Thanks to the mass adoption of Generative AI via ChatGPT, our interaction and experience with search engines are evolving beyond our current knowledge of SEO and PPC ads. As the dominant search engine, Google has introduced Search Generative Experience (SGE), which gives us a glimpse into the future of search. In this article, we look at SGE and how it will impact your website content.
What is Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE)?
SGE is part of Google’s larger experiment under Search Labs. This is where Google tests out their search functionalities. Generative AI, which is an advanced form of artificial intelligence capable of creating content, powers this innovative SGE feature. Google announced on their official blog that SGE aims to redefine search experiences, transforming users from passive information receivers to more interactive and personalised results.
Essentially, SGE uses generative AI to provide quick and concise overviews of search topics to enhance results.
Based on the example above, the generative AI snapshot is based on giving brief answers to long-tail and conversational questions instead of displaying multiple website links. This means users no longer need to navigate multiple web pages.
Does Google’s SGE mean the end of text-based search and organic website search traffic?
While eliminating website results at first glance seems enough to send marketers and business owners relying on search engine traffic into pandemonium, let’s remember that Google’s business model largely relies on ad revenue. So, SGE isn’t meant to answer your question and send you on your way. According to Google, its focus remains on driving attention to web content.
“As we bring generative AI into Search, we’re committed to continue sending valuable traffic to sites across the web.”Google
Google will place three links prominently to the right of each snapshot, with thumbnails to draw viewers’ attention. Furthermore, snapshots can be expanded to reveal the content and sources that informed each sentence of the snapshot. The benefit of such transparency is trust. Every sentence is corroborated by an outside source, which is important since we know that AI tools currently lack the reputation for accuracy.
SGE’s Conversational Mode
You can also engage in conversational mode by tapping “ask a follow-up” or one of the suggested next steps under the snapshot. The following video from Google’s Kathy Edwards demonstrated this feature live. After a basic search, Edwards followed up with a contextual search for a stuffed toy. In a standard search, Google wouldn’t have known she wanted a specific stuffed toy. But SGE’s AI understood the assignment because it covered the context from her previous searches and displayed a list of links to stores selling various stuffed toys related to her search.
If you can optimise your content to show for these types of searches, you can potentially get more qualified traffic. To achieve that, Google is prioritising high-quality online sources. According to Search Engine Land, “Google is using many signals that it had in place for decades to understand information quality.” This highlights the importance of creating content that aligns with E-A-T principles:
- Expertise: How much experience and knowledge do you have on the topic?
- Authority: Are influences who serve the same audience linking to your content because it provides value?
- Trust: Are you protecting user information, providing accurate information and being ethical?
What does Google’s Search Generative Experience mean for businesses?
Whilst SGE is still in beta and experimental mode, here are some implications of SGE for businesses:
- A new place to show ads in the generative AI snapshot, if you’re running paid ads
- Potential loss of organic traffic due to the AI snapshot filling up most of a mobile screen
- Source links may help drive some traffic, but we’re unsure how they will be ranked or how many clicks they’ll receive vs. paid ads.
- Users may rely on results neatly packaged by Google, rather than scrolling and clicking through SERPs.
- More higher intent buyers by the time they reach your site, given shopper is able to learn and refine their search before clicking.
What can you do to prepare for SGE?
- Learn and understand AI and machine learning: stay informed about AI developments in SGE and how they impact E-A-T. Understanding these technologies will empower businesses to adapt their SEO strategies effectively. You can sign up to Search Lab and be waitlisted to try out SGE.
- Create user-centric and authoritative content: prioritise creating content that addresses user needs, provide genuine value and establishes your authority in the industry.
- Publish your content on well-known authority sites: repackage and syndicate your content across sites such as Reddit and YouTube with the aim of answering questions related to your industry
- Adaptability and continuous learning: stay up to date based on the latest developments in SEO, Google and AI.
As we move forward, AI will play a significant role in shaping the future of search. As a user or content creator, it can be frustrating to feel like you’re always trying to keep up with the ever-changing algorithms of search engines. However, from what is visible now, Google SGE still feels very much like Google search and does a better job of linking to websites. As a business, it’s important to prepare for this transition by understanding our target audience and what kind of content they are likely to search for, such as long-tail keywords. By targeting our content towards these buyers, we can stay ahead of the game.
Note: as of this article’s publication date in January 2024, Google SGE is still in the experimental stage. Information published in this article may not reflect the actual search experience when the SGE is fully launched.