SGE and the impact on SEO: What you should know!

3 August 2023
7 minutes

In short

Google has launched Search Generative Experience to users of its Search Labs testing platform in the US. This marks a shift towards a more AI-driven, curated search experience.

To prepare for the new AI search functionality, digital marketers should update their SEO strategies to focus more on conversational user experiences.

We recommend emphasising content quality and authoritativeness, adopting a content cluster strategy, focusing more on long-tail keywords and optimising for engagement.

graphic showing seo and a rocket representing the boost to seo ranking

The intersection of SGE and SEO

As a digital marketer, you know the importance of optimising your content for search engine findability. But you may still be surprised by the results of a recent survey which found that SEO delivers the highest ROI of any digital marketing activity at over 29%, compared to just an 18% ROI on average for social media marketing.

While SEO is an obvious priority for most digital marketers, we’re experiencing a period of rapid change in the way search engines work.

Upcoming technologies like Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) have many digital marketers rethinking the way we will approach SEO and search engine marketing (SEM) going forward. In this article, we explore how SGE might change the search engine game, and what you need to know to keep your content ranking high.

What is Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE)?

In May 2023, Google announced at its annual Google I/O developer conference that it is giving Google Search Labs users an opportunity to sign up and test a new AI-powered search feature called Search Generative Experience (SGE). Currently, SGE is only available to users in the US and works only in English.

According to Google, SGE organises web results in a new layout that helps users “get more from a single search”. The new AI-enhanced search results page expands the traditional Google search experience with rich features, including:

  • Searchers can now ask more complex, detailed questions and get more personalised answers.
  • Each search engine results page (SERP) in Google will include a cluster of relevant information and links, arranged in an interactive summary that Google refers to as a “snapshot”.
  • It appears that the SGE snapshot will replace Google’s coveted “featured snippet” (AKA “position zero”) SERP ranking, which currently uses AI to locate the most relevant match for the searcher’s intent.
  • Searchers will have the option to ask conversational-style follow-up questions and generate texts, similar to the way you can prompt and interact with AI chatbots like ChatGPT.

To give you an idea of what this means, imagine you (or your customers) want to perform a product search on Google. If you are using SGE, you will see a snapshot at the top of your search results page, offering an overview of your options, along with links and helpful information, such as factors to consider when shopping for this product. The more detailed your search query, the more personalised the snapshot becomes.

For example, suppose you are an ecommerce retailer looking for a new logistics partner to manage your warehousing, shipping and reverse logistics. In the past you might have started your search with something like “best 3PL for ecommerce”. You would then receive a list of top-ranking results related to your search keywords.

With SGE, you can receive much more personalised responses and even advice when you provide a more detailed prompt. So now, you could enter, for example, “best 3PL for handling 1,000 shipments a month in the fashion accessories industry in Spain and France.” Your snapshot will then give you a much more detailed overview of solutions that are relevant specifically for you.

The impact of SGE on website traffic and SEO

Because SGE is still in its early test stages, it is difficult to predict exactly how it will impact SEO. Google has said that Search Ads will continue to work in the same way as before: relevant Ads will appear in a separate area of the user interface. But how can you ensure that your content is still findable? How will SGE change the way Google ranks websites? And what can you do to optimise for this new search channel?

Because of the way SGE curates information during the search experience, there is a risk that it will reduce interactivity with sponsored links and “organic” (i.e., non-AI-generated) search results. It appears that SGE will prioritise content based on its relevance and authoritativeness. But it is still unclear how SGE will establish which sites are most relevant and authoritative.

One thing is clear though: we are entering an age in which domain authority and high-quality content will have a bigger influence on findability than ever. That’s why it’s time for digital marketers to start revamping their SEO strategy.

As SGE expands, we predict:

  • Marketers will need to shift away from keyword-driven content to producing authoritative, user-focused content that caters to searchers from many different perspectives.
  • Some online search journeys (especially at the top of the funnel/awareness stage) will take place entirely within SGE. As a result, marketers will need to focus more on findability at later stages of the buyer journey (consideration and decision).

Optimising your content for AI-powered search engines

With SGE on the horizon, and AI-driven technologies shaking things up all over the digital marketing landscape, it’s time for marketers to start exploring new SEO techniques and strategies. To help you prepare for the future, here are our top recommendations for staying findable in the chatbot-driven era of search.

1. Focus on quality and building domain authority

Once the SGE snapshot becomes a go-to resource for information searches, even top-ranking SERP pages will experience a decline in their click-through rate (CTR), because more and more searchers will start and end their search without clicking away from the SERP.

It’s going to be more important than ever to build domain authority, so that your content is likely to be cited within the SGE snapshot or be offered there as a link.

To build authority, focus on earning backlinks and creating the kind of high-quality, value-added content that is likely to be sourced and linked to by other sites. Instead of structuring your content to provide a single, snippet-style answer, focus on ensuring it goes in depth and offers comprehensive information about the topic.

2. Cluster your content to cater to many different search journeys

To enable you to go into more depth and offer the kind of comprehensive answers that SGE is looking for, you will probably need to break content topics into smaller units and subunits. Instead of taking an “ultimate guide” approach to every blog post, group your content into interlinked clusters that explore topics and subtopics in greater detail.

Be sure that your content covers many different possible questions as specifically as possible. This will make it more meaningful as SGE tries to locate information that addresses highly specific lines of questioning.

3. Optimise for long-tail, conversational speech

Since SGE will base its results on much more authentic, interactive exchanges compared with the conventional Google search, it’s going to be more important than ever to craft your content around search intent. This means going beyond basic keywords and targeting richer, long-tail keywords that contain more words and reflect deeper searches into a topic.

Take the time to understand the questions and follow-up questions your users are likely to ask when performing an information search on SGE. Sure, this will involve understanding which keywords matter, but more than that, it will mean structuring your content to look and feel more like a dialogue with your target audiences. For example, try including rich examples that are likely to resonate with your audiences or even mirror their own experiences and questions.

4. Optimise for engagement and UX

Many search experts predict that engagement metrics (like time on page and pages viewed) will play a big role in deciding which content is featured in the SGE snapshot. While it’s still too soon to tell exactly which metrics will be the most important for AI-driven search, it’s never a bad idea to enhance your content’s engagement performance.

Try presenting information in multiple formats to engage with different audience preferences. Instead of just presenting content in text form, include appealing infographics and videos. Be sure to also interlink your content effectively to encourage click-through. This is crucial for any successful cluster content strategy. Also focus on your core web vitals and make sure you’re offering the most engaging user experience from a technical standpoint. This especially means reducing load speed and optimising for mobile.

Graphic representing Search Generative Experience (SGE)

Are you ready for SEO in the age of SGE?

While SGE will bring many new challenges for SEO and digital marketing, it also brings opportunities. By putting the right tactics in place and getting an early start, you can position your brand for better findability in the AI-driven future of search.

Although the way people access information on the internet is quickly changing, just remember: it will still be more important than ever to produce high-quality, original, value-added content that answers the real questions on your readers’ minds.

Ready to delve into the world of SEO and boost your online presence? Reach out to our content advisors today!

FAQs

What is Google's Search Generative Experience (SGE)?

Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) is a technology that leverages generative AI to create dynamic and interactive search results for users in the form of “snapshots”, offering them an alternative to traditional static SERPs.

How will Google SGE affect SEO?

SGE impacts SEO by changing the way content is presented on Google. It places more emphasis on user experience, engagement and relevance. The introduction of SGE means that traditional SEO techniques need to be adapted to align with the evolving search landscape. Brands must focus more on creating engaging, richly informative content to remain visible to AI-powered search engines and provide value to users.

How will SGE impact website traffic?

Since SGE will offer more information to users than Google’s traditional SERP, it is likely that many online searches will start and finish without the user even having to leave Google’s domain. Especially for general information searches (such as top-of-funnel or awareness-stage searches), users may be able to find all the answers they need inside the SGE snapshot. This is likely to reduce organic traffic for most domains.

On the other hand, optimising your content for new ways of searching in SGE can help position your website as an authoritative source of in-depth information, generating more traffic for more specific search queries.

How can content creators leverage SGE?

To get the most benefit out of AI-driven search tools like SGE, content creators must adapt their SEO approach to focus more on authentic, conversational interactions.

This means having a more detailed understanding of search intent and identifying authentic lines of questioning that your audience members have on their minds. Keywords will continue to be important, but it will be important to focus more on rich, natural, long-tail keywords that provide more detail about the searcher’s intent.

It will also be important to focus on improving high-quality content that answers questions in depth. Using a cluster-content strategy gives you more space to explore topics and subtopics in detail, so you cater to more people’s specific needs for information.

User engagement and experience are also expected to play a strong role in how websites are selected for inclusion in the SGE snapshot. It’s important to use a rich mix of media to enhance engagement and offer users the best possible experience; for example, by optimising for mobile and reducing page load speed.

Adapting to the latest in AI-driven search trends might feel overwhelming, but you don’t have to do it alone. If you’re looking for optimised SEO texts or need guidance crafting a tailored SEO strategy, we’re here to help. Reach out anytime, and let’s ensure your content thrives in this new era of search.

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