a sea change where artificial intelligence (AI) may impact search and pay-per-click (PPC) even more  than the transformative dawning that the social media age had on our ability to communicate and share. But how could this massive shift impact advertisers, marketers, and your business?

NeevaAI (Neeva) the New Search Engine Subscription Fee Business Model

Here is an example of a new challenger to Google. NeevaAI is a new ai search engine that is beginning to get traction (2MM users). Although that’s a tiny user base, they are consistently growing.

Neeva’s business model is based on user paid subscriptions rather than PPC ad revenues.  

Neeva’s Membership Plans

Free Basic

The Free Basic plan is free but that is temporary and characterized as a “limited trial period.” According to Neeva, the Free Basic membership is being offered to help showcase the search engine while driving adoption.  Unfortunately, all Free Basic memberships eventually change to a pay-to-play subscription model.  

Premium Membership

Premium Membership, search engine subscription fee, is where all members end up if they decide to continue once the free trial is over. The Free Basic plan then converts to NeevaAI’s Premium subscription which costs $4.95 per month.

Benefits of Subscribing

*According to Neeva, they provide a better search experience.
*Advertisement free, no ads in their SERPs.
*Private and customizable.
*Connectivity to Gmail, Microsoft Office, Dropbox.
*Set shopping preferences.
*Search from multiple devices. 

Two Facts in Favor of Google and Free Search

  1. Neeva requires every user to eventually pony up $50+ per year. Once people have received something of great value, free search via Google or Bing, I don’t see users immediately clamoring to pay $50 per year.
  2. In comparison to Google, Neeva’s database is decades behind and the ramping up period would give Google enough time to counter with an AI feature rich version of their current search. In essence, Google could overtake these start-ups and keep the revenue focus, business model of search engines – PPC ad revenues.

How Could AI Driven Free Search Models Affect You?

If a massive number of search engine users decide they are willing to pay subscription fees how would that impact your business, advertisers, and marketers?

Business Owners

If consumers decide to pay subscription fees to search engines to do the most basic searches, they will rightfully expect advertisement free (no PPC ads) search results. They will also expect privacy controls and the promise of no tracking of their online behavior. Is that enough for you to pay a search engine subscription fee?

Why this could be very tough on your business. If your business relies on driving people to your website through PPC ads, your business could lose a major lead generation channel. And if you’re in an ultra-competitive organic search environment, your competitors may populate the top 10 positions search engine results pages (SERPs) for your most coveted keywords.

After analyzing “4 million Google search results, just 0.63% of people click on the second page of Google search results.”Backlinko 2022

If your business has very little organic search ranking and the search engine consumers are using to search for your products or services don’t allow PPC ads, you could lose a substantial lead generation and revenue stream for your business.


“An estimated 616 billion U.S. dollars were projected to be spent on digital advertising worldwide in 2022, and this figure is forecast to increase at a rapid pace in the upcoming years. According to the latest projections, global digital advertising revenue will surpass one trillion billion U.S. dollars by 2027” –Statista (Online platform specializing in market and consumer data)

Yet there are other ad experts who forecast a downturn in ad spend and decline in demand in 2023. If subscription search engines catch on and begin to supplant Google’s dominance, advertisers could suffer a substantial decline in lost revenues – lost to a consumer shift in behavior.


Often asked to do the nearly impossible, digital marketers are faced with lead generation and conversion challenges if consumer habits shift to subscription search engines. If the pay-per-click channel dissolves, then one of the most successful lead generation revenue-driving channels would go away.

If that ever happened, then organic search rankings, and thus SEO, would take on massive importance.

Caveat to the Search Engine Subscription Fee Model

Five reasons a full-on shift away from free search engine models would be difficult.

1. Most people don’t want to pay for something of great value, like Google search, that they have always gotten for free.

2. Consumers are creatures of habit. If something is working, they often will stick with that something even if something different is being offered.

3. Google’s track record of returning the most relevant answers to search queries is their strength and getting better with the new algorithm changes.  Google will continue to provide the best most relevant answers for consumers based on nearly 25 years of experience and data going back to 1998.

4. Google has dominated the search engine industry. As the first and biggest force behind organizing the Internet’s information, Google has name recognition rivaling and going beyond the greatest companies on the planet. Brand recognition is very powerful when keeping an audience.

5. Google’s financial power and assets give them the upper hand against their subscription-based competition.  

Consumers: What Do You Want?

What do you want from your search engine? I want the best, most relevant, up to date, accurate answers to my questions. But that’s just me. If you want privacy control and a search experience without ads, then you will have some choices available. Where do you stand? Pay to search or free as it ever was? Image via Jonathan Borba unsplash.

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