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Google AI: Search Generative Experience and How It Could Impact Your SEO

By: Cami Clark    July 7, 2023

Disclosure: All data provided in this article was collected in June 2023. Data could change by the time the article is published. All data was collected using Google Labs. Marcus Thomas is not affiliated with nor works for any of the brands or products mentioned in this article.

 By now, you are probably well aware of the big organic search announcement made during Google I/O: Google unveiled the first look at a search engine powered by AI as part of a new experimental Search Labs platform, an AI-powered snapshot for a more integrated and more visual search experience. If you are not fully familiar with Google’s new Search Generative Experience (SGE), then you should quickly jump on the bandwagon because it is evolving and changing by the minute. And although we don’t know when it will be live in search, we do know that it could impact a website’s clicks and search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.

What is Search Generative Experience (SGE)?

As a quick refresher, according to CMSWire, SGE is “a new set of search features that uses generative AI to answer questions directly on the Google Search webpage.” But SGE is more than that: It is visual, intuitive, and descriptive, but also inaccurate, incomplete, and irregular at times.

Here’s a snapshot of what Google SGE is, right from Google Labs. It provides a brief definition, websites that cover this topic in more depth, how to turn on SGE, and follow-up questions one might ask. You can also expand the view to see which information is taken from which website.


How SGE could impact your SEO strategy

Since I’ve received access to Google Labs for testing purposes, I’ve collected data to understand not only how it works and how it can be tested but also how it could impact SEO in the future. Although there are many uncertainties about the functionality and output of SGE, or when it will actually be live, one thing is certain: It is changing and evolving by the minute.

Before we dig into our predictions for SGE’s impact on SEO, let’s review what we know today about SGE:

  • SGE is displayed above organic results and above ads (although we have seen ads displayed in some commercial SGE responses). This order could impact clicks on featured snippets because the featured snippet position will be pushed down under the SGE result.
  • The result based on the query is called a snapshot; it displays a detailed, long-form content result, with a carousel of three to eight websites from which the content is quoted.
  • The content is conversational.
  • Many times, the content provided is structured with bullet points or steps to follow.
  • Some of the websites displayed in the carousel are not necessarily pulled from page 1, and sometimes not even from the first three pages in Google. In some cases, we’ve seen small blogs displayed in the snapshot, with inaccurate and biased information. This situation could be very problematic.
  • Follow-up questions are provided, or you can ask a follow-up question within the same context.
  • The follow-up questions are not always pulled from People Also Ask (PAA) results.
  • Commercial queries show not only results with content but also products that pull from Google Merchant Center.

Google SGE acknowledges that it is an experiment, it has limitations, and the information given might lack quality. It also disclaims that the information given is not expert advice and, in some cases (like financial or medical), expert advice is recommended.

Knowing about some of the features and limitations, and after testing generated content, here are some predictions that could change the game, or focus, for SEO professionals and brands focusing on organic search strategy:

  1. Focusing on image optimization will be key: With the snapshot displaying images along with the websites cited, not having an image on your pages could affect click-through rate (CTR) for your website. Make sure you have images on every important page of your website, and ensure they are optimized and tagged with schema.
  2. The role of the homepage might diminish: Make sure all pages of your website are optimized and that potential visitors understand who your brand is from any page they might land on. In multiple testing queries in SGE, even brand queries, we’ve noticed that website homepages were barely shown. This situation could be problematic if your homepage brings a large amount of traffic and a high CTR to your website.

For example, when searching “What is Banana Boat sunscreen,” SGE shows results from the brand linking to specific products; in traditional search results, the brand’s homepage occupies the No. 1 position. We’ve done multiple tests on these types of branded queries, and in most cases the results did not show a website’s homepage.

  1. It is essential to implement structured data on your website: I hope this statement is not news for you and that you’ve already implemented structured data on your website. But if you haven’t, then here’s another reason to get it set up. For many of the queries tested, the first few results displayed had multiple schema markup implemented, whether it was image schema, article schema, organization schema, or product schema.
  2. Internal content relationships and context will be even more important: When adding content to your website, keep in mind content pillars, conversational queries, long-tail keywords, and the relational structure of content. Analyze questions your audience might ask about your product or service, and think about how these questions group together. These analyses should guide content creation. If you have Google Labs access to SGE, then start looking at follow-up questions as they relate to your brand.
  3. User-generated content (UGC) might be something to look into: With Google displaying more personal blogs with information from people trying a product or service, UGC might be a marketing strategy to invest in – although it is too early to tell how and how much this type of content would be shown in SGE.

Google’s Search Generative Experience platform is intended to deliver more interactive content to keep people engaged longer with Google and give them more information in a richer context. But only time will tell how and when SGE will be integrated within traditional organic search. Since it is still in an experimental stage and will be changing a lot, the end result might be unrecognizable from what we have access to today. And whether or not it will deliver a richer and more engaging experience for users, we in the SEO community know that change is coming – and we should be prepared for it.