This week, during Google I/O, we saw the announcement of a new Generative AI experience coming to Google SERPs in the future.
Also known as a Search Generative Experience (or SGE), this promises to be in a big change in how people search, and how we deal optimise websites.
What does Generative AI mean for SEOs?
In my opinion, this new direction was inevitable for Google, especially with all the pressure they have been receiving on the back of ChatGPT and AI; it will also allow them to regain some of the traction they have lost to TikTok.
Ultimately, I think it will open up more traffic opportunities and lead to a better search experience in the long run.
But what is SGE?
It seems that the Search generative experience will be (broadly) similar to the search engine adding a Chat GPT or Bard into the SERP to provide better experiences and answers for the searcher. The answers will be distinguishable through a coloured box at the top of SERPs.
However, it is important to remember that this is explicitly designed for Search and works very differently from Google’s Bard. The ability to ask follow-up questions to queries and much more conversational text with natural language will become more intuitive.
Another distinction is that Google will put clickable links to sources in generative results. Unlike Bard, it will do a much better job linking to publishers to drive website traffic.
What can we do with Generative AI?
As SEOs and website owners, we need to know how this will likely affect us.
Informational queries and websites that focus on this content and affiliates may suffer and see less traffic if the intent is answered in the Generative AI box. However, this can often be the case with Rich Results anyway.
The big winners of this will be eCommerce websites and Shopping content as it will drive people to these sites, and we also have the opportunities to tailor the products, e.g. “best smart speaker for a pool party” or “top bikes for a 10-mile cross-country ride”.
The significant change will be in how success is measured. This is because CTR and Conversions will likely drop, and we will surely see more zero-click searches.
Google will also not use SGE for any YMYL-related queries, especially those in the medical and financial space. It knows the importance of informative responses corroborated by reliable sources and does not want to risk misinformation in these areas.
The takeaway is: SGE aims to provide new perspectives and make it easier for searchers to find the expertise they need.
Changes like SGE will mean that as marketers and SEOs, it will not always be possible to drive organic traffic to client websites (depending on the target queries and the intent behind them). Therefore, we must agree on new ways to measure success for these queries with our clients. This could be Impressions, cited in Generative AI results, clicks to YouTube videos, or our TikTok content being surfaced in SERPs, etc.
Adapting to Search Generative Experience
When this rolls out, there will likely be new ways of potentially encouraging Google to see our content as worthy for the AI section – perhaps with structured data, but this will come with time.
As an industry, we will adapt to these new developments as we always have done. This change seems like the next natural progression with more technology incorporated into the experience.
Even with some answers generated through AI, this will not reduce our need to continue producing content. Google relies on it with traditional results (the 10 blue links are not going away), as well as to train their AI-powered search results.
Now is the time to continue investing in organic, as doing nothing will ultimately mean sites struggle more than ever and will lose more share of voice to the competition.
Remember: Google clearly states that Generative AI is experimental, and you can only access Google’s new SGE through a Google Labs waitlist only available in the US.