- AI influence. SGE’s AI-powered summaries may reduce user interactions with organic and sponsored links.
- Content importance. In the era of generative AI, unique, authoritative content will be even more crucial.
- SEO adjustment. Brands may need to revamp their SEO strategies to cater to SGE’s AI-driven search format.
The Google Search Generative Experience (SGE) is a new set of search features that incorporate results powered by generative AI into responses from Google’s search engine queries. Every iteration of Google’s search engine algorithms affects SEO, brand strategy and user search behaviors, and the addition of generative AI into search is likely to be equally disruptive.
SGE search results include an AI-generated summary area, with images to the right, and links to more information below. Below the summary are sponsored links, then organic links, the Featured Snippet, and finally, the People Also Ask dropdowns. This article will look at the way SGE affects the search engine results page, and how it may impact SEO, marketing, advertising and ROI.
What Does SGE Actually Do?
Essentially, SGE enhances the search process by using generative AI to enrich search queries with additional context and information. By enabling a deeper understanding of topics, revealing fresh perspectives and simplifying the process, SGE is able to improve the search experience for the end user. That said, it remains to be seen if search engine users will appreciate a generative AI-driven summarization.
Note: SGE was initially rolled out to testers last week, and those who wish to work with it can now sign up (though you may be denied).
Erez Lotan, VP of research and development at Skai, an omnichannel marketing platform provider, told CMSWire that generative AI will ultimately change how we interact with computers and the internet — we’re only witnessing the seeds of it, and no one can really tell where and how it will end.
“The evolution of ads into conversational search is still in its early days and looks a lot like normal search, but one can imagine that the shift into conversational search would eventually result in higher levels of context and personalization of results,” said Lotan. “It is probable that targeting capabilities would increase as we will use not only the specific search term and keywords but an entire conversation as a context.” Lotan believes that in such cases, we might also have sentiment analysis or other indications of the strength of the intent.
More specifically, the impact of conversational search for businesses, marketers, advertisers and SEO, has yet to be determined — but many recognize that it may have a negative impact on how often consumers scroll down to click organic links or even sponsored content. If their query was answered by the summarization, they are not likely to have a need to continue searching. The process for using SGE is not much different than using Google search. The user types a query into the search box:
When they click Google Search, the search engine results page (SERP) is displayed, with the generative AI summary appearing within a millisecond after the sponsored or organic results are displayed:
Finally, the generative AI summary is displayed above the sponsored and organic links:
At this point, users can click “Show more” to see more of the summarization, or they can “Ask a follow up,” or choose one of the additional queries that are displayed at the bottom of the summarization. To the right, images are displayed along with article titles and the name and logo of the website where the articles are published.
Below the summarization, four sponsored links are shown, and if there is one for the particular query, a Featured Snippet is displayed:
Next is the “People Also Ask” section with four dropdowns, and below that, the organic results are finally displayed:
Note that this is not always the case. Some queries do not have sponsored links, nor do all queries include Featured Snippets; however, when they are available, they are displayed in that order. Here is an example of a query that produced a summarization, followed by a Featured Snippet, then People also ask, then organic links:
How Will SGE SERP Impact User Search Behavior?
Because SGE combines multiple sources into a summarization, users are likely to use far fewer queries to determine an answer to their question. As such, they are less likely to scroll down the SERP to peruse additional websites. Many users, especially those who identify as Gen Z, are likely to adapt to the new AI search paradigm quickly, and once the utility of SGE and other generative AI search solutions have been demonstrated through repeated usage, users are not likely to look back. As many have implied, the age of AI is upon us, and it’s time for us to adapt.
Undoubtedly, clickthrough rates are likely to be impacted, and page views are also likely to be decreased as a result. Fortunately for marketers and advertisers, summarizations are better suited to answering questions, rather than locating products or services.
Rachel Hernandez, director of brand strategy at The HOTH, a full-service digital marketing firm, told CMSWire that SGE has the potential to positively impact how people search and engage in searches by making it faster and easier. “Instead of scrolling through long search results and clicking into (and out of) several pages, users can rely on the concise summaries and snapshots generated by SGE,” said Hernandez. “This may lead to a shift towards consuming condensed information. Moreover, the conversational aspect of SGE encourages users to ask more follow-up questions, retain information better and engage in longer search sessions.”
Related Article: The Value of Site Search to Your Customer Experience Analytics
Is Content Still King?
It’s not just that content will still be king, but it’s more likely that content will be the kingdom. With the advent of generative AI, original, informative, entertaining and unique content will be even more vital for a brand that wishes to remain competitive.
Ryan Rottman, co-founder and CEO of Online Sports Database, a professional sports portal, told CMSWire that AI technology has created the challenge of a level playing field for marketers as everyone has access to similar quality content creation abilities, so it will move the needle toward timeliness. “For those who need assistance in creating interesting content, AI may seem like a godsend, however, it will not take long for similarities to appear as all AI draws from existing information that is often dated, so Google will start to account for this in its algorithms,” suggested Rottman.
It will do brands well to seek out information from sources other than the norm, as well as speak with experts and specialists in order to have top-notch content, which can then be used in SGE summarizations and recommended links, let alone in the organic links below. “Marketers will be tasked with the responsibility of staying ahead of the game by accessing information from community groups, chatbots, and social media engagement, so that AI may not readily draw from in its content-forming process,” said Rottman, who added that by accessing these types of forums, marketers can find original ideas for content that will make them stand out from the uniform content that will plague AI — and keep themselves in a position of providing value-rich information as soon as it happens.
Social content is likely to become more important, and similar to Google’s Featured Snippets section, pages that answer specific questions will be more useful for driving traffic. “The generated summaries and snapshots rely on existing content sources to provide the information they present,” said Hernandez. “Because of this, content creators and publishers should not only optimize their content to ensure it works well with the generative AI algorithms behind SGE but also ensure that their content is as valuable and informative as possible.”
John Faris, president of Red Door Interactive (RDI), an independent marketing agency, told CMSWire that capturing people at the top of the funnel will be harder unless you are highly authoritative on a topic and are a key source in the generative AI section. “Queries will get longer and more unique. Instead of chasing down rankings for every long-tail query in their SEO keyword tools, brands should focus their SEO efforts on providing fresh and comprehensive content on topics they have true authority on,” said Faris, who suggested that brands should use their expertise to publish premium, unique and proprietary content. “While this isn’t new, it has increased in importance since anyone can now create generic content with a decent ChatGPT prompt and the push of a button.”
Related Article: State of Search: Top SEO Strategies for 2023
How Can Brands Proactively Prepare for SGE?
Even considering the potential impact of Google SGE and Bing Search on marketing and advertising, brands should be content that most consumers will continue to rely on these search engines. Faris reiterated that as a marketer, you’ll likely want to root for consumers to adopt generative AI via Google Search and Bing Search rather than becoming heavy users of Open AI’s ChatGPT platform. “ChatGPT doesn’t currently provide references or links for the sources of their generative results (it does via its Bing Web plugin, available in the Plus edition), so you won’t get the same brand recognition or website traffic from that platform,” said Faris.
By March 2023, Bing Search had amassed 100 million active daily users. Conversely, a Pew Research report from May 2023 indicated that although 58% of people have heard of ChatGPT, only 14% have used it. It still is the fastest-growing app of all-time, though.
Faris suggested that for B2C brands selling products, influencing Google’s ”Shopping Graph” will become critical because they rely on that data to surface relevant generative AI results for queries with commercial and transactional intent. “Marketers can influence the Shopping Graph directly via Google Merchant Center, Google Manufacturer Center, or by implementing and maintaining Schema.org.”
Hernandez told CMSWire that brands should prepare for SGE by optimizing their online presence and thinking about how their content will be consumed (and parsed) by AI. “This involves structuring information in a clear and concise manner, using appropriate metadata to enhance visibility, and aligning content with the topics and keywords that SGE may generate snapshots for,” said Hernandez. “Brands can also explore conversational search optimization strategies to make their content more discoverable when users engage with SGE’s conversational mode.”
“Brands may need to adjust their SEO strategies to cater to the generative AI algorithms,” said Hernandez. “This might involve crafting content that’s designed to generate accurate and relevant summaries and focusing on conversational keywords and long-tail queries.”
Likely Scenarios With SGE
Although determining the ways that consumers will use SGE, and how SGE will impact consumer behaviors is speculative, there are some behaviors that we can predict are likely. “Baking generative AI into the search results should help consumers make the right decision faster,” explained Faris. “For marketers, this could condense the customer journey, resulting in less frequency (impressions), fewer wasted clicks, higher conversion rates, and shorter time-to-purchase.” That said, Faris emphasized that the number of “winners,” or brands who surface in generative results, will be far fewer than those in more traditional search results pages. “For those relegated to sponsored ads or organic results found below the fold, click-through will likely worsen, but theoretically, the conversion rate should hold steady.”
“Google is likely to refine and enhance SGE based on user feedback and usage patterns,” said Hernandez. “As users provide feedback and Google collects more data on SGE’s performance and effectiveness, we can expect iterative updates that improve its functionality and accuracy over time.” Hernandez believes that these iterative refinements will put users back in control of their online experiences and give them what they really want in their searches.
Final Thoughts on SGE
Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) introduces generative AI into search results, promising major shifts in SEO, marketing and advertising. This evolution in search could impact clicks on organic and sponsored links due to AI-generated summaries. Brands must adapt, optimizing their content for conversational search and generative AI algorithms, to remain competitive.