Say hello to a new way to search. In 2023, artificial intelligence shifted the world of many industries, and became an especially dominant powerhouse in the realm of digital marketing. With the innovative success of ChatGPT in the past year, tech giants have begun to transition to new user experiences that incorporate AI as a means to not only provide better results, but to mark their place in a fast-paced, competitive industry. As a result, Google has developed their very own Search Generative Experience (SGE).
SGE uses AI to generate answers in a quick and concise manner, resolving the need for users to browse through individual webpages to find what they’re searching for. This new experience, while still in its early stages of development, completely transforms the way businesses distribute their content and how they rank organically in search results. While the advancement of AI might raise some concerns among businesses about whether or not content strategy is a lost cause, Google’s SGE is first and foremost still a search engine, and can therefore be influenced by optimized content.
Changes with Search Generative Experience
Currently, SGE is an experiment, accessible to users only through Google Search Labs, but those who are utilizing SGE ahead of its official launch have instantly noticed the changes that it brings to Google search. The most significant alteration revolves around the layout of the search results page. Whereas the original search contains key elements such as featured snippets, drop-down menus, organic results, images, and more, SGE takes up its own section with AI generated results.
With AI-generated information taking up most of the search results page, there are new components on the page that elevates a user’s search experience. On the right side of the page is a carousel section that displays websites with their proper links and images, which are independently ranked, similar to regular search results. This carousel is significant for verifying the information that Google’s AI-generated results creates, essentially acting as a second source of information. Another additional feature allows users to ask follow-up questions in relation to their search, located at the bottom of the new SGE section.
All of the previously mentioned features that were home to Google’s original search experience are still present on the search results page, except now they’ve been pushed to the bottom as a second option to SGE. Observing these changes, it’s no surprise that the goal of Google’s search results page has now shifted to favor their AI-generated information. It is no longer a matter of listing websites that have the most relevant information pertaining to a user’s search, but rather to answer the search directly on the results page, as a method of convenience and promptness.
What Does This Mean for Businesses?
With such a drastic shift in how Google will provide information in search results, businesses are expected to be impacted in several ways, such as with a drop in organic website traffic now that answers will be provided for users instantly instead of being directed to other sources. But in spite of the consequential magnitude surrounding SGE, the new experience has yet to be administered on regular Google search, meaning that there are many approaches that can be taken to navigate this monumental shift.
While it can be less stressful to simply ignore these potential changes and hope that they don’t come to fruition, Google is adamant about AI becoming the future of search. Not taking advantage of SGE can turn out to be a huge risk for any business. As with any technological change, the most effective approach is to adapt. With SGE being currently accessible through Google Search Labs, it’s the perfect time for businesses to get ahead of competitors and curate effective marketing strategies for content optimization. It should be noted that ranking in SGE requires a different approach to ranking in organic results, the latter of which should still be considered, but will soon no longer be the main entity of search results.
Exposure Ninja founder Tim Cameron-Kitchen shared with Semrush the “4 Ways to Win” in SGE, which are as follows:
Get listed in the website carousel
Get ranked in the drop-down menus
Influence SGE’s understanding
Get recommended by SGE in the follow-up answers
As an additional method, there is also an opportunity for pay-per-click with the rollout of SGE, as it is unlikely that Google will launch this AI experience without offering a paid search. Primarily, to best utilize SGE for the advantage of your business, optimize your content so that it adheres to the aforementioned methods.
How to Influence SGE
AI-generation depends on previously existing sources, an important detail that SGE’s process also employs. Similar to organic search, SGE can be influenced by businesses who optimize their content to rank in the different components that the new search layout offers, whether it’d be in the website carousel, drop-down menus, or follow up questions and answers. The question then would be how exactly can these elements be influenced?
In a personal experiment executed by Cameron-Kitchen, an important note to consider was how SGE answered a user search query directly on the search results page. Since SGE is yet another product of AI, the experience is contingent on other available sources. As such, adding a summary paragraph to an already existing blog post on his website that exactly matched the question being asked in search, as well as encouraging the information in SGE, significantly improved Cameron-Kitchen’s SGE ranking.
There is also space to create specific blog posts that also answer these questions directly, though SEO should still play a vital role in the simplicity and structure of sentences to best deliver effective results. Another method is by forcing reindex by submitting your business’ URL in Google Search Console, and to repeat this method until rankings improve. One of the biggest takeaways from this experiment is that SGE is able to index information in a mere few hours, meaning that optimizing content can prove to have fast results if imposed correctly.
As stated, SEO is still an important process to consider. Beyond ranking in SGE, businesses who optimize their content with relevant keywords can be recommended by Google in the follow-up questions and answers section of SGE. If a user is searching for a generic product, proper SEO can suggest brand-specific equivalents of that product. For example, if a user searches for the “best home speaker system” in SGE, the follow-up questions could provide different brands that sell these specific products, such as Google and Samsung.
While AI seems to be an all-encompassing innovation, it still relies on user-inputted information, and therefore can be swayed to favor the content of your business. Additionally, SGE can prove to be a major and fair benefit for businesses through its technical process. SGE is based on enhancing the user experience, wanting to provide accurate and reliable answers in a quick amount of time. Consequently, Google will favor highly specific content with high relevance to a user’s search over websites and businesses with high authority.
The Future of Search
SGE has the potential to completely transform the search experience, and it is in any business owner’s best interest to begin incorporating SGE for their content and make plans for optimization. The techniques that businesses will use to structure their content moving forward will speak volumes on how AI can work in the favor of many marketing campaigns and businesses.
There is still concern about the impact that SGE has on organic website traffic, as well as where Google obtains the information that they’re presenting as “AI-generated”. As shown by how quickly the information in SGE can be influenced in Cameron-Kitchen’s experiment, websites are still being sourced for their information. Google’s priority is to keep their long-term users and remain as the primary search engine, so it is actually in favor of businesses to have Google use their information for SGE as it will rank them higher in this new search experience.
If you’re interested in experimenting with SGE ahead of its official rollout for all users, the experience can be accessed through Google Search Labs by logging into a personal Google Workspace account. Since it’s still in its early stages, if there are any troubles with accessing SGE in this way, a solution would be to implement this exact process while in Chrome’s Incognito mode. Additionally, if you’re interested in learning more about SGE before diving right in, contact our team at Lau Marketing for more information or a consultation!