Did you know that the first Google search engine was actually called Backrub? Yep, that’s right. Backrub. So the next time you’re feeling nostalgic for the good old days of the internet, just remember that things could have been a lot weirder.
Google has come a long way since then and recently, the company rolled out AI-powered Search Generative Experience to a select few users in the USA.
But what is Google Search Generative Experience (SGE)?
According to Google, “SGE is an early step in transforming the Search experience with generative AI. When using SGE, people will notice their search results page with familiar web results, organized in a new way to help them get more from a single search.”
Simply put, it is a new way to search for information on the Internet. It uses artificial intelligence (AI) to give you answers to your questions faster and more accurately than ever before. With SGE, you can ask questions and get answers from multiple sources, including websites, articles, and even official Google help pages.
What has changed?
Google Search Generative Experience (SGE) uses generative AI to transform the search experience of users.
Here’s what Google said:
“With SGE, people will be able to:
- Ask entirely new types of questions that you never thought Search could answer
- Quickly get the lay of the land on a topic, with links to relevant results to explore further
- Ask follow-up questions naturally in a new conversational mode
- And get more done easily, like generating creative ideas and drafts right in Search”
Here is what your typical search query will look like with SGE:
For instance, upon entering the search query: “taylor swift metlife concert”, your search results page will display an elaborate answer containing the information regarding your query, images, and relevant links. No more skipping from one link to another to find the answers to your burning questions.
Keeping in mind that this is still in its beta version, it is important to note that it will go through more changes before it’s open for everyone. That being said, the results coming up are still pretty decent and helpful according to the type of queries entered.
Let’s dive in and see what some specific search queries look like with SGE!
- For most of the queries, the usual format looks like a write-up or a summary done by generative AI with three links featured on the right. When a search query is entered, these results take about 5 seconds to show up so people might scroll down to the normal SERP results and click on one of the top links. Although, Google did mention the importance of topic authority in their recent updates. The links featured in the generative AI box might not always be the top-ranking pages.
People have shared examples of different types of queries – and here is what the results look like:
- SGE results show up for almost all types of informational queries. Users enter such queries to find information or answers to their questions. The search results for informational queries often include articles, blog posts, research papers, educational resources, etc.
- Some queries show the same results as in Knowledge Panels. These are information boxes that appear on the right side of the search engine results page (SERP) when a specific entity, such as a person, organization, place, or thing, is searched for. They typically include details such as a summary of the entity, key facts, images, related people or entities, and links to additional sources of information.
- YMYL queries are sometimes excused, but there are attempts made to answer similar queries.
Google says, “We hold SGE to an even higher standard when it comes to generating responses about certain queries where information quality is critically important. On Search, we refer to these as “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) topics – such as finance, health, or civic information – areas where people want an even greater degree of confidence in the results. Just as we do on Search, for YMYL topics, SGE places even more emphasis on producing informative responses that are corroborated by reliable sources. We’ve also trained the model to include disclaimers in its output, where appropriate. For example, on health-related queries where we do show a response, the disclaimer emphasizes that people should not rely on the information for medical advice, and they should work with medical professionals for individualized care.”
- Google SGE is equipped to help its users with their “how-to” queries by simply entering their questions. However, this feature is not effective for recipes. While you might get step-by-step directions to tie your shoes, you might have to refer to a cookbook if you want to bake a cake.
- According to Google, “Our automated systems work to prevent policy-violating content from appearing in SGE. SGE also aligns with some of our unique policies for featured snippets and autocomplete, which include careful considerations for content that may be explicit, hateful, violent, or contradictory of consensus on public interest topics, for example.”
Google also said, “There are some topics for which SGE is designed to not generate a response. On some topics, there might simply be a lack of quality or reliable information available on the open web. For these areas – sometimes called “data voids” or “information gaps” – where our systems have a lower confidence in our responses, SGE aims to not generate an AI-powered snapshot. SGE is also designed not to generate snapshots for explicit or dangerous topics, or for queries that indicate a vulnerable situation”
This is why SGE is not designed to exhibit a persona and steer clear of news, weather, self-harm queries, politics, opinions, etc.
- SGE does not show up for branded or navigational queries. Users enter such queries to navigate directly to a particular website or online destination. These queries typically involve searching for a specific brand, company, organization, or website by name. Some examples include “Facebook login”, “YouTube”, “Netflix”, “Amazon”, “Instagram”, etc.
- Transactional queries have links to websites where the purchase can be made. The sponsored listing tops the SGE results for transactional queries. For transactional queries, UGC and reviews play a huge role in what gets featured in the SGE results.
- Have a follow-up question for a query? You can now have a conversation around it with SGE’s conversational mode. To launch this mode, the user can simply enter a follow-up or pick one among the suggested next steps under the AI snapshot. This is somewhat similar to PAA. In fact, some queries are the same as PAA questions!
Google says, “Conversational mode is especially useful for follow-up questions, as well as more complex or evolving information journeys. It uses AI to understand when a person is searching for something that is related to a previous question. It carries over context from previous questions to reformulate the query to better reflect the intent. In conversational mode, people will see their web links below SGE change throughout the course of the conversation so they can easily explore the most relevant content from across the web.”
SGE: What can brands expect?
Here are a few ways in which SGE will impact how brands perceive marketing:
- SEO content: SEO will be important as the information and links in the featured snippets are derived from the best-performing pages. Your content should be written in simple language and include the answers people are looking for.
A detailed answer requires a longer, focused input or a longer search query. However, it is unlikely for users to have an elaborate query every time. Nonetheless, we can expect a rise in the use of long-tail keywords.
So SEO is going nowhere, but brands must adapt to these improvements.
However, if you have been generating surface-level content, then you need to rethink your content strategy. Just having AI generate content for you is not going to work. You need AI+human expertise.
- Topical Authority: SGE results might give preference to the amount of expertise that a domain exhibits around that topic. With the current update rolled out, it looks like topic authority is one of the key areas that marketers can focus on. While some companies have already implemented this, it is important now more than ever.
- YMYL content: SGE can cause healthcare and financial brands to create more YMYL content that answers user queries. While some of the answers will be answered by generative AI, users will most likely look for authoritative content from sources they trust.
- Focus on user-generated content (UGC): For transactional queries, SGE features links that the user can purchase from. Here, reviews will play an important role to get featured. eCommerce brands, take note!
- Mentions and citations: If your brand/domain has been mentioned from other domains, your chances of getting featured are higher. Get people to write about you and invest in user reviews. Also, add citations in your content to display that your content has been well-researched from well-established websites, especially in your domain.
- Brand building: Most navigational queries do not generate SGE results. It’s important to establish a brand presence.
- Other types of content: With perspectives becoming a part of the search experience, videos will be featured in the search engine results. These videos will be featured in Youtube Shorts, Youtube videos, Instagram, TikTok, and so on. Creating bite-sized engaging content can help you attract audiences.
- Advertisements: SGE will not impact the transparency around organic search results and ads will be distinguishable with the “Sponsored” label in bold black text.
- Content and organic marketing: The answers generated on Google SGE are derived from the top pages. This calls for marketers to invest in SEO as it isn’t going anywhere. Organic marketing strategies need to be revamped to boost visibility on the AI snapshot. This can be done by including opinions, data, value, and facts in the SEO content, publishing direct answers with clear headings, and backlinking. Marketers should approach Google SGE as a snippet feature or AI-generated knowledge card.
According to Eli Schwartz, “Generative results are not necessarily accurate, but that will be improved certainly before this is more widely available. Another surprise here is that generative results rely on very recent data.”
As we explore Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) and how it’s changing the way we interact with search results, it is safe to say the search experience is evolving. With the level of personalization and interactivity that SGE offers, it’s not just about finding information anymore; it’s about having a conversation with the search engine and getting tailored results that truly meet your needs.
Disclaimer: The content of this blog is subject to change based on the latest developments in Google SGE.
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