Sep 22, 2023
AI in digital marketing is here to stay, and there's little doubt that the world of search marketing is on track to be turned upside down by developments in generative AI. Google's Search Generative Experience (SGE) is still in experiment phase but it's already promising to upend standard concepts and approaches to search, and consequently to digital marketing as a whole.
Google's utlimate goal is to better understand what you want, so that it can give you the perfect answer. And SGE is how it displays that answer.
On May 10th 2023, Google announced that it was working on SGE, one of the most important visual changes to Google search engine results page (SERP) in many years. Like a highly advanced version of featured snippets, SGE uses AI to generate detailed search results that aim to give users the exact information that they’re looking for (and then some).
Note: SGE is still in beta testing phase until December 2023, and it can only be accessed in English in the United States, Japan, and India. It is not yet known when it will launch fully.
So, does all this mean that SGE will replace the traditional SERP? No, there’ll still be a SERP, but it will be much more detailed. You can think of SGE as an experience, a conversation with your search engine. You can ask it detailed, conversational questions and, using AI, it will generate detailed answers. That’s the search generative experience.
What this means in practice is that you can write long conversational queries, and SGE will return detailed results, as well as links to help you conduct your own further research. In time, the search engine will better understand what you want, and it will better understand the content on the Web. This will enable SGE to answer your questions much more comprehensively than ever before.
What do you see when you enter a query into SGE?
The SGE response has several elements.
How does SGE work for different query types?
Informational queries are simply queries where the searcher is looking for facts. They may take the form of a question (“What core workouts can I do at home?”) or a more general search (“core workouts at home”).
For an informational query, SGE returns a page similar to a detailed featured snippet. The AI-generated text list (the response to your query) has the dropdown arrows linking to source websites. And the carousel displays links to other relevant websites.
Note: For informational queries, the SGE results are sometimes so detailed that searchers might not even click to further websites. All the information they need might already be on the SERP! (Don’t forget, similar concerns were raised when featured snippets were rolled out a few years ago.)
Commercial queries are when searchers are looking to buy something. For example, “Best dry dog food for an eight-year-old Labrador retriever”.
The big difference from informational queries is that, with commercial queries, paid ads display above the generated text answers. These are ads that SGE thinks are relevant to your query.
Like informational queries, you also get your text answer with dropdown links and your carousel to other websites. And it lists popular options, giving information on why these options are popular. This overview information includes information provided by brands and stores.
What about branded commercial queries? These are commercial queries that include a brand. For example, “Nike running shoes”.
In this case, you again get an AI-generated text answer, giving you some information to consider when considering purchasing Nike running shoes. SGE also displays links to sites where you can buy Nike styles. These sites include Nike’s own website, as well as many third-party sellers.
Pro tip: Make sure your category and product pages are optimized before SGE rolls out. This will help to put you in the best position to show up in the SGE snapshot as one of the featured products.
Local queries are when searchers are looking for things near them. For example, “dog boarding wichita ks”.
Once again, SGE returns some AI-generated information based on your query – in this case, explaining what services are offered by dog boarders in Wichita, Kansas. As well as the carousel of websites, it lists local services, along with review snippets and dropdown links to review sites. As with featured snippets, SGE also displays a map indicating where the businesses are located.
Pro tip: Reviews are going to be very important when SGE rolls out! Start gathering your customer reviews now.
Also, check out this blog for more information on local SEO.
Or link to this evergreen piece on Local SEO: https://digitalmarketinginstitute.com/blog/local-seo-for-beginners-improve-your-visibility-online-free-checklist
YMYL queries refer to Your Money or Your Life queries. These are generally lifestyle queries where people are looking for advice (typically around health or financial issues). For example, “home remedy to treat poison ivy rash”.
Although SGE displays the expected AI-generated text, it also contains a disclaimer: “This is for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute medical advice or diagnosis.” This is because people may decide to act based on the results they get to their YMYL queries. In some cases, Google wants people to seek medical advice instead of utilizing the SGE result. It has trained its model to add this disclaimer with these types of queries just to help protect people.
At first glance, SGE is very powerful and impressive. However, the more familiar you become with it, the more you’ll start to realize its limitations.
Here are some notable issues:
“We've built in strong protections to mitigate against inaccuracies, but like all LLM-based experiences, generative AI in Search is experimental and can make mistakes… It is trained to corroborate responses with resources from the open web, but sometimes responses may reflect inaccuracies that exist on the web at large. We've launched this as an experiment in Search Labs to start, and we'll continue to improve and fine-tune the experience.” Google
It’s already becoming clear that SGE will have a significant impact on both paid search and SEO.
Keeping these impacts in mind, how should you prepare your website for SGE?
Start preparing by following some timeless SEO tips. Google has always said that content is king, so the more quality unique content you write, the higher you’ll rank. Those who do this really well will benefit most from SGE.
Here are some top tips: