It’s safe to say that Google is constantly refining Google Search, and looking for different ways to stay one step ahead of its competitors. One of the latest updates – and one which has undoubtedly caused a stir – is the introduction of artificial intelligence into Google search results. This feature, dubbed Google Search Generative Experience (SGE), is set to change the game for many businesses. But what is it exactly? How will it transform SEO? And, more importantly, how will it impact your business?
What is Google SGE?
Google Search Generative Experience is an experimental search feature that heavily incorporates artificial intelligence. Simply put, GSE provides users with a quick overview of the topics they’re looking for, without having to click on individual webpages to get their answer.
According to Google, SGE enables users to “quickly find the web page’s key points” and “find questions answered on the web page and jump to the relevant section to learn more.” Say you’re searching for the best SEO tools for your company’s website. Typically, you would get paid ad results at the top of the page, followed by organic results gathered from different websites. With SGE, Google will show you the SGE result first, followed by the paid ad results, and finally the organic results.
The SGE results may also contain topic-related pre-populated questions that you can click on to delve deeper into the topic. Additionally, you can also ask your own follow-up questions using a chat interface. It’s important to remember that, as the technology is still developing, some AI responses may be inaccurate or not up-to-date.
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Why is Google’s SGE update important?
Businesses and marketers need to pay attention to Google Search Generative Experience, as it has a significant impact on SEO. At its most basic level, it’s a way for Google to limit outsourcing its search results.
As with other SEO-related changes Google has made in the past, SGE continues Google’s push to get people to stay on Google and use it for everything from booking flights to listening to music. SGE takes this hyper-personalisation even further by enabling users to interact with AI and bypass the “trouble” of visiting a third-party website.
In addition, Google SGE results take up a lot of Search Engine Results Page (SERP) space. As paid ads continue to appear in dedicated ad slots throughout the page, organic content is pushed further and further down, increasing the already cut-throat SEO competition.
It’s important to mention that Google SGE also includes AI image generation. You can write image prompts, and Google will provide up to four AI-generated images to choose from. There’s also the option to get these AI-generated images in Google Images, which will undoubtedly increase image-related SEO competition.
What are the pros and cons of Google SGE?
The main benefits of Google Search Generative Experience:
Simple summaries of complex themes
The answers provided by Google SGE give an overview of complicated topics and present them in a way that’s easily comprehensive for the general public. As a result, users can get a quick summary of what they need to know, before diving deep into the topic. For instance, if you ask Google “What is SEO?”, you’ll get the main points without getting into the finer details.
A fast response
From the user’s perspective, one of the main advantages of Google SGE is how quickly you get the answer you’re looking for. To get an idea of the speed at which SGE processes data, it’s worth mentioning that it can extract 35 billion listings from Google Shopping Graph, which itself has roughly 1.8 billion updates per hour. This is faster and easier than having to visit multiple webpages to get an answer.
An interactive experience
Google SGE’s power lies in its conversational and interactive setup. Like other AI systems, its interface is user friendly and actively encourages the user to ask a follow up question or click on pre-populated prompts for more information. It can also make suggestions so that discovery becomes a natural part of the search experience.
The downsides of Google Search Generative Experience:
Google is still experimenting with Search Generative Experience. Therefore, the AI model may misinterpret questions and give incorrect answers. Therefore, users need to double-check that the answers they’re receiving are factually correct.
Although SGE is trained in high-quality web-sourced data and programmed to provide neutral answers, it can still provide answers with potential negative associations or a high degree of bias. This can be harmful when it comes to sensitive topics, as it can also reinforce stereotypes.
Lack of transparency
Google’s PaLM 2 – the language model developed by Google AI – is a closed model. Due to this issue, there’s a significant lack of transparency regarding the specific data Google extracts and the methods used to arrive at a particular answer.
How will SGE affect my business?
SGE is revolutionising the way we approach search engine optimisation, which is a crucial factor in driving website traffic for businesses. Some early studies show the potential impact SGE can have on websites. According to research by Search Engine Land, which used a sample size of 23 websites, we can expect an 18% to 64% drop in organic traffic. Propeller Media suggested a decrease of around 30%.
Marketers will have less impact on the customer journey, as Google will have the ultimate say. When providing information about a particular brand, SGE includes an opinion in its answers in the form of a summary of the brand’s pros and cons. This is very different from organic content and traditional search results, which contain a wide array of opinions. As a result, SGE can eventually shift customers’ opinions about your brand. This can ultimately influence their decision when choosing between you and your competitors.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that Google is still actively developing SGE, and it’s not yet available in all territories. Therefore, the ultimate outcome depends on the specific features Google chooses to incorporate.
How can businesses prepare for Google SGE?
With all the changes that Google SGE is expected to bring, it’s crucial that you adapt your SEO strategy to the following machine learning-friendly tactics:
Focus on user intent
Analyse what your customers are searching for and focus on their underlying intent. Make sure you customise your content to meet their intent, as well as the anticipated follow-up questions.
Answer your customers’ questions
The best way to make your content SGE-friendly is to answer questions directly. Anticipate what your customers might ask, and shift your content strategy towards responding to these queries.
Make sure your content is readable
Headings, subheadings, lists and short paragraphs are essential in ensuring your content is easy to read and navigate.
Optimise keywords and metadata
So far, SGE seems to be encouraging users to search for detailed queries instead of short phrases. Therefore, it’s important to prioritise long-tail keywords and leverage title tags and meta-descriptions. Avoid keyword stuffing, as this can do more harm than good.
Pay attention to technical SEO
With SEO becoming an increasingly competitive field, it’s crucial that your technical SEO is up to scratch. This includes XML sitemaps, site speed, URL structure and image optimisation.
Take care of local SEO
If you’re a brick-and-mortar business, optimise your local SEO by claiming your Google My Business Profile. Check that important business information – such as your shop address – is the same across all your online platforms.
Set up your website on Google Analytics to monitor traffic, identify popular webpages, analyse how users behave once they visit your website, and check which webpages need to be improved.
Quality over quantity
Churning out low-quality content is never a good approach when trying to optimise your website’s SEO. It’s an even worse strategy with SGE added to the mix. Instead, focus on writing high-quality content that meets all the above criteria.
When will SGE be available in the UK?
After initial tests in the US, Japan and India, Google SGE was officially launched in more than 120 territories in November 2023. In addition, Google introduced Spanish, Portuguese, Korean and Indonesian as languages currently available for SGE alongside the already available English, Japanese and Hindi. There is currently no set timetable for when SGE will be available in the UK and Europe. However, once it’s available, users can opt in to participate in the experiment via Search Labs.
Prepare for Google’s AI-powered search feature
The introduction of Google’s Search Generative Experience marks a significant milestone in the convergence of user intent, AI and search engine optimisation. It highlights the ever-evolving landscape of digital technology and its impact on our daily lives.
Adapting your business’ SEO strategy to SGE can be daunting. With the right partner, however, you can leverage the unique opportunities that SGE offers and ensure your business remains ahead of the curve in this new era of online search. Get in touch to learn more about how we can help you do just that.